The skills of a coach

  • PLD Works
  • 10 July 2024
  • Blog | Career Development | Managing People | Blog

This year’s International Coaching Week, organised by the International Coaching Federation took place between 13th and 19th May 2024.  The aims of this Week is to encourage individuals and organisations all over the world to understand, explore, test, and discover the possibilities coaching provides.

Award-winning author, teacher and speaker, Michael Bungay Stanier sums up the benefit of coaching in his book “The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way you Lead Forever”: “This is why, in a nutshell, advice is overrated. I can tell you something, and it’s got a limited chance of making its way into your brain’s hippocampus, the region that encodes memory.  If I can ask you a question and you generate the answer yourself, the odds increase substantially.”

It makes sense that the stronger the coach, the greater the impact that their coaching will have on the coachee.  So in recognition of International Coaching Week we have looked at the skills a coach should have to be able to make a real difference to the coachee.

Building trust – a coach must be able to quickly build rapport and trust with the coachee, helping them feel at ease and able to discuss their issues openly with no judgement.  The coach must be confident in their own ability, allowing the coachee to relax into the coaching environment.  From the outset the coach should make clear that everything discussed within the coaching sessions is confidential and will not be repeated elsewhere.

Asking the right questions – the coach’s role is to unlock the coachee’s thoughts, driving them to make decisions and take appropriate actions.  This is done by asking the coachee the right questions.  This predominantly means asking open questions and probing the coachee to consider:

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What is the current situation?
  • What are the possible solutions?
  • What are the possible barriers?
  • How can you move forward towards your goal?

Listening – the old adage “we have two ears and one mouth, so that we listen twice as much as we speak” is very relevant to coaching.  The coach is looking to draw out the coachee’s thoughts and not push the coachee into doing what they would do.  Therefore it is essential that the coach allows the coachee room to talk.

Summarising – active listening is essential for coaching and a key part of active listening is summarising the key points regularly.  This firstly demonstrates to the coachee that the coach is listening and is fully engaged in what they are saying.  It also provides an opportunity for the coach to check they have fully understood what the coachee is saying and allows the coachee to clarify any points – and indeed their thinking.

Drive out actions – coaching enables the coachee to decide on a plan of action to meet their goals.  Therefore driving out the coachee’s actions and encouraging the coachee to set themselves deadlines, is central to the coaching process.  The coach should sense-check the actions to make sure they are specific, achievable and realistic.  Where the coachee needs to think further about a situation to help them identify a way forward, the coach should set the coachee homework outside of the coaching session.  This homework should be clearly defined, such as the coachee identifying how they feel about something pertinent to their situation.

Drive accountability – the coachee should be accountable to themselves for their actions.  However, the coach can encourage this by reminding the coachee of what they had agreed to at a previous coaching session and asking them how they had got on.