Companies are gradually becoming aware that one of the main skills of a manager is to have effective communication skills. This is driven by the realisation of the different and changing needs and expectations of employees. The other realisation is that managers have the highest influence in how engaged their team members are and therefore how well they perform.
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As a result, many companies are investing in their managers to develop a coaching and strength-based mindset and develop the skills and knowledge to support them. This includes learning to create trust and intimacy, asking powerful questions, using strength-based feedback and facilitate the team’s growth and development.

A conversational model

Here, I will discuss why having a conversational model based on coaching skills can support you in making a bigger impact as a manager. In the past, managers were selected from the people who were very successful in executing tasks and activities as an expert in their field and usually they knew the answers to all the questions. They determined how a task was delivered and when they retired, they were replaced by someone who had followed the same path. But now, things are beginning to change. The organizational structure of companies has shifted to flat and horizontal structures. Managers have responsibilities in teams where people have different specializations. To adapt to this new reality, organizations are moving away from traditional management practices and choosing a new approach that is different from before. Managers use more supportive conversations instead of providing tips and advice. Employees learn how they can adapt to changing environments and perform their responsibilities in a way that makes them feel more confident.
A conversational model
Many organizations around the world seem to have been affected by this change and, as a result, have become increasingly inclined to invest in the manager to learn coaching skills. At the same time, there is a lot of credible research that indicates the importance of learning coaching skills for managers and its impact on organizational results. A global professional services company estimates that $ 1 billion is wasted by the leadership of organizations as executives fill in lengthy forms to evaluate their past performance. They are now investing in developing quality, effective conversations with them, through which they are encouraging their continuous progress.

The Five Step Template

I will now introduce a five-step template for an effective coaching conversation. It will help you develop a higher quality conversation in your organization.

It is important to note that in order to get the most from this template you will need some foundational coaching skills. Remember, learning coaching skills requires training, practice, feedback and time. To acquire these skills you need to be patient, learn, apply and then refine them ideally with an accredited coaching education provider listed on the International Coaching Federation (ICF) database.

This template consists of the following steps:

1- Honeymoon: creating trust and intimacy.

2- Alignment: Clarifying the subject and purpose.

3- Exploration: Awareness of the current situation and the desired situation, options and obstacles.

4- Progress: Planning for action and progress management.

5- Learning: feedback, change, celebration and lessons.

Honeymoon Stage: Creating Trust and Intimacy

Intimacy can be summarized as follows: True intimacy is an interactive process that consists of several related components and the core of this process is:

  • To recognize, understand and accept the other party.
  • Empathize with their feelings.
  • Appreciate their view of the world.

This concept applies to both short-term and long-term relationships. Intimacy is also about the quality of the relationship you create and the feelings that develop through it.

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This quality is created by paying attention to the following:

Cognition: At the beginning of a conversation, let yourself and the audience both know who you really are. Maybe this is a conversation with an old colleague. Make sure you know about their situation and feelings today.

Creating intimacy at the beginning of a conversation allows you to build trust, and building trust builds honesty, and an honest conversation is what you need.

Another effective factor that creates intimacy between two people is recognizing similarities and accepting differences. Feeling different from others may lead to distance between them and on the other hand, we know that people are unique.  Discover the similarities that exist and appreciate the differences and explore how they can benefit the partnership.

Another factor influencing intimacy is the appropriate use of humour to soften the conversation. Joking is an art. Like when a painter puts his brush in the right place and the right amount of colour on the canvas and moves the brush skilfully. Jokes can be completely different when they are out of place and turn intimacy into distance and detachment. Research shows that leaders who have a sense of humour are 27% more motivating than other leaders.

Alignment stage clarifying the subject and purpose

What proportion of the time you spend on the honeymoon stage depends on your personality and communication style. What becomes the focus of your attention next will be the alignment stage. One analogy of alignment is how multiple musicians, each play a different instrument together to create a beautiful piece of music.

At work, you are setting goals, priorities and targets for the team. This conversation requires agreement and clarification of the purpose that is relatable to all parties involved. Sometimes we attend regular meetings that have a specific purpose, such as weekly team meetings in the organization. The important thing about these conversations are that both the overall purpose of these meetings and the agenda of the meeting have clarity and alignment.

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To agree on the purpose of the talks, we need to answer the following questions:

What is the topic of this conversation?

How much time do we have for this conversation?

What can be the best outcome of this dialogue?

How do we know we have reached the expected result? (What are the criteria for achieving the result?)

What is the role of each of us in advancing this dialogue?

The common answer of all parties to these questions can create a common goal and strengthen alignment.

Exploration Stage

Any conversation that is based on intimacy and trust and has clear goals for the parties can be a good platform for creating new awareness on the issue at hand. This involves awareness of the current situation, the desired situation, the available options and obstacles.

Some questions that may come up are:

What is the current situation?

What are the challenges we face in this situation?

What is the best situation we can create?

What do we need to change to achieve the desired situation?

What are the obstacles to achieving the desired situation?

What is the way to overcome these obstacles?

The answers to these questions can raise new opportunities for learning and growth. One important factor to keep in front of your minds is the new insights that arise and how that can help reach the goal.

Progress Stage

Planning for action and progress management

After the exploration phase, the conversations can naturally flow to the progress stage. Even the deepest awareness does not make a difference without action and movement. This stage is to plan the next steps and how to manifest the new changes agreed.

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Depending on the topic, this stage may occur within the same session, or may require another session. In any case, we must not forget that taking action and advancing towards the desired goal is an integral part of any conversation or meeting.

If your type of conversation was such that the necessary planning needs to be done in the same session, be sure to allocate the appropriate time for it, and if it is to be addressed in a separate session, be sure to schedule that session before you close.

The kind of question you can ask are:

Based on the insights from this conversation, what is our first action?

How do you want to ensure this action to be implemented?

What needs to change for you to commit fully to this action?

What other actions do you think are required?

Learning Stage

Feedback, change, celebrations and lessons

The learning stage is another important part of the conversation. Learning is “a process that leads to change, which occurs as a result of experience and increases the potential for better performance and future learning.”

This stage is usually the last part of a conversation and the conversation ends with this part. At this point of the conversation, ask what lessons can learned from this conversation and what celebrations and successes it has brought us. This approach is even more useful when it provides the future direction to the follow-up conversation.

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Questions that can be asked include:

What comes to your mind when you think about this meeting?

How could it be better?

What is the probability that you will fulfil the responsibilities agreed in this meeting?

How do you feel about this meeting?

What image have I (the manager) created in my mind about you?

The model introduced in this article is just one of the many models that managers in the role of coach can choose to communicate with their team. It is the mindset that matters most! Are you focusing on the strength-based coaching mindset?

Aziz Mirdar is a PCC coach and has more than 2500 hours of coaching experience in the fields of leadership and business management.
Aziz also has 5 years of experience as part of the faculty of FCA, delivering ICF accredited coaching education.
Aziz’s main interest is business performance and enhancing human potential in organizations. He believes that one of the most important and impactful dimensions of a business is the mindset and talents of its managers and team leaders.