Hawkins has observed how in many organisations a manager is often approached with the question: Can I have five minutes of your time? What often proceeds is the individual sounding off about a situation they are facing imminently which feels uncomfortable and to which they need to find a solution.
Usually, the background to such a conversation is that something has / hasn’t happened, and the individual is now in their own mind creating a story and is beginning to catastrophise the situation. Here’s a typical scenario:
Jane attempted to call Jim about the sales figures for April. She needs to get them for a meeting tomorrow and emailed requesting them urgently yesterday. Jim hasn’t responded to the email or phone call, and she is now worried that she has upset him and that he is ignoring and that this will result in her not getting the data she needs and looking incompetent. Now she wants you to follow up the call for her.
We all experience situations like this. Where there is silence our minds often begin to draft stories and our emotions start to react to our stories and we begin to feel distress. Situations like this one offer a great opportunity to undertake a short three-minute technique developed by Hawkins (1) known as corridor coaching where we ask the individual a planned series of questions:
- What do you need from these three minutes?
- Who do you need to relate to?
- What are you feeling right now?
- What do you think the other person is feeling / needing?
- How can you connect with what they need?
- What are you going to do?
If the person is coming with a more practical question Hawkins suggests including more practical questions such as:
- Who can best help you with that issue?
- What support do you need to work through the situation?
- How specifically can I help you most effectively in these three minutes?
You will notice that in each situation the focus is on the other person’s challenges, emotions, and resolution. Your role is very much as the supporting actor, or narrator adding an outside the story perspective to their experience.
(1) Pp.90-91, Hawkins (2012)