Finding balance in your life: The coaching wheel

The coaching wheel is a tool used in coaching, for a wide range of reasons (you can find out more about some of the uses in this post – ‘Which solution is best for you?‘). The wheel of life, for example, can help you look at how you are balancing aspects of your life, based on things that are important to you. Completing the wheel can offer a visual way to see where things may be out of balance, especially those where you are expending a lot of energy and time at the detriment to others.

This infographic from MindTools guides you through the steps of completing the wheel of life, along with some ideas on next steps. See what you reckon, and it would be good to hear how you use it.

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Magical questions in coaching

Powerful questions are a cornerstone of coaching. These questions are sometimes called ‘magical’ because they can support a coachee to step around perceived barriers or familiar ways of thinking into a space where they are more creative. Their concrete context (i.e. resources, issues, etc) hasn’t changed, but the way the they are thinking can become more positive, increasing motivating and boosting self-confidence.

The two types of ‘magical questions’ that I frequently use are:

  • Imagine the results, and
  • Time shift

Imagine the results

The ‘imagine the results’ questions invite a coachee to hurdle over the messiness they can see in their here and now, and to step into their world in the future where they have done the hard work and are experiencing the desired outcomes – and can see the purpose behind what they want to do or achieve.

Take, for instance, a coachee who is trying to split their department into self-directed teams, in a way that will increase efficiency and autonomy, but without losing the great sense of collaboration that the department already has. The coachee is, however, facing a range of issues and their mental wheels are spinning in the mud that these issues are creating. One way to support this coachee might be with the following statement and questions:

Imagine that your department is working in teams. Why are they working in teams? What does it look like? What does it feel like? What is different? How was it possible to achieve this?

When I use the ‘imagine the result question’ with coachees I find that sometimes they take a while to get their head into that space, but when they do they are able to focus on what their situation would look and feel like. It helps them focus on the future, rather than barriers or issues that are in the way. Also, in some ways, by stating what they see and by understanding their purpose, it helps it feel more real, and, as a result, helps them develop a plan to move forward (they know where they want to go, so putting together the ‘map’ becomes easier).


Time shift

Sometimes we can get overwhelmed by focussing on all the things that we still need to do and the amount of effort that it is going to take to reach our desired outcomes. Sometimes it can be tough to move our focus back to the positive results we are aiming for, and thereby to muster up the energy and motivation we need to get things done.

The ‘time shift’ questions, similar to the ‘imagine the results questions’, can help a coachee look into the future – but with ‘time shift’ it asks the coachee to focus on a general point of time in the future rather than on specific desired outcomes.

Using the same scenario – the coachee who is trying to split their department into self-directed teams – I might use a statement and questions such as:

It is now August 2018. You have achieved your goals. What can you see? What happened? What did you do? What were the main steps in your plan that got you there? How did you start?

The ‘time shift’ questions helps my coachee look into the future and imagine, quite vividly what it would be like for them. They are also able to describe what they did to get there, and by the end of the session are likely to be way more motivated to jump back into their ‘to do’ list and action plan. Often, the coachee will want to revisit the structure of their existing action plan, because they have identified key priorities and steps that need to be included, or that need to be adjusted.

Leading with curiosity

The two open-ended question approaches that I have discussed can be powerful. However, you still need to make sure that you approach every session with true ‘curiosity’, and are fully present (Hess, 2010). When you ask questions because you are curious, rather than because you feel that the question is useful, it keeps everything open. Your curiosity will help you select just the right question for that coachee at that point in time, which helps avoid the possible trap of falling back on questions that you have found have worked previously. It means that you may (often) be surprised by the direction the coachee takes you with their response – and this is where such questions, I would suggest, can be magical. By leading with curiosity and selecting open-ended questions from this basis, the process can be transformational for the coachee in part because they too are surprised by the direction their response take. I have had coachee’s laugh with delight and wonder, asking ‘where did that come from? I didn’t even know I was thinking that!’.
The transformational, magic moments don’t happen every time and you can’t force them (Hess, 2010) – but by using a combination of curiosity and powerful questions, and ensuring you are fully present during a session, the likelihood of such transformational moments occurring, increases.


