Coaching Skills That Can Make A Difference in Your Practice

Why Coach?

Use coaching skills to:


What is Coaching?

Coaching is a professional development tool that acts as a catalyst to encourage action based on increased self-awareness. It is a style of conversation and listening that encourages increased responsibility and growth in staff and others. Through conversation, using appropriate skills, synergy is created so that the person being coached reaches exponentially greater solutions than working on their own. By coaching rather than advising, you increase

  1. your client's or staff's awareness of the problem,
  2. the likelihood of receiving their consensus to the solution, and
  3. the likelihood they will take on responsibility for the solution where appropriate.

What is the Coaching Philosophy?

The coaching philosophy is based on the key premise that the person being coached has the answers. This means the person being coached rather than the coach is responsible for their motivation to change their performance or actions.


Some Coaching Skills and Concepts

  1. Recognition or the "Aha" factor (Overriding Concept)
    • The individual must first recognize the nature of the problem in order to become responsible to correct it.
    • Telling an individual there is a problem is not necessarily enough. Find out what they know about the problem. For example. "What do you think the problem is?"

  2. Ask Powerful Questions
    • Ask powerful, thought provoking questions.
    • Wait for the answer. Do not supply the answer.
    • This skill is intended to help you increase the awareness of the person you are coaching through questions - not answers.
    • Powerful questions are open-ended and not leading questions. They are not "why" questions, but rather "what" or "how" questions.
      See Powerful Questions section below for examples.

  3. Practice Effective Listening
    • Effective listening requires that you suspend your judgment and your answers and be intent on understanding what the person who is talking is really saying.
    • What is behind their words?
    • Be curious.
    • Let go of your opinions.

  4. Pay attention to Intuition
    • Pay attention to your gut for additional information.
    • Use your intuition by blurting out something you are wondering (unless it is politically incorrect).
      For example: "I'm wondering if you really don't want to __________."

  5. Be Non-Judgmental
    • When asking your questions keep your opinion out of the way.
    • Be open-minded - you may be surprised by what you learn.
    • Don't try to fix or give advice when coaching.

  6. Acknowledge People
    • Acknowledgement is more than giving someone a compliment.
    • Acknowledgement means telling a person you see qualities in them that helped them get a job done or will help them accomplish something in the future.
    • The acknowledgment of an individual's quality must be honest and sincere for it to have impact.
      For example: "I know you have the creativity and determination to succeed at _________________." or "You were great with the client because of your positive attitude and clear thinking. Thank you."

  7. Encourage Accountability
    • What are the action steps that will be taken by the individual being coaching?
    • It is important to pin down when the individual being coached with do what they say they will do. Ask them "By when?"
      For example: "Are you willing to do _____________? When will you do it by? How will I know?"

  8. Get To the Bottom Line
    • Summarize succinctly what you hear the person saying.
    • Help the person to see the essence of what they are saying.
    • Reduce the complexity of their story by identifying the bottom line.
      For example: "It sounds like the bottom line is . . ."

  9. Reflect Back What You Hear
    • Repeat back to the person you are coaching just what they said to you.
    • Articulate back to them what you believe they mean. This helps a person feel heard.
      For example: "What I hear you saying is ______________"

  10. Clarify
    • When the person you are coaching is being vague, it is important for you to clarify the circumstances.
    • Help them see what they can't see themselves by making a suggestion, without any attachment as to what is really going on.
    • Use clarifying to help the person to gain new perspective.

  11. Reframe the Situation
    • Reframing is the skill of reinterpreting the way the person is looking at something and putting it in a more positive light.
    • Reframing helps people sees the situation from a different perspective they were not able to take on their own.
      For example: The person being coached may be disappointed they did not get the business. You may be able to point out that now they have time to focus on the important client that is requiring so much of their time right now.

Powerful Coaching Questions

These are examples of typical questions you may use in coaching an individual to increase self-awareness of the situation. These questions can help you improve your communication and understanding of the client or staff member.
  1. Identification of issue:
    • What seems to be the trouble?
    • What do you make of _________?
    • How do you feel about _____________?
    • What concerns you the most about _____________?
    • What seems to be your main obstacle?
    • What is holding you back from _________________?

  2. Further information:
    • What do you mean by __________?
    • Tell me more about it.
    • What else.
    • What have you tried so far?
    • What will you have to do to get the job done?
    • What support do you need to accomplish ______________?

  3. Preparation for Failure:
    • What if it does not work out the way you wish?
    • What if that does not work?

  4. Hypothetical:
    • If you could do it over again what would you do differently?
    • If you could do this any way you wanted, what would you do?

  5. Outcomes:
    • How do you want ____________ to turn out?
    • What do you want?
    • What is your desired outcome?

  6. Planning:
    • What do you plan to do about it?
    • What kind of plan do you need to create to accomplish _____________?
    • How do you suppose you could improve the situation?

  7. In relation to:
    • If you do this, how will it affect ________ ?
    • How does this affect _____________?
    • What else do you need to consider?

  8. Summary:
    • How would you summarize your effort/work so far?
    • How is this working?

  9. Taking Action:
    • What will you do? When will you do it?
    • How will I know you did it?
    • What are your next steps?

GROW Model to Solve Problems

Use the following as a model to follow when coaching a client, staff or others to solve a problem or reach a goal.

G R O W1

Step 1:
Goal:What is your goal for the problem?

Step 2:
Reality:What is the reality of the situation?
How do you perceive this problem?
What solutions have you tried so far? What worked?
What did not work?

Step 3:
Options:What could you do?
What have you seen work in similar situations?
Come up with a number of options.

Step 4:
Wrap Up:What are your next steps?
When will you do them by?


1From John Whitmore's Coaching For Performance, 1996 edition.