So let’s say you’ve gotten started on the right foot in your coaching work. You’ve anticipated questions the colleague you’re coaching might have about this shift in your relationship and you’ve answered them credibly. You’ve watched for typical reactions to engaging in change and empathetically helped your colleague navigate through them. You’ve done the down and dirty work of “contracting” for how the relationship is going to work.

Cool as far as it goes, but now what??

Now is the time for what my colleague, Dave Wondra, calls fierce focus. Let’s face it, both you and your colleague are busy people. If your work together has no clear focus, it’s going to lose steam in a matter of weeks. No one needs a professional friend. They need and want significant help if they’re going to jump to the next level in their career. And you want to see that sort of progress and reward or you’ll lose motivation too.

So what to focus on? Let’s start with what not to focus on: your agenda. Too often, well-intentioned coaches feel the pressure (or temptation?) to wade into the situation dispensing loads of advice. Meanwhile, the colleague sits there wondering when the coach will shut up and listen to what they want. I’ve seen this too often. One talented, experienced manager I know thought he was doing great coaching. When I observed him actually coaching one of his people, I noticed that he often slipped into advice-giving. The reaction of the person he was coaching was obvious – he switched off every time the manager started up.

Instead, you can try this: help the person you’re coaching get extraordinarily clear on her own goals and what she must do really well to achieve them. Make sure the goals are few, meaningful, measurable, and motivating. Be certain that the identified capabilities are equally finite – don’t let a high achiever say that they have to be good at everything to achieve his goals. It’s simply not true and it’s a complete waste of time for them to think that.

But don’t stop there. Now ask yourself and your colleague an all-important question: Given your own background as a coach and professional, where and how can you add unique value to the achievement of these goals and the development of these capabilities. Just as the developing colleague can’t be a jack of all trades, nor should you. Pick your spots where a) they have strong motivation, and b) you have something BIG to contribute.

Once you know where your colleague is heading and you know how you can specifically add value, you’re right where you want to be: on their agenda and on their team.

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