Eight ways to improve your coaching skills

Foster your team in a thoughtful and intentional way. Here are eight techniques to enable and support that.

Eight ways to improve your coaching skills
Editorial Team
January 10, 2019
Eight ways to improve your coaching skills

Coaching is a key part of the core responsibilities of an effective manager and leader. Coaching takes practice and constant checking in with yourself and your employee. Here are eight ways to improve your coaching skills in the work environment:

1. Create a safe environment. In order to coach someone you need them to trust you. Start learning more about them, asking about their interests outside of work, and looking for commonalities between the two of you that you can see eye to eye on.

2. Set up an informal routine. Coaching is about conversations and setting up regular communication with your employee. Find informal ways to connect, such as getting coffee together, taking breaks, going for walks, or connecting over happy hour.

3. Align interests to goals & objectives. It is important to guide your employee in identifying their strengths and genuine interests when it comes to being successful at their job. The end goal for you is to get them to be highly engaged in delivering great services and products. Learn more about what motivates your employee at work (new projects, perfecting a new process, visibility from higher ups, etc.). Then offer them opportunities that connect their interests to their core role and responsibilities.

4. Listen and observe. This is the most important part—when you are in conversation with your employee, you should be doing less than 20% of the talking! Things to keep in mind—avoid multi-tasking, show engaged body language (eye contact, nodding your head, smiling, etc.), try to see it from their perspective, and clear your own objectives. Give your employee full freedom to drive the conversation. If you find they are not talking, try step 5.

5. Ask the HOW and WHAT questions. Your job is to ask open-ended questions and get them to solve their own problems and come up with new ideas. Questions such as, “How will you deal with the next client?” “What is your thinking process when you don’t know the answer right away.” “What steps will you take to prepare for this upcoming presentation?”

6. Appreciate good work. Sixty percent of employees don’t remember being appreciated for their work. It is not enough to say, “Good job on that presentation!” What a good coach will do is focus on a trait/skill that the employee implemented and how it helped achieve a better result. For example, “Thank you for your persistence in working with that difficult client. Because of your hard work, you were able to come up with a mutually beneficial solution for our team and the client, and we gained another loyal customer.”

7. Prepare for constructive feedback. Building regular informal conversations into your coaching strategy will pay off when/if you have to provide feedback that is focused on getting someone to improve something. Because your employee will be used to you providing regular feedback (usually appreciative feedback) the difficult conversations should not seem so hard.

8. Be open to feedback yourself. Have you encouraged your employee to provide you feedback on your managerial style? If not, give it a try and check yourself. Are you likely to get defensive? Are you able to ask for clarification if something is not clear. What is your body language saying when someone gives you feedback? Can you coach your direct report into becoming an excellent coach as well?