Hess, R. (2010.). The Essence of a Great Coaching Question. Retrieved from


Question finger 6. CC ( BY ) licensed Flickr image by Josh Tasman:

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What are the ingredients that make assessment meaningful: A guide

Assessment is an inextricable part of learning, and it can be something we do ‘in the moment’ (“hmmm, that was OK but I need to do X next time”), or it could be a high-stakes formal assessment designed and administered by an official organisation.

However, there is a real art to all types of assessment. For instance, with the in the moment example, the key here would then to decide what the next steps would be, when they would happen, and whether we need the input of anyone else. With more formal assessments the art is ensuring that the assessment is meaningful by ensuring the needs of the learners align with, and are given at least equal (maybe greater) importance than the needs of the assessing organisation and wider stakeholders.

First, a quick question – why do we assess?  We assess to provide information (i.e. quantitative evidence) that helps us make informed decisions about ourselves, individuals or programmes, to find out, for example how we are progressing, and what we need to develop more.

So, what is assessment? John Dewey suggests that “Education is a social process; education is growth; education is not preparation for life but is life itself”. I would like to invite you to swap out the word education in the quote, and replace it with ‘assessment’. It then starts to provide an insight into meaningful assessment that provides a bit more depth than ‘making informed decisions’.  For example, what does the act of assessment mean for students? A challenge, a game, fear, whakama (embarrassment), grief, anxiety, a lifechanger, a promotion, a sense of pride…or loss. The list goes on – and something that can be forgotten in the act of designing – and doing – assessments is the ‘human aspect’. It’s not just about the grade.

With these points in mind, I have set about drafting an eight-category checklist to help with the design of meaningful assessments, that will also help you avoid some of the possible pitfalls along the way. It is a draft and I would love any input or suggestions on how you feel it might be improved – what have I missed out? What isn’t reading well? Please jump into the comments below and let me know.

You might also want to have a quick look at the presentation that complements the checklist.

Image: Assessment. CC (BY SA) licensed image by

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Three tips for good design in Moodle courses

Moodle has been used for over 10 years, and yet ‘What comprises a good Moodle course’? is still a hot topic.

Some top tips from Yong Liu include:

1) Mobile learning is key, and gamification is built in as much as possible (although it can be heavy on the budget), plus integration of social media. It is important to automate as many of the processes as possible, while also personalising the learning. However, using an animation or the latest technology, may remove the focus from the learner.

2) It is important to offer opportunities for students to link exiting knowledge with new knowledge. Multimedia can help people learn by helping them select organise and integrate information and understanding (Mayer, 2016). We can only take in visual and aural input, but not two aural inputs at the same time. We can also only take in a limited amount of information at one time. To help alleviate the stress we need to remove redundant and gratuitous graphics, place text near graphics, and explain graphics with audio instead of text if possible.

3) A good Moodle course should simplify complex content, by, for example, segmenting content into small chunks. Information should be precise and exactly what they need, without additional information. Activities also have collaboration, peer teaching – activities where the students do the work themselves. We foster generative processes (Mayer, 2016) by letting the student ‘pull’ knowledge and selecting what they want when they need it. Use conversational tone and pedagogical agents.

What tips could you add to this list? What have you found works a treat for your learners in Moodle?

Image: Design. CC ( BY SA ) licensed Flickr image by Miquel Lopez:

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How do you coach an intuitor-type person?

Image of a tree on a handSome people find it really useful to be more aware about the ways they think or react, and there are a range of approaches and tools available that can help us do this. Carl Jung, in the 1920s, for instance, suggested that we process and react to inputs by thinking, feeling, intuiting, or sensing:

  • Thinkers tend to collect and consciously analyse data.
  • Feelers are open to emotions and their consequences.
  • Intuitors don’t find detail useful, and act on on their decisions, although they may not be aware of how they reached the decision.
  • Sensors tend to be kinaesthetic and rely on their senses to guide their reactions and actions.

Marchant (2014) identifies that everyone uses all four. However, many of us “favour one way over the other three, sometimes markedly so” (Para. 15), and it’s being cognisant of whether we favour one over another that can be helpful.

Given these factors, I will now focus on the intuitor-type of person In a coaching context; in particular I’ll identify aspects that might help me coach this person, and what I might need to keep an eye open for.

