The Top 5 Qualities of an Effective Coach
5th August 2015 | Gillian Jones
Gillian is co-author, with Ro Gorell, of 50 Top Tools for Coaching. In this article she gets back to basics and reflects on the underpinning qualities that are essential for any effective coach. Qualities that aren’t necessarily that common. Do we mistakenly take them for granted?
Whatever your experience or opinion, coaching is actually a highly specialised profession; it’s not something the average Joe can do. The industry has its fair share of inexperienced coaches, so how can you spot an effective coach from the multitude who are practising?
Here are the top five qualities all good coaches should demonstrate…
1. They give every conversation their full attention
Your conversational style is important as a coach, and every conversation is an opportunity to practise further. The most crucial element of a coach’s conversation is not their patter, however, but their listening. Two-way conversation won’t happen if you a) speak over the other person with your opinions, and/or b) don’t understand what the other person is saying because your mind and ears floated elsewhere with your thoughts. Listening is a skill that takes a lot of effort and stamina. Your full attention is needed, as more may be said through the other person’s body language and behaviour than what’s actually coming out of their mouth.
Coaches use open questions to reveal the true nature of the conversation; the coachee may be completely unaware of the answers they’re giving if they come from deep within. A good coach is able to access the coachee’s conscious and subconscious; their questioning should prompt clients to access a different ‘file’ in their mind.
Reflecting is also an inherent skill of a good coach. Not only does it reassure the coach that they’ve heard everything correctly, the coachee can judge if they’ve been understood. Sometimes, we know what we want to say in our minds, but that’s not what comes out in the delivery; reflecting makes sure the message is clear before moving on.
2. They enable others, they don’t railroad them
A coach’s role is to prompt their client’s thinking. Though suggestion may occur, it’s important that sessions are non-judgmental and without prejudice. Build on what they already know, but don’t offload your opinions, direction or approach – the client must reach their own conclusions, understanding and actions.
Leaders share visions and enforce consistency until the end goal is reached. Managers deliver results through control within agreed budgets and parameters. Coaches support their clients’ learning and challenge their existing beliefs, enabling them to develop the right mindset and attitude, abilities, knowledge and attributes, towards their goals.
Emerson said: “Our chief want in life is someone who will make us do what we can”. Coaches have no agenda, other than helping their client see success from the answers they already hold within themselves.
3. They help create a coaching culture
When working with organizations, good coaches help the company understand why coaching is effective to the bottom line, and why it has to be a top-to-toe approach. Leaders and staff should engage stakeholders and customers effectively. In a coaching culture people feel that they are totally supported and constantly being developed and the feeling of support and development should touch people of all levels.
Affecting behaviour, mindset and approach, coaching can be a part of team meetings, individual development, innovation, new initiatives, and customer service. The view being: no one has all the answers, and the more ideas you have to play with, the more likely a better, more appropriate solution can be reached – in every situation.
4. They continually develop themselves
Most coaches have a passion for development that sees them personally experimenting with new tools and trends. The more tools in your toolbox, the more resources you have to help your clients, whatever their issue. Understanding the tools from a personal viewpoint helps you ascertain which is the most appropriate and effective for a particular scenario.
Good coaches don’t see other coaches as competition, instead, they’re another resource to learn from and interact with. Some even enlist other coaches for feedback and mentoring.
5. They’re organised and consistent
Enabling others to reach their goals isn’t going to happen if the coach has to be reminded where things stand at the start of every session. The personal lives and daily moods of a good coach don’t feature; the schedule and the coachee are the focus in coaching sessions, if they’re to go from A to B. Measuring and monitoring are also important, so that it’s clear where and how progress is being made.
Support from the coach needs to be consistent, timely, realistic, and delivered with a degree of empathy. The coachee needs to depend on and trust the coach if they’re to feel safe when exploring and challenging their deep-seated thoughts and beliefs.
These are just a few of the qualities good coaches display and exercise in their work. Coaching is an art, and clients deserve support from someone who is experienced, committed and effective.