This post is part of a series on the 9 competencies of an effective coach, taken originally from Developing Coaching Excellence. To see all entries in this series posted so far, you can search “coach competency” on the main page of my blog.
We’ve all heard about the value and importance of good communication skills. That’s especially important for coaching, since coaching is based on dialogue. Good coaches must be able to listen without projecting or inserting their own interpretation of what the other person is saying. A leader might be sharing something that the coach has strong feelings about. Regardless of those feelings, the coach’s job is to reflect back on what is being said without putting a spin on it. As the coach summarizes and reflects back, the person being coached can hear herself, allowing her to process more effectively.
Communicating means facilitating the process of discovering God’s agenda by effective listening, questioning, and giving feedback. Listening skills help people process their own thoughts and ideas more fully. Asking good questions opens up whole new categories for thinking. Giving feedback is helpful only after all of the person’s own options have been explored. These three skills form the core of communicating. The good news is that these skills can be learned— we can all develop them to the point of proficiency.
Coaches make three common mistakes in the area of communicating. First, they often believe they are summarizing when they are actually interpreting and inserting their own interpretation. True summarizing is not verbatim repetition of what the other person has just said, but is paraphrasing the general message without assigning any value judgment to it. Summarizing is done for the benefit of the person being coached, so they have the opportunity to hear themselves and either affirm or correct the message they are sending.
The second mistake coaches often make is asking closed-ended questions or questions that don’t get at the full scope of what could be asked. A closed-ended question requires only a yes or no response and doesn’t provide room for further expansion; coaches would do well to avoid these types of inquiries.
Finally, coaches often make the mistake of being solution-oriented. Instead of waiting for a person to unpack all of her ideas, the coach will insert her own solutions prematurely, shortchanging the discovery process.
Once mastered, the skills of communicating can yield powerful results. How can you go about strengthening the coaching competency of communicating in your life?