Essential Coaching Tools
Essa Jan Allawala
First things first, coaching works towards building capability, discovering hidden talent and helping the coachee to bring out their best by making them believe in a capability they never thought they had or lacked the confidence to acknowledge.
After getting that out of the way, lets now learn how to coach. Although it’s highly advisable to take lessons to become a coach however it doesn’t require one to become certified in order to coach. One just needs to learn it from a good self-help book on coaching or attend a training session on coaching. But don’t mistake me, coaching is not to be taken lightly.
Anyone can become a coach however the good ones have a firm grasp on the essential tools of coaching. One of the fundamental tools is listening and I want to spend some time discussing that. Most of us are not trained to listen properly as there is too much chatter around us. The constant habit of looking at our smartphones after every ping, browsing social media mindlessly and being always available causes us to lose our focus.
A lot has been written on listening skills so I will not say more on how to learn it as some authors have done a fantastic job in explaining them. Our emphasis over here is listening is without judgement. One should listen not only for what’s being said but what’s not being said. Speakers don’t always say what they are thinking however a keen listener and observer can learn a lot from gestures and body language. For example, if someone denies their actions or words yet continuously look elsewhere while avoiding eye contact, it shows he/she might be concealing something. You might be thinking that this is some kind of telepathic or detective work. Well, listening is detective work and once you get good at it, it is very enjoyable and insightful.
Another very important tool of coaching is questioning. Bear in mind that when you are coaching someone you don’t need to be a subject matter expert, the coachee is and you can learn a lot by just asking questions. Many new coaches focus too much on crafting the right questions. Indeed asking the right questions is necessary to get to the depth of the matter, however like any other skill it gets better with practice.
Start by asking what the coachee wants to achieve from the session. Over many years of experience I have learnt that most of the time, the coachee does not know initially what they actually want. They start with a particular agenda however eventually it leads to a deeper issue which they want to bring to the table.
One of the easiest ways I discovered on how to get to the actual reason is to talk is like unpeeling an onion. So you might ask how does this work? Well, when you ask a question; be it open-ended or close-ended, the coachee will give you an answer however like I said earlier it may not be the actual issue he/she is here for. In order to get to the crux one needs to re-check by asking “Is that what it is or you think there is something else?”. This is one of the probing questions and it helps to slowly unpack what’s lying at the core.
Once you are confident that the direction is clearly set, you move on to addressing the hurdles of the coachee. You check for pre-conceived notions by asking questions to help remove the walls the coachee may have constructed. They might believe that wall is very strong and impenetrable. You must have seen that picture circulating on social media where an adult elephant is tied to a chain which can be broken with just a nudge however the elephant never tries to break it. It is so because the chain was tied when he was a baby and he couldn’t break away from it as the chain was very strong. Ultimately, he came to believe that it cannot ever be broken so he altogether gave up trying. Over time he grew to be much stronger however the psychological effect remained. This is where the concept of learned helplessness comes in.
The above analogy helps us understand that the coachee may also be like that adult elephant. He may still believe he is unable to do things however he now possesses the strength and capability to do so. This is where the job of the coach is to help identify and make the coachee believe in a capability which others can see and they don’t
I can go on and on however due to limited space I will move towards closure. Nonetheless, as a coach, always remember when the coachee agrees on a goal there should always be a measurable time limit to it. Attaching a timeline creates a sense of purpose as a goal without a plan is just a dream.
Lastly, coaching a beautiful tool and should be used as a life skill on a daily basis not just in a planned session. My best wishes to all the wonderful coaches who are doing a great job building capability and driving success.
Essa Jan Allawala is a certified Core Essential Graduate from International Coach Federation. He is currently rendering his services as Director Human Resources at Zameen.com