If I am working with a person who strongly identifies as an intuitor type I would expect that they are likely to:

  • be focussed on potential and future possibilities (although these can seem unrealistic)
  • look for patterns and relationships
  • be (apparently) impulsive because they seem to react rather than taking time to consider ‘the facts’
  • have a wide range of ideas
  • not be keen on detail or data
  • enjoy using their imagination
  • enjoy being creative and inventive
  • like to work with conceptual ideas and information
  • be idealistic
  • be focussed on bigger picture rather than processes and guidelines

I would try to shape coaching sessions to help ensure that there are plenty of opportunities for my coachee to talk through their ideas (including philosophic underpinnings and principles). During these descriptions I would gently encourage them to unpack a bit more detail, but in a way that signals I am curious about, and value, their insights. Supportive questions might be around encouraging the coachee to consider how other people in their context  respond positively to their ideas, and, if appropriate, I would also ask questions about other (online) communities and places the coachee could share, discuss, and develop ideas further.

One of the things I would need to keep an eye on is that the coachee doesn’t end up going through similar cycles and not recognising them as such – especially if they are making the same mistake each time. For example, a coachee might describe a series of situations where they receive the feedback ‘we don’t know what you are working on most of the time – or why’. It could even have led to misunderstandings to the point where they have been pulled in for a meeting and questioned about what they are spending their time doing. Usually, it’s a case that the coachee has been so completely focussed on a task or project that they haven’t taken the time to communicate their progress to anyone else, and have seen the feedback as a minor annoyance – until, to their surprise, serious questions start to be asked about their performance.

In situations like this one, I would encourage my coachee through a deductive process:

  1. to consider the implications of their complete focus (i.e. the bigger picture),
  2. and how the positive progress they are making (i.e. the details),
  3. could be (creatively) communicated with any stakeholders who needed to know so that these stakeholders can / will continue to support and fund the piece of work on which the coachee is focussing,
  4. and finally, encourage the coachee to identify ways they can share with co-workers, managers, family and friends their “preferred intuitive information gathering preference” (Edward, n.d., Para. 5).

The central thing here is to support my coachee to clearly identify the ‘why’, so that they have a clear reason and motivation to carry through with a necessary action (possibly in a creative way). In this example, it would be a strategy that could also ensure that they keep their role! In turn, by opening up awareness and lines of communication, ideally it would lead to increased support and recognition of the value of the work the coachee is doing.


Marchant, J. (2014). Thinker, feeler, knower, sensor? Retrieved from

Southern Institute of Technology (a). (n.d.) Transformational Coaching and its outcomes (Module C) [Lecture notes]. Retrieved from CBC106 (NET).

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Making the change we know in our hearts is essential…by building a coaching culture

This was a guest post for CORE education, which originally appeared as:  Making the change we know in our hearts is essential…by building a coaching culture.

Today’s leaders are expected to work well with people. This expectation includes being able to help people to grasp the courage to act, develop new ideas, take risks, and “make the changes that we know in our hearts are essential and right in the world” (Robertson, 2015, p. 15). A strong mentoring or coaching relationship is one way of supporting people to do this. As a result, globally, a wide range of organisations — including schools, kura, and early childhood centres — are developing a coaching culture (Weekes, 2008).
These organisations hope to realise a wide range of benefits for educators, students, and the wider community including personal (and professional) growth (Hay, 1995); resilience in the face of change; support of innovation and ‘passion projects’; and the fostering of leadership and personal effectiveness. Coaching, when framed as an approach to communication where the empowerment of the people being coached is emphasised (Hoole, & Riddle, 2015), helps create positive learning environments. It also helps incubate a range of leadership approaches — something that research findings indicate have significant impacts on performance and wellbeing, as well as associated health benefits (Hoole, & Riddle, 2015).

What is a coaching culture?

At its root, a coaching culture is a model that structures and helps define the parameters of what effective interpersonal interactions look and feel like within a school, kura, or centre. Coaching would not be the only approach used in the organisation, but it would be used wherever appropriate. These structures and parameters are firmly underpinned by the values of the organisation, and can support the development of agreed ways of communicating, collaborating, and working together (Behavioral Coaching Institute, 2007).
However, sometimes, coaching may have a negative reputation within an organisation because, for instance, managers have previously used it as a performance management tool rather than as a genuine way to support professional learning and development. In these cases, a concerted effort will be needed to reframe coaching to help ensure that it is perceived positively, and part of this will be to support managers to develop their own coaching skills.
A well-established coaching culture will be one where coaching methodologies are ‘normalised’ within the organisation. For instance, it will be the preferred way of having conversations (Hoole, & Riddle, 2015). When this occurs, all people within the culture “fearlessly engage in candid, respectful coaching conversations, unrestricted by reporting relationships, about how they can improve their working relationships” (Crane, 2005, para. 3). These conversations will make use of coaching tools and the language of coaching to become part of the everyday way of working together. As a result, everyone values coaching as an integral part of personal and professional development — as a way of continually learning, improving practice, and positively contributing to the organisation’s goals.

