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Core Coaching Skills

Core Coaching Skills

Core Coaching skills are highly sought-after skills in today’s workforce. According to the International Coach Federation, employees who receive coaching experience significant improvements in engagement, retention, and collaboration. As a manager, developing coaching skills can significantly enhance your effectiveness and accelerate your growth as a leader. When you possess coaching skills and hold a coaching certification, you set yourself apart from other candidates when applying for a new job.

Organizations recognize the value of managers who possess coaching abilities. They expect managers to not only lead but also coach and develop future leaders within the organization. Having coaching skills allows you, as a leader, to establish a strong connection with your team, foster deeper rapport and trust, and achieve exceptional results. At the core of coaching lie two fundamental skills:

  1. Listening
  2. Questioning.

While there may be other essential skills, these two form the foundation.

In my opinion, listening takes precedence over questioning. Without active listening, it becomes challenging to ask meaningful and insightful questions. By actively listening to the perspectives, challenges, and beliefs of the coachee, you can derive better questions that facilitate their growth and development.

Becoming a coach grants you the opportunity to cultivate skills that are highly valued in today’s fast-paced business world. No other form of training provides the same level of skill development and growth.

Coaching in the workplace has been proven to have numerous benefits, including increased employee engagement and motivation, enhanced job satisfaction, improved performance, and the ability to contribute more effectively to the team and the organization. By embracing coaching as a managerial skill, you can unlock the full potential of your employees and drive better business outcomes.

Coaching is a highly valued skill that can significantly impact employee engagement, retention, and collaboration. Developing coaching skills as a manager can set you apart from other candidates and help you grow exponentially as a leader. Organizations value managers who can coach and foster the development of future leaders.

Listening and questioning are the core skills of coaching, with active listening playing a critical role in formulating effective questions. Embracing coaching allows you to develop rare and valuable skills in the fast-paced business world.

Coaches possess these skills naturally once they decide to adopt a coaching approach. By embracing a coaching mindset, individuals naturally immerse themselves in opportunities to develop and utilize these skills. Let’s make a dedicated effort to enhance these fundamental skills through consistent practice.


Instead of actively listening, managers tend to hastily jump to conclusions and inject their own ideas into the conversation. Listening may seem straightforward, but it is actually a highly challenging skill to master.

Many leaders overestimate their listening abilities and believe they are above average in this regard, when in reality, they are not.

A study revealed that doctors interrupt their patients every 18 seconds while they speak, but our own research found that corporate leaders outperform doctors by interrupting their team members every 11 seconds.

Instead of truly listening, managers often engage in premature judgment and interject their own thoughts. Listening may appear simple, but it is actually an incredibly difficult skill to acquire.

Bosses merely hear what is being said, while true leaders demonstrate the art of listening.

Genuine listening involves understanding the perspectives of others, serving as a gateway to enter their world.


Before providing leaders tools to improve their listening, we encourage them to first raise their self-awareness (and insight). The exercise below will help you become more conscious of how you typically listen. Today, as you go about your day, use your conversations to consider the following:

Q. How often do you pretend to listen to someone – and don’t really listen?

Q. How is your listening different within different circumstances, or with different people?

Q. What effect does the quality of your listening seem to have on other people or the conversation?

Levels of Listening:

Different leaders operate at different levels of listening ability. Through structured observations of leaders engaging in real conversations with their teams, we have identified five levels of listening. It is important for leaders to honestly assess themselves and determine the level at which they typically operate on a daily basis. Let’s explore each level:

Level #1: Waiting for your turn

In this level, the leader is more focused on waiting for their turn to speak rather than actively listening. For example, when a coachee expresses confusion, the leader responds by diverting the conversation to their own experiences instead of addressing the coachee’s concern.

Level #2: Giving your own experience

At this level, the leader relates to the coachee’s situation by sharing their own experiences. While it can provide some insights, it may not fully address the coachee’s needs. For instance, if a coachee seeks help in choosing a course, the leader responds by sharing their own experience with a leadership course.

Level #3: Giving advice

Leaders at this level tend to provide advice and ask for solutions to the coachee’s problems. They may overlook the importance of understanding the full context and may jump to conclusions. For instance, when a coachee expresses difficulty in dealing with an accounts guy, the leader immediately, What you need to do is talk to write him an email copying his boss ……..

Level #4: Listening and asking for more

At this level, leaders actively listen to the coachee’s concerns and ask probing questions to gain a deeper understanding. Rather than jumping to solutions, they encourage the coachee to share more about their situation. For example, when a coachee feels overwhelmed with the workload, the leader responds by asking the coachee to elaborate on their challenges.

Level #5: Deep listening

Leaders operating at this highest level exhibit deep listening skills. They go beyond the surface-level conversation and try to understand the underlying emotions and motivations. For instance, when a coachee expresses disinterest after not receiving a promotion, the leader probes further to explore if there are other factors contributing to their lack of enthusiasm.

Leadership is built through daily conversations, and it is crucial for leaders to be aware of the impact they have on these interactions. By practicing effective listening, leaders can make people feel valued and contribute to positive interactions. Developing listening skills is an ongoing process that requires self-reflection and a genuine commitment to understanding others.

