There are some skills that all good Coaches will use for sure and these may seem quite obvious, such as:
- Being present the client.
- Creating a safe space.
- Building a relationship based on trust and respect.
- Being a good listener.
- Asking useful questions.
No matter how obvious they may appear there is more to it even with these few skills. Let me unpack them a little for you.
When I use the term “being present” I am referring to the Coach’s mental and physical state. Being present means you are fully in the present moment with an external focus the client. This involve putting on one side any issues, concerns and distractions from your life and putting the focus on the client.
For new Coaches this can be challenging. The challenge can be to let go of your internal critic that may be judging your coaching, or getting caught up in trying to remember a model or a technique. You may need to learn some grounding techniques to practice in the few minutes before your client arrives.
Why is it important to be present? Well this is one of the things that helps your client feel truly listened to and valued. Coaching is a client led activity in that the client sets the agenda in terms of topic. If you are not present you may miss important cues from your client and go off in the wrong direction.
Creating a safe place and building a relationship based on trust and respect
Creating a safe place and building the relationship emerges from being present. A big part of this is “contracting effectively” around confidentiality and boundaries. Contracting refers more to agreements than a legally binding contract. Exploring what is okay and what is not okay for your client and for you helps trust develop.
The second part for me is about the relationship attitude that you bring as the Coach. I like to refer to the Counsellor Carl Rogers for this. He said the single biggest factor in success in the counselling dynamic was the relationship. He talked about the importance of the Counsellor holding an “unconditional, positive regard” for the Client. This is equally important in Coaching.
Unconditional positive regard means that you accept your client as they are and think well of them. You refrain from judgement and allow the client to explore their issues while feeling supported and accepted. This can often be challenging particularly if you have a client that pushes your buttons and is often a topic a Coach may bring to one of my Supervision Groups or to an individual Supervision session.
I share with my Coaches an allied idea developed from Rogers approach by Julie Silverthorn and John Overdurf. This approach involves you, the Coach holding a positive internal representation of their Client.
Let me unpack that bit of jargon. This refers to how we process information internally. You will hold images, sounds, feelings and even smells and taste in internal representations. You could say these are memories. However often they are more than that. If you think of someone you have worked with or coached recently notice how you represent them in your mind.
Do you see them as capable, valuable and full of potential or do you see them as their problems e.g. if coming to coaching for confidence issues is that how you see them? What is the image you see, how do they sound and what are you feeling about them?
If you hold the latter image it may limit how much you can help your client as the internal images we hold do leak into how we relate to people. If instead you hold an internal image of your client as their potential you are creating a space where that is possible for them. In other words you are believing in them. Learning how to do this is part of our Coaching Diploma. By the way, what internal representation are you holding of yourself? Are you see yourself as the best version of you?
Being a good listener and asking useful questions
When I teach Corporate training courses students often insist that they are good listeners however when they try some simple listening exercises they are often surprised at the results. Listening is one of those things everyone thinks they are good at and often sadly they are not!
As a Coach if you are being present you are half way there. Being present helps you stay more open and able to really listen to the words. However as a Coach you will also be developing Advanced listening skills. You will be picking up on trigger words, linguistic patterns, tonality, emotion and mixed messages. You may even have learnt how to recognise micro expressions.
Developing your listening skills will help you to formulate questions that have value and are useful. Knowing how to ask useful questions is often about really listening and hearing the client (both what is said and what is not said). There are some questions you can learn that can also help you develop well structured questions that get to the centre of things.
Next time I will expand a little more on some of the alternative tools and their associated skills that are used by many Coaches. Quick disclaimer here, what I share will be a sample because in Coaching the number of tools and theories are ever expanding!