The qualities required for good coaching are found in these other disciplines too:
Establish where the learners are and what points of view they are displaying.
Listen to what they are saying – identify their thoughts, and therefore their vision and goals. Also listen for their perceptions. These can disclose attitudes and values which may cause conflicts with the learning material and context. In addition, listen to the way in which their thoughts are presented.
This will be a clue to their emotions and feelings (e.g. anxiety, fear).
In coaching, listening is more important than talking. By listening, people can be helped to overcome their fears, be offered complete objectivity and given undivided attention and unparalleled support. This leads to the intuitive questioning that allows the client to explore what is going on for themselves.
Coaching is a two-way process. While listening is crucial, so is being able to interpret and reflect back, in ways that remove barriers, pre-conceptions, bias, and negativity. Communicating well enables trust and meaningful understanding on both sides.
Coaches are able to communicate feeling and meaning, as well as content – there is a huge difference. Communicating with no personal agenda, and without judging or influencing, are essential aspects of the communicating process, especially when dealing with people’s personal anxieties, hopes and dreams.
Good coaching uses communication not to give the client the answers, but to help the clients find their answers for themselves.
A coach’s ability to build rapport with people is vital. Normally such an ability stems from a desire to help people, which all coaches tend to possess. Rapport- building is made far easier in coaching compared to other services because the coach’s only focus is the client. When a coach supports a person in this way it quite naturally accelerates the rapport- building process.
Coaches motivate and inspire people. This ability to do this lies within us all. It is borne of a desire to help and support. People who feel ready to help others are normally able to motivate and inspire. When someone receives attention and personal investment from a coach towards their well- being and development, such as happens in the coaching relationship, this is very motivational and inspirational.
Coaching patterns vary; people’s needs are different, circumstances and timings are unpredictable, so coaching relationships do not follow a single set formula. Remembering that everyone is different and has different needs is an essential part of being a coach. Ultimately, everyone is human – so coaches take human emotions and feelings into account.
And coaching is client-led – which means that these emotions must be tapped into from the very beginning of the coaching process. So, having the flexibility to react to people’s differences, along with the curiosity and interest to understand fundamental issues in people’s lives, are also crucial in coaching.
The coach’s curiosity enables the client’s journey to be full and far- reaching; both coach and client are often surprised at how expectations are exceeded, and how much people grow.
All this does take some courage – coaches generally have a strong belief in themselves, a strong determination to do the best they can for their clients, and a belief, or faith that inherently people can reach goals themselves.
Directly linked to listening skills are observation skills.
Monitoring the performance of the learners as they work, or interact with others, gives clues to their current level of learning and helps to identify potential problems.
Listening and observation produce insights which form the basis of feedback to the learner. These can then be used to:
- modify the performance
- emphasise particular features or aspects of the situation or the performance
- provide encouragement and reinforcement.
Good feedback often avoids pointing out what is wrong. This alternative approach directs the attention (see sidebar for example) of the learner to manifestations of the wrong action. This starts a process of reflection where the learner learns to modify the activity in order to achieve success.
Modelling the outcomes means much more than just performing the actions.
It means unpacking skills, behaviours and knowledge which have been internalised and are performed unconsciously. It means revisiting and re-evaluating decisions made a long time ago.
Many coaches and mentors report that the process actually leads to the improvement of their own performance. They have in turn become aware of deficiencies in their way of doing things and handling affairs. Coaching and mentoring triggers some reflection on what we currently do.
Modelling also includes living it out – the attitudes, the values and the ethos.
It means practising what you preach. Learners are particularly sensitive to hypocrisy of the type that says: “Don’t do what I do, do what I say”.