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Essential Coaching Skills

The skills that make for great coaching

Feedback is an accurate mirror-like reflection of empirical (see-hear-feel) information.

There are numerous conversations about ‘Coaching’ occurring across Education Queensland at the present time as various trainings and structures are being established for Principal-to-Principal peer coaching arrangements.

From a QASSP Welfare perspective these initiatives are heartening as there is no doubt that when we have the skilful support of a colleague the personal and professional roles we play become not only more effective but also more rewarding.

Such arrangements beg the questions:

  • What are skills involved in coaching?
  • What are the critical skills for coaching well?
  • What are the essential skills that are absolute prerequisites for coaching well?

Not everyone can coach. Coaching, like any other field or discipline, not only involves a theoretical framework, but also a skill set – a set of skills for the basic competencies within the coaching process.

Various coaching schools of thought identify such sets of skills. The Meta Coaching Foundation offers the following as the essential coaching skills that make for great coaching:

  1. Active and attentive listening.
  2. Support.
  3. Quality questioning.
  4. Meta questioning.
  5. Giving feedback.
  6. Receiving feedback.
  7. Eliciting states.

1. Active and attentive listening
Active and attentive listening involves a full mind-body listening so that we listen with a third-ear to both content and structure, to what is said as well as to what’s not said. It’s listening for heart, emotion, and meta levels of awareness. It is listening by pausing and using silence that gives the other a chance to be with his/her thoughts, emotions and awareness. Such high quality listening enables the other to ‘feel heard’ and so facilitates discovery, and is actually a very special and rare experience.

2. Support
Support is being present; it is showing up for the client and stepping into this moment with the client. It is being present to the client’s emotions without trying to do anything with them. Coaching is about creating a safe and courageous space. A place where transformation can occur, and one can access the courage to speak his or her truths.

3. Quality questioning
The ability to ask fabulous and powerful questions that get to the heart of things, that open up new possibilities that influence the direction of thinking in a powerful and profound way, and that focuses in a solution-orientated way on facilitating the client is the heart of coaching.

4. Meta questioning
Moving from questions about the Outer Game and one’s immediate thoughts and feelings about such we next move to explore the frames, states and experiences about one’s inner experiences. These meta- questions direct the client to ‘step back’ into a higher awareness about beliefs, values, identity, intentions, etcetera.

5. Giving feedback
Feedback is not a judgement or an opinion. To give such high quality feedback we use as precise language as possible. We do so directly, with consideration of context, with rapport and with support.

6. Receiving feedback
In coaching we first demonstrate this as we continually receive our client’s feedback and work with it. We also work with his or her ability to receive feedback. So we ask, ‘What was the best thing you received from the session? What worked really well? What did not work all that well for you? What could have worked even better?’

7. Eliciting states
We elicit a state by inviting or evoking a mind-body-emotional state. Then we can anchor or re-anchor it. The client goes inside and accesses the best-imagined states to pursue his or her goals. The coach elicits states through a host of sub- skills: sensory awareness, gesture, tone, volume, eye movements, pacing, rapport building etcetera. This list of essential skills is considered absolutely fundamental.

Without them a coach cannot even be fully present to a client and that would undermine discovering the client’s goals, agendas, values and vision. These skills are basic for an effective coaching conversation that engages the client, enters into the client’s world and begins to get to the heart of things.

If you are reading this article then no doubt you engage in some form of ‘coaching conversation’ on a daily basis. Such is the nature of a school leader’s role.

If you would like more detail on the skills, including how you can benchmark your proficiency with each one simply send me an email.

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