A common question from managers, “How do I recognize the right coaching moment?” Regardless of the topic, skill, problem or mindset you’ve identified as a possible focal point in your coaching, there is one model that’s always applicable in every coaching scenario. It also happens to be the very thing each coaching opportunity has in common. That is, The Gap. The Gap is the space that exists between where the coachee is today and where they want or need to be.
The most common question I hear from coaches as well as managers starting to shift from manager to coach is, “How do I recognize where it is they need and could benefit from the coaching most?”
Actually, covering the specifics of what you can coach someone on, from a tactical perspective is actually the easier part. It’s uncovering the who or the often very elusive and limiting thinking or outlook they have which is ultimately showing up in their actions and behavior that is the tricky part. Demonstrating this ability is a true testament of a gifted, exceptional coach and I’m going to share with you how to develop it on your own.
The Gap is the space that exists between:
- What people know (current knowledge, philosophies, assumptions, stories, outlooks, beliefs, and so on) and what they don’t know or don’t realize is possible.
- What people need to do; the activity that supports their goals yet are still not doing.
- The resources and skills they have and the ones they don’t.
- The facts and their assumptions of the facts or real truth.
Imagine a bridge for a moment. Picture yourself standing on the side of the bridge. You focus your vision on the other side of the bridge which is the location you want to get to. Think about what you need to do to get to the other side. Consider the resources needed to arrive at your desired destination in the shortest amount of time and with the least amount of risk or error. Reaching the other side is your goal or your destination. Notice the Gap. What might you need to fill in this gap; this void that exists between you and your goal?
The Gap is the void between where you are now in comparison to where you want to be. This is the space where the coaching happens. What’s needed to cross the bridge? You need a car if you want to get to your destination as fast as possible. You need fuel as the resource needed to get your car moving. You need a clear path that would help you arrive at your destination with the least amount of delays, obstructions, diversions and wrong turns. Identifying these resources (which we did through the use of inquiry, just like when you’re coaching) provides definition, structure and an executable strategy which collectively, evolved into an actionable and comprehensive solution to this situation.
Instead of assuming what your staff already knows or what they need to do, start determining what they need to know or learn how to do better in order to fill in this gap and ensure clear communication and spot-on coaching. You’ll increase your awareness, become more sensitized to what the other person needs to learn and uncover greater opportunities for coaching.
Most important, stay away from doing what many managers still habitually do. That is, react and share the answer or what you perceive to be the solution to a problem before understanding the person’s specific needs or asking the right questions that create the space for the person to develop a solution on their own. Recognizing the gap in every coaching conversation or situation with your clients, staff or even with your prospects and customers will help you become more sensitive to the importance of investing the time to go deeper into their specific challenge, request or situation. Embedding this within the foundation of your thinking and approach to managing and coaching will allow for a strong coaching culture to emerge.
Photo Credit: Big Berto