Bernie Heine explains what core communication skills are needed to be a great coach.
Bridge Communication Gaps
The first one is creating awareness. Most people are unaware of where they stand in life, they don’t notice things about themselves. We have these blind spots, and everybody else seems to see it but we don’t see it. People like me talk a lot as an example, and I never used to notice how much I talk because when somebody else was quiet, I just assumed that they had nothing to say so I would just fill the space with my words, because I like to do that. Becoming more self-aware, I recognized the need to take breaks from speaking, so that everyone else has a chance to talk. I’m very conscious about this now, when I’m interacting with others, to make sure that I don’t overpower the situation. But I’m sure you all have met someone on both sides of those equations, either that talk too much or that don’t talk enough in an interactive environment. This is one of the things that a coach can really bring out in people, helping them become more self-aware of some of those things that might be holding them back in their careers.
Another one is active listening, so if I’m going to really understand someone better, I need to be listening carefully for what they’re saying, and not just listening so that I have the next comment to make in a conversation but really listening to where they are. This is also a great skill that every leader should have when they’re leading a group, an organization, a team meeting. Are we listening to each other, really paying attention to what the other person is feeling, thinking, where they’re coming from?
Encourage Unique Thinking and Behavior
As a coach one of the core coaching principles is to reframe the situation. People often get stuck in a particular pattern, and they don’t think “well what if I stepped aside from that right now and viewed this from a different angle” – a classic one in sales is you view it from what the customer is looking at or in marketing look at what the customer is looking at when they’re reading our materials. But in an organization, it’s also always there – put yourself in the role of the assistant who is taking the orders from you, what do you think is going on in their minds? Helping people reframe the situation often helps them move forward, because we want people to be in action. It’s about helping people take action moving forward, and also holding themselves accountable. A lot of times one of the biggest benefits of using coaching principles in your leadership is helping people stay accountable. Just the fact that people talk about what they’re going to do, the fact that they have shared with you some of their goals and some of their ideas or their desires, or what they want to do with their lives, just that sharing is already helping them stay on a track to improving what they’re doing. By involving other people, we often help ourselves to be more accountable. Having an accountability partner to go out for a run or playing in a basketball game, whatever it might be people often use the ability to help us stay on track and move forward.
Be Positive with Employee Reviews
Finally, one of the most important aspects that we look at when we’re using coaching principles, is focusing on people’s strengths. We hear all too often, especially at the time of year when companies are doing performance reviews, ‘well this person needs to get better, they’re really bad at this, we have to work on this,’ we focus on all these negatives that people have and how to make these negatives into a little bit better. So they go from mediocre to just okay in some level of their performance. As a coach, it’s not that we ignore those, but we also look at what’s good about somebody, what strengths do they have, what things can they leverage in their lives to go from being good to awesome to become world-class at something. And everybody has something about them that they’re really passionate about and that they’re really good at. And when we focus on those things, the overlap of our passions and our strengths is what we call the zone of leadership. When people are in the zone, they’re unstoppable – they do amazing things, they work all kinds of hours because they’re not working, they’re just having fun and really enjoying it. So when we’re coaching somebody, we want to look for those, we want to help them identify what are those strengths and passions that really turn those people on. And then as a leader we are in an amazing position often times to assign work to that person to help guide them in their careers, through the company, or even just the position they have on the team to make sure that that’s what they’re leveraging and they’ll do really awesome, amazing work and become fantastically happy people.
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