Coaching Skills, Coaching Techniques, Effective Coaching

The Ultimate Guide to Coaching Skills

A coach facilitates learning, helping an individual improve performance. When individuals improve, the entire team performs better, and that makes coaching skills a vital component in an organisation.

Pete Carroll:

“Each person holds so much power within themselves that needs to be let out. Sometimes they just need a little nudge, a little direction, a little support, a little coaching, and the greatest things can happen.”

Most importantly, that makes coaching expertise critical for every team leader or manager at the workplace to have. Such skills help members of your team develop, become better and more efficient at what they do. In particular, continuous coaching equips team members with the knowledge and tools they require so as to face new obstacles and not to fall behind industry trends.

Leaders in both small and large organisations know the power and value of coaching at the place of work. For instance, one of the first acts Jeff Immelt took when he became CEO of General Electric was to retain his former boss, Jack Welch, as his executive coach. This is a common practice among large organisations around the globe.

 In this guide to effective Coaching Skills we will look at the following, you can jump to sections with these links below:

Obstacles to Result-Oriented Coaching at the Work Place

The key obstacles to result-oriented coaching at any workplace are emotional interference and lack of clear communication. In fact, a negative emotional state, in particular, can cause a major setback to a team achieving its full potential.

Negative Emotions That Hinder Improvement 

Coaching Skills Negative Emotions That Hinder Improvement

The three primary negative emotions that stand in the way of personal improvement at the workplace are worry, guilt, and fear. For a team to be efficient, its members must overcome them. In this regard, coaching tailored to meet personal needs can help.

1. Worry

There’s no shortage of things to worry about even at the place of work. Indeed, some people seem to worry about anything and everything, including worry itself.

Chronic anxiety leads to physical health problems such as lack of enough sleep, poor eating habits, and lots of fatigue. With such physical hindrances, no one can be effective for long and coaching becomes a challenge regardless of the coaching techniques the team leader possesses.

2. Guilt

If not checked, guilt can become one of the main causes of an unhealthy work-life balance. For instance, a seemingly commendable act of an employee to routinely work later than others may be a problem. In particular, this might be due to some kind of guilt, perhaps, because of failing to accomplish tasks in time or failure to get desired results.

Unfortunately, a performance that is driven by guilt does not achieve potential nor does it last for long. In particular, it stands in the way of effective coaching.

3. Fear

Some fears have justifications. For instance, they keep us in check and away from danger. However, many others are baseless or are exaggerated in our minds. For instance, the fear of heights, maybe justified on a cliff but it is of no use in a tall building. Common fears at the place of work include the fear of being sacked and fear of accidents. Nevertheless, other fears unrelated to work interfere with performance in the workplace.

This natural reflexive defense mechanism can keep a member of staff away from challenges which appear tough. As a result, the member of staff fails to unleash their full potential and live an unfulfilled life.

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Secondary Obstacles

Other obstacles to result-oriented coaching at the workplace include:

  • Unclear goals

Coaching can’t succeed if it doesn’t have clear goals; it’s not pragmatic; and isn’t related to an individual’s values.

  • Fear of new approaches

Much like the fear of change, most people fear the possibility of adopting new approaches and failing while at it.

  • Vested interests of internal coaches

A coach may be external (comes from outside the organization or company) or internal (from within the institution). Unlike the external coach, an internal coach may have very strong personal interests in the quality of decisions made by those they coach.

Overcoming Obstacles to Coaching

As a coach or team leader, you can help your team members realize their full potential by first eliminating the effects of negative emotions, which interfere with performance. In particular, talking candidly about the particular emotions is one of the coaching techniques that help them to improve and grow.

Here’s how to overcome the secondary obstacles:

  • Dealing With Unclear Goals

Instances of unclear goals can be avoided by allocating sufficient time to both individuals and the whole team, in order to establish individual commitments to the team goals. Indeed, this is where team building sessions come in handy. Besides, a coach can deal with resistance by revisiting the goals regularly, as well as focusing on and encouraging commitment.

