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Improve Your Coaching Skills by Listening and Learning

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“A good coach can change a game. A great coach can change a life.” – John Wooden

One of the areas I am most passionate about in life is coaching. We all want to make a difference and add value, and at the end of the day, mentoring others is a great way to accomplish both of those things (plus it’s very rewarding). Coaching is a very simple concept but it takes preparation and effort to execute.

When I first began coaching and mentoring others, they would often come to me with questions. I would listen long enough to form an opinion and then give them my best answer. I have learned over time that letting your coachee lead the conversation and allowing them to think through challenges and form solutions is much more effective than simply providing the answers. This process is empowering and promotes growth, productivity and independence. It takes longer in the beginning and requires self-discipline (and if you know me, you know how much), but the effort will be so rewarding for you and your coachee down the line.

You might ask, “How do I coach or aid in developing someone?” Coaching is hard work and requires effort, but here are a few recommendations on what I have found to be helpful.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things because we’re curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

Be curious and ask questions

As I mentioned previously, what I have learned as I have grown as a coach is that coaching begins and ends with asking questions rather than offering solutions. What I have found to be effective in coaching an individual is starting with a simple question; for example, asking them what has caused an issue or problem and genuinely listening to the answer.

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen and a push in the right direction.” – John Crosby

Listen and let the coachee lead

Once the issue or a problem has been explained, our first instinct can be to offer a solution. Even though it feels unnatural, and is so hard, if you can resist answering and continue asking questions, that allows the coachee to solve the problem on their own. This is such a powerful exercise! People will generally come up with a similar – or even better – solution to the one you would have thought of when they are encouraged to think through the situation. Additionally, this work develops them as a person and gives them a clearer perspective on what went wrong and how to avoid the issue in the future.

“When people go to work, they shouldn’t have to leave their hearts at home.” – Betty Bender

Manage the whole person

Whether it is right or wrong, there is no sharp line between someone’s work and personal life. The reality is that one affects the other and vice versa. If you want to effectively coach someone, you need to manage and understand the whole person.

We can look at an example where you have noticed a decline in the performance of a coachee. I have seen that often when this happens, there is a personal reason behind it. If you have built trust with that person, they will be comfortable telling you what is at the heart of the matter and you can work together to figure out a solution. Give them the freedom to talk through the problem and offer up their own solution. Many times, taking their suggestion, if possible, will lead to the most effective long-term answer – it also creates trust and they feel valued.

“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” – Steven Spielberg

Coaching is difficult, yet so rewarding. It requires placing trust in people and having the confidence that they will come up with the right solutions.

Successfully coaching someone leads to incredible growth, a deeper level of trust, and develops that person into a stronger leader and a more engaged employee who can take your team or organization to the next level. It’s a win-win!

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