“Coaching is the art of creating an environment, through conversation and a way of being”
— Tim Gallwey, The inner Game
At the core of effective coaching is the asking of powerful questions and “staying curious a little longer” (Bungay-Stanier). There are a ton of great questions available for coaches, and I have found it helpful to develop a bank of some of my favourite questions that I keep with me during coaching conversations. Of course, the trick is not to sound ‘rehearsed’ or mechanical, and the more I ‘play’ with these questions, the more they come to me naturally during coaching conversations.
“If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear”
— Mark Twain
Fundamental to effective coaching (and mentoring) is the ability to listen. Listening is defined by the International Listening Association (ILA) as “the process of receiving, constructing meaning from, and responding to spoken and/or non-verbal messages.” In the listening and coaching literature we are often reminded of the Pareto Principle of 80/20- our learning partner should be doing 80% of the talking and we should only be doing 20%. This means most of our time as coaches should be spent listening.
Summarizing and paraphrasing
A key coaching skill is the ability to summarise and paraphrase. Using Christian van Nieuwerburgh’s (An introduction to Coaching Skills: A Practical Guide, 2014) work, here is how they can be defined in a coaching context:.
"Before you tell me how to do it better, before you lay out your big plans for changing, fixing, and improving me, before you teach me how to pick myself up and dust myself off so that I can be shiny and successful--know this: I've heard it before. I have been graded, rated, and ranked. Coached, screened, and scored. I've been picked first, picked last, and not picked at all. And that was just kindergarten."
— Quoted in Stone & Heen, 2014.
Ah, feedback! We receive so much of it over the course of our personal and professional life, so why is it so difficult to give and, if we're honest, receive feedback?