By the end of this session:
- You will be able to appreciate the multi-layered nature of empowering communication.
- You will be challenged to adopt motivational techniques.
In coaching approaches communication is the core tool for change. In this session we will think about using a complete approach to our communication with others to ensure a congruent and effective approach to cultivating a coaching culture.
Think about receiving a text message. You get all the words the other person has said, but how often have you completely missed the point? Imagine you received the following text:
I never said she stole my money.
What does it mean? Where does the meaning come from: the speaker or the listener?
The words we use to communicate are clearly important. They are the basic building block. Yet without congruence with self and others, the words can create confusion. So, what is congruence?
In essence, congruence is the act of different elements being in agreement. Returning to our phrase above, its meaning only comes through agreement between the words and our delivery of the words. This means, when we communicate with others, we should be aiming to ensure our whole demeanour displays and suggests what we intend our words to mean. That includes:
- Use of voice
- Body language
- Our location
Whilst this is not an exhaustive list, you can see that the point is we need to be planned to ensure we do not give any mixed message. This requires us to have integrity and be honest with ourselves when communicating with others.
Then there is congruency with the person with whom you are communicating. We also need our communication to resonate with the other person. In a way which demonstrates integrity to who we are we also need to have resonance with the other person in:
- Body language
- Choice of words
- Stories which connect and have shared meaning and importance.
When all aspects of our communication match with who we are and what we are trying to communicate, and this matches with the other person our communication potential to empower change is at its maximum.
Congruent communication = integrity + connection
Whilst good communication skills are important, it is their motivation which is critical to coaching approaches. In coaching cultures, this motivation can be best characterised as engagement. Engagement is characterised by two-way processes which outcome in mutual benefit. In the case of coaching cultures, our skilful communication is not intended to cunningly convince the other person to do what we want, but instead is designed to help us engage them in a joint process which has maximum benefit for both parties.
Whether working with an employee or a service user, there are some shared principles which can support a sense of engagement:
- Role modelling the importance of, and your response to, feedback.
- Giving people planned and constructive feedback.
- Sharing and demonstrating values with integrity.
- Role modelling personal accountability for mistakes as well as successes.
- Not only encouraging innovation, but also offering support for it to happen.
- Providing appropriate responsibility and authority to act independently.
- Linking personal and organisational / social / community goals.
- Providing recognition and reward.
- Cultivating and demonstrating a positive climate for experimentation and trust.
There are also behaviours and attitudes which disengage others:
- Not feeling respected by the coach / being able to respect their coach.
- Not feeling valued.
- Having ideas discounted.
- Being unclear about goals and expectations.
- Lack of integrity with stated values.
- Lack of teamwork / encouragement.
- Personal expression not valued.
- Lack of empowerment.
- Lack of useful feedback.
These principles will take on different meaning in relation to whether you are a manager or practitioner, but their underlying philosophies are what count. These can be expressed as:
Engaging communication = lived values + empowerment + relevance + personal validation
One of the fundamental aspects to the direction of coaching style conversations is that they are characterised by the idea, what do I do next. As such, most coaching orientated questions avoid the use of why. This is because why is an interrogative question which tends to force the recipient to look back and investigate what they did rather than orientating them towards what they can do now. It is not that there is never a place for why in the coaching vocabulary, but its just that it used sparingly.
Often, in a work context, a coaching culture is one in which we will be engaging in ongoing learning. Jones and Gorell provide a useful summary of questions which can aid in this regard:
- How did you feel that conversation / meeting / event went?
- What things surprised you?
- What did you learn?
- What might you do differently next time?
- A couple of things I noticed were …
- What are your thoughts on this?
- How has this conversation helped you?
- What do you take away from this conversation?
You will notice that these questions are all about what the individual has learned from the past with a focus on encouragement and application for the future:
Coaching questions = forward focused + appreciative + curious
 P.93, Jones and Gorell (2018)
 P.89, Jones and Gorell (2018)
 Pp.108-109 (2018)