Coaching the James Bond Way

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Jan 25, 2018

Remember what it was like to be busy in the year 2000? It was nothing compared with today’s overwhelmingly-connected-at-all-times kind of busy. Now we’ve got texts, emails, WhatsApp, phone calls, Skype and Zoom to contend with.

Given our high level of connectivity, you might think it would now be easier to stay on the same page as our team members, but the fact is that, as the world moves faster and gets busier, coaching is more important than ever.

The good news is that many organizations are now recognizing the importance of managers and leaders being able to coach.

But here’s the “shocker”: nobody feels like they have enough time to coach.

Between meetings and emails and the actual work we have to do, it’s hard to find time to chat with everyone on the team. Of course, we’d love to sit down and have a good long discussion with each person, but the reality is that we just can’t.

Don’t fret. Everyone can coach, and they can do so quickly — with a positive impact — without having to carve out more time in their schedule.

Off to a fast start

When it comes to coaching conversations — particularly those that might prove to be difficult — managers tend to use a “slow intro” approach. They talk about the weather. Or that sports team that doesn’t have a chance this year. Or the upcoming weekend.

Social pleasantries are, well, pleasant, and often useful. But in coaching conversations, they can be an unnecessarily lengthy preamble, when the ultimate goal is to get to the heart of the matter.

So instead, why not follow the example of MI6’s top man James Bond and start off fast and furious?

No one gets the action going faster than James Bond. Think Roger Moore skiing off a cliff and then parachuting away at the start of The Spy Who Loved Me, Pierce Brosnan bungee-jumping off a massive dam in GoldenEye and Daniel Craig getting his 00 status after epic kills in Casino Royale. (You might also draw inspiration from the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark or any of the Fast and Furious movies.)

It’s all about the set-up.

As it is with coaching. So cut the preliminary chitchat and, instead, conjure up the last James Bond movie you saw and then get started — fast.

The kickstart question: What’s on your mind?

Alright, so it’s not as flashy as a Bond opening, but the Kickstart Question gets things down to business in the same speedy way. The question is open-ended to get people talking, yet focused enough to keep them on track. It welcomes conversation while guiding the way for the conversation to go. Essentially you’re asking, What matters most to you right now? What’s causing you anxiety? What’s keeping you up at night? What are you most excited about?

Chances are that when you ask the Kickstart Question — What’s on your mind? — the person you’re asking it of might take a moment (and look terrified) before answering. A question this focused yet open-ended can elicit such a response because it forces the person to really think about their answer.

And then they’ll get into it.

You might be worried. What if they go on and on about this or that? But the best part about the Kickstart Question is that it offers the person the chance to talk about what’s on their mind — not about just anything.

What you’re actually asking them is to figure out what’s on their mind right then. And once they do that, it’s likely that it’ll lead you straight to what actually matters most.

Don’t reserve this tactic for scheduled meetings only. You can ask the question during most any encounter — when you’re passing someone in the hall, or grabbing a quick coffee — and it’ll result in on-the-spot moments of insight.

There’s nothing better than a good opening line, and not only will the Kickstart Question get things started fast, it won’t add more work to your plate and it’ll give the way you interact with your employees more impact. So channel your inner James Bond — become the coach M knows you can be!

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