I need some help coaching a direct on her communication skills.

Some background: there have been many occasions where she is unable to explain her own work in enough detail for her peers to understand. When confronted to explain an obvious problem with her work, she will often skirt around the issue, attempt to assign blame to another party, give the "story" instead of the answer, and generally succeed in confusing everyone. As a result, her relationships at work are in peril and nobody wants to work with her. She is simply unable to communicate effectively.

I've agreed to coach her to become a better communicator, but I don't know where to begin. Any ideas on what resources I could suggest that would help? To me her communication style seems so endemic, so much a part of her personality -- and yet it is obviously ineffective. What can I do to help her become better? I've given feedback, but it's not working. We're now in Stage 3 and we've both agreed to a coaching approach for improvement. I'm just not sure what kind of coaching would be effective.

Any ideas? Thanks in advance!

chuckbo's picture

Is it all of her communications that are ineffective or only when she's trying to explain a problem? How does she do when asked to explain something that's gone well?

juliahhavener's picture
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Since we're in a coaching model, who do you have on your team who is exceptional at communicating? Can your DR tell the difference between her ineffective style and their effective style? Perhaps a 'framework' for communicating projects or problems she's working on? BLUF, then details of the issue(s), then actions she is taking to resolve. I'd also work on her ability to say 'I need help, this is the problem, I think this is the solution, can you help me make it happen?'

Chuck's got a good question, too. Does she ever communicate effectively? If so, try to model the desired behavior on the established one.

Just for a quick set of random ideas that may or may not work: modelling; role play ficticious problems that she doesn't personally have to take responsibility for (it may be she's shying away from admitting a weakness); practice discussing her current projects, challenges, successes, needs, wants, desires; focus and channel that focus -- my ADHD son has a tendency to wander when expressing himself, I bring him back with a re-statement of the question or (when I'm really aggravated) 'what does that have to do with this assignment? Okay, tell me what I need to know and we'll discuss the shirt you want when we're done'; if she does better in a written format, perhaps practicing outlining a response and practicing delivery -- it could be that she confuses everyone and herself because she needs to stop and order her thoughts before she begins to respond.

And I could be WAY off-base. Those are just some ideas that come to my tired mind with the information available.

drinkcoffee's picture

Thank you both. Julia, those are all excellent ideas. I've already borught up and explained the concept of BLUF so we'll see how that goes. Modeling is also an approach I think will work well.

Chuck, to answer your question -- I don't know. Not much has gone well, actually (which is a separate issue). I'll pay attention to those situations better and see what I can observe.


Mark's picture
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I'm sorry this has taken me so long. I regret my absence.

Sorry for being so simplistic, but have you listened to the cast on coaching? This is pretty simple: what's your goal (having others understand her and agree that she answered their questions)? What resources can you bring to bear? You can practice with her - before she goes into those meetings, take 15 minutes a few times. What's her action list?

Keep it simple. One day at a time.

And...communication is NOT her problem, but that's what you CAN coach her on. She's either embarrassed about her work (which could be a hundred things), and/or fearful of being found out by you and others. You can't coach her on that, but it will come out in time.

Again, my apologies for my delay.