8 Ways to Improve Your Coaching Skills

May I coach you? Chris Carmichael coached Lance Armstrong to the Yellow Jersey. Chuck Silvers coached Steven Spielberg to box office blockbusters. Bob Greene coached Oprah Winphrey to shed pounds of fat. Edward Deming coached Japan to international business stardom.

One striking denominator of highly successful people is that they employ the use of a coach or mentor. Throughout history, the celebrated achievements and the overcoming of immense challenges have been the result of an outside coaching influence.

The sole purpose of a coach is to improve performance. A coach helps you stay focused, motivated and committed to your intended outcomes. A coach challenges you and holds you accountable to sticking to your goals and priorities. To help those being coached to reach within themselves to become who they really are. It doesn’t matter whether its business, family, politics, science, marriage, art or sports—each of us have areas that we want to improve, and the right coach is the key to helping us achieve what we want.

You too can be a coach. If you want to coach your sales team, your son or daughter, an employee or your best friend, you should keep in mind a few coaching tools that will make you a more effective coach.

1. Understand the outcome. Why is it that you want to engage in coaching? What is the goal that you want to achieve? Do you want to help the person you are coaching to work better with other employees, to increase sales, to improve technical job skills, to ease the pain of personal challenges? Additionally, you must know what outcomes the person being coached wants to achieve. Without understanding the needs, goals and dreams of the person you are working with it simply won’t be effective. You must know what you want and what the person you are coaching wants!

“The main thing of importance is to know what one wants.” -Napoleon Hill

2. Determine if you are the right coach. This is crucial. The great men and women of the world aren’t necessarily smarter than the rest others, they just have the right person to coach them. You have to ask yourself if you are the right coach or should you find a more compatible coach for this person or situation. This involves asking yourself an ego-attacking question: “Are my motives self-serving?” The purpose of being a coach is to help another person to take action. When coaching, it is extremely important to keep the interests of the other party in mind. If you find yourself wanting to give advice in hopes of validating yourself, persuading another to do what you want rather than what might be best for him or her or because you just want to see if they will take your advice—don’t coach them.

3. Ask permission to coach. Avoid offering unsolicited advice. Getting permission to coach is the green light to continue. If the person doesn’t want coaching even the best advice will fall on deaf ears. Trying to coach the un-coachable is futile. A few ways to ask for permission might be: “May I coach you?” or “Are you interested in coaching?”

“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.” -Vincent Lombardi

4. Take the code of confidentiality. We disclose to those we trust. Allow others to reveal in confidence their innermost thoughts, concerns and dreams. The best managers, the best family members and the best of friends are people we can trust in sharing our thoughts and feelings. When people are confiding in you, remind them that what you talk about is 100 percent confidential. Maintain your code of confidentiality.

“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain, and most fools do.” – Benjamin Franklin

5. Compliment more than you criticize. That’s why great coaches underscore what is already being done right. People want to know how they are doing, good or not-so-good. You’ll be considered a nag if you only offer feedback on how a person can improve. A good rule is to use positive reinforcement three times as much as constructive criticism. That’s three positive things that they do well and one area of improvement.

6. Listen with your whole body. Let your body be part of your active listening. Let your face express a range of emotions to show you are listening (this is much easier if you are actually listening, rather than planning what you will say next). Make eye contact (effective communication is like an electrical current and it takes two to complete the circuit). Don’t speak unless you have something relevant to say or a clarifying question (let the other person make his or her entire point before you speak and don’t finish his or her sentences). Silence expresses more than you might think.

“No one cares to speak to an unwilling listener.” -St. Jerome

7. Invest in frequent meetings. A great way to keep the momentum going is a follow up meeting.  You can achieve this during a lunch, an early morning or mid-day meeting in person or using phone or video conferencing or email. The meeting is the medium to share important trends, goals, upcoming pitfalls, current challenges and success stories. At the end of the appointment it is paramount to discuss what assignments or tasks will be completed before the next scheduled meeting date.

8. Record it in writing. The palest ink is better than the best memory. This sounds so simple it’s almost ridiculous! But its power is enormous. Use pen and paper or electronic means to put things in writing. If there is any possibility of not remembering something, write it down with the date and time. Use a planner, note pad or journal to script out a summary of each meeting, important milestones, personal experiences, and the assignments that are requested to complete. Each person keeps a journal.

Everyone needs a coach at one time or another. You might be called upon to fill the role of a coach within the next hour, day, week or month. You can easily improve your odds of being a successful coach if you follow a few basic, yet powerful, coaching tools.

Best of success to you!

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