Image Description

Formal and Informal Coaching

This lesson is a part of an audio course Coaching Skills for Managers by Karina Margole

In the previous lessons, we have talked about all the different skills that you need to practice as a coach. But how does it all come together?

There are 2 main ways to do coaching – through formal and through informal coaching conversations.

Formal coaching conversations are quite structured, and this is what I mostly use with my clients. A client comes to me with a specific problem. At the beginning of the conversation, we spend the time to figure out what the topic of the conversation is. And then, we spend quite a lot of time talking about what outcome the client would like to have from the conversation. This part can actually take a long time because oftentimes, we don't really know how we want to solve the problem or what the real problem is! So it pays to really explore what the person you are coaching wants to achieve. Using listening and questioning skills here is key. Playing back and summarising what the coachee is saying to you helps create that clarity for them.

Once that exploration is done, you can dive into figuring out how to get there. Powerful questions are often used in this part to help create breakthroughs and insights. Help your coachee explore their options and come up with potential ways forward. Also, help them explore what could slow them down or sabotage them. Have them talk through the challenges they anticipate and how they might overcome those. An important aspect of this exploration is reflecting on what resources they have now or what they used in the past to overcome similar challenges. Your goal is to:

  • Help them come up with options to solve their problem.

  • Figure out if there is anything that could slow them down or sabotage them.

  • Help your coachee to figure out how to overcome those obstacles.

  • Help them recognise internal or external resources they can draw upon.

Once that is done, you can then work with them to create a specific plan. We covered that in the previous lesson around focusing on the outcomes and moving a person forward. Push for specificity in their plan, have them commit to a very specific action.

And that is the basic structure of a formal coaching conversation.

However, if you have a large team and you have to check in with everyone, you might not necessarily have the time to make a formal coaching conversation. There are also other things you might need to cover with your staff during your catch-ups so dedicating the entire time to a coaching conversation isn't always possible. And as I mentioned at the beginning of this course, coaching is just one of the ways to help develop your staff, so there needs to be the right balance of teaching, mentoring, and coaching.

In those cases, informal coaching can be a great way to use some of the coaching skills on the fly. When someone mentions a problem they are having to you, rather than providing them with a suggestion straight away, you can take the time to do a bit of coaching on the go. Within the normal flow of the conversation, you can take on a coaching approach and start asking them how they think they should solve this problem. And with a few questions and some good listening, you can create a coaching moment within a regular conversation. And you can help create greater accountability by having your coachee come up with very specific and well-defined steps they are going to take.

This approach can be used in any conversation. You need to look out for an opening – someone mentioning a problem they are having. And that is your queue to put your coaching hat on and help them create clarity and momentum to solve their own problems.

Image Description
Written by

Karina Margole