A large organization invited me to participate in their monthly staff training day. I was brought in to teach them coaching skills, but here’s what I noticed. When I put people into groups to practice coaching, the energy in the room just skyrocketed – I could hardly bring them back.
Over lunchtime, I wondered if maybe what this group really wanted and needed was group coaching. I mentioned this to one of my hosts and she jumped in with full agreement, so that’s how we spent our afternoon.
Now, I’m not suggesting that every time you’re contracted to do one thing you shift and offer another, but this was about recognizing readiness and when you do want to switch hats.
This group was giving off bold capital neon lights of readiness. And I’m glad we had the flexibility to go with that because coaching comes so much easier when clients are ready.
As I look back over my last 20 years as a coach, there have been more times than I’d like to admit when a group or person wasn’t ready, and I coached them anyway. This situation is frustrating for the coach, who ends up doing more work than they should. That’s the tell. It’s exhausting and depleting, instead of energizing and fulfilling.
It’s not good for the client, either, because personal development requires them to use their own resources. Otherwise, it’s like going to the gym and paying someone else to go on the treadmill for you, or taking piano lessons but having someone else sit and practice.
When I look back on calls that I haven’t looked forward to as much, it’s because that readiness wasn’t completely there and that meant I had to muster up more readiness. It doesn’t serve either party well because the development doesn’t happen, or it starts to happen and stops.
These days I do strive to speak up if I sense someone isn’t ready for coaching. I ask what it might look like for them to be ready, and what it might take. I describe how it would sound to me if they were ready. Hearing that distinction can be a powerful catalyst for the client.
So what does coaching readiness look like? The client will be quick to deep dive into conversation. Or if the person is an introvert, they might be equally quick to dive into deep thought. It feels like there’s a lot to do, and that just comes out. The coach can’t engage the client quick enough. We’re not talking about a fast pace, necessarily, but an eagerness to get to the next step and the next one after that.
The energy is there, and while they want you as the coach to engage them, they also want you to get out of the way and not manage them. It’s kind of like using a hula hoop. Once you get it going it doesn’t require a whole lot of motion.
Ready clients are in motion. They’re going. They don’t require a lot of the coach. They need you to be there, but not managing or over-managing. They want to commit, even though they may not know what they’re going to commit to yet. They want to take action.
And that’s what I heard in this staff training. They started out by saying what other people needed to do to fix the problems in their workplace. When I asked them to reflect on what actions they were willing to take themselves after a while they realized they needed to be invested in these solutions. And that investment was there. They were ready.