Coaching skills for leaders is one of the most critical management skills you will need to learn. Managing your team is more than just supervising their work; it is about learning how to support and drive productivity in your organization. The key to ensure success in your teams is taking a coaching approach to leadership. People who want to accomplish great things can get stuck along the way. Many leaders seem to know what they need to do to move forward intuitively, but few of them stop doing it themselves and teach others to succeed.
Great leaders take the time to ask questions so their employees can unearth a vast array of solutions for themselves, empowering their teams to learn how to enhance their effectiveness and team success. This approach does not mean that you are giving them the answer, but you are engaging in each conversation to guide your coachee to find solutions for themselves. You should be asking insightful questions, pushing the coachee outside of their comfort zone and helping them come to a proactive solution.
Take a look at our five recommended coaching skills for leaders that will help you engage in meaningful coaching conversations:
If you don’t take time to build rapport with your coachee, you will likely never get into the deep stuff. The conversation will remain surface level, and your coachee will be hesitant to open up to you, resulting in an unsustainable coaching relationship. One way to build rapport with your coachee is to be vulnerable. Take the first step to open up about what is ‘behind the curtain’ and make them know it is okay, and you welcome them doing the same with you. For instance, perhaps, you have worked with a coach in the past. Now, it would be a great time to open up and let them know how having a coach was for you, what some of your struggles were, and how you overcame them.
Active listening is vital in any type of communication, but it cannot be emphasized enough when it comes to coaching. Having a coaching conversation is about the coachee, not you. With our busy schedules, it is so easy to get caught up in your mental load that staying present takes practice. Paying attention comes from letting your coachee formulate their thoughts before jumping in, watching your body language and staying in the moment. The best way to start your practice at being a better active listener is paraphrasing to clarify comprehension. Paraphrasing allows you to make sure you are on the same page and demonstrates you are listening.
Engaging in thoughtful questioning takes practice. You want to use questioning as a way to move from a one-way conversation to a dynamic learning conversation for your coachee. Questioning requires you to pay attention, adapt to the conversation, and be flexible as the discussion progresses. Being curious and non-judgmental is critical when it comes to questioning. Being non-judgmental can be challenging for leaders who have a hard time thinking beyond their circumstances. It can result in you having to rewire the way you listen and accept opinions that are different than your own. To start building this skill, focus on making it a habit to ask follow-up questions. Think about what the person has just said and look for ways to dive deeper into their response.
It should be common sense to give focused praise when having a coaching conversation, but often it is easy to get caught up in the challenges and what is not going well for the coachee. When the work your coachee is doing has resulted in improvement, make sure to acknowledge it! Acknowledging means providing specific praise, as it has been said that compliments with no substance can do less than not providing compliments in the first place. When giving praise for improvements in a coaching conversation, focus on pinpointing specific learning, what the impact was/is, and how this is a strength for the coachee moving forward. Acknowledgment does not mean agreement, it simply means you are commenting on their efforts to improve, not agreeing on what choices they are planning to make.
A coaching conversation is just a conversation unless you are goal-setting. It is a conversation where you help the coachee set, plan for, and achieve their goals. You should be using the conversation to get the coachee moving toward action and commitment, but they will need to do the work! Moving a coachee towards success means helping them identify where they are currently, what they want, and determining how they will get there to achieve success. Each coaching conversation should end with action and something your coachee will be doing to work on their capabilities. One beneficial way to lead the discussion toward goal setting is to reframe problems as goals. Reframing problems will allow the coachee to see a challenge as an opportunity instead.
These five coaching skills for leaders are not something that you can pick up overnight, it takes time and practice to master. Focus on these skills to provide your employees with the opportunity to experience fresh perspectives on organizational challenges and opportunities, improved thinking and decision-making skills, enhanced interpersonal effectiveness, better communication, and increased employee engagement.