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Friday, October 3, 2014

Agenda-Free Coaching

No Plan? No Problem!

By Al Winseman, D.Min., Senior Learning and Development Consultant, Gallup

One of the most exciting things for me about strengths coaching is that I can honestly say I have no idea what’s going to happen in that hour. Now, you might think that for someone with low Adaptability, the unpredictable nature of the coaching conversation would be riddled with anxiety. I find it is far from that. It’s exhilarating and keeps me in the game. I don’t have an agenda for coaching -- and I believe that, more often than not, my lack of a plan is beneficial to my clients.

Let me explain.

While I may not have a traditional agenda, I do have a goal, and it is that goal that sets the tone for the entire coaching conversation. The goal of every coaching session I go into is to help the client achieve the outcomes he or she desires for the session. Sometimes, the client doesn’t even know what their desired outcome is, so I have to help -- by asking questions. I start the session by telling the client that this session is really about them, and that I want to focus on whatever he or she wants to do to make the best use of their time. Sometimes they have a clear idea of what they want to accomplish, other times they don’t, so I begin by asking about their role -- their position, their challenges, what they think they get paid to do, what’s the most important thing they have coming up, etc. I really don’t know where this is going to lead, but by asking questions and listening not only to their words but also for the emotions and energy in their answers, I can start getting an idea of what is important to them and what some of the challenges are that they face. From there, I let my Ideation kick in and start asking “what if” questions to start exploring possibilities. I also ask about successes to get an idea about what talent themes they might call upon to meet the challenge or solve the problem they are facing.

For some individuals, our conversation is their first exposure to the Clifton StrengthsFinder, and their goal is to just be able to start naming and claiming their talents. So the outcome of that coaching session is simply helping them to gain awareness of and an appreciation for their strengths. Usually, an exploration of talent themes leads to a discussion about challenges, job outcomes, personal goals, or relationships. And from there I try to help them find strengths-based solutions that either grow out of or call upon their greatest talents.

Why does this work for me, you might ask? That's a good question, and I am sure it has to do with how my Signature Themes inform and influence my coaching. My Command gives me the certainty that we (my client and I) can come up with a great outcome for the session based on what he or she brings. My Futuristic helps me paint a picture for the client of what that positive outcome will look like when executed. My Strategic helps me identify options and back-up plans. My Maximizer quickly identifies the best outcome from all the many options we explore. And my Ideation is driving the bus -- at least in the beginning, as one question leads to an answer, which leads to another question (or several), which leads to another answer, which leads to -- well, you get the picture.

In a nutshell, I rely on my greatest talents to guide me in this "agenda-free coaching" process, confident that if I name, claim, and aim them, they won't let me down. In other words, I guess I practice what I preach -- er -- coach.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

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Albert L. Winseman, D.Min., is a Senior Learning and Development Consultant at Gallup. Al has led change management programs and executive leadership sessions at Gallup since he joined the company in 2000. Winseman has contributed to Gallup’s thought leadership as a featured writer and content editor for the Gallup Tuesday Briefing (now and as an author and coauthor of two Gallup Press books, Living Your Strengths and Growing an Engaged Church.

Al’s top five strengths: Ideation, Futuristic, Maximizer, Strategic, Command


Anonymous said...

Great post and whilst I have a very different Top5 - Connectedness, Positivity,Strategic, Intellection, Input - I can see this approach emerging for me too. Thank you for sharing as it helps to build confidence!

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