Mutual coaching

Coaching is a profession of love. You can't coach people unless you love them.  Eddie Robinson

Coaching is a profession of love. You can't coach people unless you love them. Eddie Robinson

Mutual Coaching was originally developed by my friend, executive coach Marshall Goldsmith and some of his associates, as a cost-effective way to provide quality coaching to mid-level, high-potential and emerging leaders. It is now implemented in numerous organizations and is achieving significant results in accelerating leadership development.

Its design creates sustainability and reduces the cost of training by involving each participant as an equal partner in the process.

In Mutual Coaching, each participant acts as both the coach and the coachee (or client).

The likely result is a more collaborative spiritual relationship committed to continuously becoming more successful in devotional service.

Some of the benefits:
• Create a personal development plan
• Reduce isolation among leaders
• Establish collaborative norms
• Build a shared knowledge base
• Enable leaders to give and receive ideas
• Share successful practices
• Transfer training to the place of service
• Encourage deep thinking
• Develop more cohesive organizational culture
• Accelerate leadership development

What Mutual Coaching is and isn’t:
• It is professional, not social dialogue
• It is observation based
• It is not an evaluation tool
• It is developmental
• It is not a competition
• It is supportive
• It is confidential
• It is based on individual growth
• It is voluntary
• It is based on trust

Mutual Coaching Roles

As Coaching Partner, each devotee plays three basic roles for the other. From the Coaching Partner’s point of view:
• I’m your thinking partner
• I’m here as objective support
• I’m here to help you be accountable

Thinking Partner:
It’s always easier to see someone more objectively than yourself. Even if I’m struggling to improve in the same areas as you, I am much more capable of identifying a solution for you than I am for myself. It is difficult to know what to do when we find ourselves in the heat of an improvement opportunity. Having someone I can turn to for direction when I’m lost in my old patterns is enormously helpful, especially when this person is someone who knows me and is someone I can trust enough to reveal my blind spots and vulnerabilities.

Objective Support:
Devotees who know me know my old patterns well because they’ve lived and worked with them over time. You as my Coaching Partner come from a fresh point of view. You can see beyond our history, and you can see many more possibilities and strategies that are way outside the box of my habitual experience.

Accountability:
I know you’re going to ask me how I’m doing with the goals I set last week. You’re the one I entrusted with my list of what I really want to accomplish, and what I’ve committed to actually do. I’m counting on you to remember to ask me.

How Do We Measure Success?

One of their primary responsibilities is to conduct individual surveys and interviews to gather initial and continuous feedback on behalf of each participant.

Each participant may also conduct his or her own interviews with the devotees he lives and serves with.

The interview process always focuses on discovering the answers to the following questions:
• What is the devotee doing well?
• How could they improve?
• What suggestions do you have for their future?

The person conducting the interview will take careful, verbatim notes of all comments and suggestions. If comments are general, the person interviewing will probe for more specific comments. The more specific, the better. The combined information from a variety of people assists each participant to create a very clear and specific development plan.

Some considerations when choosing those who give you feedback:
• Are these people in a position to give me accurate information about my behavior? They might be supervisors, peers, and those who serve under my supervision.
• Do they feel safe enough to be completely honest with me?
• Will they be fair?
• Will they take a few minutes on occasion to give me their suggestions?

How can a devotee giving feedback be most effective?
• Make a commitment to forgive and forget the past.
• Make your observations constructive, specific and behavioral.
• Be positive and supportive.
• Be honest and fair.
• Understand the devotee won’t be able to act on all of your suggestions.
• Your role is to become a helpful coach to the devotee. Set aside any impulse to be a cynic, critic or judge.

Questions are basically the same in either case:
• What is the devotee doing well?
• How could they improve?
• What suggestions do you have for their future?

The person conducting the interview will take careful, verbatim notes of all comments and suggestions.

Specific Comments
If comments offered are general, the person interviewing will probe for more specific comments. The more specific, the better. Sometimes very small ideas from a variety of people add up to a very specific picture that helps the person being coached understand much more clearly what those around them experience and would like to be different.

Behavioral Comments
This coaching process is about behavioral change. Only comments that describe specific behaviors of the devotee will be useful.

The process:
• Write down all comments verbatim.
• If someone other than the devotee is doing the interview, compile comments by topics, mixing entries so comments will be anonymous to the devotee.
• Provide a written list of everyone’s comments to the devotee.

