Wake-up Call: Seven characteristics of an effective coach

Truly effective listeners rely on the perceptions of others

The most critical test for measuring your effectiveness as a coach lies not in your belief about your own skills but rather in how the recipients of your coaching rate your skills

The most critical test for measuring your effectiveness as a coach lies not in your belief about your own skills but rather in how the recipients of your coaching rate your skills

 

How many leaders believe they are better coaches than they really are? After all, the most critical test for measuring your effectiveness as a coach lies not in your belief about your own skills but rather in how the recipients of your coaching rate your skills.

We examined data on 3,761 leaders who both assessed their own coaching skills and had others give them assessments. We analysed those who overrated their coaching skills and compared the results with those who’d underrated.

What we found: 24 per cent of the leaders in our sample had overrated their skills. Just as many adults believe they are better at driving or possess superior common sense than they really do; this group believed they were above-average coaches.

In fact, those who underrated their skills were above average in their overall coaching effectiveness. Those who had overrated themselves, however, were significantly below average.

In other words, if you think you’re a good coach but you actually aren’t, these results suggest you may be considerably worse than you imagined.

Our data identified seven characteristics of those who overestimated their abilities most frequently:

1 Poor listening

Truly effective listeners rely on the perceptions of others. They listen without judgment, have a strong desire to understand and are willing to take the time to hear about the needs and concerns of others.

2 Not a role model

Effective coaches are trusted and viewed as role models. The best coaches create an open, trusting environment by initiating positive interactions with others, giving credit to others and looking for opportunities to recognise and praise others.

3 Not collaborative

Effective coaches look for opportunities to co-operate and collaborate with others. Ineffective coaches, conversely, are competitive.

4 Doesn’t develop others

Great coaches help others develop new skills and prepare them for future opportunities. Being willing to make the ongoing effort to coach someone is part of the desire and skill it takes to be a good coach.

5 Fails to provide feedback

The best coaches are willing to give clear, honest and pointed feedback about what people need to do to improve performance.

6 Lacks integrity

Great coaches do the right thing. They honour commitments and keep promises. They do what is right, regardless of personal consequences.

7 Doesn’t encourage diversity

Great coaches respect others and value differences regardless of age, gender or race. They do this not because of laws or rules in the organisation but because they truly value and appreciate the advantages that diversity brings.

Coaching skills are a great asset to any leader. If you have attended some training, that’s a good start. But don’t stop there.

Assess your specific coaching skills – and have your team assess them too.

If your skills are good, you will find ways to make them even better.

And if you need to improve, the way to start is to identify those blind spots. – Copyright Harvard Business Review 2016

Jack Zenger is the chief executive of Zenger/Folkman, a leadership development consultancy. Joseph Folkman is the company’s president.

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