The effective coaching of employees by their line managers is fast becoming an expectation from both senior management and from the employees themselves. Many managers are now being taught how best to coach their employees by employing the standard coaching model called G.R.O.W, where G equates to the Goal to be achieved, R to the Reality of the present situation, O for Options available and W for the Way Forward and Will.
G.R.O.W, constructed by Graham Alexander and championed by Sir John Whitmore, is a well-established coaching model and an excellent “starter” model to enable managers to get used to using a structure for coaching. Very competent managers and coaches can use the G.R.O.W. model effectively by taking time and ensuring depth at each of the four stages but busy managers or less competent managers and coaches can tend to “skip” through the stages which, can often result in the following scenarios:
o An acceptance of Goals or Objectives without checking the validity of the reasons behind wanting to achieve these goals or objectives.
o A lack of full understanding of the Performance Gap between the present situation and the desired outcome.
o A lack of exploration in the Options phase meaning that only a few options and probably the more traditional “tried and tested” options are highlighted.
o Not enough time spent checking the Motivation of the employee to move the actions forward and also discussing how the manager is going to provide onward support.
G.R.O.W provides a structure but may not provide enough “discipline” for busy managers to ensure adequate depth of understanding and support.
The OUTCOMES® coaching model has been designed to enable managers and sales managers to undertake more structured and productive coaching sessions with their employees and sales executives than perhaps they have been used to. The increased structure will result in more depth to their coaching and as such will enable an increase in more understanding, motivation and commitment to action than they may have experienced with other coaching models such as G.R.O.W.
OUTCOMES® provides more structure than G.R.O.W simply by the fact that there are more distinct stages that a manager or coach must adhere to. The initial reaction from most managers I have introduced it to has been one of initial frustration in that with it having more distinct stages to go through and check, it can take more time to implement. However, once the managers understand the reasons for the extra steps and the fact that if they use this model carefully, they will get good results, the managers have warmed to the model.
So what are the stages behind OUTCOMES®?
I am going to guide you through the model by way of a “coaching conversation” between Mark, the manager and Jonathan, the employee
O – Objectives
It is important that the objective for the coaching session is established at the onset. What are the specific reasons for meeting and what exactly would the employee look to achieve as a result of the coaching session?
In all situations it is vital that a desired outcome or objective for the session is identified and the manager must take time to fully establish exactly what is to be achieved. Only that way can the coaching session be measured in terms of its effectiveness.
Questions to ask:
What would you like to discuss and what would you like to get out of the session?
What specifically do you want to achieve in this session?
How specifically can I help you?
How will you know that we have achieved our objectives for this session?
Be careful when accepting outcomes or objectives that cannot be realised within the course of the coaching session. Sometimes employees can come with weird and wonderful challenges and ideas and many expect solutions from one coaching session. Manage their expectations and break down the challenge or idea into manageable “chunks” so that you achieve something every session on the way to achieving the overall objective. Some objectives need to be broken down this way into smaller objectives and actions before the overall objective is realised.
Let’s start our coaching conversation between Mark and Jonathan.
Jonathan was a new employee and was attending his first review session with Mark, his line manager. Mark had contracted well with Jonathan in terms of how they were going to work together and he had also outlined that the review sessions were for Jonathan to use Mark’s coaching skills to support him to find solutions to any challenges and ideas that he had within his role. Jonathan’s mindset, based in previous experience of managers, was that this “one to one” was really just an opportunity for the manager to “check up” on what he had been up to. Jonathan did have an issue in that he was way behind with a report which is due to be handed in to another manager the following week and as such he was no way near finished it.
At the start of the meeting, Mark again outlined the aims of the “one to one” and then started the OUTCOMES® process by firstly establishing what Jonathan’s objectives were for the meeting:
Mark: “Jonathan. What specifically would you like to achieve over the next half hour?”
Jonathan: “I thought I would bring you up to date with my overall progress.”
Mark: “Anything in particular you would like support on?”
Jonathan: “I don’t think so.”
Mark: “If there was one thing in particular which if you could find a better way forward it would help your progress, what would it be?”
Jonathan: “Well. I do have to get a report in and I am already behind schedule. I would like some support in getting this finished.”
U – Understanding
This stage is an important one in that it is vital that the manager or coach fully understands the reasons behind why the person being coached wants to achieve a particular goal or objective. It also helps if the person being coached fully understands why they want to achieve that particular goal!
You will find that on many occasions, employees identify objectives which they think the manager wants to hear. This happens if the employee has not fully committed to coaching and/or is suspicious of the manager’s motives and intentions. Perhaps they see the “one to one” as an assessment as opposed to a developmental meeting. If they do then they will be tend to be defensive and not as open to learning as they should be.
A good coaching manager will seek to establish why a particular objective is looking to be achieved. Once this has been established it not only helps the manager to understand but also reinforces the drive in the employee to attempt to achieve the objective.
Mark: “This report that you have to get completed, tell me why it is important to you that you get this report done, and on time?”
Jonathan: “I am new to the company and want to impress, so getting this report in shows that I am both keen and capable. If I don’t get it in on time then there may be some questions asked about my capability and commitment”
Let’s stop the case study there. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for Mark to suddenly jump in and start giving advice as to how to finish the report. This is the typical manager’s response. But, Mark, by asking the question as to why it is important for Jonathan to get the report right and on time, is ensuring that Jonathan is identifying and reinforcing within himself the need to get this report right. He is now more open to Mark’s coaching and Mark is now more aware of Jonathan’s desire to get the report right.
