A technique for honing everyone’s accessibility skills
Ever since the Internet was invented, training and communications trends have centered around getting those materials focused, more compact, shorter, and more effective.
- Why go to an all-day training when you can get the same training online in 20-minute chunks?
- Why read an entire book when you can review focused blogs and tweets?
Micro-coaching is exactly what you might think it is. Coaching, but in a much smaller, bite-sized chunk.
Micro-coaching is the practice of engaging in frequent, brief, targeted, in-workflow coaching conversations. The hallmarks of micro-coaching sessions are that:
- they are usually less than 10 minutes;
- they are not is not scheduled, scripted, or forced, and;
- they can be initiated either by the coacher, or the coachee.
Environments that reward coaching and learning are generally more mature with respect to psychological safety. Psychologically safe environments reward individuals for being vulnerable. Admitting that you don’t know it all, whether you are at the bottom of the pecking order or the CEO of a 30,000+ employee organization requires you to express some vulnerability.
I engage in accessibility micro-coaching sometimes dozens of times in a single day with multiple people. It is probably split 50/50 between me initiating the discussion, and people contacting me on Slack, LinkedIn, email, or Zoom/Teams calls asking accessibility questions which I respond to by, you guessed it, micro coaching.
A micro-coaching interaction can be anywhere from 20 seconds to 10 minutes. It isn’t “micro” if you go much over that. If I am micro-coaching dozens of times per day and each was over 10 minutes, I wouldn’t be able to get my regular work completed.
At a teachable moment
Microcoching sessions are most effective when they occur within the workflow where the topic comes up or when the question is asked. When the micro-coaching is embedded holistically into an already-happening conversation, it allows the coach to provide direction, correction, and continuous feedback in the context of the work that triggered the coaching session.
Micro-coaching is not like life/communications/organizational change or other types of coaching. Because of the short nature, micro-coaching involves discussing a very specific, meaningful component of the coachee’s work with a very specific call to action at the end of the discussion.
Most coaching is directional:
- Career coaching is top-down
- Reverse mentoring is bottom-up
Most micro-coaching occurs between people that are within one level of each other in the organizational hierarchy. 90 % of my micro-coaching is at that level, perhaps 10 % is providing executives accessibility micro-coaching that they don’t even know they are receiving. In a tech world where one individual might be a specialist with a peer that specializes in something completely different, micro-coaching can also be a method of transferring specialized skills and knowledge from one peer to another.
The reason why you frequently hear “never stop learning” is that environments that support continuous learning avoid sudden irrelevance. The pandemic *definitely* reinforced that. Micro-coaching is one method where you can continue to learn from others which allows you to use that newly learned information when it is appropriate to another situation in an agile manner.
Examples of Accessibility Micro-coaching
Here are some accessibility micro-coaching sessions I’ve conducted in the past week
- Walking through a PPT accessibility review session with someone who hasn’t done it before.
- Addressing the “why” behind one of the WCAG guidelines.
- Forwarding an inaccessible email back to the sender with suggestions for improvement.
- Explaining to someone outside of the US why their choice of disability phrasing would put off American readers.
- Helping a vendor prioritize accessibility tickets.
- Discussing the pros and cons of biometric authentication from the accessibility perspective.
I even sought micro-coaching in writing up internal guidelines for CAPTCHA use.
Make the personal choice to get off the sidelines and get into the accessibility game by being either a provider or recipient of accessibility micro-coaching. It is even possible to be both!