How to become a good coach

Three essential qualities make for a great coach, and leaders can develop all of them through self-training

Among all the leadership development techniques, coaching is an area which many consider vague and ambiguous. While organisations have realised the importance of coaching, the traditional approach of sending leaders to coaching training is proving ineffective. It is true that coaching training enlightens a leader to some key elements of effectiveness, such as listening, building a solution-oriented approach, and feedback mechanisms. But it is difficult to capture the true essence of coaching through coaching sessions.

For a leader, coaching is an integral element of building credibility. It is also true that not all great leaders can be good coaches. Douglas Riddle, Global Director of Coaching Services, at the Centre of Creative Leadership (CCL) recommends a three-point framework for building self-efficacy.

Curiosity– A key and essential element of good coaches is their curiosity and inquisitiveness towards problems. A good coach does not believe in stereotypes and believes that every problem and situation is unique. Consequently, good coaches develop the patience to listen to people’s issues before jumping into solutions.

Presence– A good coach is always present in a conversation. Very often, senior leaders offer solutions to problems because multiple priorities are fighting for their time. Consequently, they lose their ability to really understand perspectives of people who are speaking to them. They also lose their ability to be really present in a conversation, and pay only a fraction of their attention of what is being said. Good coaches, on the other hand, are always present. Many Heads of States and Presidents are regarded as great inspiration as leaders, though they have a multitude of priorities competing for their time. Riddle once had the opportunity of attending a wedding in a park where the President of the United States was passing through. The President generously walked into the wedding to pay his best to the couple. As he was walking out, he spent the next 10 minutes speaking to some of the people at the wedding who were keen. Riddle observed from a distance that despite his priorities as a President of the State, he conducted each small conversation, hearing people out with complete and undivided attention. In other words, in each conversation, no matter how short, the leader was in a state of ‘presence.’

Respect– A common trap that leaders fall into is the belief in the superiority of their own experiences. As a result, they lack the respect to really understand issues. Most of the solutions they offer are a consequence of their need to do something else with their time or purely because the issue does not interest them. An approach where the listener lacks interest in the issue at the first place cannot have fruitful conclusion because it lacks in the basic premise of respect. Respect is one of the most important constituents of a good coach.

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