In the corporate field, coaching skills are widely recognised as one of the most important aspects of effective leadership and people management. However, this skill set isn’t something that you either have or don’t; there is always time to develop and improve useful skills. In fact, coaching as a methodological concept has a history of almost fifty years, with varying approaches and philosophies adopted from various fields. From psychology to social sciences and even sports, corporate coaching is a varied and complex discipline. In this article, we introduce the foundations of corporate coaching, key contemporary frameworks and why emotional intelligence in the workplace is more important than ever before.
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The foundations of coaching as a methodology
You may be surprised to learn that the theory of workplace coaching shares its roots with coaching in sport. The notion of coaching as a formal methodology was invented by W. Timothy Gallwey, who developed the concept of ‘The Inner Game’. After releasing his first book The Inner Game of Tennis in the mid-1970s, Gallwey soon found himself teaching coaching skills to business leaders more often than sportspeople. Since then, he has spent five decades inspiring successful organisations including Apple, AT&T, The Coca Cola Company and Rolls Royce.
His books have led many to realise that their “inner game” is the key to overcoming the challenges they face in their careers. According to Gallwey, “there is always an inner game being played in your mind no matter what outer game you are playing. How aware you are of this game can make the difference between success and failure in the outer game.” As such, the greater obstacle is often internal, as opposed to the material conditions of the outside world.
Coaching skills since the Inner Game
Today, Gallwey’s influence has placed overcoming inner obstacles and limits to achieve goals that are still central to many coaching techniques. As such, contemporary corporate coaching draws in a variety of techniques from psychology, management, and life coaching, amongst other fields.
Perhaps one of the most famous techniques today is the GROW Model. This framework is used in numerous daily scenarios in business, including conversations, meetings, leadership and motivation to nurture staff potential and unlock possibilities. GROW is a four-step method, with each letter standing for a developmental stage:
- Goal setting, where the group identifies goals and aspirations
- Reality checking, where we assess the current situation and potential obstacles.
- Options, where the possibilities, opportunities and resources are identified.
- Will (what, who, when, where), where finally, the group defines actions and accountability.
With these powerful coaching questions, a team leader or coach can draw up an agile, effective action plan. However, the key is to set an inspiring, challenging goal. The team can then progress through the stages with nuance and flexibility. The final stage will measure the success of the strategy, as it will indicate whether or not the initial objective was converted into meaningful action. Through implementing a structure, coaching methodologies like GROW promote motivation, confidence, and greater productivity.
From tried and tested models to intuitive approaches and coaching skills
Despite the utility of models like GROW, today, emotional intelligence is playing a greater role in the workplace. As the emphasis on soft skills in leadership grows, coaching skills should incorporate intuition as much as tested methodologies. Besides, leaders with a higher emotional quotient (EQ – compare IQ) get better results in less time. EQ is the ability to identify our own feelings and those of others, manage emotions and actions, and to skillfully manage social situations – and with this set of tools, leadership can nurture teamwork and drive productivity.
Furthermore, as the workforce changes, even greater value is placed on emotional intelligence. According to leadership expert Karl Moore, millennials value the way information is delivered as much as the facts themselves. Therefore, emotional intelligence is central to coaching skills, leadership and teamwork. As such, the key contemporary coaching skills are as follows:
- Listen: be attentive, understanding, and appreciate others’ feelings.
- Question: being a good listener is the key to generative coaching, as it creates insightful questions.
- Build rapport: nurturing trust and teamwork between leadership and team members is essential to high-functioning organisation.
- Empathise: seeing from another’s point of view is the keystone of EQ. By being non-judgmental and open-minded, leadership can more effectively work through challenges raised by team members.
- Unlock limiting beliefs: limiting beliefs are commonly held presumptions that stop us from reaching our full potential. Helping team members overcome these is key to effective coaching.
- Stay focused: don’t allow the team to digress from their goal, as both the individual and the team will enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done.
- Summarise and reflect: after goals are met, distill reflect on the process – this will ensure what’s learned has a lasting, meaningful effect.
- Give constructive feedback: if there were any bumps in the road, identify them and discuss how they could have been overcome. Not only does this support long term efficacy, it also boosts morale.
A closing thought is that coaches don’t give advice – they create frameworks for success. The qualities listed above are common coaching skills, but when applied effectively, leadership can encourage team members to overcome presumptions, harness initiative and have greater commitment to the organisation.
How harnessing EQ is the key to better performance
Emotional intelligence is quickly taking centre stage when it comes to modern coaching skills. Coaching techniques such as those described above are some of the most powerful techniques for accelerating learning and maximizing company performance – and as such, it’s essential leadership invests in coaching. When complemented by methods such as generative listening, empathy and tools to overcome limiting beliefs, companies can unlock the full potential of their team.