However, one person's meaningful metaphor is the next person's misleading comparison. Is your 'Toolkit' a box of chisels, pliers and screwdrivers etc. used to fix broken machines or is it a set of questions, exercises and profiling techniques applied while two people work? Does an expert carefully select the right tools for the task at hand or does a DIYer rummage around for a spanner? Or a hammer. Or anything else with which to hit something that's got itself stuck.
A coach's toolkit comprises anything from a single powerful question to a whole coaching model. It can include processes, profiling techniques and practical activities. Its contents might have been learned formally or developed intuitively. Some tools will be used during every session, others won't see the light of day for years on end. But whatever ends up in the toolkit, each item will have specific purposes and particular applications.
Three Kinds of Tool
Here's a simple way I use to categorise coaching tools with an example for each category. Some tools appear in more than one place and others may elude any category. I put those ones in a miscellaneous compartment.
- Tools for the coach's growth
- Tools for the coachee's growth
- Tools for the coaching session
Each section can divide further into:
- Profiling Tools
- Process Tools
- Practical Tools
Even greater detail can be added by appropriate tagging of each tool e.g.: administration, questioning, reflection, gap task, written, researched, newly developed, active, paid, open source etc.
||For the coach
||For the coachee
||For the session
||- MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator)
- Working Styles Analysis
|- MIDAS (Multiple Intelligences Developmental Assessment)
- Work-Life-Leisure Balance Wheel
|- Meta-Coaching Questions
- Coaching & Mentoring Spectrum
- Coaching Log and Diary
|- Pixar7 Story Telling
- GROW and other formulaic coaching
|- Contracting or Norm-Setting
- Impact Tracking
||- Clean Language
|- Superhero What if Cards
- Empty Chair Technique
|- Environment Matching
- Environment Protection
How to Use Coaching Tools
Sometimes I'm so keen to try out a new tool that I need to quickly remember a golden rule of coaching: client's agenda leads. An coach's enthusiasm for interesting techniques risks hijacking the coaching session. A genuine coaching session is led by the coachee; the coach may suggest an appropriate tool but only if it is congruent with the work at hand.
Unless the coachee has explicitly suggested or requested a particular idea I don't begin a session with the fixed intent to use any particular technique. In fact, as part of the preparation for a session I put aside expectations through a short mindfulness exercise. Outside of sessions I'll put time and effort into learning new techniques - reading, online training, discussion, professional development, but as a session starts, all this is put by and I simply trust the process. I hold a deep belief that the right tool will emerge as the session unfolds. It generally does.
The most effective tools have the most impact. Evaluate the sustainable impact of particular tools in the same way you'd evaluate your coaching in general: ask your coachee and look for changes in their beliefs, behaviours and professional relationships. You may find that a half turn of a screwdriver was all it took. On the other hand, saws and trowels might be in order.
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