The importance of providing a coaching programme to develop a coaching culture

An integral part of nurturing a coaching culture within a school, kura, or centre is ensuring that staff and students / ākonga are provided with formal opportunities to develop their own coaching skills. Otherwise, the tendency is for people to default to the neurologically energy-efficient approach of telling, which “requires less intellectual and emotional energy than engaging …[someone] in a thought process to advance their capability” (Hoole, & Riddle, 2015, Para 29).
A coaching programme will help staff and students / ākonga develop conceptual connections and explore implications for their organisation and the wider community. The long-term nature of the resulting changes can make a large-scale impact on everyone’s wellbeing, as well as how well the organisation functions.
Coaching managers will need to be coached themselves prior to taking on a coaching role. They will also need the ongoing support of their coach to help them continue to develop strong coaching skills, and to use integrity and patience to build the trust with their coachees. A coaching manager’s “ability to deeply listen is just as important as asking the questions that count” (Robertson, 2015, p. 12), especially where the goal is to ensure the coachee feels “sufficiently safe to move away from covering up any perceived areas of weakness” (Robertson, 2015, p. 12).
It takes time to develop a coaching culture (up to a year or 18 months) because people need to be comfortable within the culture, and this provides sufficient time for everyone to develop the necessary coaching skills (The Open Door Coaching Group, 2012).

One consideration

By definition, a manager is not ideally placed to work as a coach or mentor for someone who is reporting directly to them. Robertson (2015) advises that vulnerability, power relations or conflicts of purpose “can adversely affect the relationship” (Robertson, 2015, p. 12).

What does the development of a coaching culture look like in practice?

Midtown School has a focus on across-school change, plus a desire to sustain the changes by implementing a coaching culture. After some robust discussions, the decision was made to go for a combination of face-to-face, whole school Professional Learning and Development, combined with virtual mentoring and coaching support for the leadership team who would then help to nurture a coaching culture throughout the school. Using the suite of products and services that CORE Education has available, the school decided to go for four face-to-face sessions (once a term), which were also supported by 18 months of uChoose virtual mentoring sessions for the leadership team.
Over the first six months with their virtual mentor the leadership team planned how they were going to introduce, support, and build sustainability into the coaching culture focus. They surveyed the staff, students and community, and gathered feedback data. The data provided some great insights into where people were most enthusiastic, plus, where the main support was going to be required. Alongside the planning, the leadership team with their mentor, worked with a range of coaching tools and approaches, trialled them with their teams, and then reflected together on how it went, and what they might change.
During the second half of the year working in the uChoose programme, after a whole-school session that focused on coaching, the leadership team rolled out some ‘quick dip, how to’ coaching sessions. Although it was a slow start, groups within the school started to increase their deliberate acts of coaching and coaching conversations, with some positive results.
In the new year, after 16 months of working to develop a coaching culture, it was clear that things were starting to consolidate, and it was noticed that:
  • There was a school-wide identity with, and commitment to, the development of a coaching culture, with all staff and ākonga / students knowing most of the goals, as well as the contributions they could make in achieving them.
  • There was increased enthusiasm and commitment to the overall school change initiative, with leaders and champions emerging from both the staff and the students / ākonga. They were jumping in to develop ‘passion projects’, initiatives with ‘an impact’, projects that were helping to enhance multicultural perspectives and practices, and as well as sustainable initiatives within the community.
  • Several staff reported an increase in confidence in their interactions with each other, the students / ākonga, and the community.
  • There appeared to be fewer humdinger’ arguments — although important, sometimes challenging conversations occurred more frequently.
  • Positive feedback was offered more frequently, and was as objective as possible by removing the ‘personal’, while also ensuring that it was relevant.
  • Staff and students who were new to the school were supported by a recently established initiative that helped them identify their strengths, find their place and to grow within the school


A coaching culture will not solve all an organisation’s challenges, nor will it guarantee that change will be successfully implemented and sustained. However, a school, kura, or centre with a strong coaching culture is likely to encourage a positive working environment, cross-community innovation, increased productivity — and lead to increased personal and professional growth and wellbeing. This in turn can help ensure that the organisation remains responsive and nimble in today’s world of fast-paced communication, diversity, global competition and change. Are you up for it?