  • Dealing With Vested Interests of Internal Coaching

An internal coach should overcome vested interests which hinder a smooth coaching process.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Cast aside any predetermined ideas about members of the team and their capacity. You should focus on coaching them – not judging them based on what you already know about them. Most of the preconceived notions we have about others are flawed. For effective coaching, make use of the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) to accurately identify the true capacity of the people you coach.
  • Put your own subject mastery aside, and aid members of your team to build resolutions on their own. One of the best ways to achieve this is by trying not to offer any personal opinions. Instead, ask open-ended questions such as, “Have you thought of doing ABC?”
  • Avoid the urge to jump to solutions and instead give those you coach enough time to consider a problem at hand in their own unique way. Asking probing questions on the nature of the problem or what the possible solutions might be is the best way to go about it.
  • Take note of the presumptions made on a subject, an individual, or the process. This will definitely help identify and avoid some of the obstacles. Particularly with high-performance, executive coaching, look out for any underlying issues that prevent individuals from envisioning new possibilities.

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Coaching Skills in Business Today

According to Robert Hargrove, in his book Masterful Coaching, it’s possible to establish a new paradigm whereby extraordinary leaders develop in the process of producing extraordinary results, as opposed to studying a set of behaviors.

This new paradigm is based on seven solid guiding principles:

1. The Team Leader is a Coach, Not a Commander or Controller

The story of the former Prime Minister of Singapore gives a vivid illustration of this aspect.

The former Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee, had a seemingly impossible vision of his country going from a Third World to the First World. He brazenly ensured his vision became a reality.

Now retired, Lee has taken up the official role of Minister Mentor. He often has advisory meetings with his successors till the wee hours of the morning. However, the former PM admits his role is that of a coach who cannot command government leaders or order legislation. He only helps leaders on the front lines and, in the heat of the action, he steps back to observe the big picture.

2. Coaching Helps Others Discover Their Greatness

A coach is skilled in helping others to discover their great potential.

John Young, an assistant Secretary of the Navy, never believed he would play more than a support role in the US government. However, those around him, including the head of the American Joint Chiefs were of the opinion that the 42-year-old Young had the potential of becoming the Secretary of Defense.

Through coaching, they invited him to discover his potential. With time, Mr. Young developed a broader leadership vision which transformed the military. He soon became a thinking partner of Secretary of Defense, frequently accompanying him to the Whitehouse to discuss important issues.

3. Leadership is Creating Impossible Futures, Not Filling Leadership Competency Gaps

Several coaches begin their coaching relationship by pulling out a list of harmonized leadership competencies, then going on to spot and fill the gaps. However, it’s better to begin with the question: “What would be your impossible future or big game that you have a lot of passion for?” This is followed by, “How are you going to develop as a leader to get there?”

This is referred to as the PULL approach to leadership.

4. Creating a Winning Game Plan, Not Fluffy Mission Statements

This is what coaching is all about. Define an impossible future then come up with a winning game plan telling all and sundry how you will win. Not coming up with a fluffy mission statement.

A good coach operates as a thinking partner, helping people break free from the grip of any previous strategies that made them successful but have now become a limitation.

5. A Coach is a Transformation Agent, Not a Vendor of Transaction Tips and Techniques

Doug Buriani, Change Agent, California, USA:

“As change agents, our first order of business was to shift the water cooler dialogue from ‘what is wrong’ to ‘what is possible?’”

A  good coach isn’t just focused on giving helpful tips and techniques. The coach wants those being coached to excel by setting goals, overcoming obstacles and becoming transformation agents.

One main reason why only a few people stand out with truly innovative solutions, is because the rest of us focus on what is possible. Innovative minds want to turn impossible to possible. By helping others set high goals, and achieve them coach creates a transformation.

6. Coaches Concentrate on the Scoreboard, Not any Pie in the Sky

In sports, coaching revolves around long-term and short-term goals. As you aim to win the ultimate prize of the final Cup or Trophy; winning the next game ensures you don’t get eliminated.

Similarly, with coaching in the workplace, you must always stay afloat with short-term goals while pursuing the ultimate prize of long-term goals.

7. Coaching Relationship Must Be Robust

A deep and honest relationship between the coach and coachee will always lead to better results, as they work harmoniously towards a common goal. Read on to discover how build better relationships and develop trust.

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Essential Coaching Skills Attributes

Coaching Skills, Essential Coaching Skills Attributes

The most important attribute of any successful coach is the passion for helping people to learn new skills.

Good coaches don’t regard themselves as experts with all answers and capable of fixing all problems. On the contrary, they view themselves as simply aiding other’s learning process. They influence rather than command. This makes influencing skills an important attribute.

According to Julie Starr’s The Coaching Manual: The Definitive Guide to The Process, Principles and Skills of Personal Coaching, these are the five main essential coaching skills:

1. Building Relationships

A great coach easily strikes a good rapport with those they coach, leading to greater and easier communication. This helps the two get along well with each other and even have some things in common; hence, making a healthy and beneficial relationship.

