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Coaching - an essential communication skill for leaders!

4 Sept 2020
Roz Williams profile photo
By Roz Williams
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If you've ever worked with a great business coach, you're unlikely to forget them. Whether narrowing down goals, clearing roadblocks or keeping you honest with your actions, your coach is there to support, encourage and push you.

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What is business coaching?​

Often the word 'coaching' is quite unhelpful, as too often it's taught as simply a technique - a process to be followed, which can quickly feel robotic and artificial. It's generally also thought of as a one-off conversation or 'session' - you sit down and prepare yourself to be coached for the next hour. It also takes a long time, doesn't it?

The reality is very different.

It is a fundamental shift in the way you communicate with those around you, whether for 5 minutes or over an hour – the time is not the issue. It's a way of communicating that brings more focus, more ownership, more honesty and more commitment to action. It's a communication style that cuts out the noise, ambiguity and jargon and requires you to see people for who they are, rather than what they project.

Most people react to others based on the behaviour they see/hear. But none of us are just our behaviour. It's what drives the behaviour that makes us who we are, and great leaders/coaches know how to identify these drivers and harness them.

Sounding board, confidant, cheerleader, devil's advocate, advisor, friend, conscience - all qualities that every coach must possess or roles they are likely to play. However, the skill is in knowing which to apply when, to achieve the best possible outcome.

Why is coaching vital within leadership?

Let's answer this by first asking a question. Who do you want in your organisation? People who consistently look to you/the organisation for instructions and direction, or people who think for themselves, take ownership, continually grow, challenge and push one another?

Sounds obvious right? But it's amazing how many leaders still approach their roles assuming the former approach first. This approach is often not intentional but is usually either ingrained habit, or (in our experience at the BCA) because they simply don't know how to achieve the latter. Surely it's quicker and easier to just tell someone!?

If a leader doesn't understand how to 'coach', then their dominant communication style is usually to push - pushing knowledge, direction, opinion, feedback, objectives - all one-way traffic from the leader to the employee.

The result is that psychologically, the ownership primarily sits with the leader … the opposite of what leadership should be aiming to achieve. Clearly, there is a time for more of a push approach, but is it used because it's most effective, or just because it seems easier and quicker?

Think of the away-day where the boss stands up and says something like 'It's great to see you all – I know how busy everyone is, so thank you for making the time. We're here because I'm sure we all agree, we want to work better together as a team, helping us achieve even more this year than last!'

The intent is genuine; the language positive…but the leader is pushing the agenda onto the team and is, therefore, assuming ownership. Unless this changes during the workshop, the team will go through the motions and actions will be agreed - but any noticeable change will almost certainly be temporary. The team don't own the change. Their leader does.

How can I learn coaching skills?

The Business Coaching Academy provides award-winning, business coaching training to individuals and companies all over the world. We offer two learning pathways – our Open Practitioner pathway (typically for coaches or consultants working externally). Or our Leader as Coach pathway (for organisations looking to develop their leaders and build a coaching culture). Both routes offer different levels of external, professional accreditation.

All programmes are highly experiential; incorporating videos, live demos extensive practice, observation and feedback. The environment is safe yet challenging. Led not by trainers but by hand-picked, professional coaches, all of whom operate their own coaching consultancies and work with many of the worlds most successful organisations.

The learning is real, it is practical, and it is concerned only with what makes a positive difference in the commercial world of leadership and business.