Determining the Target Behavior

Assuming discussion with other devotees focused on ‘what can this devotee do better’ with a look to the future rather than criticizing the past, the list of suggestions may not be so difficult to take. Actually it is information worth its weight in gold if used honestly.

If a Coach or Change Coordinator is managing the overall Mutual Coaching process, they will generally meet with each participant to review the results of initial assessment, and clarify a developmental goal.

Alternatively, the two-way Coaching Partners may help each other to review the interview comments, select a developmental goal and clarify the final goal statement.

Having your Coaching Partner reviewing the suggestions with you can be valuable in many ways:
• You may have a tendency to only look for criticism. Your Coaching Partner can bring to your attention the positive comments as well.
• Your Coaching Partner may be able to see patterns more clearly because they’re not emotionally involved in the same way you are.
• Talking over the comments with your Coaching Partner can have a synergistic effect … you may both eventually see the opportunities in a new light, which can lead to an approach from a completely new dynamic.
• It’s easier to go from understanding input to creating an action plan with your Coaching Partner guiding you to the next step.
• Make your action plan clear, measurable and achievable. Set regular times to check in with your Coaching Partner.

Some participants may want to set more than one goal. Experience and research indicates that the greatest success is realized by selecting one developmental goal. Focus is important. We are all busy. There is probably one behavior that, if improved, will make a substantial difference in other areas as well.

One important caution: It’s key that the devotee choose a goal they are enthusiastic about.

Enduring change requires commitment over time. Success is much more likely if the devotee is working toward something they truly desire.

Feed Forward

How excited do we get when someone tells us they want to give us some feedback?

What usually follows this type of offer? Usually something that sounds much more like criticism, blame, and analysis of what we did wrong. Not many of us find this very appealing.

If instead of focusing on feedback (looking in the past to create a list of past sins), we focus on FeedForward (making and soliciting suggestions for the future), it becomes a very constructive and productive experience. Some even call it ‘fun’!

How does this work?
• Choose something you’d like to improve
• Ask random people for their suggestions

FeedForward is a process of gaining positive suggestions from others that are pertinent to improving performance in a specified area.

Why not rely on feedback alone? Why do I need to do FeedForward?

• Many people are afraid that you will not be able to handle the feedback so they do not tell you the truth.
• People rarely feel like they are creating service security or strengthening friendships when they give feedback.
• Feedback is sometimes a negative experience and can cause hard feelings.
• It is very difficult to grow and navigate change when all you have is information about the past.

Why does Feed Forward work?

• When you make it clear to devotees that you need their help in order to improve in an area of development they become willing to share their ideas and thoughts on how to get better. They finally feel like they have a stake in the process.
• FeedForward is focused on giving positive, future-oriented suggestions.
• By following up on the suggestions you receive, you demonstrate your commitment to grow and devotees you serve with will develop an increased desire to help you and to share their thoughts and ideas.

How Do I Implement the Process?

• Make it informal.
o You can ask for FeedForward suggestions in person, on the phone or via email.
o Don’t wait for scheduled meetings. Pay attention to what is being said and what you are doing and use the natural opportunities to ask devotees for help.
• Keep your conversations focused.
o The purpose of the FeedForward conversation is to answer the question, “What can I do to get better in my area of development.”
o Avoid using this time to talk about other items or concerns.
• Keep the conversation very simple.
o I am working on becoming a better listener. Can you give me a positive suggestion on how I can do this?
o What can I do to become a better listener?
o What are some positive things you have noticed that good listeners do?

How Do I Select Those Who Will Give Me Feedback?

• The best people to help you are those that are in a position to give you accurate information about your behavior? They might be supervisors, peers, and/or direct reports.
• You need to make sure that they feel safe enough to be completely honest with you?
• Will they be fair in their assessment?
• Will they take a few minutes on occasion to give you their suggestions?

How Can a Devotee Who Gives Feedback Be Most Effective?

• Make a commitment to forgive and forget the past.
• Make observations constructive, specific and behavioral.
• Be positive and supportive.
• Be honest and fair.
• Understand the devotee won’t be able to act on all suggestions.
• Devotee’s role is to become a helpful coach to another devotee, setting aside any impulse to be a cynic, critic or judge.

What are the Major Roadblocks to Doing FeedForward?

• What are the roadblocks that keep you from doing FeedForward with your stakeholders?
o It feels awkward.
o I think it needs to be a formal process.
o It is difficult to change culture; this is not reflective of the current culture.
o I am so busy already, how do I fit it all in my schedule.
o I don’t know how to give FeedForward.
o I don’t know how many devotees I need to comment.