Though rapport usually happens naturally, it can be created and nurtured through finding a common ground and being emphatic. This leads to a strong bond between the coach and coachee.

Coaches who possess high emotional intelligence find it easier to start and manage interpersonal relationships with their coachees. Travis Bradberry, bestselling co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 has explained in detail the concept of emotional intelligence in a Forbes article.

2. Listening

A good coach uses ‘active’ listening to those they guide. This involves showing a genuine interest in their overall situation. Listening is one of the most critical coaching skills.

Listening with impatience and lack of attentiveness will send the wrong signal that you don’t care about the opinion of those you coach. Also, great coaches avoid doing all the talking and keep any interruptions to a bare minimum.

3. Using Intuition/Awareness

Intuition requires a good bit of emotional intelligence. It’s a deep, instinctual understanding of situations and people. This is one of the coaching skills that helps you make sound decisions in challenging situations.

Empathy further compliments intuition. Empathy refers to the awareness of feelings and emotions of others. This is what creates a strong connection between self and others. It’s more than sympathy since you would understand what others are going through as if you were experiencing it yourself.

4. Questioning

Good coaches know how to ask probing questions, which deepen interactions with those they coach. Open-ended questions, unlike leading questions, allow those you seek to guide to express themselves and explore more options. This enhances their ability to find answers within themselves.

When those you coach find the answers for themselves, they feel more empowered. You reinforce in their minds the notion that you believe in them and that their knowledge, opinions and experience count. This is one of the coaching skills that help you to boost their confidence.

5. Giving Supportive Feedback

Among the key coaching skills is being cautious and choosy on how to employ feedback.

Incomplete or poor feedback can suppress the progress of coaching or even make those you are guiding feel inadequate. Apart from that, coaches should avoid the common mistake of trying to use feedback as a means of asserting their expertise and showing how widely knowledgeable they are.

Any unclear, dismissive, or arrogant feedback can make the person you are coaching defensive. This might easily destroy the trust that’s crucial to your relationship. A great coach aims at making feedback clear, relevant, non-evaluative, helpful and positive.

Remember, these essential coaching skills can only be effective if you strongly believe the person you are coaching has the capability of achieving the desired level of performance.

Coaching is not about correcting an individual but believing in the person’s potential and aiding in discovery and achievement of that potential. If you don’t believe in the individual’s capability, you cannot inspire or motivate that person, since you’ll always have misgivings.

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The GROW Model

The most famous coaching method, the GROW model, helps in goal setting and problem-solving. It’s made up of four stages, based on each letter of the word, GROW:

Letter Stage What is Involved
G Goal setting The coachee needs a clearly defined goal.
R Reality checking What is the current state and how different is it to the goal?
O Option generation Which are the possible strategies to overcome obstacles?
W Way forward Of the various options, which one will the coachee apply?

To guide coachees through all these steps, a coach asks different types of questions aimed at helping them realize their potential and take action.

In order to be effective, significant emphasis is placed on listening.

When you fail to listen keenly, you inadvertently pass the wrong message of: “I don’t really care what you think” or “I wasn’t really interested to know the answer anyway” or “I don’t give a damn about your views” or “I asked the question out of obligation”; or “I’m not really interested in you.”

If you ask a question, the next most natural thing to do is listen to the answer. This is obviously expected of any good coach.

Levels of Listening

The GROW model encourages four levels of listening:

  • Attentive listening – giving someone full attention.
  • Accurate listening – understanding the issue at hand fully.
  • Emphatic listening – showing appreciation of the other person’s feelings on the issue at hand. Putting yourself in their shoes.
  • Generative listening – fully understanding the issue at hand, which allows you to ask enlightening and insightful questions.

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Key Insights to Remember

It might help to perceive those you coach as athletes who want to become better in their game. In the workplace scenario, the goal is to help employees refine their skills, based on the institution’s competency framework.

One-half of the coaching job is listening and understanding the driving force behind those you coach. The remaining half is working with the individual to improve performance, and discovering the skills required to unleash full potential.

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Where Next?

Take a look at our award wining blog and it’s content on Coaching Tips.

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Daniel Nyairo

About Daniel Nyairo

Daniel is a writer with the passion for engaging, delighting and inspiring with the right word at the right place in a sentence. He has been writing for the last four years about business management, content marketing, and technology.

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