Coaching Part 4 – Encouragement

Important elements in coaching are great listening and encouragement.  Good listening is very encouraging.  Often we mistake praise for encouragement.  When we tell somebody what a great job they have done, we think we are being encouraging.  However praise is making a judgment about something which means you are placing yourself in a judging position.  However finding out how the person feels about something and reinforcing good feeling or re-framing bad feeling is very encouraging. 

An example would be a teenager coming home with a report card.  You are tempted to say "what a great report card."  Now if it isn’t great, what do you say.  In both cases a much more encouraging approach would be to say first "How do you feel about it?"  If the teen says "I really am proud of the B in Math, as everybody I know got C’s."  Now you know where to go.  "Yeah, that must feel really good."   If the child says, "I am really disappointed, I thought I had done better."   You can say, "I understand how you might feel, what do you think you might do about it?"

This type of discussion can be very encouraging for the teen.  Now let’s translate that into the business context.  The person you are coaching, the coachee, mentions that he has had a very bad meeting with his boss.  Asking him to tell you about it and listen to how he feels about it is very encouraging.  He clearly will blame his boss, but you need to focus on things that are in his control.  Getting him to brainstorm different ways of approaching meeting with his boss might help.  I sometimes might do some role playing to help him practice a different approach.  These type of discussions can be very encouraging for the coachee.  What we are trying to do is help him feel more in control of his situation. 

A coachee might be telling me some good thing that has happened.  Rather than telling him what a great job he has done, get him to tell you about it and focus on his feeling and words.  To reinforce the good feeling, ask him what he has learned from the experience and how could he apply the experience to other situations. 

We must guard against sitting in judgment on what people tell us if we want to be encouraging.  Helping the person feel like they belong and making a contribution is very encouraging.

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