Strong, effective coaching is essential in today’s competitive business environment. The better you arm your people with the skills and knowledge to do their job well, the more productive they will be. It also serves to keep morale high.
As leaders, it’s important to be available for your people to learn from you. After all, you relied on your own leaders and mentors to get where you are today.
Leaders and managers often try to build coaching skills intuitively. This sometimes works – for the naturally gifted among us – but it helps to have a solid understanding of these skills to ensure the person we are coaching benefits. Indeed, a positive coaching relationship benefits the coach, too.
Here are the 5 skills you need to be an effective coach.
- Be a good listener
Listening is a crucial part of the coaching process. Sometimes, however, we get so carried away with our egos that we forget and end up in a one-way conversation. This is rarely effective. Good coaching is as much about understanding and being curious of what your mentee has to say as it is about giving good advice. Listening helps you understand more about the skills and knowledge the person already has and what they need to develop. It also aids a productive relationship.
- Read your mentee
As well as listening, a skilled coach can read the signals – both verbal and non-verbal – that convey what the other person is looking for. Perhaps they are anxious about a particular situation or lack confidence in their abilities. Conversely, they may be over-confident so need to be brought down to earth. Absorbing as well as listening, and then taking the right action, is what coaching is all about.
- Reflect on what you see and hear
In order to understand your protégé best, you should reflect on what they tell you and then articulate this to assure them you are listening. Paraphrase or summarise what they have told you, so they can either acknowledge you have understood them properly or flag up any misunderstandings. This increases their confidence in you as a coach, and makes the relationship more positive and productive.
- Ask the right questions
Questioning opens up a dialogue between coach and mentee. Questions also encourage further exploration of an issue and conveys a sense of accomplishment when the person you are coaching works something out for themselves. Asking questions is easy, of course. It’s asking the right questions that matters and is determined by the situation. For example, if you can see something is troubling the other party, you need to ask a question that teases it out of them rather than one that makes them embarrassed.
- Provide constructive feedback
Whilst feedback on your protégé’s progress is important, it’s crucial to express it in a way that is clear, useful and easy to absorb. You want to aim for the right balance between being critical whilst acknowledging the progress that has been made. Some coaches are either over-critical, which can destroy confidence, or over-complementary, which doesn’t really encourage development and can lead to arrogance. Start with a positive and then articulate areas for development. This makes people more open to criticism as opposed to feeling small and resentful. Sometimes, getting your mentee to critique themselves is a good way to start the feedback process.
There’s no such thing as the perfect coach. All five of these skills are subjective, so it’s only human to get the balance wrong once in a while. But for those who make the effort to learn good coaching skills, the results will reverberate across the company and, quite possibly, throughout the rest of someone’s life.
Cegos UK offer a variety of coaching courses including a 1 day ‘Coaching and Developing Others’ programme, and our ‘Coaching‘ 2.5 hour virtual classroom. Both of which come with complementary elearning to support development. Contact us to learn more.