coaching skills, predicted trend for the future

The Sherpa Executive Coaching Survey for 2011 was released recently.  This is a report that is based on the findings of an annual survey carried out with executive coaches and organizations around the world.  The findings reflect the current state of executive coaching in organizations and predict trends for the future.
This year the trends include more executive coaching for teams to enhance performance and the developing of coaching skills for managers as part of their leadership development.  “Coaching skills teaches managers how to improve relationships in and around their business to increase profits, morale and teamwork”.  Pg. 15, Sherpa Executive Coaching Survey, 20011.
So what is meant by ‘coaching skills’?  They do not provide a definition within this context of the report.  We have an interpretation of what is meant by ‘coaching skills’ based on the past 6 years of experience working with an organization that includes the development of coaching skills in their leadership development program.  What we have learned is that the coaching skills are those fundamental skills that help us shift to being open and curious in conversations.  This includes really listening to the conversation (without including the voice in our head that is telling us what the person should do), asking open and curious questions (yes, those questions that begin with how, what, when, and who that cannot be answered with yes or no), testing our assumptions and beliefs, and not judging the person speaking.  We shift from telling the person what to do, to being curious to learn more about the thoughts and ideas of others.  We seek to really see, hear and understand the perspectives of others.  We message we believe they can come up with their own innovative ideas; can solve their issues in a way that works best for them.  As we ask them open questions, they begin to reflect on what they think and through reflection they learn in a way that holds meaning for them.
Based on feedback and observation, leaders become aware of how they shift from creating a context in the conversation that is about them or at least judging the other to one that is open to being curious about the other person.
When we look at the importance of developing relationships for managers in their role as leaders we can see that such an approach holds great value.  The leader who really is curious about those around them, who is open to listening to the ideas of others and supportive of them in finding their own solutions is the leader who builds relationships.  This is the leader who encourages others to create their own solutions to their problems by asking open questions that support reflection and then learning.  Through this learning each employee is able to learn, develop new skills and also become accountable for how they do what they do.  These conversations can create a ‘coaching culture’ within an organization, a culture that supports curiosity and learning, encourages employees to be innovative and accountable for what they do.
When you reflect on the conversations you have as a manager, how curious are you about the ideas and thoughts of those around you?  How do you support them in finding their own solutions, those that hold meaning for them and for which they will choose to be accountable?
We want to hear from you – let us know what’s working, what’s not and how we can best support you.
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What would happen if others were your focus in conversation?

In the Globe and Mail on Friday January 28, 2011 Harvey Schachter wrote a review on a book entitled “Coaching Up and Down the Generation” by Lisa Haneberg, ASTD Press, 106 pages.  The lead of the article reads “Coaches should make people their focus” and this caused me to reflect on coaches as well as parents, leaders and everyone else.
What would the world be like if everyone held their focus on others, at least part of the time?  How would this impact the way we listen to others and the way we communicate with them?
Many of the learning triads of leaders (most of whom are also parents) I work with comment at around hour four of our meetings that they realize every conversation does not have to be about them.  They begin to recognize the value of shifting their focus, when communicating, to the person with whom they are conversing.  This way they say they intuitively recognize the other person feels seen heard and understood. This is a huge ‘aha’ moment for them and one that begins the shift in their communication style.  They realize relationships are grounded in communication and to effectively communicate with others to build relationships, at times (more and more as one become adept at this) the focus needs to be on the other person(s) in the conversation.
The fundamental communication skills used in coaching provide an effective way to shift the focus to the other person.  By listening in a way that is open and curious, asking open questions, testing assumptions and not judging we are able to focus on the other.  We get out of our own head, no longer listen to our internal conversation that is telling us we know the perfect solution to the problems of the person we are conversing with and shift to a place where we can be open and focused on them, really hearing what they say and seeking to understand them so they feel someone has really listened to them.
When we see ourselves as leaders how do we want to show up with those who report to us, our colleagues and those we report to?  How come it is so important that we try to dominate the conversation so we can share our ideas, our solutions to the problems before anyone else? How can we better focus on others so we can all share in developing the most effective solution to any problem, the most value innovation for our organization?
When we see ourselves as parents, how do we ensure our focus is on our kids?  What does this mean to us, to our children?  If we are telling them what to do, what we want from them all the time, what does this message to them?  How does this support their development into resilient, independent people who have the confidence to make wise decisions for themselves?
As you move about you world over the next few days, we invite you to reflect on your conversations; who did you focus on during that conversation?  How could you have shifted the focus so it moved to the other person?  How did that change the conversation? How much did you message your intent was to see, hear and understand them?
We want to hear from you.  What worked? What didn’t? How we can best support you?