In my recent training, I implemented an activity where participants were paired up with a partner from the audience. The instructions given were as follows: one partner had to leave the room, recall an interesting incident from their life, and develop a three-minute story to share with their partner later.

Meanwhile, the other group of partners stayed in the room with me and received different instructions. They were instructed to actively listen for the first 60 seconds and then engage in conversation killers for the next 30 seconds, such as using their phones, looking around, breaking eye contact, yawning, and showing no interest in the person or the story being told.

After completing the activity, I asked the storytellers to share their experiences. It was interesting to observe that they consistently began by describing the first phase, where their partner had actively listened to them. They expressed feelings of being respected, valued, important, confident, and trusted during this phase.

However, when they recounted their experience in the second phase, where their partner exhibited conversation killers, their emotions shifted. Without exception, participants used expressions like feeling degraded, angry, hurt, disrespected, not valued, useless, and unimportant.

What struck me was how these emotional shifts occurred within a span of less than three minutes, with the same partner. This activity served as a powerful demonstration of the impact of active listening and conversational behavior on individuals’ emotions and sense of worth.

To further develop my own listening skills, I decided to recall a recent conversation with a colleague who reports directly to me. I recollected every detail of the interaction and assessed the quality of my listening skills by reflecting on the following questions:

  1. Whose agenda did I follow during the conversation?
  2. Did I provide advice during the conversation?
  3. How do I think the other person felt while leaving my desk?

Moving forward, I aim to actively listen to others when they approach me to discuss something. In my future interactions with colleagues, I will assess myself after every conversation by considering the following aspects of active listening:

  1. Did I stay on their agenda and prioritize their needs?
  2. Did I suspend judgment and refrain from making immediate assumptions?
  3. Did I clarify and reflect on what they said to ensure understanding?
  4. Did I hold back my personal opinions or advice, allowing them to explore their own thoughts?
  5. Did I help my colleague delve into their own ideas and perspectives?
  6. Did I tap into my intuition to grasp underlying messages and emotions?
  7. What am I learning about my listening skills through this practice?
  8. Which area of listening do I choose to focus on for further development?

By actively engaging in this process of self-reflection and improvement, I aim to enhance my listening skills and create a more supportive and empathetic environment for effective communication within the workplace.

Additional Listening Tools:

Active listening is an essential skill for effective communication and compassionate leadership. It involves attentively listening to a speaker, understanding their message, and responding and reflecting on what has been said. To demonstrate active listening, there are several techniques and strategies that can be employed.

  • Paraphrasing:

Paraphrasing involves using slightly different words to express what the other person has said without changing the meaning or substance. It helps to confirm understanding and shows the speaker that their message has been heard.

  • Clarifying:

Clarifying is the process of summarizing the essence or core of what has been said and adding valuable insights or emotions that may not have been explicitly stated. This technique helps generate clarity and understanding by checking for accuracy and asking questions like, “It sounds like… What would you say?”

  • Suspending judgment:

Active listening requires keeping an open mind and suspending judgment or criticism. When we judge or criticize, it can make people defensive and hinder effective communication.

  • Mirroring-back:

Mirroring-back is a powerful technique used by professional coaches to create an environment where the speaker feels fully heard. It involves reflecting back not just the words but also paying attention to body movements, tone of voice, pauses, and other non-verbal cues. However, it’s important not to overuse mirroring-back as it can interrupt the thought process of the person speaking.

In addition to these techniques, there are two additional levels of listening that can be developed. The first level is listening for potential, which involves focusing on a person’s capabilities and strengths rather than dwelling on past performance or perceiving them as a problem. This level of listening encourages exploring what a person could achieve if there were no limitations.

The second level is listening with heart, which involves paying attention to non-verbal messages such as voice tone, facial expressions, and body language. This level of listening seeks to understand the underlying feelings and intentions behind what is being conveyed.

By practicing active listening and employing these techniques, leaders, and coaches can foster clearer communication, build stronger relationships, and create an environment where individuals feel heard and understood.

Peter Drucker, the renowned management consultant, and author, famously stated that “listening is not a skill; it’s a discipline.” Unfortunately, many leaders today fail to adhere to this discipline. In today’s fast-paced world, the majority of leaders have succumbed to Split Attention Disorder (SAD), a condition characterized by distraction, rush, and an inability to concentrate.

When leaders do not demonstrate effective listening, their teams perceive them as disinterested or uncaring, leading to decreased engagement and a reluctance to provide feedback or input for improvement.

The consequences of not listening extend beyond team disengagement. Leaders themselves suffer from reduced attention, focus, and awareness when they fail to listen attentively. On the other hand, exceptional coach-leaders not only listen to the content but also discern the underlying meaning behind the words. They recognize that listening is a moment-to-moment choice and a conscious decision.

Improved listening skills have a measurable impact on a team’s self-motivation and sense of ownership. As leaders enhance their listening abilities, their teams begin to realize that they are not merely listening to reply but genuinely striving to understand. By practicing active listening and demonstrating a commitment to this discipline, leaders can foster a more engaged and productive team environment.

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