Coaching and in particular Executive Coaching have become hot topics for organisations in the last decade. The use of Coaches continues to increase and the development of coaching skills for managers and leaders continues to be an area of focus. Thousands of articles have been written about coaching but many of them just get it wrong.
In this page our goal is to explain what coaching is and give you insights into the key skills required to be a great coach.
Whatever role you hold whether you are a leader or manager, an internal or external coach, there are a number of skills you require to coach effectively.
We will help you understand what they are and provide you with a range of tools and tips.
We also provide some links to reading material that can assist in continuing to develop coaching expertise.
So what is Coaching?
Coaching is helping another individual or team learn and progress in a specific area without telling them what to do or what to think. The concept is that the person being coached (the coach or coaching counterpart depending on your coaching affiliation) finds the changes they require from within themselves! The result of this is that a Coaching Counterpart develops and reaches greater potential through the coaching process. This usually involved the individual being coached breaking through barriers and developing their own thinking as part of the process.
What exactly is the role of a coach? A coach facilitates change by helping a person improve their own performance.
A definition of Coaching?
The father of modern coaching is ofter regarded at Sir John Whitmore. Sir John defined coaching as:
‘Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.’ – Sir John Whitmore.
Coaching as a discipline operates not he premise that a coaching counterpart has the answers to their own problems. This is the reason that it can be so powerful. Your job as a coach is to help the people that you coach discover what this is.
The responsibility for being open to new concepts and ideas in coaching lies with the individual rather than the coach., and not with you, the coach. It takes a little longer than simply telling someone what to do but it is a wonderful experience and creates long term, sustainable solutions for both individuals and organisations.
So where did modern coaching originate?
Coaching and the underlying concepts date back to Socrates in Ancient green in 400BC. The Socratic method assumed that held that people learn best when they own a situation and take personal responsibility for the outcome. As a result the method encouraged critical thinking and the resulting drawing out of ideas and preconceived notions.
In our modern era, coaching has been a key part of sport for many years. The use of coaching in the business and corporate world was initially trialed by Tim Gallwey and Sir John Whitmore who intentionally applied sport coaching methodology in another context, organisations.
Tim Gallwey was a tennis coach in the 70’s who noticed that the mindset of his tennis students had a significant impact on how well they learnt and adopted new skills. He began to work with his students on different ways of helping them improve and learn other than traditional instruction. He published a book on what he had been doing called The Inner Game of Tennis in 1974.
Sir John Whitmore, who had been a racing driver and also a student of psychology, trained with Gallwey and came to the conclusion that these principles could be applied in a different context, business. He continued the work of Fallwey and in 1992 published the book Coaching for Performance.
The principles these two coaching pioneers developed are still widely in use in business today.
So is the coaching industry growing?
The coaching industry is growing rapidly. Over the last decade, membership of the International Coach Federation (ICF) has more than tripled. The number of professional coaches globally has grown to more than 50,000 and is still increasing. According to the ICF’s 2016 Global Coaching Study, the annual revenue from coaching is estimated at $2.35 billion.
More organisations than ever before using coaches as part of their people strategy to help develop leadership capabilities and increase the performance and productivity of their people. Individuals who are coached see the value in working with coaches to help them achieve challenging goals and gain greater satisfaction in work and life.
Why Is It So Powerful?
A competent coach builds trust and rapport with their clients and in doing so helps them become unstuck, change thinking patterns, opens them to new possibilities, attempt different behaviors, and achieve remarkable results. Specifically, coaching is most powerful when the following five factors (The5 A’s) are present during the coaching process:
This is about assisting a coaching counterpart to become aware of the key behaviours that either help or hinder them. Ultimately people cannot change things that they are unaware of, so building self awareness in a coaching client about how they show up and what they can do differently is critical.
Coaching works best when there is alignment with what a coaching client wants to work on and what is significant to their organisation. Buy-in and involvement from an organisational sponsor such as a direct leader is very important. there must be common understanding of the focus of a coaching engagement as well as internal support for the coaching process.
The creation of clear goals and action plans will help drive a road map for achieving a coaching clients vision for the future. This plan also provides a baseline for the a client’s current situation, thereby allowing clear measurement of success.
Coaching by design creates the conditions for a coaching client to take responsibility for their own development. It helps to provide accountability because the coach will check in on the progress the coaching counterpart has made toward agreed-upon action items from previous coaching conversations.
