In a recent post, we looked at a simple approach to coaching employees. We talked about a coaching conversation model based on three themes – reflection, ideation, and commitment. In this model, the coach and coacheee get focus on an area of opportunity for improvement and reflect on the current state of that focus area. They then ideate to define and commit to action steps for moving forward.
This conversation is actually part of a larger process I call FoDAR (Focus, Define, Assess, Refine). This process is a way to manage execution of moving from coaching to action to results. Each part of this process has specific functions. The Focus piece provides clarity on what we are trying to improve or fix. The Define piece gives us direction on the steps we will take. The Assess piece provides a sense of how we are progressing, and the Refine piece provides the chance to make our plan of attack even better.
This process divides evenly into two conversations. The first is called the Defining Conversation and was described above – get focus and define next steps. The second is called the Refining Conversation and it acts as a regular follow up to keep all of the actions committed to in the defining conversation alive and on track. Refining conversations are ongoing affairs that repeat regularly until results are reached.
The Refining Conversation goes something like this.
Assuming we’ve already had a Defining Conversation with our coachee, we now must assess progress. This step is another incarnation of the coaching theme of reflection because the coachee is being asked to reflect on the movement they’ve made.
MANAGER: “Bill, a couple of weeks ago, we discussed restructuring your proposals, I was wondering, how is it going with that?”
BILL: “After you gave me the go ahead, I took a couple of proposals I had in the hopper and rebuilt them in the new format. I sent them to customers, and in conversations with them, it seems they understand them better and like the overall look and feel.”
Now the coach invites the coachee to refine their plan and make further improvements if possible.
MANAGER: “That sounds like things are moving along quite well. Do you think there’s anything else that would make it even better?”
BILL: “I like the way things are going but I know there are further improvements I could make. The more I speak with customers I am sure something will be mentioned to spark new ideas. I will let you know as things progress.”
Finally, the coach must invite commitment to any new actions by demonstrating their commitment to help.
MANAGER: “Is there anything I can do to help you?”
BILL: “Not right now. I just want to keep going and get more customer feedback.”
MANAGER: “That’s great, Bill. I will circle back around in a couple more weeks to keep on top of this. Good work so far though, keep it up.”
That’s essentially how the Refining Conversation goes.
In summary, to start, the coach must ASSESS how things are proceeding. If things are going well, the coach should be sure to praise the efforts. If things have stalled, they will need to get some idea as to what’s standing in the way of progress.
- “A couple of weeks ago we talked about __________, how’s it going with that?”
REFINE the plan with improvements or additions if possible. This is another manifestation of the ideation theme.
- “Is there anything else you could do to make it even better?”
Close the conversation by inviting their commitment to any new actions by renewing your commitment to help them.
- “How can I help you?”
As you can see, in one conversation, the Defining Conversation, we get focus and define how we will proceed. In the Refining Conversations, we follow up regularly to assess progress and refine the plan to continually find better and better practices.
This whole FoDAR/Two-Conversation process accomplishes several things.
- It engages employees in improving results and practices rather than commanding them from top down. This approach gives employees ownership and allows leaders to hold them accountable for specific results.
- It demands follow up in order to work. Follow up is what is usually absent and a key reason why so many coaching efforts fail.
- It gives managers a new view of their operation since employees see things very differently given their unique roles. Managers learn things they never would viewing things from their position alone.
- It is simple and uncomplicated. You don’t need a time-consuming class or a psychology degree to get going. Although training can help to clarify things and give you practice, this method and process can be successfully employed without it.
- Finally, it provides a framework that is structured enough to ensure consistent results yet flexible enough to allow coaches to make it fit their personality and timing.