Author: Shiv Sivakumar

Journey of a coach – theory & practice (Part II)

In an earlier article “Journey of a coach – theory & practice (Part I), we introduced the “circles of influence” which form the context (see diagram below) for coaching process. The circles in the diagram above have a significant bearing on coaching effectiveness and need to be addressed by the coach using the theory of coaching (such as Whitmore’s book on “Coaching for Performance”). In the case of some circles, the theory may “end” at some point and the coach will have “interpret” and “extend” it for the specific coachee situation at hand. We covered the following in Part I of this article: · Circle #1: Are all situations “coaching situations”? · Circle #2: Are people always receptive to coaching? In this Part II, we will cover the two remaining circles. Circle #3: Are coaches sometimes helpless? Circle #3 above regarding “beliefs, perceptions and personal circumstances” can actually be quite a hard shell hindering coaching progress. But it is often an invisible hard shell because people will share only so much of their innermost beliefs and personal circumstances even though they are impacting their work performance. Coaches make chance discoveries of this shell in the Reality check part (that is, the current state of affairs that needs to improve to meet the Goal) of the Goal-Reality-Options-Will (GROW) model of Whitmore. Here are examples: · A coachee once candidly admitted...

Read More

Questioning and Asking Questions – what is the difference?

  A speaker finishes a great speech – at least, HE thinks it is great! He then asks, “Any questions?” What does he expect? If I were him, I would expect the audience to demonstrate a level of understanding of what the speech was all about and ask meaningful questions – clarifying the ground covered and even extending from there. These are situations where one actually wants to be questioned to get a sense a satisfaction that the effort (the speech, in this case) has been worthwhile. But there are other situations where being questioned has a very negative connotation. It implies questioning the ability of the person being questioned or the work that he has done. The important thing is that the intent of questioning should be to seek understanding rather than putting down someone. Hence, even the tone of questioning is very important. Consider the difference between, “Why did you do THAT?” and “What are your reasons for doing THAT?” The tone of the former question is judgmental while the same question asked differently demonstrates an openness and a neutral tone. The tone is important because it can either put people off & make them defensive or it can make them relaxed and explain their rationale for an idea or a course of action. From the above, it follows that there is a big difference between “questioning”...

Read More

Journey of a coach – theory & practice (Part I)

This article is part of the series on “Journey of a coach” covering my experiences as a performance coach. You may have the read an earlier article in the series on “Journey of a coach – the beginning”. The journey continues here… Yogi Berra, New York Yankees baseball player (arguably the best catcher of all time) said, “In theory, there is no difference between theory & practice. But in practice, there is!” So, this article is about the theory & practice of coaching for performance – not baseball players but people managing software projects. In my context, the “theory” was mostly “Coaching for Performance” by John Whitmore (by the way, there is another article of mine on Whitmore if you are interested). The “practice” was, of course, my actual experiences over the years. A caveat – I am not here to debunk theory and hail practice – as a cardiac surgeon might! I have a great deal of respect for Whitmore’s book on Coaching for Performance. The book provided a solid reference and a practical guide for my work as a coach all these years. However, I do have my own “interpretations” and “extensions” of the theory in actual practice which I wish to share. I will use the diagram below which shows the context for coaching. You can see the “circles of influence” around the coachee which would...

Read More

ProMentor – A framework for PM Competency Development

Yet another framework?! I start with a prayer – that you will not be put off by the word “framework” (the f-word!!) and not read further! The f-word has been sort of over-hyped – especially in the software world to the point that “you ain’t nothing if you don’t have your own framework to brag about!” In our case, when we, at PM Power Consulting (“PM Power”), homed in on project management competency development as a focus area, we also felt the need for a framework – not for sounding cool (well, that too!) but also for somewhat more down-to-earth reasons such as a vehicle for communicating with our customers and organizing ourselves to meet their expectations. This framework with moving parts! Project management competency development (or any competency development for that matter) in an organization is a big canvas. Many aspects need to be addressed in a coordinated manner. For example, some key inputs typically come from the performance management system of the organization in terms of individual competency development needs. Before launching training & development initiatives for individuals, the organization needs to ensure that the performance management system is effective in providing quality inputs for planning. Another example is the linkage of the talent acquisition processes with overall competency development. If these processes and the linkage are weak, then no matter how effective the other initiatives are...

Read More

Coaching for Performance – Discovering Whitmore

Several years ago, when I was getting started on becoming a coach, a good friend recommended the book “Coaching for Performance” by Sir.John Whitmore (JW). Although I did not pause to ask the question then, I do now: “Can one learn swimming by reading a book?” So, what is the point of reading about coaching when you have to learn by jumping in and doing it? To take it even further, why should you, as an aspiring coach perhaps, be reading this article right now?! Are you not better off spending the time in more fruitful activities in preparing to be a coach? Rather than answering these questions right away, let me park them for the time being. But I promise to come back to them at the end of the article. Let us now go back to the book by .JW. Up front, I must clarify that this is not a book review per se. Nor is it an attempt to promote the book. Coaching for Performance has already sold over 500,000 copies worldwide and has been translated into 22 languages. It scarcely needs my endorsement!! So, my objective is to bring it to your attention if you not already aware and share with you how I got great value from it – to get started and on an ongoing basis – even now, years later. As I...

Read More