by Marshall Goldsmith
The following steps describe the basics of our behavioral coaching process. Every coach in our network has to agree to implement the following steps. If the coach will follow these basic steps, our clients almost always achieve positive change!
Involve the leaders being coached in determining the desired behavior in their leadership roles.Leaders cannot be expected to change behavior if they don’t have a clear understanding of what desired behavior looks like. The people that we coach (in agreement with their managers, if they are not the CEO) work with us to determine desired leadership behavior.
Involve the leaders being coached in determining key stakeholders. Not only do clients need to be clear on desired behaviors, they need to be clear (again in agreement with their managers, if they are not the CEO) on key stakeholders. There are two major reasons why people deny the validity of feedback: wrong items or wrong raters. By having our clients and their managers agree on the desired behaviors and key stakeholders in advance, we help ensure their “buy in” to the process.
Collect feedback. In my coaching practice, we personally interview all key stakeholders to get confidential feedback for our clients. The people who I am coaching are all CEOs or potential CEOs, and the company is making a real investment in their development. This more involved level of feedback is justified. However, at lower levels in the organization (that are more price sensitive), traditional 360° feedback can work very well. In either case, feedback is critical. It is impossible to get evaluated on changed behavior if there is not agreement on what behavior needs to be changed!
Reach agreement on key behaviors for change. As I have become more experienced, my approach has become simpler and more focused. I generally recommend picking only 1-3 key areas for behavioral change with each client. This helps ensure maximum attention to the most important behavior. My clients and their managers (unless my client is the CEO) agree upon the desired behavior for change. This ensures that I won’t spend a year working with my clients and have their managers determine that we have worked on changing the wrong behavior!
Have the coaching clients respond to key stakeholders. The person being reviewed should talk with each key stakeholder and collect additional “feedforward” suggestions on how to improve on the key areas targeted for improvement. In responding, the person being coached should keep the conversation positive, simple, and focused. When mistakes have been made in the past, it is generally a good idea to apologize and ask for help in changing in the future. I suggest that my clients listen to stakeholder suggestions and not judge the suggestions.
Review what has been learned with clients and help them develop an action plan. As was stated earlier, my clients have to agree to the basic steps in our process. On the other hand, outside of the basic steps, all of the other ideas that I share with my clients are suggestions. I just ask them to listen to my ideas in the same way they are listening to the ideas from their key stakeholders. I then ask them to come back with a plan of what they want to do. These plans need to come from them, not me. After reviewing their plans, I almost always encourage them to live up to their own commitments. I am much more of a facilitator than a judge. My job is to help great, highly motivated, executives get better at what they believe is most important — not to tell them what to change.
Develop an ongoing follow-up process. Ongoing follow-up should be very efficient and focused. Questions like, “Based upon my behavior last month, what ideas do you have for me next month?” can keep a focus on the future. Within six months conduct a two-to-six item Mini-Survey with key stakeholders. They should be asked whether the person has become more or less effective in the areas targeted for improvement.
Review results and start again. If the person being coached has taken the process seriously, stakeholders almost invariably report improvement. We then build on that success by repeating the process for the next 12 to 18 months. This type of follow-up will assure continued progress on initial goals and uncover additional areas for improvement. Stakeholders almost always appreciate follow-up. No one minds filling out a focused, two-to-six-item questionnaire if they see positive results. The person being coached will benefit from ongoing, targeted steps to improve performance.
End the formal coaching process when results have been achieved. Our goal is not to create a dependency relationship between coach and client. While I almost always keep in touch with my coaching ‘graduates’ for the rest of their lives, we do not have an ongoing business relationship.