OKRs Coaching – What and Why
I am so delighted that The OKRs Field Book continues to receive super-high reviews on Amazon. Based on the rating of 4.8/5.0 with 93 reviewers over its first year, I believe it is fair to conclude that the field book is delivering significant value to a small, but growing audience of OKRs coaches.
In this blog series, I introduce each section of the field book. I include excerpts and key points along the way. I invite you to post your comments in this blog or join The OKRs Coach Network if you’d like to discuss OKRs coaching best practices with OKRs coaches around the world.
The OKRs Field Book is the first book dedicated to OKRs coaching. It is not an introduction to OKRs. I wrote this book for external and internal coaches looking to take their OKRs coaching skills to the next level. If you provide OKRs coaching services to your clients, you are an external OKRs coach. This book speaks directly to you. It enables you to better support your clients as they launch OKRs or improve their existing OKRs program. The goal of the first chapter of the field book is for you to clearly state why OKRs coaching is important right now and why you have chosen to develop your coaching skills.
The interest in OKRs started to grow exponentially after John Doerr’s book on OKRs, Measure What Matters, hit the market in April of 2018. The stories in Doerr’s book featured big names like Bono and Bill Gates. With a growing interest in OKRs came an increased demand for OKRs coaching. I shifted my focus exclusively to deliver OKRs coaching to my clients. I finally had the problem I always wanted: too many leads! We expect the global demand for OKRs coaching will continue to rise throughout the 2020s. Given OKRs coaching is such a big deal, let’s define it.
What Is OKRs Coaching?
To define what OKRs coaching is, let’s begin by looking at what OKRs coaching is not. OKRs coaching is not consulting. Unlike consultants, who mostly advise their clients, coaches focus on inquiry.
The International Coaching Federation defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” Where a consultant tends to offer recommendations and answers—advocacy; a coach tends to ask questions and clarify thought processes—inquiry. The part of the Federation’s definition that we want to emphasize is the “thought-provoking and creative process” as that reflects the OKRs coaching focus on inquiry.
If you are an experienced coach, making the transition to OKRs coaching may be quite natural. Seasoned coaches often report that they just need to make minor adjustments as they are already asking many of the same questions we classify as “OKRs questions.”
However, if you are making the transition from consulting to coaching, you may need to make a concerted effort to focus on inquiry rather than simply giving advice. An OKRs coach does not focus on providing answers; an OKRs coach focuses on clarifying and providing the questions that help their client find their own answers. Whether you have a consulting or coaching background, it is essential that you balance advice with inquiry. Inquiry is foundational to OKRs coaching and helps discover answers. An OKRs coach must know when to provide advice on the best way to phrase the answers in the context of objectives and key results as well. To arrive at a definition of OKRs coaching, it helps to understand your role as an OKRs coach and the extent to which you advise or inquire at each of the three phases of OKRs coaching. Notice how your role shifts between acting as a consultant in Phase 1, as you advise and guide your client, to being a coach in Phase 3, as you focus on inquiry to let your client create and reflect on their OKRs.
Here are the 3 Phases:
Source: The OKRs Field Book
Phase 1 OKRs deployment coaching
Here you take a structured approach with your client to align on the answers to the critical questions that will define their OKRs program. During this phase, you play both a coach and consultant role. While you do ask questions, your client often looks to you for guidance about how best to get their OKRs project going. You advise your client based on your knowledge of OKRs best practices and lessons learned from prior OKRs deployments.
Let’s define this first phase as OKRs deployment coaching: a structured series of discussions in which the OKRs coach guides a client to (1) align on the answers to the critical questions that define their OKRs program and (2) define the roles and resources that will support the program.
Phase 2 OKRs training
Here you introduce your client to OKRs theory and get them to apply this theory in an interactive workshop. You begin as more of a consultant when introducing theory. You end as more of a coach, asking OKRs coaching questions that let your client translate theory into the creative process of drafting their OKRs.
Let’s define this second phase as OKRs training: an interactive workshop designed to create a common understanding of OKRs through examples and collaboration. You provide both an educational presentation and facilitate a workshop to ensure students translate theory into practice through the creative process of drafting their OKRs.
Phase 3 OKRs cycle coaching
Here, you focus almost exclusively on coaching. You must be careful not to overplay the role of consultant. You are the expert on OKRs, not your client’s business strategy. You guide your client to critically reflect on their most important goals through a series of questions that form the foundation of the OKRs approach. This inquiry is an ongoing process that helps your client complete the OKRs cycle. Phase 3 is, from a content point of view, the most important phase as it mines the client’s brain to harvest their critical thinking about their business.
Let’s define this third phase as OKRs cycle coaching: inquiry that enables a client to critically reflect throughout the three steps of an OKRs cycle to (1) align on where and why to focus effort to make measurable improvement, (2) communicate and monitor progress, and (3) document and apply learnings to the next OKRs cycle. Combining the role an OKRs coach plays across these phases leads to the following definition:
OKRs coaching: partnering with clients in a thought-provoking, creative, and structured process over three phases.
- Phase 1: Deployment coaching to align on the answers to the questions that define an OKRs program and define the roles and resources that will support the OKRs program.
- Phase 2: Training to ensure a shared understanding of OKRs.
- Phase 3: Cycle coaching, inquiry that enables a client to critically reflect throughout the three steps of an OKRs cycle to (1) align on where and why to focus effort to make measurable improvement, (2) communicate and monitor progress, and (3) document and apply learnings to the next OKRs cycle.
Click here to get your free preview of The OKRs Field Book, the first book written for OKRs coaches by OKRs coaches.