Corporate coaching is a powerful tool that can help individuals and teams achieve their goals, improve their performance and enhance their wellbeing.
However, being a great coach needs a certain set of skills and a deep understanding of the process.
We spoke with three experts in the field to gather their top tips for helping new coaches develop their craft, or anyone wanting to hone their skills.
Listen and focus on the coachee’s goals
Although corporate coaching was popularised decades ago, its fundamental goal is still largely misunderstood, according to Carpe Consulting Owner John Pollaers FAIM.
For people wanting to refine their skills, he said coaching was all about supporting an individual or a team to improve performance in an area they deemed important.
“In the early stages of the coaching engagement, it is critical to listen without judgment and understand the coachee’s goals,” he said.
“Always remember, it is their goal, not yours.”
Ask, don’t tell
Mr Pollaers said corporate coaches should not behave like their sports equivalents.
“While sports coaches are often seen telling, instructing, stating or demanding something from their players, these behaviours are about as far away from what we are referring to when coaching someone,” he said.
“Coaching can be extremely rewarding when, as a result of some skilful questioning, you witness an individual change a behaviour and achieve a substantial performance improvement leading to a new role at work, more constructive relationships or reduced anxiety and stress.”
Organisational Psychologist Katy Tindall FAIM agreed, highlighting the importance of asking the right questions in coaching.
Dr Tindall believed coaches were not responsible for providing solutions, rather they were responsible for guiding coachees towards finding their own answers.
“Coaches should ask questions that provoke insight and awareness, and allow the coachees to identify pathways to achieve their desired outcomes.”
“It’s also important to provide a reflective space for coachees to explore issues and options, and formulate action plans in a confidential, supportive environment,” she said.
Focus on performance and wellbeing
Dr Tindall said coaching should not just focus on achieving goals but also on nurturing mental health and wellbeing.
“When I first started coaching in 2003, it was very much about helping the coachee achieve their key performance indicators, and the word ‘wellbeing’ wasn’t even on the radar,” she said.
“Since then, especially after COVID-19, there has been a significant shift in this approach, with evidence suggesting that a sole focus on performance can often actively undermine wellbeing.
“Coaching can be very powerful in building resilience and mental toughness, which can help leaders avoid stress and burnout, and better prepare them to face challenges at work.”
Capitalise on strengths
Dr Tindall suggested coaches help their coachees identify and capitalise on their existing strengths.
Although it was imperative to address limitations or obstacles to success, it was equally crucial to leverage what worked well.
“In the words of Peter Drucker, who is considered the father of modern management, ‘You cannot build performance on weaknesses. You can build only on strengths’,” Dr Tindall said.
Support the coachee’s motivation
In situations where the coachee doesn’t want to be coached, Mr Pollaers said support could still be offered.
“The coach’s role is to support someone in an area that is important to them, so if they don’t want to improve their performance, the follow-up question might be ‘So, what would be a good use of your time right now?’,” he said.
Putting the spotlight on C-suite coaching
Focusing on C-suite leadership and board-level coaching, The University of Western Australia Master of Business Administration Teaching Fellow Dee Roche said coaches must have great awareness of the ever-changing and uncertain business environment.
“C-suite leaders face the challenges of driving innovation and adapting to changing environments at a relentless speed while, at the same time, needing to develop resilience and endurance for the long term,” she said.
“In coaching sessions, self-awareness, coping with change, empathy and listening skills are commonly discussed to help leaders navigate and support their teams through constant change while staying focused on their strategic vision and values.
“Coaching is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but it should aim to unleash untapped potential and energy, and reaffirm their commitment to purpose and capacity for learning.”
Ms Roche’s coaching often focused on:
1. Building resilience – leaders must be able to handle uncertainty, complexity and volatility, with coaching offering a platform to build resilience and reduce stress related to high-level responsibilities. Enhancing a leader’s own, and their team’s, resilience to the ever-changing environment is often front of mind, especially over the past three years.
2. Being future-focused and ready – it is crucial to help coachees develop a future-focused mindset, enabling them to leverage team dynamics and build groups that thrive now and deliver a sustainable, resilient future.
3. Having a digital mindset and dexterity – building a digital mindset and digital dexterity into the workforce is another critical coaching conversation in driving individual and organisational performance. Today’s hybrid workplace has resulted in many conversations around investments in new team solutions, collaboration and upskilling in the use of technology for better outcomes.
Messages for other coaches during International Coaching Week
Mr Pollaers: “Because there is still a fair amount of misunderstanding about what coaching is really about, qualified coaches have an opportunity to advocate for this important skill and the best way they can do this is by providing best practice coaching day in and day out.”
Dr Tindall: “For coaches wanting to expand their toolkits, I highly recommend Professor David Cooperrider’s strengths-based framework for asking the right questions for lasting change, as outlined in his book Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change.”
Ms Roche: “Make coaching a part of everyday life and work to help others achieve their goals faster and with deeper impact. Coaching is an integral part of building healthy learning organisations.”