Careers are one of the toughest obstacle courses in life. If you’re not pushing yourself to grow and improve you’re going to get far. Worse, if you’re not self-aware, you’ll have no idea that your career is idling. And the skills you need to advance in your career are often the ones you’re not aware you are missing. This is why soft skills are so important. If you don’t realize that they’re a skill you can actually improve, then you won’t make the attempt.
Last year, I started a series of group coaching sessions. Some of my reports had gotten feedback of having poor communication skills. For those who don’t know that is. Well, a coach is a private teacher who gives someone lessons in a particular subject. In this case, however, we have ten to twelve individuals involved in a single group. We meet every two weeks on a Monday to discuss and work on a particular topic.
Each group session follows a simple formula:
First, I start with a presentation to introduce the particular soft skill. The presentation is usually a PowerPoint presentation. I’m a big fan of TED.com, so I try to make my presentations just as engaging.
Then I provide an explanation of how to use the skill. Or in some cases, an overview if the skill topic is broad. This usually also involves questions and discussions which, after all, is the point. We want everyone in the group to engage in the discussion.
Finally, we do the workshop where I give the group one or more scenarios to work with. Everyone spends a few minutes to write their solution on a provided index card. And when everyone is ready every member provides their solution and we discuss.
Since then I’ve learned three things:
1. My co-workers and direct reports have taught me a lot. There’s always more than one way to do anything. Soft skills are no exception. As long as you’re comfortable and it gets you the result you want is what counts.
2. Their motivation, self-worth, and engagement improve. For those who are looking to contribute something meaningful, this is a great place to do it. They feel respected and heard.
3. I’m required to stay ahead of the curve. Like everyone in the group, I don’t know everything. So every two weeks, I’m off doing research for the next session. The next session’s topic is usually based on the direction the previous session went. So I started with communication, then did self-awareness and moved on from there.
My goal for group coaching is to give each member just enough so that they learn something. But are also willing to go out and learn on their own. The reason I do the sessions on a Monday is so that everyone can put into practice that week what they’d just learned.