Want to know more about uChoose?

Whanake haere ō mahi mā roto mai i ngā whatunga ngaio whai take
Evolving practice through responsive professional partnerships
uChoose is mentored online professional learning, tailored to you and your learning journey.
Our experienced mentors work with you to identify and meet your professional needs, through supporting and challenging your thinking. Your mentor will also identify resources or activities that you will find useful to achieve your goals, or assist you in unpacking items of your own selection that you would like to work through.


Behavioral Coaching Institute. (2007). Establishing a coaching culture. Retrieved from
Crane, T. (2005). Creating a COACHING CULTURE – today’s most potent organizational change process for creating a “high-performance” culture. Business coaching worldwide ezine, 1(1). Retrieved from 
Hay, J. (1995). Transformational Mentoring: Creating Developmental Alliances. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Publishing Co.
Hoole, E., & Riddle, D. (2015). The Intricacies of Creating a ‘Coaching Culture’. Retrieved from
Robertson, J. (2015). Deep learning conversations and how coaching relationships can enable them. Australian Education Leader 37(3). 10-15.
The Open Door Coaching Group. (2012). How do I build a coaching culture. Retrieved from
Weekes, S. (2008, July). Catch on to coaching. The Edge. 28 – 32. Retrieved from


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Leadership? Management? What’s the difference?

What is leadership within professional environments – and how does it differ from management? There have been whole books written on the nuances, but in a nutshell: a manager plans, organises and coordinates a group a group or a set of entities to accomplish a goal, whereas a leader influences, inspires, motivates, and enables others to contribute to achieving organisational aims and success (Murray, n.d.). This definition does not preclude a manager being a leader, or a leader also being a manager. Rather they are overlapping, complementary roles.

If you are going to work on leadership or management skills, it is worth unpacking this a bit more, and identifying some of the key differences.

A manager…

A leader…

administers and plans detail

innovates and sets direction

directs groups

builds teams and talent

maintains and communicates

persuades and develops

focuses on systems and structures

focuses on people

controls and directs

Inspires, influences and facilitates

short-term view

long-term perspective

asks how and when

asks why

has objectives and are focussed

has vision and creates shared focus

accepts the status quo

challenges the status quo

react to change

create change

have people who work for them

have people who work with them

René Carayol (2011), suggests that we “manage a little less and lead a little more”, because the positive culture (‘the way we get things done around here’) within an organisation is much more powerful than strategy. Also, while organisations can have similar strategies, the thing that makes an organisation unique is its culture.

So, while management and leadership go hand-in-hand, supporting the growth of leaders within an organisation can help ensure that an organisation’s heritage is not its destiny – that opinions and processes change because the culture is supportive of that change.


Carayol, R. (2011). Authentic leadership [Video file]. Retrieved from

<Murray, A. (n.d.). What is the Difference Between Management and Leadership? Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from


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Mentoring and coaching different genders – what are the differences? If any?

This is an extract from a blog that really caught my attention!

“I realize that I am more inclined to coach women. I have recently become aware that, although I have two sons and a great husband, all of whom I have close and cherished relationships with, I am not in a man’s life or a man’s body or brain. I cannot view the world from their perspective and experience.

Because I have no brothers, a struggling first marriage and am sometimes very surprised by a male perspective on things, when my husband and I were first together, I often “interviewed” my husband about a man’s perspective on things so I could learn. That being said, I notice that most women – including me, are more emotional and more easily connected to spirit or a spiritual perspective. I have a different experience of the world just because I have different cultural biases, a different functioning body, I use makeup, I wear dresses and skirts not just pants, the media sees me differently, etc. I think it’s safe to say there are some gender differences even if they are culturally stimulated.

So I tend to have female clients with some notable exceptions like a single parent father with a child and a female ex- to deal with. I know that I am more drawn to talk about certain things with women – sex, feelings, even business perspectives. I am not saying one is better than the other for a woman. Just different. I often have had some great short-term coaching from my husband and occasionally some other male coaches but most likely I’d never hire a male coach for an on-going experience. I need a women’s coach.”

