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November 20, 2019

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What Makes an Effective Coach?

Over the past five years, I spent over 60% of my time coaching performance improvement leaders and practitioners in their organizations. The purpose is to boost organizational transformation through team-based problem-solving.

In these relationships, I intend to empower individuals and to apply structured problem-solving frameworks that improve the performance of key organizational processes. In general, coaching helps someone expand and apply his or her skills, knowledge, and abilities. For those of you who are performance improvement practitioners (Black Belt, Master Black Belts, etc.), you probably have coached others in a similar capacity. Or, if you are a leader, it’s likely you have coached others formally or informally. After coaching over hundreds of leaders, managers, and individual contributors, I discovered key fundamentals to help be a more effective coach.

Effective coaching is an art form, and it is tailored to an individual’s needs. There are a number of fundamentals to demonstrate in any coaching relationship.

Tips for Effective Coaching

As a coach, you may or may not have direct responsibility for a person’s performance, however, you are responsible for developing skills, knowledge, and abilities. Apply these practices to enhance your coaching effectiveness:

Listen actively—the purpose of listening is to understand what the other person is saying, not to agree with it. According to Stephen R. Covey, “most people do not listen with the intent to understand. Most people listen with the intent to reply.” A key to active listening is to be silent while the other person is talking. Another key component of active listening is to check for understanding. This clarification includes asking questions, restating or paraphrasing comments, and summarizing facts, feelings conveyed, or key points. 

Understanding lets the coachee know that you are engaged and want to understand what they are saying.

Ask open-ended questions— to maximize another’s learning and potential, it is imperative to encourage self-discovery versus directing them to the ‘correct’ options and answers. Using open-ended questions starting with who, what, when, where, why, and how to encourage others to work through issues, next steps, alternatives, etc. on their own. As an example, to help generate ideas, you might ask “what other alternatives can we consider?” These questions can result in self-realization for the coachee by letting them see what they need help with. 

Display empathy—coaching is a continuous journey with the coachee (even if the coaching relationship is limited to a specific period) and they will face challenges every day, such as organizational changes, shifts in priorities, etc. These challenges may delay progress as originally planned. As a coach, we should display empathy for the situation they are facing and help them work through those challenges to achieve their goals. Empathy includes acknowledging the challenge(s) and using open-ended questions to help see a path through the challenge(s). If possible, it helps to provide an example of a similar experience you have had or observed to provide reassurance.

As you coach others in your organizations integrate these three practices to boost your effectiveness as a coach. Stay tuned for a follow-up blog on using the GROW coaching model to create consistency in your coaching style and approach. Get a head-start, sign up to receive helpful blogs, tips, and resources from E Squared Solutions. 

Want to develop effective coaches in your organization? Our Coaching for Performance workshop and Leader Coaching advisory service package can help.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you develop effective coaches.