Coaching Session Part 2, Debrief

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NOTE: This post is a debrief of a mythical coaching session that was posted yesterday. If you haven’t already read that post, please do so before proceeding further.

The coach’s objectives in this case were to: 

  1. Begin to build trust thru truth
  2. Engage in a somewhat jarring, but narrowly focused session keyed to the individual’s self-interest
  3. Define and arrest, albeit momentarily, unhelpful behavior
  4. Create the first step and timely follow-up on a path to improvement and success

Coaching, particularly at senior levels, is an intensely personal, trust-dependent process. Each party must believe that the other is sincere, competent and is an interested partner. The player (President in this case) must believe that the coach has his best interest at heart.

Five things that I liked about this conversation:

  1. The coach, knowing that he was going to take a very direct approach (5 minutes doesn’t allow for a lot of nuance), sought early permission, twice, to have the conversation. The player didn’t balk once they were into the discussion, but if he had, the coach might have countered the resistance by reminding him of their agreement. This can be a particularly helpful introduction to a difficult conversation.
  2. From the start, the basis for the conversation was the player’s success. “I’m seeing some things that I believe are keeping you from being as successful as you can…” That’s usually one of the best ways to help another person see a reason (one that makes sense to them) to have a conversation that leads to real change.
  3. Recognizing that he hadn’t engaged the President in any of the diagnosis or problem solving, the coach took good advantage of the 5-minute time limit to task him with identifying the list of people needing apologies, and then set a very near next discussion date. The sooner you can get positive momentum, the better.
  4. The coach tolerated a long pause, allowing the apology suggestion to sink in, and inviting input or comment.
  5. Sensing that the President’s initial commitment to not speaking about himself for the next day sounded pretty forced, the coach rightfully called him on it.  

One thing that the coach might have done better:

Even within the confines of a very short session, the coach could have encouraged a bit more conversation, perhaps by using another question to ascertain what the President’s thoughts and feelings were at the moment, e.g., “Tell me from your standpoint how your first few days are going”, and built additional support by listening carefully to the response.

I hope this has provided some information or insight that you find useful.


A few readers expressed disapproval of my use of this particular situation as a palette for demonstrating possible approaches to coaching, suggesting that I might be over-sharing a particular political point of view. I hear you, and appreciate your feedback. That said, please understand that we will continue to use contemporary examples in an effort to convey better ways of leading and managing, and will make every effort to do so in good taste and in a business-like manner. As for conveying a particular political POV, in short, we don’t. You will never know which way we lean, if we lean. Rather, we try mightily to be equal opportunity offenders.

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