What happens when the coaches leave? Thomas was always full of doubt. He sometimes wondered if his mother’s preference for giving her sons biblical names had created something of a self-fulfilling prophecy in his case.
His wife Minerva could always tell when Thomas was troubled, and she was that night when, as they were eating dinner, she asked him, “What’s up? Bad day at work?”
“Yeah,” he said. “You know that Executive Coach they hired to work with me and the sales team? Well, she’s been told to make these next sessions her last ones with us. We can’t afford it anymore. Budget cuts, Covid, you know? The Usual.”
Thomas chased a few stray peas around with his fork and pondered what was going to happen next.
He’d been delighted to be appointed sales manager in his early forties and felt sure that as the best performing salesperson year on year he’d be just as successful in his new role.
But managing and leading the team had proven much trickier than he’d imagined and results had begun to suffer.
Thomas’s own boss hired a coach he knew and she had been a revelation. Thomas and everyone on his team looked forward to her calls and always left with clear actions and ideas that inevitably improved things.
Thomas was worried that everything might go into reverse now she was moving on.
“Well, you could coach the team.” said Minerva
“I doubt that,” said Thomas. “Judith’s a real pro and very experienced.”
“Sure, but you don’t have to try and match her work, just do the basics and keep the momentum going.”
Minerva left the table and went to her little home office next door. She returned with a ring binder.
“We did a coaching course a few years back at our place. It was really useful. Matt something or other the guy’s name was. I thought he was a downhill skier but it turned out he’d worked at some bank and had awful managers before he left to set up his coaching business. I remember his jokes being terrible.”
Minerva moved her plate out of the way so she could open up the binder and said, “Tell me what you noticed your coach Judith doing.”
“Well” said Tom. “We’d always have to agree some kind of goal. A long term one and one for the session itself. She’d usually ask about what was going on at the moment and then really push us to come up with idea after idea about what we could try. At the end of the conversation she’d pin us down to tell her exactly – and I mean exactly – what our next actions were going to be and you just knew she’d ask you if you’d done them the next time.”
Minerva flipped a few pages then took one out to show to Tom. “That sounds like the GROW sequence we learnt,” she said. “Look: Goals, Reality Options and Will.”
“You’re right,” said Tom. “But I don’t think it was always that simple.”
“OK, so how did the coaching she gave you make you feel?”
Tom thought a while before answering. “ I always felt as if I just understood things better and could see situations more clearly. I felt she trusted us to reach our own decisions and knew that we would either follow through or explain why if we genuinely couldn’t.”
Minerva flipped more pages then said, “That’s here too look, the three principles of coaching: Awareness, Responsibility and Trust. Her questions were obviously promoting those things.”
“Let me see that,” said Tom. He took the course manual from her, took it and his drink into their living room. He spent the next hour or so learning some simple coaching tools and techniques.
By the end of the evening he felt he had learnt enough to give it a go the next day. He didn’t expect to be able to create the same experience for his team as working with a professional coach, but he was sure he could help them decide on a goal and work out some steps towards it.
Tom is now a firm advocate of the coaching approach and uses it throughout each and every day. Sometimes he might tell his team member that they’re going to have a coaching session other times he just naturally weaves the coaching approach and a few useful questions into the daily conversations they’d be having anyway.
Tom has learnt that the coaching doesn’t have to stop just because the coaches leave.