A guest blog by Laura Stephens-Reed, PCC, CMC. Laura teaches courses for CAM, leads our Community Learning Labs, and is also a mentor coach for our Group Mentor Coaching class.
If you have taken any of CAM’s courses, you have been invited to share your observations on your classmates’ coaching. An important part of any coach’s growth is to listen to others coach and to learn from what they do – and at times, from what they don’t do. In-class skills practices offer this valuable opportunity.
It can be hard to know how to engage in the debrief time after one of these skills practices, though. What is the role of the trainer and the class participants? What kind of feedback should a class participant share, and how? These are questions worth considering so that everyone involved gets the most out of the experience.
Roles and kinds of feedback during in-class skills practices
As an experienced coach and teacher of coaches, the trainer knows the ICF core competencies and the markers of a good coach. That allows the trainer to highlight a couple of areas in which the coach excels and a couple of ways the coach can improve. It also helps the trainer provide guardrails on feedback from other class participants. (In other words, students can risk giving feedback because the trainer is there to offer context or correction to those comments as needed.)
Students in the role of observer during skills practices have a couple of responsibilities. One is to notice. What jumped out at you? How does that align (or occasionally, not) with what you’ve learned about coaching? How did the coach utilize the content of the particular course you’re taking? What did the coach do that you might want to try in your own coaching? Another task is to encourage. It is hard to coach with an audience! Affirm the skills practice coach where you can do so genuinely. A third job is to ask questions. Even if you have never coached a session yourself, you can always inquire about the what, why, and how of the coaching you just witnessed to expand your understanding – and others’ – of the coaching process.
Ways of providing feedback during in-class skills practices
Trainers facilitate the debrief time after an in-class skills practice. Often there is not much time for class participants to share. You can navigate these constraints in two ways. Have your comment or question ready to go when the trainer opens up the conversation. Or, if you’re in an online class, make use of the chat feature in Zoom. You can begin sharing in real time during the skills practice. (The coach and coachee might want to hide the chat so as not to get distracted.) You can also use the chat as others are talking during the debrief time.
When you are new to coaching or starting a class with people you don’t know, it can be uncomfortable at first to offer feedback. If your words are constructive, though, everyone benefits: you, the coach, your fellow class participants, and even the trainer. We are all on the journey together, which means we need one another to provide both support and gentle challenge and to learn how best to help each other.