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6 Questions

| February 2, 2016

by Jim Bruce

In a recent Linkage Blog post – “Got 20 Minutes?  Try the 6-question approach to coaching” – Sarah Briegle points to a Marshall Goldsmith video clip where Goldsmith describes a six-question coaching approach that a leader can use with each of a his or her direct reports.  (Linkage is an international leadership development consultancy, Sarah Briegle is a content marketer for Linkage, and Marshall Goldsmith is one of the best known executive coaches of our day.  He is author of numerous books including What Got You Here Won’t Get You There which we frequently mention in the Leaders Programs.)

Goldsmith, in the very short video, suggests that leaders at all levels devote one of their coaching conversations with each of their direct reports in each two or three month period to a conversation which uses these six questions to guide that conversation:
1.  Organizational performance and direction:  The leader begins the conversation with a summary of how he or sees the organization performing at this point in time as well as where it’s going.  Then Goldsmith suggests that the direct report be asked:  “How do you see us performing at this time?”  “Where do you see the organization going?”
2.  The focus then turns to the individual’s work in the organization:  “Where are you (and your team) going?”  “Where do you think you should you be going?”
With these two questions the conversation is directed first toward aligning the direction of the leader and the direct report, and then to arriving at a mutual understanding of the larger picture in which the smaller picture fits.
3.  The focus next turns to the direct report’s work:  Here’s what I think you are doing well. “What do you think you are doing well?”
4.  And, to suggestions for improvement:  Here are my ideas for you to move forward in the near future to achieve our goals.  “If you were the coach for you, what ideas or suggestions might you have for you?”
5.  Support for the direct report.  “As a leader, how might I help?”
6.  Feedback for the leader.  Here’s what I’m working on now.  “What suggestions do you have for me?’
A conversation such as this on a regular basis provides an exchange of information that will serve to align the leader at any level and his or her direct reports, provide coaching opportunities, and gather input about future possibilities for the organization and interests of the staff.  At the end of such conversations, Goldsmith suggests that the leader make sure that the direct report understands that he or she has the responsibility for coming back between these regular sessions when circumstances change, when further clarity is needed, when ambiguity is encountered, and when he or she needs feedback.  The leader and the direct report each have responsibility for keeping the conversation going and the channels open.
From the point of view of someone who has had many such conversations spanning several decades, I find this outline helpful and, like so many of the things in the leaders programs, I just wish I had known this approach back when.  Perhaps you will want to give the questions a trial run this week.
Make the week a great one!  .  .  .     jim
Jim Bruce is a Senior Fellow and Executive Coach at MOR Associates, and Professor of Electrical Engineering, Emeritus, and CIO, Emeritus, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.