So what are the specific skills that a person needs to coach effectively and is it possible to develop them? The answer to the second question is a very positive ‘yes’. In the following pages we look at the core skills that underpin effective coaching and discuss ways of using and expanding them.
- Building rapport
- Questioning and challenging
- Active listening
- Observing and providing balanced feedback
- Forwarding the action and tasking
The more you practise these skills, the more you will get them in the muscle, in other words you will become competent at an unconscious level.
One skill you do not need when coaching is expertise in the area being coached.
The drawbacks to being an expert
It is a misconception to believe that as a coach you also need to be an expert in the topic that you are coaching around. In fact, having all of the answers is something that can hinder your coaching and undermine your good intentions. It’s tempting for an expert to:
- Provide answers too easily at the expense of the other person learning and raising their awareness
- Reduce ownership of the solution in the other person; if you tell them what to do, it is your solution, not theirs and they may have less motivation and buy-in to it
- Discount the other person’s views and ideas in favour of how you have done things before (there may be other ways!)
- Not fully listen to what the other person is saying; your knowledge might filter out what you want or expect to hear rather than what is really being said.
These points are all things that you should be aware of when you are coaching in an area where you have a real understanding of the subject matter. Unless you are careful and self-aware, they can infect the result and reduce the positive benefits of your coaching efforts.