The Skills That Define a Coach
As a life coach you inspire, guide, empower, encourage, and support. Quite a responsibility for you who have your own weaknesses and issues to deal with. This is why life coaching is a profession of a high calling. It is a job that requires you to share your life and be part of one’s life. It is the “cup of tea” of those who want to make a difference in other people’s lives — those who want to make their lives count.
Experts say that those who do well in life coaching have high EQ. This is so because dealing with people and issues in life requires that we tap into our innate capacity to connect with other people in the emotional level. We, together with our clients, also need it in dealing with the diverse emotions involved in facing the complex issues of life.
A life coach, therefore, needs to be emotionally competent — a learned capability based on emotional intelligence. This capability enables us to develop skills that are crucial to life coaching. Without these skills we are just playing lip service and are most certainly bound to fail not only our clients but also ourselves. This is so because coaching is not just a profession but it’s about the way we live our lives.
The following are key or standard coaching skills that you may already have or may need to develop. Remember, skills are abilities and capacities developed through deliberate, systematic and sustained effort. Although you may develop a skill while practicing the other abilities you are already good at, an intentional and sacrificial effort on your part to acquire these skills is required to have a successful and effective coaching career.
• Relationship building
This pertains to the ability to turn whatever good intentions you have into actions that can build, nurture and sustain good relationships. It enables you to connect with your client on a deep rather than on a superficial level.
• Empathising but staying detached
This is the ability to “put oneself into another’s shoes,” or to “see the world through someone else’s eyes.” This skill enables you to imagine other people’s feelings, to sense their perspectives and to have an active interest in their concerns.
But even if you have the capacity to connect with people emotionally, you also need to develop the ability to remain open and objective — that is, to stay emotionally detached by keeping your opinions and biases to yourself.
Life coaching is basically giving the driver’s seat to the client. The coach guides, encourages and empowers, but never forces nor controls clients to drive through a path they are not ready to take or feel is not right for them. The importance of respecting the values of clients cannot be over emphasised in coaching. Open-mindedness and a non-judgmental attitude are critical traits.
• Intuitive Listening
Refers to what passive listening is not. Persons skilled at this know how to engage themselves in the conversation while ably giving their full attention to what the other person is saying. They can set aside their own ideas and issues as they attentively listen to understand out of their genuine concern.
Active listening enables you to ask the right questions properly at the right time. It opens a window to the inner truths and values of the coachee and lets you hear their real heartbeat. This is the ability to hear beyond what is being said.
• Asking the right questions
Coaches should avoid offering personal opinions, but instead should ask questions with the intention to guide the person being coached through the issue. As mentioned, active listening leads to asking the right questions at the right time. This is asking with an objective to:
• stir the mind of your clients to come up with their own ideas.
• cause them to own their dreams and aspirations.
• re-direct them from getting answers solely from their own limiting mindset to other untapped and sometimes unexpected sources.
• stimulate dialogue (using open-ended questions).
• Providing feedback using tack and diplomacy
This is giving effective feedback (positive and negative) that can lead clients to evaluate their own action and to accept its consequences. Effective coaches give enough time and space to their clients to try and do things themselves. This skill gives youthe capacity to handle mistakes appropriately and to gracefully involve the clientin coming up with a solution. A skilled coach refrains from blaming but instead resorts to negotiating. Effective coaching compliments sincerely, motivates strongly and empowers inspiringly..
• Communicating effectively
Seasoned life coaches know how to convey information to their client clearly and effectively. This skill enables you to factor in what you know of your client as you ponder on what to say and how to say it. You need this in gathering and reflecting on information during dialogues and as you clarify them with the person you are coaching.
Developing these set of skills is vital not only to your success as a life coach but also to your fulfilment as a person gifted with the ability to inspire others. Self-awareness plays a key role in discovering which of these vital skills you need to work on. The best time you can apply this is when you are coaching. It’s definitely challenging to check on yourself as you check on others. But the good news is, it gets easier along the way, and in fact, eventually becomes a skill!
To learn more about coaching contact the Australian Institute of Professional Coaches on 1300 309 360 or email [email protected]. We look forward to speaking with you soon.