On this page, we are going to review the GitLab coaching framework and approach for people leaders and direct reports to apply during coaching conversations with their team. Use this page as a guide to starting and executing a coaching conversation.
Coaching is about helping others help themselves. It is not about giving advice, instruction, or telling someone what to do. Coaching is about focusing on the future and identifying where the coachee wants to be and what they want to achieve. At GitLab, we've defined coaching as a conversation that helps people think for themselves, find their own answers, and commit to action they design. As a coach, your role is to clarify the pathway from the current state to the future. Coaches do this by enabling the coachee to make informed choices based on deeper insight.
Coaching conversations are fluid, dynamic acts of co-creation where the coach and the coachee are equal partners. The Gitlab coaching framework has both a coach and coachee side, and each side is a reflection of the other. Coaching is an important component of our 360 review process and for guidance on feedback. Coaching can occur during one-on-one meetings or at any time. It is an important component of career development, leading teams, building an inclusive culture, mentoring, and much more.
There are various ways to find a coach at GitLab:
Coaches help team members by focusing their attention on the future while recognizing their unique strengths and areas for development. A coach is there to help the coachee tap into their potential and to reflect and learn by identifying desired outcomes to achieve future goals.
Key attributes of a coach include some of the following:
When we think about coaching as a mode of conversation, you may also be thinking about all the other modes of conversation you might use as a leader in multiple types of roles. You may be a team lead running an engineering program. You may be managing one of our TMRG's. You may be a mentor or a buddy. You are also most likely a direct report of someone else. Whatever it is, you can flex your leadership style and adopt different approaches to engage in meaningful conversations. You can think of this as wearing "different hats."
You may wear multiple hats in any given day:
The GROW Model is a four-step method for holding coaching conversations with a coachee. You can apply it during coaching sessions to guide the coachee through future-focused discussions.
G - Goals: Identify the inspirational goal to drive success and keep energy and motivation high.
R - Reality: Discuss the current situation and what barriers currently exist to achieve future goals
O - Options: Explore the options for moving forward
W - Way Forward: Agree on specific actions and timeframe to set accountability for the coachee
Effective coaches use a defined set of skills to enable coaching coversations. Those skills include:
How to structure questions
Questioning - What to avoid
Listening like a coach
What to listen for
What else to do when you are listening
When to Encourage
Strategies to practice encouraging
When to challenge
Strategies on how to be present
As a coach uses their core coaching skills, a coachee can access their own set of skills and activities to get the most out of the coaching conversation through the following:
Building trust is an important ingredient in coaching and team dynamics. Trust lies at the heart of a functioning and cohesive team. There are five dysfunctions of a team according to Patrick Lencioni that can break down trust throughout the team:
The Trust Equation™ is a concept to help increase trustworthiness with your team. The more trust you have with team members, the easier it will be to have coaching conversations.
The trust equation uses four objective variables to measure trustworthiness:
The trust equation has one variable in the denominator (self-orientation) and three in the numerator (credibility, reliability, intimacy). Increasing the value of the factors in the numerator increases the value of trust. Increasing the denominator (self-orientation) decreases the value of trust.
Studies have shown that building trust has an impact on the brain. The neuroscience shows that recognition has the largest effect on trust when it occurs after a goal has been met. The neuroscience of trust can help team members and managers in the following ways:
Eight management behaviors that foster trust:
Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high trust companies report the following according to a study from Accenture:
The planning for the action phase is about enabling the coachee to make a plan with action steps that support their goals.
How to plan for action:
When you are planning for action while wearing your coaching hat, you are not evaluating or judging or driving your agenda. The coachee should ultimately decide the action steps, committing to their path forward. As a coach, you are curious and non-judgemental while living up to GitLab values.
When a coaching session is completed, it is essential to review the goal of the conversation with the outcome by asking:
The coach might also want to end the conversation with a few statements about what this session has reminded them of and what they truly appreciate in the coachee. Coaching is about empowering. They are helping team members to increase and balance their self-confidence and self-worth:
In an all-remote organization, coaching is a critical skill for managers to develop and improve upon as they progress in their careers. Coaching helps to facilitate the career development of team members through regular coaching conversations. Coaching helps team members change behavior, improve performance, and sustain commitment through encouragement, support, collaborative problem-solving, goal setting, and feedback.
Skills and behavior of the coaching competency for managers:
A recording of the first of two sessions can be found here: