Sorting out priorities with the Urgency-Importance Matrix

Here we all are after the festive break with lots of good intentions for getting things done in this bright New Year. Coaches have good intentions, and so do their coachees. Yet how often do those good intentions fall by the wayside?

Woman surrounded by arrowsThere can be a whole host of reasons for good intentions going out of focus pretty quickly. Here I’m going to look at circumstances where the impulse to do something is genuinely there, but it gets drowned out by everything else that may be going on in our lives. We lose our sense of priorities.

You know I’m not one for pulling out a coaching tool for no reason, especially if it’s complicated. So the fact that this post is about the Urgency-Importance Matrix should give you a clue that I think it’s not only really useful, but also really easy to use.

Let’s look at what the Urgency-Importance Matrix is, then check out two specific work-based coaching scenarios where I’ve found it priceless.

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Book Thoughts – The Financial Times Guide to Business Coaching by Anne Scoular

Although the title of The Financial Times Guide to Business Coaching (published 2011) seems to imply this book’s remit is purely related to coaching in the world of business, to my mind it’s a rare gem which gives a comprehensive yet entertaining whistle-stop tour round all things coaching for anyone seriously interested in the subject. Cartoon cogs with handThat’s not to suggest it’s shallow, for shallow it certainly isn’t. It’s to say that if any coach reads this volume carefully, she or he will have more than a thorough introduction to many practical coaching-related subjects, as well as the pleasure of being entertained along the way.

At just over 230 pages, this is not a big read. However, given the amount of ground it covers and the amount of attention many of its sections warrant, it’s not an inconsiderable read either. What sugars the pill is Anne’s authorial voice – one of wit, candour and mischievousness. This is a refreshing combination, and one I think we could do with more of.

Topics covered include:

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Effective questioning in coaching – and the most important questions to ask yourself

In a previous post I outlined the 5 basic coaching skills we really need in order to become effective as coaches. We’ve already taken a look at contracting, use of some kind of structuring mechanism (with the GROW Model as an example), and listening. This time I’m going to discuss questioning, which (coupled with listening) is the way coaching is given direction, and conversations can be taken forward into ‘light-bulb moment’ territory.

questions in yellow baubles

First, we’ll be looking at framing questions during the ongoing interaction with a coachee, before turning to the most important questions we coaches need to ask ourselves.

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What if… coaches didn’t know best?

How often in conversation with another coach do you find the subject moving to coachees who don’t do what they know they ought to do? It’s happened to me quite often. In a previous post I considered the proposition “What if… coachees were coaches?” and in some ways what I’m going to say today continues on that theme. We all know we’re supposed to believe that coachees have within themselves the answers to their problems, but somehow our keeping hold of that insight gets swamped by ‘interference’…

What do I mean?

two mannequin heads in a poolCoaching is in many ways more about how a coach deals with his or her own baggage than it is about the coachee. One function of a coach is to hold up that mirror to coachees which helps them perceive themselves in perspective. But what if the coach isn’t really holding up a mirror at all? What if the coach has unwittingly substituted his or her own image?

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The Big Bad MBTI Controversy – what does it mean?

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is one of the most widely used personality instruments in the world. It’s taken by over 2 million people each year, and is a staple tool in coaching. Personality assessment is very important because much coaching work circles round discussing and dealing with how the coachee perceives and reacts to ‘the external world’. And that depends largely on the makeup of the individual’s personality.

Geometric headMost of us take it as read that the MBTI is a bona fide instrument that tells us something about personality which is worth learning. Yet, among psychologists in particular, it’s regarded with outright scepticism. There’s been a controversy raging for years, and here I’m going to take a look at the arguments in order to shed light on whether the MBTI is fit for purpose as far as its use in coaching is concerned.

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