I know I talk a lot about mindset (which is the root of a lot of our challenges) but when it comes to our developmental goals, we know that we need to take action to reach them. (If you missed part one of this post, you can check it out here: “Mindset and Characteristics of a Coach.”)

To cultivate a coaching culture is no different. What are the skills and competencies that we need to develop as leaders?

It takes time to cultivate a coaching culture within teams. In fact, it takes education, as well as consistent practice in exhibiting desirable coaching behaviors. Developing the coaching skills and competencies of our leaders is where the journey begins.

Skills and Competencies of a Coach

If you google “Skills and Competencies of a Coach,” you’ll likely find resources similar to the International Coaching Federation (ICF) Core Competencies, which outline the core competencies that ICF-certified professional coaches.

Additionally, in the professional coaching world, it is extremely crucial that we adhere to the ICF Code of Ethics, as well as these core competencies.

To be a successful coach for our teams, the skills and competencies we need to develop is not much different from what’s outlined by the ICF.

To make this more concrete and actionable for leaders in the corporate space, here is a breakdown of some of the specific skills that I think are crucial for leaders and how they are reflected in the ICF core competencies.

1. Lead with empathy

(ICF Core Competency: Co-Creating the Relationship)

Empathetic leadership is a familiar concept to many — it is extremely important in the way we build trust with one another. Sometimes people think of empathy as more of a personality trait. However, it is really a skill that can be learned and practiced.

First, to lead with empathy, we must practice building more awareness for our own judgment against others. Once we have that awareness, we can subsequently start to remove that judgment and put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.

Furthermore, we can then focus on asking the right questions to truly get to know others.

(For a deeper dive on this topic, here are some old posts I’ve written on “Having Energy Awareness,” as well as “Having Empathy as a Leader“!)

2. Great listening skills

(ICF Core Competency: Communicating Effectively)

This one is related to empathy. Learning to develop this skill made all the difference for me as a coach!

For many years, I used to think that I wasn’t a great listener — but once I connected with what truly listening means, I realized that I am better at it than I thought.

I think one of the basic requirements of being a great listener is to be genuinely curious in hearing what the other person is saying. In fact, asking curious questions is crucial to truly hear and understand others.

Once you have that, the next step is to learn WHAT to listen for and How to ask those curious questions to facilitate insight and learning, which leads me to points 3 and 4 below.

3. Acknowledging and validating skills

(ICF Core Competency: Co-Creating the Relationship)

This simply means to know what to say to let someone else feel heard. It can be as simple as letting the other person know how they feel is normal.

Acknowledging someone means simply hearing what they are saying and repeating it back to them (e.g. “What you’re telling me is that…”).

Alternatively, validating someone means to let someone know that you can see things from their perspective (e.g. “You have the right to feel X because…”).

As humans, we have a social need to connect with others.  Feeling heard is crucial to helping us shift our energy levels, which leads me to my next point.

4. Ask empowering open-ended questions

(ICF Core Competency: Communicating Effectively and Cultivating Learning and Growth)

Questions that facilitate growth and learning are often open-ended. However, when you start to pay more attention to the questions you ask others, you’ll realize that we often default to asking close-ended, yes or no questions.

Undoubtedly, open-ended questions are much more empowering and allows the other person to process their own thoughts to come to a solution on their own. This is really how adults learn best!

Asking open-ended questions is definitely a skill that requires practice because it isn’t what we are used to. In fact, it is one of the most important skills within a coaching relationship.

In your next conversation with someone, practice asking more open-ended questions that start with “how,” “what,” “where,” “who,” “if,” “tell me about,” and “why” and see what you uncover!

Examples of open-ended questions in a development conversation:

  • How does this goal reflect what’s important to you as a person?
  • What do you think you need to address in order to achieve this goal?
  • How ready are you to take your first step towards this goal?

Cultivating a Coaching Culture Takes Time

As with any new skill, coaching skills take time to develop. Cultivating coaching skills and competencies can help you facilitate growth and empower your team to problem-solve.

What are some coaching skills that you would commit yourself to trying with you team starting today?

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Cultivate a Coaching Culture: Skills and Competencies of a Coach