How I do 101 Weekly Coaching Sessions

For more than 10+ years I run coaching sessions with the folks that report to me. There was a time where I had more than +30 direct reports and other times I got 3 direct reports. Currently, I have 8 direct reports to me (+40 indirectly) which I believe is almost the ideal number. IMHO 5 is the ideal number.  IF you run 1h coaching session which 8 people you still can do all your coaching sessions in a single day per week. However, if you do have 5 you can do with one afternoon with is much better and also you can pay much more attention to the people you are working with.  People come and go all the time, time to time people change life priorities and projects but as much as you can do 101s properly is crucial to improve your relationship with people not only to mention the support and speed you can provide to their career and direct benefits for your day by day projects and endeavors. Coaching sessions don't work alone, they work best with regular retrospectives and Open Honest Feedback culture.

Why run weekly coaching sessions?

Every day is too much, every 2 weeks is kind of acceptable but 3 weeks, monthly, quarterly or never is not really acceptable at all. Why not? Because there are problems, there are bottlenecks, there are challenges and people need support to debottleneck things and keep the discipline for study tasks, improvement actions project followups and so and such.

Anatomy of a Coaching Session: My Template

Basically, this is what I do. I spent a great if not most of the coaching session talking about attitudes. You might think this is a bit crazy, but I have a list of attitudes people are working on sometimes people have 10 to 15 attitudes they are working to develop. What about CODE and TECH studies, I do cover that for sure however is not where I spent most of my time, why? Well, CODE is what we do for leaving so we are doing plenty of Paring, Design Sessions, Code Reviews, Tech Training, Lightning talks during day-by-day work anyway so really this is not the bottleneck. Don't get me wrong I get people to talk about what books they are reading and POCs they made, however, the most important thing is: Attitudes.  Besides Attitudes and Tech Studies I also talk about all the projects the person has, a project could be a customer project or also with is internal to the company. Often I gave specific feedbacks and share links with follow up materials and resources. So now that you had a glance at what I do, let me show you my personal template.

Coaching Session Template
  1. Attitudes
    1. Attitude N: Description. What you did to improve it this week? What were the issues? what happened? 
  2. Tech Study
    1. What Books are you reading? How many pages do you read it? What did you learn?
    2. What Tech POCs you did (Remember project stuff does not count). Links? 
  3. Projects
    1. What happened? 
    2. What do you want to discuss?
    3. Any issue or complicated task? 
    4. Any feedback? All good? 
  4. Coachees
    1. For each Person
      1. Attitudes Progress
      2. Tech Study Progress
      3. Main issues?
Developing Self-awareness

The first step to change anything is to make people "see" what they are doing wrong or what and ho they can improve, as much self-awareness you develop in people the better. You can speed up your coaching session and talk about what matters and also make the coaching session more valuable since the person will bring more talking points and more interesting things to the table.

Focusing on Behaviors

Often people have issues giving feedback because people dont have concrete and practical examples of what happened. Thats happens a lot because people dont know how to structure the feedback and focus on the wrong things like How they feel, how it looks like, what other people say. I dont do that, I focus on the behaviors, what are the list of samples of bad behaviors and hat are the list of sample o good behaviors, this way people really can understand you and get the awareness they need and also really start working on improve day a by day.

Dealing with Other Coachs Engineers

Since some people I support have people as well, I do ask a summary about every single people they take care of so I can have some idea if they are developing and helping those people too, in this way, there is a "double" protection mechanism. Easily people can forget to say important things, thats why it's so important to be methodical and follow a protocol to make sure nothing important stays away.

The importance of Book Keeping

Why is it so important to write this stuff down? For several reasons. First because when you write you are thinking and you might get insights and ideas on what to improve. Secondly, because you need to be transparent on what you agree with people in sense of Good news, Bad News, Feedback, Progress. I love to use Evernote for my notes, I take notes on Evernote and share with people, it's a great tool to organize coaching sessions.

The Limits of Coaching Session

Coaching Session is great but they have limits. Several limits to be clear, so in order to take more value from it you need to mind the following things:

  • Sometimes people don't talk - You need to learn how to "interpret" the signs
  • Other times people just hide things - You need to know how to "dig" the things.
  • Very Often people forget things or dont pay attention to it - So you need to ask other people they work with(workmates).
  • You need to follow your gut feeling and sometimes just ask "hey, are you ok?", "Are we good?" 

As time pass, you will learn how to do the right questions and trigger the outcome you need in order to help people out. It takes time to master coaching session skills. In my case it's not a 100% pure coaching process, it's a mix with Lean management and Tech mentoring so because of it the results may vary from people to people because they have different backgrounds and experiences.

Attitudes Hijacked

One life hack I do is. I have a list of my to-do activities on a todo.txt file, this file in on my Evernote but for years was in my machine :D. My trick is to have my list of attitudes I'm developing on top of my todo list, since every day, several times per day I'm looking at my todo list, I'm always looking at my attitudes which I need to improve.

It's not all about roses

Often I have to delay or even cancel coaching sessions, IF one coach session delay, since I do all on the same day, pretty much all coaching sessions delays too. Also, I'm famous for long sessions, my longest retrospective was +14h long, my longest coaching session was +7h long. Often things go on rails but time to things my flip a but because traveling or projects pressure. Which is all fine and acceptable as long as you dont make a rule, you cannot sacrifice the coaching sessions all the time otherwise you delay:
  * Improvements
  * Support for People
  * Problems you need to deal with it

I work with amazing people and day-by-day I support and get support from a very impressive group of people, so doing coaching sessions is way to pay them back and help them to improve and get better.

Diego Pacheco

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