8 Ways to Sharpen Your Coaching Skills

Monday, 2nd April, 2018

Whether you coach as part of your role in an organisation, or are an independent coach, how do you ensure that your coaching abilities are as good as they can be?

Do you have people or systems (or both) that help you review your ongoing development?

As a guide and starting point, I’ve listed below 8 ways to keep your coaching skills sharp – covering external CPD, internal reflection and coachee feedback.

Which do you already do, and what would you add to this list?

1. Practise the skills of coaching outside formal coaching sessions

This is particularly relevant if you don’t get to coach very often. You can still keep your coaching skills sharp by, for example:

  • Engaging in active or deep listening during important meetings
  • Using open questions to help a colleague find a solution for an issue they have
  • Practising your rapport-building skills with new colleagues or people you get on less well with

2. Attend coaching supervision

With a growing appreciation for the power and benefit supervision has on our coaching practice (and hence our coachees!) supervision is becoming more popular and more in demand.

Supervision can be 1-1 or group supervision. It can be over the phone or in person.

It often involves a teaching or mentoring element on the part of the coach supervisor, always involves reflection on the part of the coach being supervised, and has a holistic focus on a coach’s development. I’ve always learned something new about myself, the coaching profession and how I run my coaching business when I’ve attended coaching supervision. It’s definitely a must for my ongoing development as a coach.

3. Carry out coaching self-reviews regularly

This involves taking an open and honest look at your own practice, and can include reviews of:

  • sessions as a whole
  • use of skills (listening, questioning, rapport building, challenge, feeding back what you’re noticing, ability to be present, etc)
  • impact of your coaching on the coachee (What are their outcomes? How useful are the sessions to them?) – See #4 below to help gain evidence about your practice to use in your self-reviews

4. Ask your coachees for feedback

How often do you do this? What format does it take? How do you use it?!

I have found questions, such as those below, useful to gain a coachee’s feedback:

  • What’s been the most/least useful part of today’s session?
  • Which questions have provided you with the best challenge today?
  • If we had an opportunity to do this session again, what would you change/how would it look/what would need to be different?
  • What other feedback would you like to provide about today’s session?

Some of the responses you receive may be only relevant to how that session went. But look out for those which provide more generic feedback that you can learn from. Perhaps this coachee is providing similar feedback to other coachees, and there’s an emerging pattern.

5. Keep a journal – record your reflectionsOpen Notebook or Journal

I’ve been using journals more and more recently. I have different journals for different reflections: one for reflecting on my training, one for coaching, one for supervision, a gratitude journal, and one to record things I learn from reading coaching and other books.

One of the advantages of journalling is that you need to organise your thoughts in order to put pen to paper. This helps you identify the most important and relevant parts about what you want to say, as well as the most relevant next steps … the ‘So what?’ bit.

They can also be useful to do a ‘dump’ of unhelpful emotions/feelings/thoughts, things that are tying you up in knots.

6. Join a coaching CPD / support group

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It can be a lonely job if you’re the only one in your organisation delivering coaching, or you’re running your own coaching business.

It’s a good idea to find (or create!) a coaching support group in your area to keep your motivation levels up, keep your skills sharp, and learn from other like-minded people.

Try a Google search for your nearest one, or if you’re in the Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire or Yorkshire areas, you’d be very welcome to come along and visit us at The 3 Shires Coaching Group. (Click here to find out more.) We’ve found that our best support and development comes from:

  • using external speakers
  • providing members with time to practise their coaching skills in a safe and supportive environment
  • giving members opportunities to network, share ideas and collaborate

You can join our Facebook Group here, and follow us on Twitter here. A search on social media may also provide you with options for what support is out there.

7. Attend CPD days (further training / conferences / webinars etc.)

This is different to #6, in that these are stand alone events.

  • What’s the best CPD day/webinar/conference you’ve attended and why?
  • How did it develop your thinking and/or practice as a coach?

8. Gather testimonials

This may sound self-serving, but it’s useful feedback on what’s working. You can then use this as part of your overall feedback picture. Often we focus on what we ‘need to do better’, and forget what we do well. By gathering testimonials, you will be making productive in-roads towards gaining positive external feedback.

Testimonials Tip …

Despite coachees painting glowing pictures of how coaching has helped them (particularly at the end of a session), and their willingness to write a testimonial for you, it may not materialise. They may have the best intentions to do this for you, but once the session’s finished and they go about their daily routine, the latter takes over and/or they may forget. Make it easy for them by giving them a starting point. For example, at the end of your programme of sessions with them, ask the following questions:

a) What’s been the most useful part of our work together?

b) What have been the key outcomes from receiving coaching?

c) What’s been your biggest learning point?

d) What have you enjoyed most about our coaching work together?

The answers to these questions can be recorded by you, and you can then use them to formulate a ‘draft testimonial’ that you can send them for editing, with their permission. This is much easier for them than starting with a blank piece of paper!

So what do you do to keep your coaching skills sharp? And which ideas from the above list will you use?