Everyone starting out their coaching journey, whether formally or informally, has a common experience from time to time.
They started out strong when entering the conversation, or so they thought.
They helped facilitate some great discussions, invoked clarity and insight, and uplifted their client to view new horizons. As the conversation winds down, however, an unsettling feeling begins to creep up on you.
You don't know how to get off the conversation highway. You've never marked the exit.
For most of us, the meat of the conversation comes in the coaching zone. You're listening, paraphrasing, reflecting, and asking powerful questions. While that is where the real work is done, you'll never land the dismount until you know how to successfully map out the journey.
Before jumping into the arena with your client, it's imperative that you take a three-tiered approach to mapping out your destination.
Topic --> Outcome --> Success measures
The first step is identifying the topic. Usually brought by the client, though sometimes initiated by the client, the topic is the first signal that a coaching conversation is about to begin.
I liken it to driving to a new location. If you're not sure how to get there, the first thing you do is take out your smartphone and look up the destination in your Google Maps app.
So if I wanted to go to the Northside Branch of the Fort Worth Public Library, I'd type it into my phone. That's the first step in the journey, the topic of the conversation.
Yet that only tells me where I'd like to go. Specific directions come from hitting the blue Directions button in the bottom left corner.
When I hit the Directions button, I see route from my current location to the desired destination. That's analogous to funneling down from a topic to an outcome. It's the outcome that maps the route from point A to point B.
And this is where many coaches get lost.
They look at the map and say to themselves, "Seems easy enough. Only 7 miles away, just a few major streets." With confidence, they put their phones away and start driving into the conversation.
Sometimes they can get there, either through a good memory or dumb luck. More often than not, however, they miss a turn. Coaches start to get sidetracked, chasing rabbits or missing obvious markers pointing to the outcome.
This happens because they never set success measures. Before setting out, if you and your client decide on what it will look like when you've reached your outcome, that's just like hitting the blue Start button on your map app. That's what begins the turn-by-turn directions that assist you every step of the journey.
Sometimes success measures are quantifiable, such as finding a strategy or two to help with a problem. Sometimes they are more open, like being a sounding board to think through a situation. Whatever they are, success measures will guide you every step of the conversation and ensure you don't miss your exit.
So, coach, if you find yourself getting lost in your conversations, you might want to ensure that you've actually started your navigation system. Decide on a topic (plugging in the destination), agree on an outcome (hit Directions to show the route), and set some success measures (push Start to show turn-by-turn directions).