Creating new possibilities – a coach approach to helping peers and colleagues to come up with new ideas

As managers and leaders part of our role is helping others think, choose and act; but that can sometimes be easier said than done.  To help you stop ‘telling’ people what to do and move towards ‘asking’ them what they think and can do, these 5 steps will support you to have more coaching conversations at work.

1. Recognise the coaching moment.
Sometime as a manager we get asked for help and we jump into solution mode by default.  We need to learn to spot coaching moments when they occur and even check-in with the other person if this is a great time to have a quick coaching chat.  Look out for moments when the other person may be saying I’ve got no ideas or I’ve one or two ideas and not sure what to do.  Ask them – ‘would this be a good time for me to help you come up with more?’

2. Download their current ideas.
Now you’ve got permission to coach them, have them download what’s in their head asking them ‘what’s your current idea?’, then follow up ‘and what’s another?’ and ‘what else can you do?’  People will keep going if you ask, and if in doubt, just hold your silence just a bit longer (to the point of you feeling uncomfortable – but they are not) before finally asking ‘and anything else comes to mind?’.

3. Find even more ideas!
So they think they are done with their ideas, but you think there is more they can come up with (no doubt you have some amazing ideas – if only they asked!).  One way of getting an idea off your chest is to share it, but without attachment.  A great way of doing that is by saying ‘when you said x, it made me think of y’.  You can always follow up with ‘what does that make you think of?’ Or ask them, ‘if you were me, what would I suggest?’  Asking the situation from different perspectives is a great way of exploring even more options.  Some ideas on how to open up perspectives is by using people they know, for instance ‘if x was here, what would they suggest?’  Or introduce a random perspective ‘what would your feet choose to do?’ And finally, challenge them to come up with 10 new ideas in 3 minutes.  Keeping the pace and suggesting a high number will help them to think more outside of the box.

4. Choose your options.
Suddenly they have loads of options to pick from, when before they only had one or two.  Asking them to summarise their key options isn’t about a memory test but more a what-is-most-memorable test.  If you think there is a great option they’ve missed, simply remind them.  To help them choose ask them ‘what is a quick win for you?’ followed by, ‘what would have the biggest impact or make the most difference?’ and ‘what is within your power to do?’

5. Making your choice
Now they’ve narrowed down their choices to one or two or three, it’s worth checking how committed they are about following through on their ideas.  A great way of doing this is by asking them to summarise what they will be doing, by when and how will they know it’s done?  And if you are belts and braces type of leader, ask them on a scale of 1 to 10 how committed they are to taking on their new idea.  You may find a low commitment score will open up a new conversation about ‘what needs to change?’ so be prepared to keep going with the conversation!  To make sure the conversation is finally finished, you can always wrap it up with a great learning question of ‘what have you learnt?’.

If you are curious about how to improve your coaching skills at work then why not ask us about our Curious Conversations training programme – supporting managers to have coaching conversations at work in just 10 minutes.