In one of the recent networking sessions, someone brought up the topic of effective performance coaching tools. Participants were talking about different interpretations of what they thought were some of the most effective performance coaching tools. It included: Coaching softwares, coaching exercises, frameworks, coaching conversation starters, coaching models etc.
On my drive back, I was reflecting on the topic and was thinking about some of the most successful performance coaching turnarounds I have had in my career. Coaching sessions I have given as well as successful coaching that I have received from my mentors and leaders throughout my career. And there was an “Aha”moment. Coaching softwares, coaching exercises, frameworks, coaching conversation starters etc are great complimentary add-ons to make coaching effective but I don’t consider them as the most important aspect of coaching success. My most successful coaching stories had one thing in common: A white board and a marker!
Yes, you read it right. A white board and a marker! According to me, thats the most powerful performance coaching tool.
If you do an image search on Google for “coaching”, you will always see two people sitting in a table opposite to one another. I wonder why coaching is always associated to two people sitting at a table in front of each other. Alright, I get it, that’s where you start a coaching conversation but need not end there, right? Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you get in to a room and straight away, grab a marker and start writing on the white board. You want to ensure that you spend considerable amount of time listening and understanding what your team member is saying. But at some point, performance coaching turns in to developing actionable solutions and thats where the most powerful coaching tool kicks in. i.e. Whiteboard and a marker.
I am specifically using the word performance coaching throughout, as behavioral coaching might require a more self-realization oriented approach rather than action / data oriented.
So, coming back to our topic, what does a coach picking up a marker and writing on a whiteboard means? Three things – Partnership, Clarity & Focus.
1. Partnership: The moment both of you stand in front of a whiteboard, you become partners, trying to improve the situation rather than “go figure it out” approach.
2. Clarity: Of course, throwing the ideas and facts on the white board is going to give you a whole new level of clarity in understanding the drivers for faster action development rather than just having a general discussion around that topic.
3. Focus: Clarity enables focus. You and the person you are coaching are now able to specifically focus on overcoming the challenge rather than just being the advisor.
At the end of the day, performance coaching should be a collaborative problem solving exercise rather than “OK, I heard you, now go figure it out, I just want the results” type conversation. What better tool than a whiteboard and a marker to make it happen!