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4 tips to become a better coach

Business coaching can be a fantastic tool to help people gain confidence, develop their skillsets and act as a yellow brick road to higher performance. To be a good coach there are a lot of moving parts, skills and tactics one must develop to maximise the benefit they provide to others and it isn’t going to happen overnight.

Throughout a series of articles, we’ll examine the many aspects of coaching and how it can be applied to all types of organisations and in different contexts. As you embark on your coaching journey you will make mistakes, but having the self-awareness to recognise and learn from them will be your biggest asset. To help you get started in the right direction we’ve put together a short list of coaching tips to follow and highlight why their absence can spell trouble.

1. Establish a coaching relationship built on mutual trust

Trust is the cornerstone of any strong relationship and the realm of coaching is not exempt from this. Operating without trust can completely undermine the spirit of a coaching relationship. If trust is not there individuals can often feel as if they are being attacked, harassed, criticised or any number of negative interpretations.

In an extreme scenario in April 2016, a public servant at an ATO call centre described a manager/coaching relationship with their direct supervisor as being devoid of any trust. He started to refuse to discuss his work with his direct supervisor who he felt had an interrogating style that bordered on harassment. The manager felt her management style and coaching sessions were standard and routine. This illustrates how quickly working and coaching relationships can turn toxic when individuals view each other as untrustworthy from the start.

2. Don’t solve the problem for the individual

“With the best of intentions” is a phrase which seemingly always precedes a story or anecdote in which something has gone awry. This expression could find a home in many coaches’ vocabularies if they aren’t careful.

Solving the problem for the person you’re coaching is often, if not always, done with the best of intentions but it is actually robbing them of the chance to come up with the solution for themselves. A great coach will do their best to let their client explore a variety of solutions to an issue and empower them to become their own problem solvers.

One of the best things a coach can do in this situation is to ask questions. Find out more, probe and force your client to explore all aspects of an issue. By asking the right questions you’ll be surprised how often someone will find the answer to their own problem.

3. Find out what role the client wants you to fill

Coming in with a set agenda, guidance, advice or structure for your coaching relationship without involving the other party or understanding their needs creates an uphill battle immediately in your coaching relationship.

Ideally the client should lead the charge in broaching issues they are having or various topics of discussion. They are the driver of the discussion and it is the coach’s role not only to listen but also ask questions to help further explore the client’s issues.

A coaching relationship must be a fluid entity not constricted by a single approach or structure. What worked for one person may not work for another, therefore coaches must be adaptable and learn from their client what role they will fill.

4. Set goals for your coaching

Asking the question “why do we coach in the workplace?” is a great way to start thinking about goals and what you want to achieve. We coach to achieve specific goals whether they are on an individual, team or organisational level. Not having a definitive actionable answer to this question might mean your coaching lacks a clear purpose or direction.

Therefore it is really important to help employees set meaningful goals and let them come up with specific ways to achieve them. Once again it is not the coach’s role to decide what these goals should be or how they should be tackled. The client should help drive what they want to achieve and express their own creativity in how they get from point A to point B.

Often simply highlighting key takeaways, areas to work on or setting small commitments at the end of a coaching session are great ways to create actionable goals. Doing all the work for the person you’re coaching will simply stifle their growth. By all means help and guide them, but do it in a way that will benefit them the most.

A coach is there to empower their client and help them fulfil their own potential. This relationship is extremely collaborative and both parties must be actively involved to get the most out of coaching. Hopefully these tips can help guide you to reach your full potential as a new or veteran coach.

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