As human beings, we are a communicative bunch. When we get together, most of us have lots to share. AND, in the workplace, we get together for various reasons:
- to catch up on what is happening in our colleagues world
- to update them on our work
- to solve problems together
- to "kvetch" about what is wrong with management
- to connect and build a better relationship
- (fill in the blank)
When the possibility for a Coaching Conversation is present - which is most of the time - there are clear and certain elements that transform the discussions (which often resembles debates) into a Coaching Conversation.
1. The purpose of discussion (and certainly a debate) is usually for the speaker to win and the listener to lose. This is accomplished by the speaker coming from and holding onto a "position." In a Coaching Conversation, the purpose is initially to learn from one another SO THAT we can find solutions together.
2. The primary process in discussions is talking - just putting your message out - and often not focusing on how it affects others, or what happens as a result of the your expression. In a Coaching Conversation, people learn to deliberately frame their topic with a positive intention, share from a "point of view", and use reflective listening to ensure understanding occurs.
3. Discussions usually contain explicit or implicit value statements framed as "likes and dislikes" or things one "agrees or disagrees" with. Coaching Conversations focus more on finding things to appreciate or acknowledge about others, and the often more relevant "alignment" with people, their thinking, etc. At the end of the day, "alignment" is what makes organizations effective or not.
4. Discussions contain "stories" from people about the who's and what's of their world. There is nothing wrong with stories - however, Coaching Conversations ALSO delve into what was learned as a result of the experiences contained inside the story. Use of "learning questions" then becomes a key skill, and serves to transform the conversation.
5. Updates are great - we need them. AND, have you experienced endless updating that ends up going nowhere? Aspects that turn "updating" into a Coaching Conversation would be the addition of "feedback" from one or all the parties, and exploration of "next steps" - the "So What...Now What?" question.
6. Discussions often contain aspects of "venting" or blowing off steam. This is helpful and even healthy...depending on how it is done. In a Coaching Conversation, I think the language one chooses makes it healthy or not. The use of "self-responsible" language seems to transform a venting/blaming/excuse-making diatribe into an appropriate sharing of thoughts, feelings, and experiences that leads to true understanding - usually of onesself. If people learn how to express their experiences in "I" language, the information is easier to hear by others, and the central principle of personal accountability is maintained.
7. Lastly, discussions can often focus on a "reaction" to an event, including what one plans on doing about it. In a Coaching Conversation, the focus is deliberately on "responding" in some appropriate way, and therefore, usually contains some conscious reflection time. It is great to be highly responsive to customers and their needs (internal and external), yet the reflection time slows us down just enough to usually make more tempered decisions.