(If you’re unsure of the context of pitfall #13, or if you would like to review this material generally, go to the end of this article and read, “Putting the 17 pitfalls in context.”)
So where does performance really come from?
Performance, like everything else around us, starts as a conversation. No, I’m not kidding. Products, services, marriages; you name it. It all starts out as a conversation. Where else could it start out?
It didn’t come from a factory. It came from a conversation.
The fact that performance (as well as most of the things we see around us) originate from conversation, is the good news and the bad news. The catch is that, English is not always an exact language, nor an action language, according to J R Searle. When we communicate in English, it’s easy to end up with lots of talk and little action.
Conversations for action
Scientists have identified, analyzed and categorized the communications processes that lead to action. These processes came from conversations that led to some of the most remarkable innovations of the Twentieth Century. They’re represented by the conversation wheel, which you see below.
More about the wheel, itself, in a moment
I’ll get back to the conversation wheel in a moment, but first, let me tell you about the first innovation that resulted from the conversations represented by the wheel: It was the gas laser, whom some have said was a more revolutionary breakthrough than the atomic bomb.
When the members of the gas laser team were interviewed about the process they went through when they created it, they generally described the conversation wheel. Here’s what it means, in coaching terms:
Conversation #1: completion
When the coaching session first gets under way, the first order of business on the conversation wheel is completion. This concept simply means that any background conversations, questions, concerns, and so on, are set aside so they don’t distract from the session.
Conversation #2: relationship
Next is the relationship conversation. This is the state of affairs that exists between the coach and the coachee. In essence, these are the values common to both parties. Breaks in relationship must be repaired if anything substantial is to result.
Conversation #3: possibility
Conversation for possibility is simply a judgment-free brainstorming session of the various possibilities. Almost anything is possible. This is the phase where, if allowed, powerful innovation occurs.
Conversation # 4: opportunity
If I am going to die from heart failure in three to six months, and someone promises to get me a heart for transplant in nine months, that new heart is not an opportunity for me. Conversation for opportunity simply defines the possibilities as worthy of action or not.
Conversation #5: action
Once I have a set of opportunities, I can now have a conversation for action. This is the also the coaching conversation. Identify the outcomes from the actions that the coachee can take now. See an action and take it.
Conversation #6: clarity
Clarity can be useful — indeed vital — at any stage of the conversation. That’s why we have placed clarity at the hub of the wheel. Velocity (or progress) can be seriously impeded if clarity is not present.
By the way, although clarity was present in the gas laser team’s conversations, it was not initially recognized as such, by the researchers.
You have to know where you are on the wheel
Powerful coaches always know where they are on the conversation wheel, just like people climbing Mt. Everest usually know where they are on the mountain. Take the wrong action for your location, and you put the desired outcome at risk.
Using the conversation wheel in your coaching efforts will help you and the coachee know where you are, and what conversations make the most sense for what the coachee is trying to accomplish.
What parts of the conversation wheel help coaching performance?
In our experience, coaching is significantly derailed if the conversations for completion, relationship, clarity and action are not included in a coaching conversation.
Try it, we think you’ll like it.
Most people are delighted by the improvement in performance that they attain when they use the conversation wheel in their coaching.
Putting the 17 pitfalls in context
Performance leadership is the combination of leadership and coaching. Leadership establishes what we call an opportunity gap between today, and what we desire at some time in the future. Coaching is the art of getting, and keeping, people in innovative action to fill that gap.
Easy to say, and often wickedly hard to do, in real life.
Avoiding the 17 pitfalls
Coaching, in our opinion, is a key skill in achieving performance in any organization. Developing the skills to avoid the 17 pitfalls of coaching is a vital ability for leaders in high-performance organizations.
The 17 Pitfalls of Coaching
1. Not establishing what’s so.
2. Not asking “What’s possibly missing.”
3. Not operating out of the coachee’s occurring.
4. Attempting to coach into no demand.
5. Giving advice versus asking questions.
6. Making the session’s purpose to advance the coach versus the coachee.
7. Not understanding what makes coachees perform.
8. Not being in dialogue.
9. Not using generative language.
10. Not asking the “Do you think you can?” question.
11. Not asking “What does that make possible?”
12. Not being present.
13. Not using the conversation wheel.
14. Coaching the story.
15. Drifting into solution instead of focusing on action.
16. Getting lost in knowledge instead of action.
17. Not helping the coachee gain distinctions.