Leaders are often pulled not only between reflection and action, but also between realism and idealism. The realist is careful and cautious, because of concern that problems may appear to be “solved” through wishful thinking (the failure of idealism) or without anticipating the consequences (the failure of activism). Too many people, according to the realist, go off half cocked, with very little sense of the resources needed to solve a problem and without a clear understanding of the current situation to anticipate all of the consequences associated with a particular solution.
Effective coaching takes place in the three interrelated domains that reside at the heart of this model of leadership: (1) information (the essential features of the current state), (2) intentions (the desired state; what we in- tend to accomplish and/or avoid) and (3) ideas (specific ideas and subsequent actions taken to change the current state into the desired state). Effective coaching blends attention to information, intentions and ideas.
Effective coaching also balances phases of reflection and action. Frequently, coaching clients will spend too much time in reflection and never move beyond untested ideas, or they will move precipitously toward action with insufficient attention to either information or intentions. The personality preferences of individual leaders will cause them to favor some of these domains over others, requiring that the coach help restore balance, if the leader is to be successful and well-rounded.
The Crucial Questions
With this introduction directed to the person doing the coaching, we can now identify some crucial questions that can be conveyed either by the coach or by those of us who will be doing some self-coaching. Following are some general coaching questions to be asked that are related specifically to the content of this essay:
- What is your strongest color/preference?
- What is your weakest color/preference?
- When and under what circumstances do your preferences change?
- What is the most important strength for you associated with your strongest preference? When are you at your best?
- What is your strongest color/preference when you confront opposition? What does this color look like when you engage it?
- What is your next strongest color and your weakest color when you confront opposition? When if ever do you engage these colors—perhaps in your childhood?
- When does your major strength(s) get you in trouble—and what kind of trouble do you get into?