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Small Group Coaching to transform organisations.

Are your front-line leaders courageous?

Many organisations are focusing on developing courageous conversations amongst their leaders. It’s a critical skill that drives the productivity, engagement and results orientation of front-line teams. What’s the best way to make your front-line leaders courageous conversation superstars? Dominic Johnson suggests a winning methodology.

Few of your organisation’s frontline people relish the thought of having to confront a colleague with hard truths. But that constructive honesty is what team members are looking for if they’re going to work confidently and take ownership of their roles. The art of initiating and conducting courageous conversations will no doubt be at the top of your essential leadership skills list.

But what is the the best way to build lasting capability – mastery – of this skill across your organisation?

It’s not that people in the frontline have an inherent fear of conflict. But constructive approaches need to be learned. And that’s made more problematic than it needs to be if the only modelling that emerging leaders have experienced has been old school heavy-handed methods. Or they’ve been led to believe that confrontation will only create a complex legal minefield that’s to be avoided at almost any cost.

Mastering the art of courageous conversations

In reality it will take time. Newly appointed frontline leaders cannot possibly absorb all the elements for courageous conversations from a quick workshop. That format will provide a good start – the structure, tools, frameworks and practice simulations – to perhaps embolden them to have a go in the real world. They’ll understand the concepts but mastery is another thing.


What truly gives the edge in conquering this new skill is getting the attitudinal settings right. These are the subtleties - learning to be sufficiently challenging while not scorching the good will in the relationship and supporting team member’s emotional self-regulation.

Drilling into mastery

We’ve found the secret to success is small group coaching. Sessions are separated over 6-9 months to enable practice of the tools learned – it’s the ideal way to support incremental learning of such a complex skillset. Frontline leaders learn the theories and frameworks in the curriculum-driven part of the course.

  • While within the small, focussed group (usually three front line leaders and one coach), participants get to:
• Share specific courageous conversation scenarios that are relevant to each leader. This means they are actively working on courageous conversations they actually need to have.
• Rehearse for these impending real-world conversations in a supportive atmosphere. In effect, participants are testing their approaches on their peers, and getting feedback prior to delivering the real conversation.
      • • Review progress and application experiences with their coach and fellow participants. Every session participants typically go away with a planning courageous conversation in mind, and then at the beginning of the next months’ session, share how things went. This accountability loop is critical – it ensures the conversations take place but also means that there is enhanced learning and reflection on what went well and what didn’t.

Most conversations front line leaders execute go, in their words, “surprisingly well”. This is because they have been properly planned and practiced in the pods. This is the way to build confidence and capability that then lasts. And your frontline people will jump at the chance to truly come to grips with such a value adding achievement.

In each coaching session three conversations are practiced, and over the life of a typical program 15 or more conversations are planned and practiced by the three participants. This constant review of technique, framing of issues, building of an effective question bank is what contributes to the building of confidence and eventual mastery.

The small group coaching format emphasises the well-worn principle – practice makes perfect.

To learn more about our HFL’s small group coaching program, Fastlead, download our Fastlead Brochure

More and more organisations are experimenting with coaching pods as either a compliment or replacement for front line leadership training workshops. Why? Because the participants love them. Here’s why.


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