Leadership Success Blog > Coaching

Ask the Experts: Leadership Coaching

Matthew Nash

23 Jul, 2019

Matthew Nash

Want to learn more about coaching? We sat down with four of our expert coaches to find out what coaching is, the skills you need to be a great coach, and get some top coaching tips to boost your coaching skills.

What is the role of a coach? 

Louise Bodlander: "The role of a coach is to facilitate people's growth and self awareness in a sustainable way.  For me, coaching is all about helping people be more aware of their capabilities and building their confidence to help them put the best version of themselves forward each day."

Sam McGee: "The role of a coach is to build trusting relationships where people feel comfortable being open and honest, to ask questions that promote self-reflection, and to encourage action oriented thinking.  It is about helping people to see things more clearly so they take forward steps and add more value in their roles, their team and the wider business."    

Karina Campbell: "A coach unlocks potential.  We help people to identify, explore and overcome challenges, obstacles and blind spots, and enable them to become the best versions of themselves!  It can be a real game changer.  It's so personally rewarding to help people grow and develop."

Tony Curl: "My role as a coach is to guide leaders through the day-to-day noise and haze, help them to see their potential and set actions that lead to growth and improvement."

Having all worked in corporate roles, do you think the role of a manager as a coach is different to the role of a professional coach?

Karina Campbell: "I don't believe the underlying process of coaching is any different - you are trying to facilitate a positive outcome and set people up for success. In reality though, I find participants are more willing to open up with an independent professional coach.  It's a safe, confidential environment.  As a manager, no matter how much you encourage employees to speak up, they can be concerned about "over sharing" in case it may become career limiting in future."

Sam McGee: "A professional coach has only one hat to wear with clear lines on neutrality, confidentiality and accountability. When a manager becomes a coach there is a layer of complexity in separating managing from coaching, balancing the power dynamics, being truly neutral, and having a strong awareness of when to coach and when to manage." 

Tony Curl: "For any manager, it is critical to invest time in coaching and mentoring their team, however the nature of the relationship can be constraining.  A professional coach is a trusted ally, free of agenda, bias and professional politics. They can go beyond the measures and the KPIs to coach the unseen." 

Louise Bodlander: "I think the fundamentals and process of coaching are the same for everyone. The difference is a manager also acts as a trainer, a mentor and often a subject matter expert - being a coach is just one of the roles they play."


What makes a great coach? What key skills do you need?

Sam McGee: "To be a great coach you need to be positive, encouraging and really hone your listening skills.  You need to be able to focus, be in the moment and look for ways to connect and tailor the coaching to each individual in the context of their role and industry.  It's also important that you learn when to step forward and when to step back so the person can properly explore an issue and come to a solution."

Louise Bodlander: "A great coach is someone who builds trust, credibility and a good connection with participants. To be a great coach you need to be curious about the individual, listen attentively, ask powerful questions, and be able to facilitate their journey wherever it leads. Although coaches have to ask challenging questions, I think it's important for a coach be a source of encouragement and positive reinforcement and to have fun."

Karina Campbell: "To be a great coach you need to be able to build rapport quickly so the participant feels comfortable to be open and honest with you, to adapt your coaching and communication styles to suit your participant's personality preferences, and to really listen to what is being said and connect the information in real-time.  It also helps to have some similar previous experiences so you know what the person may be going through.  As a coach to managers, it helps that I have been there myself."

Tony Curl: "A good coach is curious, asking the right questions at the right time.  They listen and stay present in the conversation. They make sense of what is being said and pick up on what is not being said.  Clear communication is paramount."


How do deal with situations where a person has a lack of self-awareness and/or is not open to change?

Karina Campbell: "I often use simple reflection scenarios to help with self awareness.  I get the person to imagine themselves in a particular situation, explore what the impacts would be, and how they would they feel in the other person's shoes." 

Louise Bodlander: "When someone has limited insight into themselves, a coach can facilitate some awareness through helping them understand their strengths, values and motivations. Combine that with feedback from key people around the client and the opportunity to gain some awareness presents itself.  Once you build some awareness, generally the person becomes more open to reflect and possibly start to shift and change."

Tony Curl: "I find it helpful to focus on progress and get the person to see some small wins.  It's important that right from the start you understand what is important for the person so if they are reluctant to take forward steps, you can frame things in terms of what is important to them.  It's the driving force for change." 

Sam McGee: "Capturing feedback from others is very helpful, ideally confidential rather than public.  People need to see the disconnect between their intentions and the perspectives of others to close the awareness gap."    


Thinking back to when you started coaching, what is the most important lesson you've learned?

Louise Bodlander: "The most important lesson I have learnt as a coach is that every client has their own journey and it is my role to facilitate that, not to drive that. To deliver a successful, personalised coaching experience, you need to understand to each person's needs, reflections and goals."

Sam McGee: "One of my biggest lessons has been listening to what is not being said and having a courageous conversation if needed.  This can be difficult but as long as you genuinely care and are interested in the person's development, you build a level of trust that allows you to have the honest and frank discussions that enable growth."

Tony Curl: "Energy and empathy. Every client deserves your best.  You need to bring a high level of energy to the coaching session.  You also need to be aware that a client is in the middle of whatever is happening in their life and business and be empathetic while coaching.  It's a balancing act.  I find if you ask some simple rapport building questions at the start of every session, it frames the conversation to be in the best interests of the client."

Karina Campbell: "Listen with the intent to fully understand. Don't even think about your next question.  Go with the flow and really, really, really listen and connect!"

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