Managing Your Business
in Times of
“Can you help me with …” is a request that I have heard so many times in my interactions with business leaders at all levels — a request that seems likely to occur among some readers of this website
In my experience, the most effective role is one that responds to the coaching process as it evolves. Sometimes the starting point is a general overview of a business situation or problem, followed by an open-ended client question “So, what do you think?”.
This often begins a joint thinking process that is part sounding-board, part suggestion and ideas, and part trying to see where the communication may be leading. It is highly responsive and adaptive.
Some situations begin as consulting in nature, as in “What would you suggest I (or we) do here?“. I learned never to respond directly but to step back and try to understand the full context. In many cases, the client already had a game plan in mind that was very important to discover as early as possible. You get good at this after a few decades.
What I learned, the hard way as always, is that the client will find the best approach so long as I don’t try to advise. We look at a range of possibilities. We jointly consider potential outcomes and obstacles. In many cases, the right path just flows from the process, the interactions. My role is simply to facilitate the process, whatever it may be.
This is why I have moved toward working with a written process narrative as the basis for client-coach interactions. I have found these invaluable so often as a way to provide perspective references that can easily be lost in verbal communications or on-the-fly notes.
Traditional consulting and coaching sessions are often followed up by meeting or session notes. These are nearly always constructed from handwritten notes or from memory, neither typically fully reliable or complete. What seems to be needed here is a dialog written asynchronously by both client and coach. Kind of like a series of emails.
These communications might be the result of careful thought, perhaps with some extensions, or they may be largely top-of-the-head responses. Their key value however is that they now are available for further development, correction, additions, and thoughts.
This “email” sequence can be understood and used as a “process narrative”.
What does a “process narrative” look like? You might be thinking of them as just a different kind of meeting notes but they are, at least as I develop them, more like an email thread. Content is date-ordered and is not interpreted or summarized as notes typically are.
The three coaching process examples on this page illustrate what both an open coaching process and its associated process narrative might look like.
Slack Coaching Platform
Slack as you probably know is a highly popular messaging and collaboration application. Microsoft Teams is another. Slack organizes messages around specific topics and presents them in the form similar to an email thread.
Coaching processes offered via AI-eCoach will be implemented using this Slack Coaching Platform. Slack “channels” will be set up to separate primary topics and each one’s associated messages into more compact threads.
The coaching process will be entirely online, with no onsite, video, or phone sessions.
Three Coaching Process Examples
As I read through a good deal of material while researching “executive coaching” for the book, I did not run across a single example of what an actual coaching process end-to-end might look like. Most offered a wide range o f interesting but brief “stories” to illustrate points in the text but none were in the format of an actual process record, step-by-step, as it occurred. Like me, you may be wondering what actually takes place during a business coaching process. How do these things flow in real situations?
Confidentiality does not allow me to present any situations in which I was personally involved. The best alternative that I could come up was to offer three fictitious coaching engagement narratives based on a number of actual situations that I encountered or heard about from participants over the years. Note that these reflect only the kinds of situations I have worked on and are probably not typical of what’s out there.
What you will read in these examples are my best attempts at constructing a coaching process flow record example within the context and mechanics of a fully online coaching process. I think that you will quickly see the value of a written process record.
The first example describes Carter, CEO of a large, successful regional bank who wanted help thinking through a number of issues that he was currently facing.
One involved Ryan, a senior executive from an acquired bank who was being considered for Carter’s replacement when he retired in the not-too-distant future. This situation turned out to have an unexpected complexity and sequence of events.
The second example involves Dana and Michelle, closest of friends and partners in a thriving PR and advertising agency in New York City, as they struggle with a fast-moving change in their relationship and business.
Here we can see in more detail what a typical series of interactions looks like. A coaching process like this one shows how unexpected events can end up driving the process.
The third example is Jessica who has just received a major promotion in a large software company. In her words:
“I have just received a huge promotion to sales executive vice president for a major software company. I have worked toward this job for over ten years … slaved may be a better word. I handled lots of tough crappy jobs on the road up. And here I am at last. Why am I not ecstatically happy?