Archive | May, 2013

12 questions to help a client transition to a new role

1 May

Moving into a new role is one of the most common situations that arises in coaching and mentoring. There are multiple uncertainties and inevitable concerns on all sides. The new role holder will usually have to make adjustments in how they lead, but it may not be clear what these should be.  Here are 12 questions (plus some subsidiary questions) that can help the client prepare for the role transition. They are also useful for reviewing progress at intervals during the first 90 days.


  1. What do you do really well in your current role that you want to import into the new role?
  2.  What do you need to leave behind in the old role? (What are you going to have to stop doing, or do a lot less of?)
  3. How do you need to change your networks to make them fit the needs of the new role?
  4. How will you make your mark in the first 90 days? How will you ensure the support and constructive feedback from your team, from your new boss and other key colleagues over this period?
  5. How can you understand the story (narrative) of this team so far? (Remember “retro-engineered learning”?) How can you gain an accurate understanding of the legacy your predecessor has left?
  6. How can you leverage your “role naivety” to maximum effect while it lasts (especially in the first month!)?
  7. How can you engage with your new direct reports so they are genuinely positive about the idea of radical change, if it is required?
  8. What are you most afraid of / worried about in this new role? What two things could you do that would boost your confidence in this respect?
  9. How genuinely aligned are your expectations of the role and those of your new boss? What have you done to facilitate a re-definition of the role, once you have fully understood it?
  10. What will make the difference between just doing this role and relishing it?
  11. What are your learning and career goals from this role? (What is it a launch-pad for?)
  12. What can you influence in this role, which will have a wider, positive effect on your division, company, or society?


© David Clutterbuck, 2013


Coaches and mentors bearing gifts

1 May

Studies have shown that overly altruistic motivations for coaching and mentoring tend to lead to more directive, unconsciously manipulative behaviours in the coach/mentor. “I want to put something back” or “I’ve got a lot of experience to share” may be altruistic in intent, but the underlying drivers are much more closely related to less noble motivations, such as needing to be needed, or boosting one’s own self-confidence. By contrast, the enlightened self-interest of being motivated to learn from being a coach or mentor is more closely associated with behaviours and behaviours, such as mindfulness, humility and non-directiveness.

A metaphor I find useful (and was reminded of in a recent coach supervision session) is that of bearing gifts. People give gifts for all sorts of reasons. For example, charities sometimes send a small gift to potential donors, in the hopes of stimulating enough guilt that the recipient will feel obliged to respond with a much more substantial gift of money. People may give expensive presents they can’t afford, to make themselves look wealthier, or to buy favours. (Intriguingly, in German, the word gift means poison!) Authentic giving, however, is based solely on the needs, welfare or happiness of the receiver – and it is this kind of giving that characterises the effective coach or mentor.

Some aspects of this kind of giving include the following:

• It is considered and thoughtful – the giver takes time to assess what is the right gift for this person, and the right time to provide it
• It comes without strings (overt or covert) attached
• It is born of a great respect – both for the client and for oneself

So what is it that coaches and mentors can give? Three common gifts are:

• Empathy. The most valuable gift is often a part of ourselves. By acknowledging the client and their needs, we provide a kinship that tells them they are supported, understood, valued and worthy. In mentoring, particularly, the relationship may evolve into the greater connectedness of professional friendship.
• Knowledge. Contrary to what many of the simplistic approaches to coaching say, authentic coaches do – selectively, humbly, intuitively – share knowledge when it is in the client’s best interests to do so. Such sharing is never a starting point for a coaching or mentoring conversation, but it often happens that there are gaps in the client’s knowledge, which cannot be filled by questioning. An analogy is: If you saw a blind person descending a staircase, on which a child had left a toy car, would you ask them “Tell me about the kind of dangers you might expect to experience with stairs?”
• Tools. Tools are a special form of knowledge. They give the client the ability to work things out for themselves, without depending on the coach / mentor to guide them with appropriate questions. The give the client increased independence and greater opportunities to continue the learning conversation in their own mind, through quiet, structured reflection between sessions

In our own reflections as coaches and mentors, it can provoke useful insight to ask ourselves:
• What is the nature of my professional giving? (What are my motivations?)
• What is the impact of my giving, on my client and on myself?
• Rather than expect gratitude for my gifts, how can I show that I am grateful that they have been accepted and acknowledged?

And sometimes, when I remember, I like to ask myself: “What is the gift I want or need to give to myself?”

© David Clutterbuck, 2013