Developing Coaching Skills by Laura from RSVP Design

“If I was in your position….”

“That sounds like a good idea….”

“When that happened to me, I did this…..”

“I would suggest….”

How often, when working to develop coaching skills, do you hear interventions like those above, closely followed by a groan and a recognition that once again, the inexperienced coach has fallen into the trap of giving opinions or relating personal experiences?  

In my experience one of the hardest things to overcome in coaching is the innate desire to ‘help’ and this generally plays out in giving advice. As we develop our coaching skills we need to recognise that there are some simple skills that enable us to ‘help’ most effectively, in ways that allow those we are coaching to come to their own decisions and make the choices that are best for them.

Good coaches learn to:

  1. Listen actively and non-judgementally
  2. Choose and use appropriate, supportive but challenging questions
  3. Summarise and reflect back the key messages to clarify and confirm mutual understanding
  4. Support a ‘thinking process’ that moves towards agreed action
  5. Check that the person being coached has achievable ‘next steps’ that can be implemented confidently.

One of the issues in practising coaching is selecting a topic or issue to work with. If a coachee presents an issue that is too complex or too personal, the coaching conversation may become too difficult, emotional or extended. If the issue is too trivial, there may not be an opportunity to work through the process of selecting and refining coaching questions or exploring a range of options. Some role play techniques lack real investment from either partner and can feel staged and unrealistic.

RSVP Design offers a range of activities and resources that allow coaches to practise their skills in interesting and safe settings. 

  1. Active listening can be supported by using trigger image cards that allow partners to listen to individuals talking about issues that are important to them and rehearsing active listening techniques. RSVP Design offers a whole range of image based tools to explore these in more detail go to Image selector tool 
  2. Choosing and using appropriate questions. RSVP Design stocks a  range of coaching card packs GROW coaching pack includes Introduction, Intermediate and Advanced sets of GROW Coaching Cards, with a total of 120 cards for a wide range and variety of coaching questions, to be used independently or in sequence to help aid effective coaching skills.
  3. Reflecting, summarising and confirming mutual understanding. Use our original and best-selling product – Colourblind®

Colourblind® provides a perfect opportunity to develop the skills that support reflective listening. The lack of visual information means that the need to listen, clarify, summarise and check understanding is vital to the success of the task. Whilst most would consider Colourblind® to be a communication or team-based problem solving activity, we have found that it is also perfect for encouraging a focus on key coaching skills. Including observers, on a one-to-one basis, allows the observers to watch the performance of their partners, then use a coaching process to help them to improve their effectiveness within team tasks.

Also Mystery Object and Voyage Mapping work well for following a coaching process towards a decision and action steps. 

‘Mystery Object’ is a paired activity in which one person acts as a designer and the other as a coach. The goal of the activity is for the designer to use the stimulus of a ‘mystery’ object to develop an innovative product idea. The sequence of steps involved follows a coaching process (such as the GROW coaching model) closely . Beginning with the goal, the coach works to help the designer explore the reality of the object, its materials, form and structure and to consider the existing features. It then moves to explore a wide range of options -eg. what the object could be used for, how it might be adapted or modified, what new applications it could be used for. Finally, the coach works to help the designer select an idea to take forward and develop. The activity is fun, creative but also a perfect process to rehearse coaching skills and to avoid the pitfalls described at the beginning of this blog!

Voyage Mapping offers another visual tool that enables a coach to explore the future with the person being coached. The universal metaphor of a voyage or journey allows the coach to ask structured questions that move from the current to the desired situation. Emotional responses may be triggered by some of the imagery, allowing deeper exploration of real or imagined blocks to progress, as well as excitement and anticipation in relation to new goals.