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@jairekrobbins
25 March 2021

Want to be a great coach? Learn how to ask, listen and empathize.

Jairek Robbins

In the past, leaders attained their positions at the top as a result of the vast experience they had accumulated as well as the duration of time they had spent on the job. For this reason, employees expected their leaders to have ready answers to any problem that might arise and one’s leadership authority would suffer untold damage if they faltered when their direct reports needed help.

Today, companies and workplaces are so dynamic that it is unrealistic to expect the leader to have all the answers. Does this mean leaders have lost relevance? Not in the least! 

Leadership has now taken on new dimensions and the hallmark of a great leader is often measured by their ability to coach their teams to success and higher levels of performance.

As a coach, you need to have the right skills to challenge your team so that they can generate the answers to the issues they face. To do this, you need to have the ability to connect effectively with your people, and to inspire them to strive for the best.

While no two coaches are exactly alike, some key concepts stand out in the general practice of coaching. We explore the three most critical concepts of coaching in the discussion below.

To be a great coach, learn how to ASK

Coaching thrives in an environment in which a spirit of partnership is created. It isn’t a top-down process. Instead, coaching is a two-way process, and a leader is tasked with creating an environment in which their team members feel that they can open up and contribute freely.

The best way to create such an environment is to ask not just the right questions but also to ask those questions in the correct way.

For example, if you would like to focus the coaching conversation on nurturing a better working relationship between one person and another on the team, you could start by asking the employee to share about the challenges they face as part of the team.

If they don’t bring up their frustrations with the colleague, you can introduce that aspect by inquiring into how the two get along. Remember, open-ended questions presented in a non-accusatory way are the best to get a coaching conversation going.

For instance, if a team sets a lofty goal, you can comment about how ambitious that goal is, and then ask them to explain how they hope to achieve that goal.

This gives the team members a chance to explain their plan, and you can help them identify any loose ends which could stand in their way. In this way, you build their confidence in going for bigger targets and you help them fine-tune their thought processes while solving challenges.

Take as much time as possible while getting the coaching conversation going instead of rushing to the point at which solutions are suggested. Understanding the process is key, and the outcomes will be almost guaranteed if the process is right.

Related: 12 Cognitive Biases Explained: For Improved Logical Thinking

To be a great coach, learn how to LISTEN

The difference between hearing and listening is like that between night and day. Listening is an intentional process in which you pay full attention to what the other person is saying and how they are saying it so that the other person has no doubt in their mind that you are paying attention.

Listening takes in all verbal and non-verbal cues, such as the tone of voice, the body posture and any other elements which enhance or convey nuances about the message being delivered.

It is therefore impractical for you to imagine that you can conduct a coaching conversation while checking emails on your phone, or while engaged in any other physical or mental activity. Taking brief notes is okay, as long as you don’t get obsessed with jotting down every word the other person says! In such a case, writing becomes distractive rather than helpful to the coaching process.

Another vital aspect of listening is that you have to resist the urge to respond immediately while the other person speaks. Hear them out, and then structure your response in a way that drives the discussion towards a helpful direction (instead of rebutting or finger pointing, for example).

When you can truly listen while you coach, you will be on your way to becoming a great coach. This is because your team will develop trust in you as someone who respects them and wants the best for them.

To be a great coach, learn how to EMPATHIZE

Empathy is the glue that makes coaching and other interpersonal connections possible. Simply put, empathy is the capacity to “put yourself in another person’s shoes.” By so doing, you indirectly experience the different emotions that the other person experienced.

It is important to view issues from the perspective of the other person so that you can have a meaningful interaction with that person.

As a coach, you should not regard empathy as an excuse for you to accept sub-par performance from your team. Instead, use your sense of empathy to find the best approach to move the team from where they are to the heights they can reach.

When you empathize, you have an appreciation for the challenges your team is facing, and you help them to move from that place to a better one.

As a leader, it is unnecessary for you to position yourself as the expert. Your team should count on you as the person they can look up to for inspiration, guidance and help as they seek the answers to the challenges they face. Three things will help you perform your role as a coach. Ask, listen and empathize. It may not be easy at first, but you will get better with practice.

To Your Success,

Jairek Robbins

 

 

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