          Source: Maia Berens,

I must admit to having quite a visceral reaction to the post I have quoted from above. As a woman I could never assume to know what a ‘man’s’ perspective is (if there were such a thing), just as I can’t assume I know any other human’s perspective of life and their place in the world. One of the joys of mentoring and coaching is that I am constantly surprised by my mentees’ and coachees’ viewpoints – but not more by one gender than the other.

I see my coachees and mentees as whole, culturally shaped, human beings who may or may not identify as male, female, transgender, androgynous, or bigender. People vary in their emotional and spiritual engagement during our sessions – with tears, for example. I also work mainly online, so I am unsure whether my my coachees and mentees are wearing makeup and I cannot see the clothes they are wearing. The subjects covered are varied and diverse, and do not appear to be gender specific. My role, I feel, is to respect each person – to listen to them, try my absolute best not to make assumptions, and to let them ‘take me’ where they need to go.

I have no personal preference for male or female coachees and mentees, nor for my own coaches and mentors. I have a preference for a coach or mentor who is non-directive, has a developmental approach, and asks really powerful questions – something I have experienced with males and females.

The research still isn’t available to say whether the human brain is ‘gendered’, and the most reliable evidence we have “suggests that both males and females share the same neural circuitry, but use it differently”  (Stix, 2015, n.p.). Neuroscientists have found “few differences: more neurons or more neuronal spines here and there in one sex or the other, with great variations from one individual to the other but that’s about it” (Stix, 2015, n.p.).

So, I feel, while we are, for certain, shaped by our society and our culture – and how we perceive ourselves within a range of contexts impacts how we live our lives – when it comes to coaching and mentoring an attempt to make generalisations based on gender are not helpful. In fact, in some cases, they can reinforce damaging stereotypes.

Maybe I’m missing something? What are your thoughts?

Reference: Stix, G. (2015). Is the Brain Gendered? A Q&A with Harvard’s Catherine Dulac. Retrieved from

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Fostering the courage to act

A woman jumpingMost of today’s leaders are expected to deal effectively with people ́s motivation and be able to inspire them to their best performance. An essential part of this is fostering the courage to act, develop new ideas, take risks, and “make the changes that we know in our hearts are essential and right in the world” (Robertson, 2015, p. 15), and a strong coaching relationship is one way of supporting employees to do this. As such coaching skills need to be an integral part of any modern manager’s toolkit. However, sometimes coaching in an organisation will also have a negative reputation because, for instance, managers have previously used it as a performance management tool, rather than as a genuine way to support employees’ professional learning and development. In these cases there will need to be a concerted effort to reframe coaching to help ensure it is perceived positively, and part of this is likely to be supporting managers to develop their own coaching skills.

One of the first considerations is that, by definition, a manager is not ideally placed to work as a coach for someone who is reporting directly to them. Robertson (2015) advises that vulnerability, power relations or conflicts of purpose “can adversely affect the relationship. But these tensions are not insurmountable if the relationship is sensitively negotiated and understood” (Robertson, 2015, p. 12).

A coaching manager will need to be a coachee themselves prior to taking on a coachee of their own. They will also need the ongoing support of their own coach to help them continue to develop strong coaching skills, and to use integrity and patience to build the trust with the coachees on their team. A coaching manager’s “ability to deeply listen is just as important as asking the questions that count” (Robertson, 2015, p. 12), especially where the goal is to ensure the coachee feels “sufficiently safe to move away from covering up any perceived areas of weakness” (Robertson, 2015, p. 12). Over time, as the coaching relationship matures, ultimately both the coaching manager and the coachee should become more aware of shifts in perspectives and thinking, “eventually introducing conflict to promote self-examination and further development of alternative perspectives” (Stokes, 2011, p. 8). Other factors Stokes (2011) identified as critical to the relationship were motivation, recognition and celebration of positive growth, and the provision of “a mirror… to extend the…[coachee’s] self-awareness” (Daloz, 1986, in Stokes, 2011, p. 8). These factors help a coaching manager and coachee watch for indications “that the relationship may be transformative and growth producing for both partners” (Stokes, 2011, p. 8).

