#GreatLeadersCoach – 5 Coaching Skills Every Leader Should Have

Guest post from Phil Renshaw and Jenny
Robinson:
For
many years now there has been increasing recognition of the value professional
coaches bring to managers and leaders in business. Given the power of coaching,
it can benefit everyone. Both the supply and the demand for such coaches
continues to increase. However, it is our belief that we are all missing a
vital fact.
It
is simply untenable to think that we can give a professional coach to everyone
who would benefit from it – organisations cannot afford to give everyone a
professional coach. And yet they can, and in our view should, give everyone a
leader-coach.
Theories
and leadership advocates have been arguing for decades (if not millennia) that
the most effective leaders are great coaches because they use these skills to
harness the potential of the whole team, not just the super stars.  These leaders recognise that they cannot lead
alone.  
The
first five fundamental skills of coaching can be learnt by anyone.  As you read the list take note if you are
mentally yawning because you think “they’re not rocket science” or “these are
obvious”.  It’s important to spot if you
do this. Many do, and it means they fail to develop the nuances of these
fundamentals. All skills require practice – we are not born with these skills!
1. Generative Listening
We
need to hear the concerns of our colleagues, understand their issues and give
them time to think if we are to be most useful. This is not simply listening.
Rather it is giving your full attention, listening out for what is not said,
the tone and language used, such that it prompts great questions and hence
great thinking in your people. It is generative because it helps the speaker to
generate their own solutions. This empowerment is the core to great coaches.
Having the belief that your people will be able to find their own way forward
is what generative listening demonstrates.
2. Questioning
Banish
boring questions.  This is how you will
bring alive your curiosity and help someone to see a new perspective.  It also makes it FUN!  We advocate left-field questions like: if you
had a magic wand, what would you wish for? What would your kids say? How will
you see this issue in twenty-five years-time? 
Imaginative questions help to break old assumptions and are a powerful
gateway to change.
3. Giving Feedback
Leaders
who coach do not turn into “softies”. Coaching skills allow for more direct and
straightforward conversations about performance and behaviour.  Key to this is establishing a relationship of
trust, so that both people feel they are respected.  In this context, giving feedback becomes a
gift because it now comes from a place of helpfulness.  When you are a leader who coaches, you hold
the belief that people absolutely want to know if they are failing or acting in
a way that is not helpful to others.  Notice
now what happens for you, when you make this assumption. And now think about
giving someone feedback. 
4. Changing Perspective
Have
you ever had the experience of listening to a friend as they tell you a problem
and from your point of view it is obvious what they should do?  Welcome to a new perspective.  Of course, your “obvious” might not be
theirs, nor may it be right for them. 
But the point is, there is always a fresh way to see things.  Leaders who coach help people to find that
new perspective.  Ellen Langer, a
Professor of Psychology at Harvard, says that new perspectives help us to break
categorical thinking.  Categorical
thinking is all about “right” “wrong” “should” “must” “ought”.  This is not helpful and not true. There is
always more than one way.  Your job is to
help your coachee find new ways.
5. Using Pause-Points™
We
use the term Pause-Points to represent several related and yet crucial skills.
For yourself, as a leader, Pause-Points are the brief moments that you take to
notice what is happening around you. When you metaphorically step back, and
reflect – what important things have happened today? What did I miss in the
whirlwind of meetings and conversations today? For others around you,
Pause-Points represent when you pause in conversation, when you use silence to
encourage them to think more deeply and to draw out what is happening at a
deeper level. Do it now – what has surprised you so far in this article?
Being
an effective leader-coach requires awareness and practice – it’s a skill so
this should be no surprise. The components of coaching often appear easy – and
like the great sportsperson whose ability seems effortless, they are easy (or
at least straight-forward) … provided you practice. If you’ve never been
trained at these things, or never given them attention, why should you be any
good at it? Being senior does not mean you can do these things, after all, as
someone significant said: What got you here won’t get you there! (thanks
Marshall Goldsmith).
And
as Marshall also said, ‘Successful leaders achieve lasting change through
effective coaching.’
PhilRenshaw and Jenny Robinson are
leadership development experts and co-authors of new book,
Coaching on the Go.