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Martin, an engineering executive, had been in the business world for a long time and was good at it. But he knew that he could be better. He needed someone to help him see himself in a new way, to help him grow into his full potential at this new stage of his career.

Martin and I formed a powerful development relationship based on candid communication. Martin could see his strengths and developmental areas in new ways, and I developed fresh approaches to helping him achieve his goals. The results were nothing short of spectacular and attributable, partly, to candid communication.

Candor is defined as the quality of being open, honest, and sincere in communication. Candid communication allows us to explore what’s possible. When we communicate candidly with each other, we create an environment of trust, enhancing our interpersonal credibility. We also open the door to being vulnerable with each other, a key ingredient of any coaching relationship. Candor conveys our care, concern, and professionalism.

As an executive coach, candid communication is one of the most important tools in my toolkit. When used effectively, candid communication builds trust, fosters transparency, and creates a safe environment for exploring possibilities. In this article, I’ll explore the power of candid communication in coaching and offer tips on how to use it effectively. My guidance applies to any type of coaching relationship in organizational settings. You could be a manager coaching an employee, a People and Culture leader coaching a client, or a peer coach, for example, and gain value for improved and increased candor.

Setting the Stage for Candid Coaching

Before meeting with an executive client, I focus on two items. First, I work to understand and clarify my goals and objectives. I want to state them clearly and prepare for feedback. The second action I take is I prepare to listen fully. I clear my thoughts of wants and needs and bring focus to my presence. These two actions consistently increase my effectiveness and productivity to honor the coaching hour. I arrive where I am ready for the inspiration, meaning, and relevance of coaching.

I’ve also discovered there’s no right way to have a coaching conversation. The important element is to come from a place of authenticity and care.

These actions will help you to prepare for powerful coaching experiences:

  • Practicing what you want to say beforehand to feel more confident in the moment
  • Asking questions that can help open up the conversation
  • Being clear about what you’re hoping to accomplish and what success looks like
  • Listening actively and with empathy
  • Taking time to reflect on the conversation afterward

If you’re not sure where to begin a coaching conversation at work, try asking questions like:

  • What’s been on your mind lately?
  • What are you struggling with?
  • What would you like to explore further?
  • What’s one thing you’d like to change about your current situation?
  • What’s one goal you have for our time together?

The questions above can help open up the conversation and get you both thinking about the areas you’d like to focus on. From there, you can start brainstorming possible solutions and action steps. The more specific you can be, the better. Remember that the goal is to help the client achieve their objectives. With that in mind, it’s important to be clear about your intents and behaviors.

Having Candid Conversations and Discussions

Candor promotes intimacy, trust, and mutual respect between coach and coachee and sets the stage for open and honest dialogue. However, candor also has its challenges. It can be difficult to be candid with someone we have not yet developed a relationship, and it can be challenging to receive feedback that is candid but also constructive. Despite these challenges, candor is essential for successful coaching conversations.

Candid coaches can create a safe space for their coachees to share openly, without judgment or criticism. This allows candid coaches to provide more targeted and customized feedback, leading to improved performance. You want to convey your care and concern while maintaining professionalism.

To have these types of conversations, we must be aware of our body language and tone. The better we understand how we come across to others, the more effective we can be in coaching conversations. We can also pick up on nonverbal cues that can give us additional insight into how others feel. Being present and engaged shows that we care about the other person’s words.

Active listening is essential to candid communication. When we listen actively, we can hear what the other person is saying. Listening with empathy means trying to understand the other person’s perspective. It’s important to remember that we all see things differently. What may be obvious to us may not be so clear to someone else. By empathizing with the other person, we can build rapport and trust.

By being present and engaged, we can build rapport and trust. The better we understand how we come across to others, the more effective we can be in coaching conversations.

Reflecting and Conditioning Your Candor

Candor, or the ability to give and receive honest feedback, is essential for reflection. A coach unable to give candid feedback will never elicit the introspection needed for true growth. Similarly, a coachee who is unwilling to face their shortcomings will never be able to achieve their potential. Candor must be balanced with compassion, as too much honesty can overwhelm and lead to defensiveness.

For reflection to be effective, it must also be ongoing. A coach should regularly encourage their coachee to reflect on their successes and failures. Reflecting on the conversation afterward can help you process what was said and identify areas for improvement. What went well? What could you have done differently? What will you do differently next time? These are all important questions to ask yourself after a coaching conversation.

Finally, reflection should be used as a tool for learning, not punishment. A coachee who feels that they are being punished for their mistakes will be less likely to take risks and experiment in the future. By encouraging reflection, coaches can create an environment where learning can flourish.

Next Steps

Candor is key in any coaching relationship, but it’s especially important when the coaching takes place in an organizational context. The benefits of candid coaching are many, but they hinge on the ability of both parties to be open and vulnerable. By understanding what happens before, during, and after a candid conversation, coaches can improve their ability to have these conversations effectively.

To be a successful coach, you must develop your skills in being candid and open with your coachees. When candor flourishes, coaches and coachees explore their feelings honestly and openly, build trust, and develop self-awareness. In the end, when candid coaching goes well, it can improve relationships in organizations, increase employee productivity and satisfaction, and help managers become better leaders.

If you want to upskill your ability to be a candid coach—and reap the rewards that come with it—let me know. I’d be happy to provide some tips or point you in the direction of some resources that can help.

Thank you for reading!