Fifteen years of experience in the corporate world have helped me to understand the 3 essential differences that separate a leader-coach from anyone else:

1. A leader-coach turns a conversation into a working session: crossing the threshold.

Here comes Nicole. Nicole comes to see you to complain about her problem, a situation that occurred yesterday and that leaves her with great frustration. Turning the conversation into a working session, you ask the “How-to” question:

  • So, what is your “How-to” question, Nicole?
  • “Well,” says Nicole, “My ‘How-to question’ is: How can I get Christopher to commit more fully to this project?”

2. A leader-coach helps people clarify the process that leads to a solution, as opposed to working directly on the solution: the awareness moment.

Once the topic has been clarified and agreed-upon, it’s time to engage in the actual work. To do so, the leader-coach supports the others in thinking about the process that leads to a solution, as opposed to working directly on the solution itself. To do so, the leader-coach asks:

  • So, what are the aspects that you’d have to think about to answer that question?
  • “I suppose,” says Nicole, “that I’d have to explore the following aspects:
    • “Motivation: what’s in it for him?
    • “Accountability: how do we hold each other accountable on this project?
    • “Obstacle: is there anything that is of a concern to him that we may have to work on together?
    • “Personal Assertiveness: how can I give him feedback without harming the relationship? I’m struggling on that one, I’m afraid…”

3. A leader-coach doesn’t expect people to have a solution to every sub-question they may have and leverages this moment to provoke insights: the moment of impact. 

If people knew the answers to the questions above, they wouldn’t need you. It is precisely because they don’t know the answer that they need you the most. This last step is where the leader-coach helps the most, simply by shifting the focus from “the process of finding a solution” to “the input needed” to get back on track:

  • What would help you with what’s blocking you?
  • “I guess,” says Nicole, “I don’t know how to give a feedback in a way that increases collaboration rather than harming the relationship. What may help maybe is to think this through together with you now. That would really help me…”

That’s it. 3 steps… 3 questions … 10 to 15  minutes of your time … and then? Well, see for yourself.

What happens if you try?

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