How to Be an Effective Buddy Coach


Coaching a colleague, a team member or anyone you know well is a challenging situation. For example, a manager usually conducts the performance review for their staff focusing on their performance in the job and team which may lead to a recommendation about salary or promotions. A coach is focussed on developing the person in their job and life but does not normally, recommend salary or promotions.

As a friend, you would be interested in the other persons well-being and their feelings. You might not push them hard or challenge them in fear of breaking the relationship. As a coach, you may be pushing your client hard, challenging them deeply to improve their performance.

How to Be An Effective Buddy Coach

By far the best way to find a great accountability partner is to be one for each other. Below are a few tips to help you in getting the most of out of your Success Journey:

Joe_right_foot1.jpg1. Get off on the right foot

When you first sit down with your buddy, we recommend that you mention a couple of things up front:

Reiterate the fact that you’ll be taking a lot of notes throughout the process. Recognizing the awkwardness of having an intimate conversation while writing notes up front can help the process move forward smoothly. Remind them that the reason you’re taking notes is to be able to record key themes and ideas that are necessary for helping them forge success.

Take a few minutes to discuss confidentiality. As we mentioned, a lot of the information you hear may be very personal. Reassure the participant that the information they share with you will be confidential.

Joe_inflating_ego1.jpg2. Leave your personal bias aside

We often perceive people differently than they perceive themselves. The Success Journey belongs to the participant. They must be allowed to discover who they are, not who you think they are.

The most effective buddies are able to gather and process information objectively, without adding personal bias.

Avoid leading questions that will validate your perceptions. The participant should be doing the majority of the talking. Certain exercises may prompt your input or participation, which will aid in the process. However, for the most part do your best to simply collect, clarify and organize the information you receive so you can help identify the patterns and themes that lead to their own discovery.

The most effective buddies don’t inflate their own ego (or yours)

doc_listening1.jpg3. Listen

Listening is an active process. Maximize the retention of the information you hear by being engaged in the process and by taking notes, recording the process or even both. Don’t rely on your memory alone to recall the information you’ll need.

To be an effective buddy, it’s important for you to understand the three different types of listening:

Everyday listening is usually subjective, meaning that the listener is hearing things as it relates to him/her. The listener is generally thinking of what they are going to say next and often times can’t even remember what was said to them when asked to recall it just moments later. This is not the type of listening you’ll want to use throughout the Forging Success Journey.

Listening is an active process. Like a good doctor, you’re listening for the underlying heartbeat.

When you are completely focused on what the other person is saying, you are listening objectively. There are no thoughts about how any of the information relates personally or professionally to you. Objective listening is much more effective than subjective listening for this process because it allows you to focus your attention on the participant.

As human beings, we naturally relate what people are saying to ourselves and have the desire to interject our own experiences and ideas in order to relate or connect. Try to avoid that urge. If you feel these thoughts come up, do your best to dismiss them and focus on what the participant is sharing.

While staying objective, active listening means you’re also listening to all the sensory components. You’re reading between the lines and really paying attention to tone of voice, energy levels and feelings around certain topics. This is the type of listening you’ll want to use as you buddy through the Forging Success Journey.

Be curious and trust your gut to lead you to the next question. Dig deeper and find the answers behind the answers.

Joe magnifying glass1.png4. Watch

As you’re listening to the participant, it’s also important to watch for visual cues that can help you determine what inspires or energizes them. Not everyone will get choked up when they feel an emotional connection to a story or event. They may talk in a more animated tone, smile more, use their hands or sit on the edge of their seat.

When you notice these things, take note. They are good indications that the story you’re hearing has significance. Remember, the details of the story are not as important as the feelings and emotions that the story brings out.

Joe_advice_monster1.jpg5. Tame your Advice Monster

We all have an advice monster inside of us, ready to leap out at a moment's notice and fill the silence as your buddy searches for an answer. Silence is a big part of everyone's Success Journey. As your buddy shares how they felt during the stories they share with you, they may get a little tongue-tied or go quiet for a moment because feelings come from the part of the brain that doesn’t control language. It’s important to allow that silence to take place and to allow them to come up with their own words. Avoid the natural urge to let out your advice monster and help fill in the blank or finish the sentence for them.

When they have finished their thought or come to a natural pause, that’s your cue to dig deeper and ask some clarifying questions. 

Tame your inner Advice Monster and allow your buddy as much silence as they need.

Psyclops_ask_questions1.jpg6. Ask clarifying questions

As a buddy, ask questions that will help the participant think more deeply about the stories they’re telling you and the feelings that are associated with those stories. Your outside perspective is valuable because you may think of questions the participant has not thought to ask themselves.

Use questions like the examples below to find out what moves and inspires the participant. Go beyond the initial answer by asking them what a specific feeling means to them or what else they would like to say about the topic.

You’ll notice that the examples below use open ended questions, meaning they can’t be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It’s important to get the participant talking about their feelings and emotions as much as possible and open ended questions are the best way to do that.

The single, most powerful thing you can do as a buddy, is ask questions. Seek clarification. Most of the time it isn’t for you… it’s for them to clarify things for themselves.

It’s also important to clarify the definition of the emotions or the emotional words the participant uses. Don’t assume that their definition is the same as yours. Because the part of our brain that controls emotions doesn’t control language, a feeling might mean something a little different to them than it means to you. For example:

  1. You told a story about when you felt successful. What does success mean to you? What is it that makes you feel successful?
  2. You said that you were inspired by your English teacher. Talk more about that. What does it take for you to be inspired?
  3. When you said you loved working on that project, what does that mean? Tell me more about what it takes for you to love something versus just liking it?

Here’s an example of digging deeper to find the meaning behind the answers:

That experience really made me feel complete.

What do you mean by the word complete? Describe that for me in a little more detail.

I guess I mean that I felt as though I was engaged and fully involved not only physically, but emotionally and mentally as well. I was all there and I was making a difference because of who I was.

Tell me more about what that felt like.

I felt like I could do anything. I had a confidence I hadn’t had for a long time and I just felt like I could really make a difference to a lot of people if I could have that kind of confidence more often.

You’re now ready to meet with the participant, eager to hear and record their stories using your active listening skills. The course will guide the two of you through the rest of the participant’s Success Journey once you complete the sharing exercise. Thank you again for your willingness to help in this process!

Want a Guide to Asking Powerful Coaching Questions, with my compliments?


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