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29. Coaching Tools for Strategic Leaders-1: Why Coaching is the New "Must Have" Skill

Coaching is today’s “must have” tool for leaders and managers. In the Harvard Business Review article entitled, “The Leader as Coach,” the authors write, “The role of the manager, in short, is becoming that of the coach.”

Your direct reports, co-workers, and even your teens and adult children are not looking for traditional top-down management. Everyone is looking for someone who can ask good questions and listen well.

Yes, those are the two core coaching competencies: the ability to ask good questions and the compassion to listen well.

Over the last few decades, I have had the privilege of coaching others for hundreds of hours. Sometimes a 25 or 30-year-old will ask me, “Rick, why don’t my parents ask good questions and listen well?” Part of it is generational and part of it is modeling. Many adults over 40 have not had parents or leaders in their lives who have asked good questions and listened well.

At almost any age, most people like talking about themselves.

Whether it is your co-worker, friend, or adult child, you can be that person who coaches well. While coaching is a set of skills, it is also a mindset. With curious compassion, you can lean into almost any conversation and explore with others, their hopes, their dreams, and even their challenges.

In this 7-week, Coaching Tools podcast series, we will cover these five tools that all begin with C.

In this series, you will hear me use the term "coachee." I like this term better than "client" because my adult children are not my clients but they, or a friend of mine, or even a co-worker might be my coachees.

First, we begin a coaching conversation by Connecting with Care. Let’s look some examples:

  • When I bump into a co-worker over the summer, I will often ask, “Any fun for you this summer?” Sometimes, a person will reply with “Thanks for asking.” They might talk about a family reunion or a trip they took. This often leads to a follow-up question.

  • With a teen or adult child, you can ask, “What are some hopes you have for this summer?”

  • Remember, keep it light and focused on them. Good coaching is about the coachee, not about you.

After you have connected relationally, you can then move to Clarifying the Goal. In a more formal coaching session with a co-worker, friend, or paying client, I will ask, “Where do you want to go and how can I help?” This is a good response if someone asks you for help or advice on something. With an adult child, you could ask, “What do you feel like are some of your upcoming challenges?”

In a more formal coaching session with a co-worker or client, you can ask, “What would be most helpful to focus on in this session?” A person might say they don’t like their job.” You could follow up by asking, “Are you looking to get this job to a better place or are you thinking about looking for a new job?”

Once you have clarified the main topic of discussion, you could move to the third tool which is Collaborating with Questions. In this phase of the conversation, you are exploring with the person the dynamics of what they are facing. For example, if a person says they want to look for a new job, you could ask them:

  • How long have you been feeling this way?

  • Would you like to stay in the same profession or industry or make you like to make a change?

  • What would a preferred future for your job look like?

  • What challenges would you face in making this change?

This Collaboration portion of the conversation is usually the main part of the session. The goal here is not to give advice or to tell them what to do. The goal here is to collaborate with them on exploring how this might play out. One time a person asked me in a coaching training session I was leading, “What should I do when I know what they should do? Should I just tell them?” The answer is “no.” While many strategic leaders like to tell people what to do, the goal here is for the person here to take ownership of their own issues and the possible solutions.

Remember, ask good questions and listen well. These are the two core competencies of good coaching.

Once there seems to be some clarity on what the person is facing, you can move to the fourth tool which is Creating a Plan Forward. If a person was thinking of looking for a new job, I might ask, “What would be some good next steps to follow-up on from this conversation today?” They might say that they need to work on their resume or talk with their spouse about this. I would then say, “That sounds great. Why don’t you move forward on these two things and we can touch base in a couple of weeks.”

Once they have clarity and ownership on their action steps, we could then move to the fifth and last tool which is Closing with Purpose. Here, I will review the time together and restate their action steps. You can take a few minutes to get out your calendars and set the next time to talk in a couple of weeks.

Let’s review these five coaching tools again:

  1. Connecting with Care

  2. Clarifying the Goal

  3. Collaborating with Questions

  4. Creating a Plan Forward

  5. Closing with Purpose

Next week, we will be unpacking in greater detail the first tool, Connecting with Care. If you would like, pick up a copy of my book on this, Coaching: The First Five Tools for Strategic Leaders which is available on Amazon in print, ebook, and audiobook.

More and more professionals in the workplace are looking to their supervisor , co-worker, or even friend for effective coaching. You could be that important voice in someone else's life. If you would like to set up a free coaching session to explore this further, feel free to email me at


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