T – Take Stock
If we continue the coaching conversation involving Mark and Jonathan the next stage of the OUTCOMES® model is to ensure that both parties have a complete understanding of where Jonathan is in relation to the overall objective which is to ensure that he has the tools and drive to complete the report.
Mark: “So, Jonathan, it transpires that you have a report to finish by next week and that you feel you are slightly behind with this.”
Mark: “How useful would it be if we worked on this together over the next half hour in order that you went away from here confident and with further information that would enable you to complete the course?”
Jonathan: “Very useful”
Mark: “OK. Tell me more about exactly what stage you are at with the report”.
Jonathan: “I have written the executive summary but I am struggling to find the information I need to complete the report”.
Mark: “What information specifically do you feel you need?”
Jonathan: “I cannot find the sales data for Product X from the last three years.”
Mark: “If you were able to access this data would this be sufficient to complete the report?”
Jonathan: “Well, yes. Although I may also need a bit of support to graph the figures.”
Mark: “If we got you support to be able to graph the figures, would this mean you could now complete the report?”
Mark: “OK. So basically you have a report to finish by the end of next week and in order to do this you need to access three years sales data for Product X and learn how to graph these figures?”
Again, let’s stop the coaching conversation there. Mark has now established the current situation in other words they have both “Taken Stock”. Mark must now establish and clarify the exact gap that has to be “closed”.
C – Clarify the Gap.
It is important that the manager now fully establishes exactly what has to be done in order for the employee to realise their objective. Let’s follow Mark’s coaching with Jonathan.
Mark: “Jonathan, exactly what sales figures do you require to finish this report?”
Jonathan: “I need Sales per year, quarter and by month along with growth and market share, and of course I need to present these graphically. I would like to do decent line graphs and pie-charts but don’t know where to start.”
Mark: “Anything else you would like or need?”
Jonathan: “Perhaps, some help in putting the report into a nice professional binder”
Mark: “OK. So if we can enable you to get the figures that your require plus support to graph it and present it professionally, you will have achieved your outcome?”
Mark is now at the stage where the outcome has been defined, the reasons established and the exact amount that has to be done identified. Mark must now ensure that he continues to coach Jonathan appropriately as opposed to just tell him where to get all these figures etc.
O – Options Generation.
Mark: “In terms of sales figures, what have you done so far in attempting to get these?”
Jonathan: “I looked at the Sales Department’s recent communication but it only gives figures for the last six months. I need three years worth. I left voicemail messages and sent an e-mail but to no avail as I have received no replies”
Mark: “Where else could you try?”
Jonathan: “I could speak to IT, I suppose. They should have all the data on file somewhere.”
Mark: “Anything else you could do?”
Jonathan: “I really should chase up the sales guys. I actually don’t like not receiving a reply to messages that I have left!”
Mark: “What about learning how to graph the data?”
Jonathan: “IT as well?”
Mark: “Could be! You may also find that both IT and the Sales people will have the capability to show you how to present your report.
So, where are you now with a way forward?”
Jonathan: “I am going to chase up the sales guys again, perhaps even go over to their department as opposed to leaving voicemails or e-mails. I will also check with IT.”
Mark: “And the graphs and binding?”
Jonathan: “I will check with both these departments as well in relation to both the graphs and the binding”
M – Motivate to Action
The temptation will be for many managers to leave the coaching conversation at this point but it is important that you check the motivation and capability of the person to carry out the tasks. Otherwise the action may not happen.
Mark: “Great. How confident do you feel about approaching these departments?”
Jonathan: “Now you mention it, I don’t really know anyone there and as I am new they will not know me. So I suppose, not as confident as I would like”
Mark: “What do you need to make you feel more confident?”
Jonathan: “Perhaps a personal introduction. Or even if I could just use your name?”
Mark: “Sure, just say I sent you over and you are probably best to seek out James in IT and Sally in Sales.”
E – Enthusiasm and Encouragement.
At this stage the employee should be motivated to action and now it needs some re-inforcement from the manager.
Mark: “I am pleased with your progress Jonathan since you have been with us. Keep up the good work and thanks for the effort that you are putting in.”
Doesn’t take long to say but it can be worth one “hell of a lot” to an employee to hear these words. Sadly too many managers fail at this juncture. Also very few managers actually offer any form of support and the last stage of the OUTCOMES® model is to ensure that support is discussed.
S – Support
Mark: “Is there any way I can be of support in enabling you to complete the reports?”
Jonathan: “At this stage I have all the information I need to move forward. If, though, I can’t contact James and Sally because of whatever reason, can I give you a call?
Mark: “Sure. Try these people and their departments first. I am sure they will help you out”.
We come to the end of our coaching conversation and we have a situation where the employee, Jonathan has come with an issue and left with action and motivation, coupled with a satisfaction in knowing that his manager, Mark, is there if he ever needs support.
Obviously it is not always this simple and that there will always be situations where the coaching conversation will be more complex but I hope that this example gives you a flavour of how to use the OUTCOMES® coaching model.