Google has done a study years ago where they’ve found that coaching was ranked the #1 skill for leaders to have. Fortune also published an article recently where Time Etc, a virtual assistance company, replaced all of their managers with coaches. They found the employee performance to have improved by 20%!

So it is no secret that coaching skills are crucial for leaders to have.

But “coaching” can be a vague term and hard to grasp. Coaches also have a wide range of skillsets so where do we really start?

In this post, I am sharing my perspective on coaching, why it’s important and the one coaching skill that changed the way I communicate with others. Keep reading if you’d like to learn how to confidently step into your role as a leader AND coach!

Why Coaching is the Most Important Leadership Skill

Coming from a Talent Development background where I’ve created and facilitated tons of leadership/management training, I am a huge proponent for foundational leadership skills. Some examples of what I refer to as “foundational” are “Providing Constructive Feedback,” “Delegating Effectively,” and “Developing Your Team.” These skills are important especially for new managers!

However, mastering these skills alone doesn’t guarantee the most important thing to team-building: trust.

Trust is built when you learn to use these skills to empower your employees and make them feel valued/heard!

So this is where coaching skills come in. A lot of the most powerful coaching conversations I’ve had are the ones where clients figure out how to leverage these skillsets to build team engagement and trust!

To sum up why I think coaching is a powerful skill for leaders, a coach —

  • Empowers their team to find their own solutions, instead of leading with advice-giving.
  • Has a genuine curiosity on their team’s way of thinking.
  • Raises awareness on the team’s “blind spots.”
  • Challenges the team on their deeply-held limiting beliefs, assumptions and inner critics that prevent them from taking action towards success.

The One Coaching Skill to Focus On

If I have to pick one skill that I think leaders can start practicing on in order to be a better coach for their teams, it is the ability to ask open-ended, empowering questions curiously.

If you pay close attention to the way we converse with one another, we often default to asking close-ended, yes or no, questions. And that is if we have any curiosity at all about the other person!

Open-ended questions are questions that start with “How,” “What,” “When,” “Where,” “Who,” “If,” “Tell me about…,” and “Why.” These questions encourage others to share more of their thoughts. It will help your team come to powerful insights on their own. As a result, they feel empowered and that their thoughts are valued.

Some examples of open-ended, empowering questions are:

  • What’s working well?
  • How can you find out more about that?
  • What are you learning about yourself?
  • Where do you believe that thought comes from?
  • What’s another way to look at it?
  • I’m curious to hear, why is that important to you?
  • Tell me about about <insert context>.

Most of us are not used to speaking this way so it definitely takes practice. It might also feel awkward at first and takes some time to get used to!

The key to asking these questions in an organic way is to ask them curiously (versus judgmentally). So if you catch yourself having judgment against others, take a pause to reflect on where it comes from and remove this judgment the best you can.

Here are two other posts I’ve written on coaching mindset and competencies.

The Most Powerful Coaching Conversations

A lot of the most powerful coaching conversations I’ve had are the ones where I use empowering questions to help clients figure out how to take action towards building team engagement and trust.

If you’re ready to start working on your coaching skills as a leader, commit to asking more open-ended questions in your next conversation! I’d love to hear how it goes.