• How can I overcome these roadblocks? What are some of the best practices used to create success?
o Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
o Make it an informal experience. Fit it into your regular conversations.
o Create a reminder in your paper or electronic planner.
o Practice what you are going to say with your Coaching Partner.
o Cast a wide net and include as many people as you possibly can.
o Be quick – two minutes may be long enough.

Some Important Things to Remember

• Your devotee-colleagues’ recommendations are accurate reflections of how you can improve from his/her perspective.
• The responses you receive are current indicators of your behavior.
• FeedForward is a way for your stakeholders to support you in your goal and challenge you to get better.

Say Thank You

• The answer to every suggestion is “Thank you”.
o You are not thanking them for the content of their ideas.
o You are thanking them for willingly helping you.
• Avoid the temptation to grade or debate responses. Just say “Thank you”.

• You do not need to implement every suggestion.
o Discussion suggestions with you Coaching Partner.
o Ask yourself, “What would happen if I implemented this suggestion?”

Your success in getting better in your chosen area is directly correlated with the amount of follow-up you have with your stakeholders.

The fascinating part of this exercise is that you’re often asking people you don’t know at all … and amazingly enough their suggestions are pretty useful!

Another surprise … we find many other people have the same issues we have! And we can help them even if we feel lost helping ourselves!

The magic of FeedForward is that it’s a positive way to get many more ideas than one could ever actually use … and there’s no commitment to use the ideas!

The only requirement … just say “Thank you”. Don’t argue, complain, analyze … just say “Thank you” and write down the idea verbatim.

Mutual Coaching Support

Here are some tips to help you provide effective support to each other:

• It’s easy to focus on the negative. Help each other look at the good news in information gained from devotees interviewed. Give equal airtime to the good as well as the more challenging areas.

• Remind each other it’s not about the past. Reframe everything in the form of what can be done in the present and future.

• Avoid criticism, judgment, analysis, blame. Remember, this is Mutual Coaching so both of you are getting comments that aren’t easy to hear! It requires courage, honesty and humility to admit past mistakes. Look at them as clearly as you can without dwelling on them, make your sincere apologies and move on. Your only point of effectiveness is what you do with this information in the future.

• Help each other move past personalities. Don’t try to figure out who made what comments if you’ve received anonymous suggestions. Just look for the nuggets of opportunity, forgive everyone else for their side of the challenges, and look forward to how you can create a positive outcome for the future.

Daily Questions

Accountability is a key ingredient in a successful Mutual Coaching relationship. How often you check in with each other depends on your schedules and how you’ve set up your goals. The most effective method we’ve found for staying on track and making maximum progress is what we call “Daily Questions”.

Give your Coaching Partner questions that you want them to ask you every day or every week. These questions will usually cover the most important areas of your life. If you miss a day or two, simply ‘catch up’ later.

Some keys:
• Each person writes their own questions.
• No negative feedback. No comments that might produce any form of negativity.
• Yes to positive feedback! If you can make positive comments to reinforce success, by all means go ahead!

When writing your questions, you might think about different areas of your life, such as health, relationships, things you want to accomplish but don’t seem to get to.

Questions Marshall suggests for improving relationships: “Did you say or do something nice for your wife? Your son? Your daughter?” For tasks you would like to do: “How many minutes did you spend ___?”, or “How many sit-ups did you do?”

This process works well because it forces each Coaching Partner to confront how they actually live their values … every day. You find you either believe that something matters or you don’t. If you really believe it, you can ‘put it on the list’ and do it! If you really don’t want to do it, you can face reality and quit kidding yourselves.

Measure Results

An important aspect of Marshall Goldsmith’s coaching is measuring if the person being coached is actually improving. Improvement is not measured by the coach or the client, but by the people around them.

Mini-surveys are a simple and efficient way to measure behavioral change. They are very short and focus only on the leadership behavioral goal that has been selected by the person being coached. They are designed so that the colleagues evaluate behavior that occurs only during the coaching period.
They focus on the colleague’s perception of the individual’s improvement – not individual’s effort.

After receiving the mini-survey results the client thanks the devotees, involves them in future change and continues the process. This is almost always a positive experience for the individual and for the other devotees. When done consistently well, the positive change is seen quickly, builds momentum, and is sustained.

Author: Akrura dasa Conscious Coaching

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