Coaching Solutions: Coaching Skills Every Successful Manager Must Use (Continued)

By Lawyer and Executive Business Coach, Irene Leonard

Reprinted with the permission of the Association of Legal Administrators Puget Sound Chapter, August 2008.

This is the second part of a two-part article that addresses ten coaching skills that every manager should practice. The first part was published in the June edition and described two of the most significant coaching skills: Asking effective questions and Non-judgmental listening. This part identifies eight additional skills intended to enhance the use of your questioning and listening skills in managing your staff.

Your goal in using these skills is to help the coachee (the person you are coaching) become more aware and come up with solutions to problems.

3. Repeat Back What You Hear

When you repeat back to the coachee just what you heard, attention and awareness are enhanced. Or you can expand on what you heard by articulating back to the coachee what you believe was meant. This helps the coachee feel heard and understood.

For example: "What I hear you saying is . . ."

4. Clarify

When the coachee is vague, it's important to help clarify. Help by making a suggestion. Clarifying is a combination of clearly articulating what you have heard, making a suggestion, and asking a question.

For example: "Here's what I hear you saying. . . . Is that right?"

5. Reframe the Situation

Reframing is the skill of reinterpreting the way the coachee is looking at something and putting it in a more positive light. Reframing helps people see the situation from a different perspective. When people are stuck in a negative view it's necessary to help them see a positive viewpoint.

For example: The coachee may be disappointed he is not able to take the three day training he thinks he needs. You can point out that he already knows a great deal about the training subject and now he'll be able to use the time to handle the project that's causing him to feel so overwhelmed.

6. Brainstorm

When the coachee is stuck in one perspective, it helps to come up with many options, including options that seem impossible or even ridiculous. New options lead to new plans to solve problems. Brainstorm with the coachee to come up with many new ideas, strategies, or courses of action to create new perspectives. Then help the coachee choose which option(s) to pursue.

For example: "What is another way you could look at that?" "What's another way?" "Another?"

7. Use "Yes, and…" Rather than "Yes, but…"

Have you noticed how using "yes, but . . ." just stops people cold? When trying to motivate the coachee to change a way of approaching something, use the phrase "yes, and . . ." Do this by first agreeing with something you can agree with (yes); then rather than using the word "but," which has the impact of discounting what you just agreed with, use "and."

For example, "Yes, you should give Joe your full attention when you're working on his project, and how will you give Charles similar attention?"

8. Bottom Line

When the coachee is confused or getting caught up in the details, you need to reduce the complexity of the story by identifying the bottom line. Your role as effective coach is to summarize succinctly the key points in order to help the coachee appreciate what's really germane to solving the problem.

For example: "The bottom line is, you cannot accept unacceptable behavior, and __________ is simply not acceptable."

9. Acknowledge Talent

When you want the coachee to continue to do well and grow, successful efforts must be recognized. People do best when their strengths are identified and encouraged. It's important to acknowledge the people who work for you so that they can grow into the responsibilities you want them to undertake. Acknowledging someone has more depth and impact than giving compliments. The skill of acknowledging requires that:

For example:

"I know you have the willingness and determination to succeed at __________."
"You were great with the client because of your positive attitude and clear thinking. Thank you."

10. Encourage Accountability

After you help staff clarify the problem and brainstorm solutions by asking effective questions, help them follow through on the plan by making them accountable. Have them agree to get something done by a certain date and time. When you follow up, and staff knows you will follow up, you increase the likelihood of the task being completed.

Encouraging accountability includes:

Coaching is a process that works best over time — it often takes time for the coachee to truly appreciate what is causing difficulty. The coachee may also need to appreciate he is being responded to differently. Trust needs time to develop.

Since some behavioral changes take plenty of time, don't expect change immediately. Just keep using your coaching skills and ultimately you'll see improvement in your staff's performance.

Since the skills identified in this brief two-part article represent only a taste of coaching skills, you may wish to consider taking coaching training. You can find out about coaching training, core competencies, ethics and other coaching information by going to the International Coach Federation website,


©Irene Leonard. After more than 19 years as a business lawyer, Irene Leonard offers professional development coaching services as an executive business coach. She helps lawyers improve their ability to manage and market. Go to her website or contact her at 360-922-0944 for more information.