5 Essential Coaching Skills For Leaders To Develop

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Coaching plays a huge role in learning organizations. The ability to facilitate professional development in others and improve their performance is important not just to the bottom line, but to people’s well-being and much longer-term organizational health.

Many companies now know this, it’s true. Smaller businesses, as well as multinationals, are now investing in developing their leaders as coaches, hoping to develop internal talent. But with around 58% of managers reporting no formal training for their roles, how much does the average leader really know about coaching?

Do you know what you’re already doing well, and what your blind spots are?

Our team has put together a list of essential coaching skills that we believe everybody can develop.

1. Adaptive Communication

To be an effective coach, a leader needs to understand the impact they have on others – their influence. Being too active, direct, or prescriptive when we communicate often leads others to take a docile, back seat role in their personal development, rather than feeling empowered, capable, and accountable. Coaches who are too passive, on the other hand, can come across as unengaged and noncommital.

Strong coaches are adaptive communicators; they can ‘read the room’ and know when to speak up or stay quiet. They have cultivated and can draw on a diverse range of influencing styles based on contextual demands and what their co-worker requires. Among other things, this helps them:

– Garner more information;
– Understand their employee’s concerns;
– Set boundaries;
– Move the process forward; and
– Deliver feedback.

2. Motivating

Heavily related to communication, motivation is often included in the very definition of coaching. It’s critical when delivering feedback, and even much earlier, when driving actions. To drive others to pursue their goals, a coaching leader designs effective incentives, stimulates emotional engagement, and may even help them imagine their desired outcome to foster goal-directed behavior – it’s multi-faceted, to say the least.

When faced with obstacles to their professional development, a good coach encourages others to keep them on track. Specific techniques include:

– Giving autonomy around the ‘how’ of development – letting employees choose the actions they’d like to take;
– Celebrating little wins along the way – sustaining momentum and recognizing progress;
Giving praise;
– Making relevant resources available; and
– Leading by example – walking the talk by visibly pursuing your own development.

3. Strength-Spotting

Developing employees unique strengths is a more impactful way to boost performance than focusing on their week spots, according to research data. With a strengths – rather than deficit – focus, employees can tune into what makes them unique. At the team level, where collective intelligence is the ultimate goal, it makes for a diverse skill set and more creative solutions.

Cultivating strengths means being aware of them in the first instance, and sharp coaches are good strength-spotters. To identify a co-worker’s strengths, they typically know how to:

– Ask the right questions during coaching conversations;
– Draw on workplace observations;
– Encourage their employees to self-reflect; and
– Create opportunities for team members to give each other positive feedback.

This allows them to collaborate actively with their coachees to mutually design plans for improvement, boosting their engagement and driving positive action for better performance.

4. Outcome Focus

Results-focused leaders deliver tangible outcomes that are valuable for the organization, as well as individuals. By focusing on outcomes, collaborating, and offering solutions, they help to efficiently deliver improved performance.

Coaching takes time, it’s true, but an outcome focus promotes progress and reduces the time both parties spend analyzing problems. It involves efficient goal-setting on the one hand, managing progress over time on the other, and handing the accountability for that progress over to the coachee. It involves:

– Setting clear goals together;
– Offering suggestions and practical advice regarding pathways and alternatives;
– Evaluating development based on milestones; and
– Where necessary, switching approaches to encourage better performance.

5. Building Trust

Coaching in itself can build trust between employees and their leaders – but it’s also a foundation for progress made. And it must be earned.

Knowing a leader has their best interests in mind makes employees feel safe, encouraging them to open up and provide more information that a coach can use to help them develop. It helps coaching leaders to identify potential obstacles, suggest possibilities, and generate alternatives that support their co-workers in their efforts to grow. When it comes to coaching, leaders can build trust by:

– Making their positive intentions clear;
Listening carefully and actively, asking questions where necessary;
– Thinking and acting with their employees’ best interests in mind;
– Honoring their commitments; and
– Practicing open, honest communication.

All of these skills are learnable, but in our experience, few managers receive training in all of them. By becoming more aware of your personal leadership style, it’s possible to focus in on specific areas and enhance your coaching skills. Being a better coach will help you boost engagement, improve your employees’ well-being, and lead change more effectively for organizational success.

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