The Top 5 Skills to Become a Great Coach

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By Caroline Roma

Recently we teamed up with Craig Forman, coaching expert with 10+ years of experience, to present on coaching best practices [click for the recording]. The reason being that, coaching is crucial to student success, but rarely do organizations have a coaching program in place or have mastered it.

A Stanford study writes:

“And not only does coaching improve the likelihood students will remain in college, but expenditures on coaching are much smaller than the costs of other methods to encourage persistence in college.”1

In the same study, researchers found that retention, performance, and graduation all increased by more than 10% for those students that received coaching.

Since we know that coaching is so important, the question still remains, ‘well then how do I effectively coach students?’

Luckily for us, Craig Forman pared down his 5 most important skills to practice and learn in order to be an effective coach. Here’s his list:

1. Know Thyself

Simply put, anyone who is coaching others should also be aware of themselves. A great coach should also understand their personality, strengths and weaknesses.

The reason being that once you become aware of yourself as a person, you can confidently move forward working with others. Knowing thyself helps with the ability to understand your blind spots with regards to helping others, helps build trust with your students, reduces self-doubt, allows you to understand alternative points of view and also allows for you to incorporate your own style in coaching.

Want more tips and tools? Contact us.

A lot of folks may say ‘I’ve got this one down’ but there are ways to get to know yourself even better, and who knows, you may learn something new in the process. Some ways to get to know yourself better are to take personality tests or professional development. In order to dive a bit deeper, it may even be beneficial to receive coaching yourself, complete with feedback and reflection.

2. Put Your Own Needs Aside

As a disclaimer, putting your own needs aside is second only to putting your own needs first. The key to putting your own needs aside is to make sure that your needs are met first.

This skill is clearly something that needs to be practiced because there is no finish line. Good coaching should always be free of agenda because as someone else’s coach, you should never expect anything else in return for the relationship. We recognize this is hard to do, which is why doing your own work and getting support are extremely crucial to this skill.

3. Give and Receive Feedback

Feedback is really fed by creating a culture of feedback within the institution. It’s important to create this culture of feedback first because then giving and receiving feedback will be second nature to people in your organization.

Warning: giving and receiving feedback takes a lot of guts, so leave your ego out of it and get started right away. By prolonging giving and receiving feedback, you hurt yourself and your organization.

First, plan to get critiqued. Schedule regular one-on-ones with your coaching manager or group sessions with other coaches. By writing down what you’re doing as a coach or even (if possible with privacy) recording coaching sessions, you’ll be prepared to show what you’re working on. By already putting time in the calendar to review your coaching, it forces you to actually give and receive feedback.

Building relationships and ensuring you have mentors and supports in place is crucial to your success with this skill.

4. Active Listening

Active listening is defined as the “requirement that the listener feeds back what the speaker said and is able to reflect that hearing back to ensure they have heard and understood”. To simply hear is one thing, hear and understand another, but to hear, understand, and signal your understanding is the highest level of active listening.

Here’s the deal, this does not mean acting as a parrot for your students. Instead, it means to hear and digest but to express your ideas on the matter while recognizing the matter. Again, this takes practice and hard work to get good at, but by converting your internal chatter to external chatter and limiting your interpretation of what the student is saying, you can more effectively listen.

5. Build a Framework

Lastly, the key to successful coaching has to start somewhere and that somewhere should be a framework and model for success. Your students will only be successful if you can clearly define what that success looks like and can truly articulate your organization’s goals. Then, you will be able to start building your framework.

But first, you’ll need to answer these questions:

  • What is the purpose of the program?
  • Who is it for and how will it be used?
  • What is the scope of the framework and what are the boundaries?
  • Who will own it and ensure it’s sustainability?

Once you’ve answered these questions, then you can get to action. You’ll need to build a coaching team and create ways to assess the quality of coaching. You’ll have to develop a process for coaching interactions and put in place mechanisms for coaching. By setting up clear guidelines and expectations, you’ll make it easier for you and your coaches to develop the first 4 skills.

So, there you have it. Your top 5 skills to crush coaching this year. You’ll notice that mastering one could help in mastering others, so get started, and master one skill at a time.

Craig Forman’s career has been focused on human potential and more specifically, on how to support others in unlocking theirs. Currently, Craig works for Achievers, a company whose mission is to change the way the world works, where he consults with HR professionals to increase employee engagement through peer-to-peer recognition and rewards programs. Prior to this, he spent over 10 years in Higher Education, 5 of these years exclusively on the development and delivery of coaching programs focused on student success; other roles included leadership in both Student Services and Admissions departments. Additionally he earned a Masters Degree in Organizational Psychology from Golden Gate University in San Francisco and is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force where he spend four years working in the Intelligence field as a Linguist. Craig lives just north of San Francisco in Corte Madera with his wife and 2 daughters (4 and 7); when not working or parenting he can found enjoying nature or catching live music.

 

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