10 Coaching Skills Every Leader Should Master

10 Coaching Skills Every Leader Should Master

What are the essential skills that a good coach needs?

Whether you’re a professional coach, a leader or manager using a coaching approach to help your team members develop, or using your coaching skills in a less-formal environment, there are a number of key skills that will help you to become a great coach. The most important attribute of any coach is that they want to help the person or people they are coaching to learn. A good coach doesn't see themselves as an expert able to fix all problems and having all the answers. Instead, they see themselves as supporting the process of learning.

As more and more companies realize the benefits of hiring a coach, they also realize the benefits of incorporating a coaching methodology into the management style of their leaders. After all, there's a difference between simply telling employees what to do and working with them on professional development.

1. Showing Empathy 

Someone in a leadership role who does not have the ability to empathize will never be a leader. Empathy is about connecting with others without judgment or personal agenda. By growing this skill, leaders can make difficult or even unpopular decisions that their teams will support because they are trusted for their ability to lead to greater destinations for the common good.

2. Remaining Curious

Remember Curious George? I like to think that curious little monkey is a great leader today. Curiosity is the difference between knowing and discovering. Curiosity keeps judgment at bay and encourages consideration and inclusion. We are born naturally curious and learn to suppress our curiosity in favor of efficiency. Take a lesson from George — let your curiosity run wild!

3. Being Able to Recognize Strengths

A great leader and coach will help their people find their light and brighten it. The conventional way of leading, which tells us we must find and fix our weaknesses, is outdated and disengaging. Today's leaders must embrace and capitalize on the uniqueness and strengths of each of their team members in order to ensure that they not only succeed wildly at work, but also succeed as leaders of their lives.  

4. Knowing How to Partner 

Like a great coach, a great leader is in the front pulling for their team members' success. Great leaders are not directing but partnering for success. Leading is about creating an environment where individuals get heard, experience is valued and validated, and difficult decisions by the leader are then embraced by the team. They know the leader is their partner in having them win, too.

5. Asking Open-Ended Questions

Too often, leaders approach interactions from a problem-solving mindset. Asking open-ended questions can create openings for new action because they literally take people out of the problem. Try this one on for size: "If there were no constraints and anything was possible, what action would you take now?"

6. Practicing Involved Detachment 

Asking for feedback can trigger our inner critic and prompt emotionally charged responses. This can deny us the opportunity to develop as a leader and break the bond of trust between us and our employees. Involved detachment — being fully engaged emotionally while remaining completely non-judgmental and objective — is the most powerful coaching skill any leader can master to counteract this.

7. Crafting Strategic Vision for Transformation

Leading and connecting people requires the ability to create transformational opportunities and guiding people to them. True leaders will create transformation and set visions for others to reach for and achieve greater for themselves, not just an organization. Inspiring and providing transformative steps through their interactions will shepherd people along the change cycle with little turbulence.

8. Knowing How to Develop Your Process

Developing a process for any task or service makes it measurable and replicable. From there, you can refine and polish your methodology to make it more efficient and relevant. After all, what is a franchise at its core but simply a book of proven processes? The right people with the right product and the right process equal a home run in building your business.

9. Taking Ownership of Results

The ability to coach means the ability to know, apply and teach effectively. It also means taking ownership of the results for yourself and others. In other words, if your client does well — celebrate. If your client doesn't do well, other than they simply aren't doing the work, examine what can you do better, more effectively or differently. That way, you are always improving and growing.

10. Being Able to Pick Up On and Give Subtle Communication 

Listening is only half of the communication equation. How you listen, what you say, how you say it, and when you say it impacts whether your message hits its target and whether you get the results you seek. Leaders who competently listen for both text and subtext, and who respond with inclusive language, pace and tone will improve performance and increase enjoyment at work.

Other Key Coaching Skills and Attributes 

Great coaches tend to have a number of key skills and attributes.

  • Coaches generally have high emotional intelligence: they’re good at understanding and relating to people, and they’re interested in people. You have to genuinely want to help others develop to become a really good coach. It’s no good just paying lip service to the idea.
  • Coaches need to be able to show empathy and be good at building relationships, including building rapport.
  • Good coaches also have strong communication skills. For more about developing communication skills in general, see our pages: Communication Skills, and Developing Effective Communication Skills.
  • Coaches are good at gathering information and then clarifying it for the person being coached. They generally have strong listening skills, including active listening.
  • They don’t jump in straight away with the answer but rather make sure that they’ve fully understood the issue by reflecting and clarifying.
  • Similarly, coaches have usually taken time to develop strong questioning skills. It’s been said that coaches should never offer opinions, but instead only ask questions to guide the person being coached through the issue. This is similar to the role of a counsellor.
  • Coaches and coaching leaders give space and time for people to try things out. They don’t get over-excited or angry about mistakes, instead they concentrate on how to recover the situation calmly and with the involvement of the person who made the mistake. They are skilled at providing feedback and using tact and diplomacy.
  • Coaches may also use various models of learning and thinking, such as Myers-Briggs Type Indicators, and have training and expertise in various tools and techniques, for example, psychometric testing or neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).

Finally, if you’re ever tempted to put someone down because you think they may be reaching a level of expertise beyond yours, remember the adage that:

You should always be nice to those you meet on the way up, because you may well meet them again when you’re on the way down!  

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