Time. Goal. Role. - Part Three: Role


READ TIME: 4m 45s

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Time. Goal. Role.
Better conversations from an exploration of the obvious.

This is the final part of a series about the three words that have been key in my coaching work over the years and form the bedrock of every coaching conversation I have: time, goal, role. If you’re new here, take a moment to start by reading Part One: Time and then continue on to Part Two: Goal, before continuing this post. My hope is that this series will help you to start reflecting on your habits and choices about the timing, and time spent on, your conversations.

Now, in tying up our look at time, goal and role in preparing for more useful, more focused and more productive conversations, let’s turn our attention to role.

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As a coach, my role is to ask questions, reflect, challenge and support in service of the goal that you have defined. My opinion isn’t relevant. So if I hear an opinion pop into my head, or anything else that isn’t what I’m here for, it’s the fact that I know what my role is that helps me make sure I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

At work, there are multiple roles that you are playing, often several at once; leader, manager, teacher, mentor, shoulder to cry on, explainer, coach, team member, provider of information, setter of goals, communicator of vision, inspirer, teacher…the list goes on. Taking a moment to be clear what your role is in a conversation can really help you to be present and to be doing and saying what really is useful for you and the other person or people. 

Let’s say for example that something has gone wrong and you want to pay some attention to that. You have thought about the timing, and the time available, and the goal of the conversation. Stay with that pause to consider time and goal, and give yourself, and the other person in the conversation, the best opportunity of it being the most useful conversation it can be, by also thinking about your role. And, as with time and goal, your role might be less obvious than it initially appears.

So what is your role in this instance? To make sure that people know you are cross and it’s not good enough? Or to fix it? Or to listen to what went wrong, take responsibility for your part in it and ensure others take theirs? Is your role Manager? Is it friend? Is it mentor? There are thousands of permutations of this, and we all take different roles at different times. What can be useful is to be more conscious about doing that. Rather than slip into a role and find ourselves doing and saying things that are unintentionally unhelpful we can instead choose our role and remember our responsibilities in order to ensure we are at our most appropriate and most useful.

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Good things come in threes!

The more you pause to pay attention to time, goal and role the more it will be second nature and the more you will create a foundation for better conversations.

Pausing to pay attention to, and most importantly to all agree to time, goal and role brings safety, clarity and forward focus. It also gives you something to check back in with if the conversation drifts. Are we having the conversation we intended to have? If not, what will we choose to do about that by reminding ourselves of our time, goal and role.

In closing, close with time, goal, role too! Allocate time at the end of a conversation to be clear:

  • What you have covered and what (if any) more time it needs.

  • What the goals (actions) arising from the conversation or meeting are.

  • Whose role (responsibiity) it is to action those.

Closing in this way greatly increases the likelihood that the energy and exploration and discussion becomes something specific and useful to take away, and that you’ll be on time to your next meeting having closed the conversation in a way that leaves you free to concentrate on the next thing.

I’d love to hear the versions of these questions that you find most useful. Here’s a starting point for you to prepare your own Time Goal Role pauses: 

Time – How long do we all truly have available to be fully focused on this question or subject? Taking into account what is coming up next in our day (or in this meeting) and the goal and urgency – are we having this conversation now, and if so, how long do we have?

Goal –What’s the outcome we are looking for? What do we want to learn and/or achieve as a result of this conversation? How does it connect to our own, our team, or our organisation’s purpose and goals? If, by the time we have finished, this has been a useful conversation, how will we know?

Role – Are we clear what our roles are? Let’s be clear on our roles within (and beyond) this conversation so that we all know what we are doing during the time we have and in relation to the topic we are covering.