Whilst the primary purpose of a coaching relationship is to help the coachee, nevertheless usually both the coaching manager and the coachee gain from the experience. For instance a coaching manager is likely to find that there is real satisfaction in helping another person to learn and grow in confidence and self-esteem, while they also practise and enhance skills, such as the ability to listen and question, to support and challenge, and to be non-directive and non-judgmental (Manukau Institute of Technology, 2009). Listening to the coachee can provide a fresh perspective and range of insights into an organisation’s culture and way of working, as well as the products and services they provide (Manukau Institute of Technology, 2009).

As indicated above, coaching managers play a fundamental part in building the future capability of employees and the organisation in which they both work, particularly by helping some of its talented professionals develop further than they might if they were not involved in a coaching relationship. As such, a coaching manager can support their coachee to:

  • learn by reflecting on their experiences
  • develop their confidence and professional skills
  • work on tricky or challenging relationships
  • identify areas that they would like to develop in their practice, and to set SMART goals
  • increase their ability to take responsibility for own decisions
  • identify professional and/or interpersonal skills they would like to develop
  • plan – a project, their next steps, and/or their career
  • develop their own leadership skills, and be comfortable working within an organisation where delegation is the norm
  • enhance business efficiency / processes

(Adapted from Manukau Institute of Technology, 2009)

Some of the practical ways in which coaching can be applied in modern management are by:

  • providing coaching as a part of every employee’s work, especially for Generation Z, to help meet a need for one-to-one support and development. Coaching sessions would be scheduled in advance, regular, of a high priority, and illustrative of the importance the coaching manager gives to them.
  • supporting coaching managers to work consistently with coachees on their specific skills (and confidence), in part through the development of professional learning plans. The plans would be discussed and negotiated with all members of their team, and there would be sufficient structure to help ensure that milestones were identified and measurable, and scheduled in a way that ensures regular feedback. Feedback might be via multimedia, as well as during coaching sessions. A coaching manager’s approach would need to be flexible so that the tone and approach match each team member’s needs and expectations.
  • using coaching to make the most of the enthusiasm and commitment of all employees (in particular Generation Z). A coaching manager would available to help support emerging leaders and champions, who are seen as having the potential to go far in an organisation. They could be encouraged to take on leadership roles. Initially, these might be around, for instance, ‘passion projects’, initiatives with ‘an impact’, projects that would help enhance multicultural perspectives and practices within the company, or sustainable working within the company.
  • helping an employee who is technically very capable but struggling to develop effective ways of integrating this into their professional practice, especially while interacting with customers. Regular feedback and monitoring of progress toward SMART goals would be part of the coaching manager’s role. The coaching manager would also make sure that positive feedback was given frequently, and was as objective as possible by removing the ‘personal’, while also ensuring that it was relevant.
  • ensuring that an employee feels supported as they work on tricky or challenging professional relationships, within the business as well as with clients. The coaching manager would need to listen as much as question to help the coachee feel heard in regards to their experiences, while also supporting the coachee to develop their own solutions and strategies.
  • building a culture where taking risks, and learning from mistakes is welcomed and a part of the company culture as well as part of the healthy coaching relationships. When mistakes were made, the managing coach would ensure that the coachee reflects critically, ‘owns’ the learnings, and identifies next steps. This would help ensure that the managing coach’s role remains (and is perceived as by their team) formative in focus.
  • assisting someone who has recently joined the organisation, or taken on a leadership role, to find their feet. A coaching manager’s role would be to help the coachee identify the skills and knowledge that would help them find their place and grow in the organisation. In part this would be through the coaching manager’s own extensive knowledge and experience of the organisation’s culture, processes, products and services.
  • encouraging team members who have a tendency to under-perform to develop their awareness of this, and (where the employee is coachable – i.e. willing to learn and change in a coaching relationship) motivate them to change their behaviour. A coaching manager’s role would be to support the coachee to reflect on their practice, how they are interacting in the team and with customers, and ensuring that the coachee outlines their own goals, actions, and ways of evaluating success. The coaching manager would then need to follow up frequently, and to identify if the coaching was not working.

If people “learn best when they see a practical application of the new knowledge / skill in their job and / or daily life” (Southern Institute of Technology, n.d.), coaching can enhance this tendency by helping an employee develop conceptual connections and explore implications for their team and the wider organisation. The long-term nature of the resulting changes can make a large-scale impact on how well an organisation functions, how content the workforce feels, and in turn, how much their customers value it. As such, coaching managers play an essential part in helping to ensure an organisation’s efficiency and profitability.