Clarity of goals, support in overcoming obstacles, alignment on the focus of the coaching, a clear action plan, and a committed coach that holds their client accountable, are all things that greatly increase the pace with which a coaching counterpart will achieve results. Challenges that a leader may have faced for long periods may be resolved much quicker and with better results when a competent coach is involved.
The GROW Coaching Model.
So how does coaching it work?
Good coaches use a wide range of techniques to help their clients. A good example is the GROW methodology. A coach helps guide a coaching counterpart through a GROW process as part of a managed conversation. GROW looks something like:
A coaching counterpart clearly identifies what they want to achieve in the coaching session.
A coaching counterpart invests time and energy in exploring and describing their current reality. The coaches role is to help this process occur.
A coaching counterpart examines all the possible options they have, including the most outlandish. The coaches role remains the same, no solutions and suggestions. Just facilitating the counterpart to identify options.
Way forward (W)
The coaching counterpart needs to set a clear plan for what is next. Details is encouraged as the commitment by the counterpart to the to agreen actions iOS key to success.
Goal setting Model.
The application of a specific goal setting routine is critical in any coaching conversation. Using the ‘SMARTER’ framework works well to ensure that goal setting in rigorous and has the best chance of success.
Is the ‘Leader as Coach’ focus just a fad?
One of the principle causes of ‘strategy execution failure’ has been linked to leaders who cling to a command and control model.
Taking a systematic approach to developing a Leader as Coach culture is critical for success. Organisations that develop their leaders to be coaches experience consistently higher levels of employee productivity and engagement and improved bottom line performance.
A defining quality of a Leader as Coach is an ability to develop a winning mood.
Organisations that wish to be nimble and bend and flex with modern markets need leaders who are coaches, not control freaks.
A great case study is Google’s Project Oxygen which clearly demonstrated the positive impact that a coaching approach can make to staff motivation and performance. In a multiyear research project, they used rigorous data analytics to demonstrate the link between leadership behaviour and positive people results, proving to its staff once and for all that ‘management mattered’.
In fact not only did they prove that management mattered; Google went on to identify six (6) key behaviours demonstrated by the company’s most effective managers. These were:
- Timely and specific feedback
- Delivering hard feedback in a motivational and thoughtful way
- Tailoring approaches to meet individual communication styles in regular one-on-one meetings
- Practicing empathetic “active” listening and being fully present
- Being cognizant of your own mindset and that of the employee
- Asking open-ended questions to discover an employee’s acumen
We develop leaders who shape the understanding, development and learning of team members so they can act independently in alignment with the global strategy of the organisation.
Developing a coaching culture and increased capability in this area for leaders has a demonstrated high Return on Investment for all organisations.
Top tips for being a great coach.
Build a relationship with your coaching counterpart.
The stronger your rapport the easier coaching becomes.
Set clear and meaningful goals at the beginning of each coaching conversation.
A coaching conversation without goals is just a ‘Chat’!
Open questions are critical to success.
Ask open questions to drive conversation and thought. Remember you are not the solution!
Never give advice!
It is about helping another person develop insights, to do this it must be about them, not you.
A curious coach is rarely stuck for questions to ask. Be constantly curious and remember, thinking of the next question and trying to listen are not compatible activities.
Don’t ask why.
Coaching counterparts can feel like you are asking them to justify themselves. Try ‘What?’ instead?
Try to dig deeper.
The initial reason or challenge that presents itself is rarely the true issue. Always dig a little deeper for the coaching gold.
Coaching development never stops.
Being a good coach takes constant work and reflection. You never stop learning.
A Final Word
Understanding what coaching really is (and what it isn’t), and how and why it works in the first place is critical to developing your effective coaching skills. Being a coach is about being a facilitator of someone else’s learning; it’s not about telling them, advising them or doing it for them. When done well, it’s one of the most empowering and powerful learning methodologies open to businesses and organisations.
Do we work with individuals, teams and organisation on coaching skills?
The short answer is yes. We are Internationally Certified Organisational and Executive Coaches. We live and breath coaching and we work with our clients constantly on these skills. Contact us for a conversation about how we can help you and your business develop a coaching culture. We also provide one on one executive coaching. Find out how we can help you be the very best version of yourself with Executive Coaching.