Top 3 tips for coaching your colleagues

Published Jul 4, 2023, 11:01 AM
Written by Justin Matthies

Here's what it's like to coach colleagues within a company with a flat management structure.

"Coaching is a lot like a game of Jeopardy. The correct answer is usually a question."

Coaching is a lot like a game of Jeopardy. The correct answer is usually a question.

Stepping into the role of coach was daunting at first. During my time at Symbiote I’ve had a few different coaches – each of whom brought their own style, approach and personality to our sessions. While they provided different types of sessions, they were all useful. Sometimes I just needed a good chat and debrief after a busy week. Other times I needed a structured session talking about goals and career progression.

So, when I became the coach I spent a lot of time thinking about how I can make sure the people I’m coaching have the same positive experiences I’ve had. 

These are three principles I try to follow in my sessions:

1. An effective coach has questions, not answers

It’s important to understand the difference between a mentor and a coach.

A mentor shares their experiences and advice. A coach, on the other hand, asks opened-ended questions, guiding the coachee to come up with the answers themselves. 

The benefit of the coaching model is that you don’t need to be a subject matter expert in the topic of discussion. Asking powerful open-ended questions empowers the coachee.

Powerful questions invite introspection and draw on the knowledge the person may not know they have. Examples of powerful questions include:

  • What would success look like in this situation?
  • Can you tell me more about your current challenge?
  • What would be your first step towards finding a solution?

2. Let the coachee set the agenda

It’s important both parties are prepared for a coaching session. At Symbiote, we encourage staff to complete a 5.15 document.

The 5.15 should take 15 minutes for the coachee to write, and then 5 minutes for the coach to read prior to the session. It’s a simple one pager that allows the coachee to outline:

  • My focus from the previous fortnight
  • Results/achievements since our last session
  • My focus for the next fortnight
  • What I need from my coach
  • What my coach needs to know
  • An update on any goals.

These prompts allow the coach to understand what may come up in the session. It gives you an opportunity to celebrate the wins, understand and discuss current challenges, and touch base on goals. The amount of time spent on each section varies session to session based on current needs.

3. Do your homework!

Most coaching sessions have some action items to follow up on for one, or both parties. 

In a recent coaching session I had an action item to locate a position description for a senior role within the company to help my coachee identify some new goals. I made time to follow this up because it was going to be a large part of our next discussion. 

In another session, we talked about the confusion that was being caused in a project by people using different terms to describe the same thing. The coachee set themselves the task of writing a piece for our internal wiki to avoid future confusion.

I’ve been in the coaching role for a few months now and the three principles above have helped me find my groove. I’m enjoying the fun, engaging, and sometimes challenging conversations I get to have. If you get the opportunity to become either a coachee or a coach (or both), I can recommend it as a growth experience.