Tag Archives: GROW coaching model

“She’s Mean to Me!” The Shattering Conclusion

My two previous posts discussed how to help employees who complain about interpersonal problems with their co-workers, addressing both some general principles and the GROW approach to coaching.  This week, I conclude with a discussion of some of the challenges you are likely to face when coaching employees in this type of situation.

Challenge One:  The employee will want you to solve the problem for them.  The essence of coaching, however, is that the client (or “coachee”) has to own and at least attempt to resolve the problem himself or herself.  Feel free to tell the employee this — most will understand the principle, however reluctantly.  In addition, as noted in Part 2 of this series, when you work with the employee to set goals, be sure that they are something that the employee him or herself can accomplish.

Challenge Two: You will ask the employee a coaching question and get a blank stare in return. There’s an art to asking a good question — check out an earlier post of mine for some tips.  Even the best questions, however, often result in a blank stare, or “I don’t know.”  You’ll be tempted to leap in with  your own hard-earned wisdom. Don’t. Instead, first try to let silence do the work for you.  If the pause gets too long, you can then try to get the employee’s analytical juices going using prompts such as, “What’s the first thing that comes to your mind?” or  “How did you feel when I asked you that question?” 

Challenge Three.  The employee will remain emotional and want to be vindicated.  It’s important to acknowledge an employee’s feelings. At some point, however, you’ll want to tell the employee that he or she needs to approach the problem from a strategic and problem-solving standpoint, not an emotional one.  You can tell the employee that if there is wrongdoing on the part of co-workers, you will address it, but you want to emphasize that often interpersonal problems are a result of differing perceptions and miscommunication, not intentional wrongdoing. 

Challenge Four: The employee continues to use the H-word. By this we mean, of course, the word “harassment.” As in, “He keeps harassing me no matter what I do.”  Here you can try a couple of things.  You can explain that the term “harassment” has a specific legal meaning not applicable to the situation (assuming it’s not) and is not helpful in solving the problem because it is an “emotion” word.  You can also tell the employee that the word “harassment” is vague and he or she needs to describe what’s going on with much more specificity if the problem is going to be effectively addressed.

Challenge Five: The employee tries to avoid agreeing to specific action steps. Here you’ll just have to get pushy and help the employee come up with specific steps that will advance his or her goals and that are within his or her control.  You’ll also want to use the motivational technique that’s part of the GROW method (On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely is it you will do this … ?)   

These are just a few of the challenges that come to mind — coaching is not easy. But as I noted in my first post, it’s well worth the investment of time and effort.  Have you had challenging coaching experiences? Do share them!

Happy Holidays to All. We’ll be back after the New Year.  ~Amy Stephson

“She’s Mean to Me!” Part 2

Last week, I discussed some general principles to consider when faced with employees who complain that co-workers are mean to them, criticize them, or exclude them.  This week, I want to set out a coaching approach to try if you’ve decided that coaching the complainant could be useful. 

It’s called the GROW model, which stands for: Goal – Reality – Options – Will.  Its origin is somewhat unclear and it’s been around for years.  Following is a very brief outline of how it works.

Goal.  The first thing you want to do with the employee is set a goal or goals for the coaching. When asked, the employee likely will say something such as, “I want my co-workers to be more friendly to me.”  This is not a useful goal — it’s overbroad and doesn’t focus on what the employee himself or herself can accomplish.  A better goal might be, e.g., “I want to improve my interactions with my co-workers through changing my own behaviors toward them.” (Note: it might take a lot of coaching just to get to a goal like this!)

Reality.  This is where you explore the facts with the employee. The goal is to help the employee really understand what is going on — and what is not going on. You’ll need to get some of the “story” but you don’t want to get bogged down in a lengthy account of every detail or you’ll be there all day. If you’re getting too much story, feel free to gently interrupt and ask, “So what is the bottom line?”

Options. This is where you work with the employee to come up with some possible action steps.  One technique to get the ball rolling is to say, “Let’s brainstorm. You start.”  As options come up, you work with the employee to get them to be specific and doable.

Will.  This is where you turn the best options into concrete action steps that the employee is motivated to take. You ask the employee which option(s) they prefer and when they’re going to start. One technique to help with motivation is to ask, “On a scale of 1-10, how likely is it that you will do this and do it within the time frame you’ve set?”  If the number is low, you say, “How could we turn that 5 into an 8? Are there any obstacles we should address to make sure this gets done?”

Voila — you’ve done GROW! Of course it never goes this smoothly, but it’s a helpful framework. After the meeting, either you or the employee should memorialize the action steps and set another meeting.  In a future post I’ll discuss some of the challenges that come with this coaching approach.

Have you tried coaching this type of complaint? How did it go?  ~Amy Stephson