When do I coach, when do I watch, and what do I say?

As a consultant, I am often in the role of a coach. Earlier this week, I was invited to observe one of my client’s board meetings and give them some feedback. This particular organization has been a client for several years.  As you can imagine, I have many hours invested in coaching their board members, their staff, and in particular their chairperson of the board and their executive director. As I watched the board meeting progress, I found myself tempted to break in and say, “But remember you have a policy about that” or “But remember that is not really your role.” As I became aware of my temptation, I disciplined myself to writing notes and observations that I could share later. In the end, everything was resolved and the debrief after the meeting led to a very productive conversation.

Later I reflected on my experience and wrote down some important observations:

– Coach before and after the “play” but not during the play. If I would have interrupted the flow of their meeting, I would have done more harm than good. I needed to be disciplined and focus on observing: ready to provide them with outside perspectives. That is somewhat easy to identify in a meeting, but what about coaching in day-to-day situations? I believe the same wisdom applies. Interrupting their actions and giving my opinion on the fly, in the heat of the battle, can quickly become micro-managing.

– Providing negative feedback. My role as a coach is to observe and to then report back on my observations and provide solutions and tools for improvement. Feedback is about behavior and negative feedback helps them by giving them alternatives to strategies or tactics that just aren’t working.

– Provide positive reinforcement. The ordered pair in every coaching engagement is negative feedback and positive reinforcement. If feedback is about behavior, reinforcement is about motivation. Every coach wants their “player” to get better at what they do and to stay motivated to improve.

Organizational development consulting is about providing the client and every member of their team with new insights about themselves and giving them the confidence and encouragement to stay engaged. Please take a closer look at how Aligned Influence Consulting might be able to help your organization with new insights and encouragement at www.alignedinfluence.com.

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