Who Owns the Improvements? Coaching Skills, Behaviors and Performance

We’ve looked at the first two steps of the G.R.O.W. coaching process; namely, identifying the goal and evaluating the reality.  The next step in the process is to generate options for improvements.  To do that, you’ll need to ask questions that not only probe potential options for improvements, but effectively transfer ownership for those improvements to the person you’re coaching.

You’ll recall in our hypothetical coaching session that we asked our Sarah how he thinks she performed on a scale of 1-10.  To transition to the next step of the GROW process we might ask something like . . .

“Sarah, what do you think prevented it from being a 10 this time? And what do you think needs to happen to raise it to a 10 next time?”

Now, it’s crucial to the successful transfer of ownership here that you not preempt Sarah’s own thought process by suggesting improvements for her.  Remember the maxim: no one disagrees with his or her own ideas.  If the improvement is your idea, Sarah may or may not act on it. But if it’s Sarah’s idea, well, that’s a different story.  Sarah will likely at least attempt an improvement if she’s the one who thought of it.

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Now, once Sarah comes up with an idea for an improvement, don’t stop there. Say something like . . . “Great idea, Sarah. I’ll write that down. What else?”  Your goal here is to get Sarah to suggest a number of options for improvements that can eventually be pared down to a few actionable items. So continue asking “What else?” until Sarah has exhausted her options.  At the end of it, if you think there are still some things Sarah has missed, then you can follow up by saying something like, “Let me suggest one or two things that I think might help here.”

Be sure to pare your final list down to two or three actionable items.  Asking someone to make more than two or three improvements at one time will overwhelm them and cause the process to fail.  So focus only on the most important improvements for now.  There will be plenty of opportunity to work on the other improvements later on down the road.

Well that wraps up this edition of the SupportEDGE. Join us next time when we’ll look at the final step in the G.R.O.W. coaching process. Until then, be sure all your development initiatives are performance-driven and outcomes-based.


Eric Svendsen, Ph.D., is principal and lead consultant of SCInc., a learning and development consulting company. Eric has over 20 years experience in creating and executing results-oriented, outcomes-based learning and development initiatives aligned to corporate goals. He specializes in leadership development and coaching, and leading organizational culture-change initiatives around customer support and safety leadership. Eric was personally involved in the development of certification standards, performance standards, exam validation, competency models and training for the customer-support and technical-support industry, and was instrumental in the creation of the only performance-based certification in that industry.

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