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Corporate Consulting

The 4 Core Skills Of Good Coaching

Being a good coach requires a strong coaching presence. In the myriad of responsibilities that leaders face, tuning in as coach can be a challenge. Most leaders have the skills they need to coach –  finding the time to do so can be more elusive. Narrowing in on the components of coach presence can more readily activate four core coaching skills. Through activating coach presence, leaders can tune into others more regularly, and help to motivate and realise their full potential.

Achieve coach presence through four core skills

Coaching presence is achieved through the demonstration of four key skills: vulnerability, empathy, humility and admiration.

When you are vulnerable, you show up as your full self. As coach you don’t need to have all the answers. Instead you are offering your own vulnerability to the person you are coaching. They reciprocate by being open about what they do and don’t know, and what challenges them most.

Skill 1: As coach, be vulnerable. Share your own stories, experiences and insights when they serve to illustrate a point, inspire action or increase courage for the coachee. The Goldilocks rule of disclosure applies here: if you share too much of your own story, it takes the focus away from the coachee. If you share too little, they may not be prepared to be as open as might be helpful.

Empathy grows from your ability to take the other person’s perspective. Goleman speaks to three kinds of empathy. They are:

  1. Cognitive empathy – being able to take another person’s perspective to gain a sense of how they are feeling.
  2. Emotional empathy – being able to feel what another person feels by reading their signals.
  3. Empathic concern – being able to sense what the other person might need from you.

Skill 2: By cultivating empathy with the person you are coaching, you increase the depth of your relationship, and better understand them. As you attune to them, your responses as coach can be better targeted. For example, you can make better choices about when it’s helpful to challenge, versus support the coachee.

Hierarchical status helps leaders project themselves onto the top hierarchical rungs of the ladder. That often means they pay less attention to others. To manage expectations and the demands on their time, leaders become less empathic, and they tune in less.

Coaching is built on asking questions and avoiding telling the solution. Because of status differences, leaders also fall prey to the tendency to tell rather than ask. Coach presence requires humility, comfort asking questions rather than having the answers.

Skill 3: Monitor your ratio of asking questions to telling solutions or giving directions. Ensure when you are in coaching mode that you remain humble by asking most of the time.

By being generous with your appreciation, a coaching presence helps others to find their motivation to achieve their goals and to continue their own development.

Appreciation grows satisfaction which increases performance and results in people feeling valued. Regularly producing appreciation is like pumping oxygen into the system”.

Skill 4: To show your appreciation as coach:

  1. Tune into actions that are worth appreciating. How do you tune in? Make sure to pay attention to notice.
  2. Provide appreciation. Provide direct, specific appreciation, based on your own experience of the coachee’s behaviour.
  3. Make it a habit.

Coaching presence is based on vulnerability, empathy, humility and appreciation. To be like a coach, identify your strengths and the areas you need to develop. What do you need to improve to have a coaching mindset and bring out the full potential of your team and each member of it?


The 16 Must-read business and leadership books

  1. Power Up: How Smart Women Win in the New Economy by Magdalena Yesil.
  2. The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton M. Christensen.
  3. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh.
  4. The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm by Tom Kelley.
  5. What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School: Notes from a Street-smart Executive by Mark McCormack.
  6. Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis by Robert F. Kennedy.
  7. Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant.
  8. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout.
  9. Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson.
  10. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull.
  11. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant.
  12. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis.
  13. Certain to Win: The Strategy of John Boyd, Applied to Business by Chet Richards.
  14. Made in America by Sam Walton.
  15. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight.
  16. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz.
Dr. Karen Morley

Dr. Karen MorleyVerified account

Contributor at CEOWORLD magazine
Dr. Karen Morley, principal at Karen Morley & Associates, helps leaders realise their full potential, and is the author of Lead like a Coach and Gender Balanced Leadership: An Executive Guide. Karen works with executives and human resource leaders to help grow the coaching capability of their leaders and to make leadership more inclusive.
Dr. Karen Morley

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