I was discussing a coaching approach with an OD specialist who was training to teach our Coaching Skills class. We were focused on the skill we call “Testing for Truth”. Test for Truth means to inform or challenge for the purposes of provoking a person out of status quo. A skill most managers desperately need because it helps the manager to share feedback and say the hard things.
Why don’t managers say the hard things? They are terrified of de-motivating the employee or worse damaging the relationship.
I had recommended a very direct approach and he literally said “Wow, can you really say that?” The difficulty is that you can only use the Test for Truth if you have already built a relationship based on trust and respect. And then you can say pretty much anything that needs to be said. We are often asked “how do you coach someone who doesn’t want to be coached?” and the answer is “you don’t”. But if you have that trust you can inform and/or challenge if:
- You have clearly identified the focus – the point- of the message
e.g.: “OK, so regarding your public speaking skills, which you are sharpening for your long term career goals…”
- Conditioned the message properly – even ask for permission if it is really hard. e.g.: “I am going to say something that may sound harsh”
or “Do I have permission to share an observation you might not like?”
- Practice to be brief and to the point
- Say what you need to say then shut up
- Be prepared to evoke some emotion: just because a person has some feelings doesn’t mean you have a ‘psychological’ situation on your hands. Be patient, don’t judge, don’t freak out, just wait and it will pass.
Try it, start small. See how it goes.