The Counselling Interview

A counselling interview, which can also be called a "meeting" or "discussion", is any face-to-face exchange in which you play the role of helper to facilitate solutions that block another person's progress at work. There are 7 important steps to work through to achieve success in a counselling interview. These are... 1. Aims At one level, the aim of a counselling interview is to give an employee the chance to discuss a problem that is bothering them or you. At another, deeper level, the aim is to help the employee discover what they must do to overcome their own blocks to progress. It is thus a process to bring them to awareness, acceptance and change. 2. Preparation Unlike other kinds of interview, it isn't always easy to prepare for a counselling interview. That's because you won't have all the facts in front of you when you start. You can, however, prepare yourself mentally, prepare the environment physically, and prepare the employee. 3. Environment Your chief aim in a counselling interview is to get the employee to open up. Your principal role is to listen; theirs is to talk. One pre-condition of getting your employees to talk to you, often about very sensitive issues, is that they must feel safe. Do this by creating space and time and by getting them to see you, not as a prosecutor or persecutor, but as a friend and helper. 4. Role You will play a number of roles in a counselling interview but the main one is to guide your employee to take on responsibility for unravelling his or her problem and taking steps to move forward. You are there to stand back and guide, suggest and see. You are not there to put them down, tut-tut, or pry. You are there to create new possibilities for them. 5. Stages All successful interviews go through stages. In a counselling interview, there are 5 classic stages. If you follow these stages, without feeling you have to follow them religiously, you'll have a structure which will keep you firmly on track. The 5 stages are: a. contracting, where you outline what you plan to do b. exploring, where you open up the employee to discuss the issues c. challenging, where you close the employee down to focus on the issue at hand d. solutions, where you work with the employee to find ways forward e. conclusions, where you sum up and plan ahead. 6. Process The reason why these 5 stages work is that they are the best way for allowing the discussion to develop. They allow for a journey from problems to solutions; from facts to feelings; from you being in control to them being in control; and from lack of awareness to full realisation of what needs to happen next. 7. Follow Up Just as all interviews need some pre-interview preparation, so all interviews need a post-interview follow up. That's because it is rare for people who have had problems to simply go away and sort them out all by themselves. How much more work you have to do in further meetings depends on the difficulties of the agreed plan. Sometimes, you will only need an informal check-up in a few days time. In other cases, you may need to meet formally several more times. Either way, you should always do something to show continued support and interest. It's probably true to say that the success of counselling depends almost wholly on the face-to-face meeting between you and your employee. Get this right and your chances of success are almost guaranteed.


Eric Garner is Managing Director of ManageTrainLearn, the site that will change the way you learn forever. Download free samples of the biggest range of management and personal development materials anywhere and experience learning like you always dreamed it could be. Just click on ManageTrainLearn and explore.

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