The Top 5 Skills to Become a Great Coach

tips & tricks.jpg

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.


The Only Tools You Need to Manage Learning Paths… and They’re Free!

Looking for tech to manage coaching and learning paths? Look no further than your own desktop.

It seems that every educational organization we run into is working to build custom learning lifecycles for all their students.  It’s crazy to me that just five years ago it was radical to suggest that every student should have a personalized learning pathway, that they should be guided by a coach and a team of mentors, and that every student should develop a clear personal vision or “purpose” for their learning experience. What was radical, is now mainstream…in concept if not in practice.

Now, everyone has read the Lean Start Up and wants to build an MVP. We were no different, our first student management system was a hacked together bunch of spreadsheets, YouTube videos, gmail and a cell phone.  That hack broke pretty quickly though when we started to work with more than 50 or so students.

Now, we have a beautiful (hey, I’m a founder and I think my baby is gorgeous), elegant, and comprehensive Learning Relationship Management (LRM) System that allows any organization to blend coaching, mentoring, content, goal setting and community engagement into personalized learning lifecycles for thousands of students at a time.  

But if you’re just starting up, and don’t have to deal with thousands of students at a time.  Maybe you’ve just got a dozen or two. If that’s your case, we recommend that you do what we did and hack it.

Download the complete tool guide here.

Here are 7 simple steps to managing coaching and learning paths without spending a dime.

  1. Write down your desired lifecycle.  Download an example here. Only you can decide what is required and what is optional.  But once you’ve decided, stick to the plan. Outline coaching actions throughout student lifecycle. It’s also helpful to establish contact frequency expectations for both check ins and coaching sessions.  
  2. Recruit students. Sorry, that one is up to you.
  3. Assemble content.  We recommend brainstorming 15 content pieces that you’ll need to get started.  No need to be too fancy to get moving.  Some youtube videos, wikipedia pages, Khan Academy exercises, Lynda courses are fine.  Use this Content Template as a guide for students. There is so much great content out there that we strongly recommend curation first, creation second.
  4. Coach your students. Rapport is THE most important thing.  Assign a coach to every student and make sure those coaches seek to understand first, and to be understood second. Ask the students what matters most to them.  What are the students there for?  What are their goals?  Coaching is a minute to learn and a lifetime to master, just like Othello (™).
  5. Build student agency. From the start, clarify with students that the goal is to build them  towards independence and interdependence, not to make them dependent on you. Dependence just kicks the problem down the road a bit. Students have agency when they have a clear Purpose, a solid Pathway of goals, and a support network of People other than the coach to help them pursue their purpose.  We call that the 3Ps of Success (™).
  6. Track student progress. If you’re going to coach students, you’ve got to have a way to hold them accountable.  And even more critically, if you’re going to build their agency, they’ve got to have a way to track their own progress.  Use this tool called “Sherpa” to keep track of who you’ve talked to, when and about what.  And use this tool called the Student Home to collaborate with students to make sure that they have a clear Purpose, solid Pathway and support network of People to support their progress.
  7. Call Us to Scale. These tools will work great until you get to around 50 students.  After that, the whole thing will get more unwieldy, you’ll miss important stuff, and it will be far too manual.  At that point, you’ll be ready for an upgrade to a full featured LRM.  Contact us and we’ll set you up with a powerful tool to scale your efforts. 

For visual learners, here’s a video to explain how to use all these tools.

The 3 Things Students Need to Succeed

As an educational community, we spend a disproportionate amount of time focused on student failure:

  • Why aren’t students ready for college?
  • Why do so many students dropout?
  • Why is it so hard to get a good job after graduation?

While these investigations are certainly useful, we decided to flip this traditional approach on its head and ask the opposite question:

What makes the best students succeed?

In other words, we know a lot about why students fail (lack of preparation, financial difficulties, etc.) but wouldn’t it be interesting to understand more about why others succeed? Because if we know about what drives success, we can potentially help at-risk students tap into some of these same strategies.

looking for best practices & tips for coaching? Join our webinar series.

To this end, we reviewed over two dozen articles on student persistence (i.e., what makes students succeed) and found three traits that appeared time-and-again. We call them the 3 Ps.

To learn more about what drives success and how you can help your own students build these traits, read on:

Want more information about how LRM drives the 3 Ps? Drop us a line.