The benefits of coaching are well documented. But what makes a person a good coach? Here are some answers.

How Does Coaching Help Employees?

Typically, coaching is the process in which employees receive the feedback, tools, and opportunities needed to grow professionally and to improve their overall productivity at work. Coaching does not replace feedback from a manager, and it should be positioned as an investment in an employee who is valued by the organization.

The goals and benefits of coaching may vary. Sometimes, the goal is to help an employee develop specific skills, such as listening or constructive conflict resolution. Other times, coaching goals may be more general, such as increasing employee accountability, building personal resilience, or helping a new manager gain the presence and confidence that contributes to advancement in the organization.

No matter what the goals and benefits of coaching are, everyone involved should agree upon what they are and how success will be measured.

Why Is It Important To Choose A Coach Carefully?

A coaching session can include discussions that are emotionally risky for the employee, such as challenging work relationships or personal insecurities. An effective coach provides the employee with a safe environment in which to talk through these sensitive topics. As a third-party participant, the coach can remain neutral and help the employee to gain perspective, without the potential apprehension of sharing these issues with someone within the same department or organization.

A coach will often need to balance the expectations of the employee, his or her manager, and the organizational culture. These situations demand that coaches be astute observers and open-minded problem-solvers who can help to resolve conflicting needs.

What Makes A Good Coach?

Not everyone is wired to be a good coach. Someone may be an excellent performer or manager, but not an effective coach. The ability to coach reflects not only the coach’s skills, but also their personal attributes. The most important traits of great coaches are the following:

  • High self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Coaches must know themselves, understand how they manage themselves and their relationships with others, and then model that behavior.
  • High regard and caring for others. Coaches must respect and care about the well-being of the person they’re coaching. If absent, it will negatively impact the candor between the employee and coach.
  • Trustworthiness. For employees to candidly evaluate themselves and their actions, there needs to be a psychologically safe environment. Effective coaches strive to create a high level of trust with the employees they coach.
  • Exceptional listening skills. Coaches must understand not only what people are saying, but also the underlying meaning and unspoken communications. This requires both being a “good listener” and helping employees to crystallize their thinking about challenging or ambiguous situations. 
  • Intuition, perception, and curiosity. Intuition, an integral part of listening, is the ability to sense when something important is not being articulated and to draw that out. Perception is the ability to acknowledge how another person affects us and to share that awareness in a non-judgmental way. Genuine curiosity drives the ability to understand how someone else thinks, how they see themselves, and the kind of environment they want to create for themselves.
  • Questioning skills. Good coaches don’t give advice; they facilitate decision-making by asking questions and helping individuals identify their own answers. This requires using a broad repertoire of thought-provoking questions.
  • Excellent/Clear communications. Coaches must have the ability to make complex ideas relatively simple and to put those ideas in a context that is useful and practical for the other person in a non-threatening way.
  • An open mind and humility. An effective coach recognizes that other people’s perceptions are valid and that there are multiple ways to get things done.

Good coaches are focused on outcomes and hold people accountable for changing their behavior. They treat the people they’re coaching as capable, responsible adults.

And, most importantly, they’re optimistic. A good coach must believe that people can grow, learn, change—and achieve their goals.

Some organizations designate internal personnel as coaches. Others hire outside experts. For help in deciding which approach is best for your organization, or to bring in an external, expert coach, please contact the Lindenberger group at 609-730-1049 or send us an email.