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Harkins, P. (2005). Getting the organisation to click. In H. Morgan, P. Harkins, & M. Goldsmith (Eds.), Leadership coaching: 50 top executive coaches reveal their secrets (2nd ed., pp. 154-158). Hoboken, NJ: John Wileys & Sons.

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Owen, H. (2015 a). Making the most of mobility: virtual mentoring and education practitioner professional development. Research in Learning Technology 2015 (ALTJ), 23, 25566.

Owen (2015 b). Professional learning, any time, any place with virtual mentoring. EDULEARN15 Proceedings, pp. 386-393.

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How to make the best choice…for you!

Everyone has times when they have two (or more) alternatives to choose from and are not sure how to make a choice that they feel they won’t regret later on. They may have already made a pros and cons list for each and tried to make a comparison, but still feel it isn’t clear which choice is likely to be best for them.

Two coaching wheels

Coaching can be a great way to work through this situation. When a person asks me to work through it with them, one tool I use is the coaching wheel as it helps chunk the options and prioritise them. However, instead of using one version of the coaching wheel, we’ll use two, with each wheel representing an option.

I work with the coachee to identify the key factors for them that would span both options, and these would be listed, then written into both wheels. The next step is to, for both options (i.e. both of the wheels), revisit all of the factors and mark them, on a scale of 1 to 10, how well they are represented in each option (Southern Institute of Technology (a), n.d.). As a final step the factors are evaluated and a colour used to represent any that the coachee identifies as ‘non-negotiable’. Those that the coachee doesn’t see as non-negotiable can then be framed at a level the coachee wouldn’t negotiate below.

Tui: The two job offer dilemma

Usually, it becomes really clear, based on the coachee’s values and beliefs, which of the options makes the most sense for them. Take for example, a coachee, Tui, who has been making really strong progress toward her goals, and has applied for and been offered two jobs. Both roles seem like dream jobs and appear to offer great opportunities for career progression. Tui is anxious to make the ‘best’ decision. Which to choose?

The first step I take to support Tui is to ask her to visualise what her ideal job and role look and feel like. After a moment or two I then ask her to state the most important factors for her. Tui pauses to think, and then identifies: professional development, collaborative workplace, autonomy, opportunities for progression, opportunities to assume management responsibilities, close to home or near public transport, has a cafeteria that has healthy eating options, and has a gym on the premises or nearby. I am taking notes while the Tui is talking so that she can focus on her thoughts rather than on writing them down. The notes are useful in the next step where I ask her to double check the list of criteria. She confirms that  it looks complete and these are the criteria she wants to use.

Using two blank coaching wheels I invite Tui to add in the criteria, and to place each section on the 1 to 10 scale. After she has completed that step, I then ask Tui how important the criteria are to her, and if there are any on which she might compromise. Having chosen ‘opportunities to assume management responsibilities, opportunities for progression, and a gym on the premises or nearby’ as her non-negotiables, she then colours these sections green. ‘Professional development, collaborative workplace, and autonomy’ she identifies are open for some negotiation and she colours these orange. The remaining ones she colours blue.

It is immediately clear to Tui and I, just by looking at the prevalence of green on one of the wheels, that this job is the job that will be the better fit according to Tui’s criteria. Tui is both relieved and delighted. She reveals that she had a gut feeling about the job that came out on top, and is pleased that she can make an informed decision that reflects her priorities. The job, she feels will stretch her, but she has the peace of mind that it will be in a way that will develop her strengths and move her in the direction she wants to go – and she is likely to get a bit fitter!

Other uses

There is the option where there are more than two choices more than two wheels can be used, but this can become a bit cumbersome. Also, the approach with two or three wheels can be used when coaching a group. For instance, where a team have to decide between two or more ways forward, and feel as though they are talking in circles. The wheels can be a great way to focus discussions about team values and beliefs. They can also help to ‘depersonalise’ some of the priorities through the use of the visual representation, which clearly illustrates, in one place, the overall team’s criteria.

The main benefit

While it isn’t a watertight approach, using two coaching wheels as a tool to make comparisons does help ensure that the coachee is empowered to make a decision based on their strengths, values, and beliefs. This means that whichever one they choose is likely to be the ‘best’…for them.




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