If I asked a roomful of people what good coaching skills are, I’d probably hear:
– Open/powerful questions
– Building rapport
– Agreeing goals and following up
– Challenge and Support
To name but a few. And these are, of course, all good coaching skills.
1. Much has been written about these skills so rather than re-inventing the wheel I’d like to elaborate on a couple of them and add my thoughts based on training a number of leaders over the years in coaching skills.My very wise coach-mentor once said to me that ‘the best questions are the ones you would ever only use once’. I love this! Whilst when we’re starting out it can help to have a few standard questions up our sleeves, it can actually detract from really good listening. Why would we only use these questions once? Because they use the language of the person being coached. So instead of interpreting or translating what we think we’ve heard….. we use their language as part of our question or response. Try it!
2. Silence…. Is golden. Many new leader coaches in training want to fill the silence with words. We’re often uncomfortable with silence. Practise staying silent for five seconds. It’s really not that long but it can often encourage deeper thinking, reflection or more time for the person being coached to ‘think out loud’.
3. Don’t get bogged down in the detail. It’s rare that you need it! Focus instead on what the real issue is. Ask yourself ‘what’s really going on here?’ Is all the minutiae helping you get to the heart of the matter? Probably not.
4. Listening is a skill that can be improved vastly with practise. So put down the notepad, or turn away from the screen and focus on what the team member is saying (and not saying).
5. Help the team member to define, achieve and map clear tangible steps and actions. One step at a time. Work with her on the ‘how’ as part of your discussion. So for example rather than letting your team member leave the discussion with ‘I’ll go away and speak to Jane about it’ you can ask your team member to plan that discussion with Jane in the room with you. So she’ll not only know what, she’ll know HOW!
6. Watch out for red-herrings. Poor time management is rarely resolved by sending someone on a time management course. We all know the principles of good time management. What stops us being organised is normally a set of faulty beliefs about ourselves and others. Work on the REAL issue.
If this sounds like it all takes too much time – it doesn’t have to. If you only have ten minutes for an informal discussion you simply start by saying ‘I’ve got ten minutes – what’s the most useful thing we can do in that time to help you move forward’ or words to that effect. Your goal is to avoid having to say ‘leave it with me’. At least in most cases!