Leverage your curiosity, skepticism, creativity, and resourcefulness. As a scientist, you have some great built-in skills that will serve you in solving “softer” problems.
First, I have no set algorithm for working with clients. Who wants to be plugged into an equation? How could that possibly work, since people and their situations are so complex and different? Coaching is not so much the application of a method as it is the two of us granting power to a framework in which we will explore what’s happening and then design and run experiments. Just bring your desire for a change and I will bring my skills at facilitating that change.
Having said that, there is a general arc to coaching that uses a process you will likely relate to, i.e., the scientific method.
Coaching and The Scientific Method - Your life as a lab.
The skills you’ve cultivated as a scientist translate into tools for investigation in all areas of your life. Leading people (or yourself for that matter) is not qualitatively different from designing and conducting experiments in the lab. The scientific method can serve as a valuable blueprint when you take it out of the lab and apply it to your internal and interpersonal worlds. Working together, we will go through a familiar set of steps:
1. Observation & Discovery
As we begin our work, we explore your situation and the nature of the challenges you want to address. Beyond the particulars of your work context, we will also explore your strengths and learn how you view yourself and the world. Questions will naturally arise: “Why is this so? What are the consequences? What is hidden, undervalued, or overused?” Undoubtedly, theories and interpretations will be challenged! I typically employ a face-to-face Discovery Day for this phase in order to jump-start the process. Clients describe it as eye-opening and energizing.
2. Hypothesis Generation
Based on what we’ve learned in the Observation & Discovery phase, we’ll identify the outcomes you most want. Together, we’ll form hypotheses to guide the next phase: Experimentation. Forming hypotheses is a dynamic process where we look at the current situation and explore what you most want to have happen, which informs the experiments to be run. “Based on what I’ve learned, if I make a change, even a small one, it should lead to . . .”
The coaching framework provides structure and support for you to experiment in life and work as you do in the lab. You’ll apply what you’ve learned by experimenting with new strategies and behaviors. When you view change as an experiment, you’re more likely to try something new. If you didn’t risk trying new things in the lab, where would you be now as a scientist? The same principle applies outside the lab: exceptional leaders are willing to take risks to create positive outcomes, and the prospect of “failing” doesn’t deter them. The experimentation phase is where you hone this crucial leadership skill.
By the way, small changes make a big difference. We all know the power of catalysis in the lab. It’s equally applicable in other areas of our lives. In fact, small changes are often more effective than larger ones. Their genius lies in their simplicity; they are easy to apply, their consequences are readily apparent, and they leave no room for the excuse that you just don’t have the time, resources, willpower, or whatever else to carry them out!
4. Measurement of Results
We will discuss the outcome of these experiments and enlist others to provide outside evidence as well. Here you will draw powerful conclusions and we will be able to validate or revise your hypotheses. You get to discover and decide which changes are right for you and which aren’t.