What is coaching skills development?

It will be no surprise to you that people aren’t born as business coaches. It’s important that they gain experience, build knowledge and live life in addition to acquiring coaching skills. Development of any skill takes time, inclination and hard work, and it’s the same with coaching.

The process of coaching skills development applies to professional coaches as much as it does to business leaders that coach. So, how do you develop a coach, and why is it important?

This page focuses on understanding how to develop your ‘internal coaches’ – the leaders in an organisation who are responsible for coaching through the line and their teams. But we need to mention ‘external’ coaches too – the coaching pros like us that work outside of your organisation – because they may also coach your C-suite executives and senior managers.

When we built our enterprise coaching management platform , we had both internal and external coaches in mind – because most organisations with a coaching culture in place use a mix of both.

Coaching Skills Development

The External Coach

If you’re a professional coach and reading this, you’ll already be aware that coaching is a process of continual development… for the coach, as well as the coachee. In our work at Coaching Focus we continually top-up our skills in order to be able to adapt to change.

Covid-19 has been a great example of a significant change to which coaches must adapt, so that they can apply relevant skills within the coaching relationship.

The focus of this article is less for external coaches but more for the organisations who are seeking to develop internal coaches.

To help the reader understand the context of coaching in this current climate they may find it useful to read our article in the Training Journal, which talks about the importance of coaching in and utilising coaching to help people become more adaptable, resilient and sustainable in this changing and challenging world.

The Internal Coach

Your internal coaches, whether professional coaches or leaders with a coaching remit, have a commitment both to employee development and organisational goals. The two should go hand in hand. It’s a vested interest that, on one hand, helps for an objective outcome from the coaching relationship – but on the other can lead to less objective, often preconceived ideas of what that outcome should look like. This is most likely when coach and coachee know each other well.

It is crucial for the success of the relationship that certain issues (that an external coach would rarely face) are put aside. This can include:

  • any biased ideas of a coachee’s effectiveness or career aims
  • any expertise the coach has that could influence the coachee’s thinking
  • the desire to co-develop ideas and solutions.

Harvard Business review cited[TV1] [SL2] in 2019 that, in a study of nearly 4000 executives, many significantly overestimated their abilities as a coach. Nearly a quarter rated themselves as above average, while their colleagues ranked them in the bottom third of the group. The survey tellingly stated, “If you think you’re a good coach… this data suggests you may be a good deal worse than you imagined.”

By developing your coaches professionally, these issues can be easily overcome. More than this, we can start to give the coach the range of skills that will enrich the coaching relationship.

The need for coaching skills development

“Every coach will tell you that everyone needs a coach.” It sounds cynical coming from a coaching company, doesn’t it! But those are not our words, and are those of an international community of psychology practitioners. They go on to add, “Most leaders have a coach.” And that’s true, too.

Leaders need coaches.

We can look back in history and see famous – if not infamous – leaders who had the charisma and drive that set them apart. But without fail they had coaching along the way – from Queen Victoria who desired to know more about the political systems of her empire, to the notorious but powerful leaders of Napoleon, Hitler and… well, Trump.

Back in the business coaching world Bill Gates once remarked in a TED Talk that, “Everyone needs a coach.” Indeed, that was the title of the talk. He said, “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” Gates has often talked about how he has used coaches in the past, and how a coach is not just for the realms of the executive – but for all levels of staff in a business. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has said much the same thing, and here’s a nice clip of them both talking about why they value coaching.

Success rarely comes from doing things on your own. Among other coaches Gates gained support and advice from investment guru Warren Buffet when he needed it, seeing Buffet as a long-term mentor.

If we turn from Microsoft to Apple, then you may be surprised to hear that Steve Jobs also used coaches. One of them, John Mattone, claimed by many to be the world’s leading coach, said Jobs wanted to know how he came across to people, so he could affect the most people. Mattone said in a LinkedIn post that Jobs was “curious to discover more about himself, how he came across to others and to be more effective as a leader. He became aware of his own limitations as a leader and worked with his famous intensity to make progress.”

It’s no surprise, then, when a young Mark Zuckerberg needed a coach and mentor, he turned to Steve Jobs. And then more recently to Bill Gates. Because coaching has a positive knock-on effect that is just not quantifiable on the balance sheet.

If a business’s C-suite executive invest in a coaching culture in their organisation, then this cascades down through the management structure. But to aid that flow, it is vital that the organisation embraces coaching skills development i.e. the ability to coach and facilitate the learning, development and performance of another person more effectively.

The essentials of coaching skills development

A great coach will have an armoury of essential skills that they can take into every coaching relationship. And it is crucial that they continue to hone and develop these skills over time.

The essential skills a coach must have include:

  • Preparing
  • Building rapport
  • Listening
  • Questioning
  • Negotiating
  • Clarifying
  • Reflecting
  • Goal setting
  • Challenging
  • Measuring.
Essential Coaching Skills

As we’ve mentioned, these skills are not innately present in leaders. By gaining exposure to a coach, your leaders can learn or enhance these capabilities. They can see how the coach utilises them first-hand and take away a toolkit for implementing them in their own coaching.

The basic skills required to be a good coach can be learned quickly; in just a few sessions. But the need for further coaching skills development is essential.

In a coach-the-coach scenario, the skills listed above are exactly the same essential skills that the experienced coach will use to coach the novice. Crucially, this will include goal setting and measuring; the checks and balances that ensure the leader is doing a great job as coach.

Our website contains a host of information on what to do to turn your leaders into brilliant coaches. This includes ready-made courses on the fundamentals of coaching as well as coaching for managers and, if required, providing your leaders with a coaching qualification. Either way there will be a perfect coaching skills course for your leaders.

Click here to find it.