Do you ever feel like you’re working harder than the person you’re coaching? Like you thought they were committed to taking an action and somewhere between your conversations, their tires slipped? Don’t despair and don’t give up. Anyone who has coached for more than a month has had this happen. More than once, I’ve come to a coaching session and asked my client what they’ve done since our last conversation only to be greeted by deafening silence.

What to do? Well, you can start by looking backwards in the process. Have you earned the right to play an influential mentoring role in your colleague’s career? Have you found a focus that’s motivating to your colleague and that plays to your strengths?

But let’s assume that’s all good. What else can you do? One option is to tap into the natural desire people have to keep explicit promises. As you begin to work with your colleague, you’ll have conversations where you brainstorm actions he can take to overcome an obstacle or achieve a milestone. There will come a point in that conversation that’s the magic moment, the moment of choice. Your colleague has intellectually outlined courses of action. But they must not stay intellectual. They must turn into action. And you can help. How? By asking the Golden Question.

And what, you may ask, is the Golden Question?

Please don’t be disappointed at its simplicity. Here it is:

What do you want to do?

There may be a pause. Don’t rush to fill it. Let him squirm as an action threatens to escape from his brain to his will.

Whatever she says, this response becomes your colleague’s homework, her explicit promise to herself (and you) of what she’ll actually do. Because coaching is, after all, all about doing.

To wrap up the promise, try this: Jot a quick email to your colleague after the meeting, thanking him for the time and noting what he agreed to do and when you agreed to check in with him next about that action. (Even better, get him to write the note!)

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