7 Coaching Skills The Best Leaders Use

By Steven Lozada | February 24, 2024

By Steven Lozada | February 24, 2024 | Communication Skills, Leadership Development, Team Coaching

Here's what we need to STOP IMMEDIATELY if you want to become a celebrated leader: STOP telling people what to do and how to do it. That's no longer effective. In fact, it's a downright awful way to engage whole, creative, and resourceful people!

There's a better way to lead people that reduces unnecessary friction. A way that honors and even leverages a person's autonomy and agency. But before you move into the realm of the best leaders, you must understand a critical psychological motivator:

People do things for their own reasons, not yours.

Let that soak in before reading ahead.

If you believe this and commit to aligning your leadership style with this idea, then you'll have the foundation upon which you build your leadership style.

The Better Way is Coaching

Coaching skills are the superpower of the best leaders. They've become a necessity for leaders to lead and inspire their teams effectively, especially in our diverse, multi-generational, and geographically dispersed workplaces.

The Benefit of Coaching Skills

Coaching skills allow leaders to extract the latent wisdom and hidden skills of their employees. They help with empowering their team members to think critically, solve their own problems, and take ownership of their work.

You can do this by asking powerful questions, actively listening, and providing constructive feedback and feed-forward. These conversational competencies move you from being "on top" of your employees (nobody likes that person) and place you as a supportive guide beside your employees to promote their growth and development (everybody loves that person). Additionally, coaching skills help to build strong relationships, foster trust, and increase employee engagement and motivation.

The use of coaching skills promotes a culture of continuous learning and improvement within your organization, leading to greater innovation, collaboration, and shared success.

In this article, I'll share 7 coaching skills that the best leaders use to lead their teams and achieve outstanding results effectively.

1. Psychological safety and trust

Psychological safety and trust are crucial components of successful coaching conversations that lead to ownership and committed action. Without these elements, the coachee may feel hesitant to open up and be vulnerable, hindering the effectiveness of the coaching conversation.

Psychological safety creates an environment where the coachee feels comfortable to express their thoughts, feelings, and challenges without fear of judgment or repercussion. This allows for honest and open communication, leading to deeper insights and self-discovery by them.

Trust is the foundation of any coaching relationship. When they trust their coach, they're more receptive to feedback, guidance, and suggestions for growth.

Trust also fosters a sense of security and support, which is essential for them to take ownership of their development, take meaningful risks, and legitimately commit to meaningful action.

When psychological safety and trust are present in coaching conversations, they can accept the freedom of taking control of their development and achieve their higher potential.

2. Emotional Engagement

Emotional intelligence plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy connections with others. It allows you to understand and manage your emotions, as well as recognize and empathize with the emotions of others. This awareness and ability to regulate emotions is essential for fostering meaningful and fulfilling relationships.

Having emotional intelligence enables individuals to communicate effectively, resolve conflicts, and build trust and respect in their interactions with others. It allows them to be more attuned to the needs and feelings of those around them, leading to stronger connections and a deeper understanding of others' perspectives.

Additionally, individuals with high emotional intelligence are better equipped to navigate the complexities of relationships, leading to more stable and lasting connections to drive desirable results.

3. Curiosity-Based Questioning

As a coaching leader, it's important to ask curiosity-based questions that encourage you both to learn something new. These types of questions are open-ended and allow for exploration and self-discovery, rather than just seeking a specific piece of information or leading them to your answer.

When asking curiosity-based questions, it's crucial to ask questions for which you don't know the answer. This mindset fosters a genuine interest in understanding the the person’s perspective and encourages them to think critically about their own thoughts and experiences.

For example, you might ask them about a particular challenge they're facing and inquire about their thought process and decision-making along the way. By doing so, you not only gain insight into their experiences and thought processes but also provide them with the opportunity to reflect on their own behavior and motivations.

4. Empathetic listening

Empathetic listening is a crucial coaching skill for a leader to possess. It involves actively tuning into the world of your employee to the emotions and motivations of the coachee. This means being fully present and engaged in the conversation and putting aside any personal biases, judgments, or preconceived notions. These are barriers to learning.

To practice empathetic listening, the coach should focus on really understanding the coachee's perspective and taking the time to reflect back what they are hearing. This can be done through mirroring their feelings and using open-ended questions to delve deeper into their thoughts and emotions.

By listening for their emotions and motivations, you can gain valuable insights into their underlying desires and fears. This allows you to tailor your approach and support them in a more meaningful way. It also helps to build a strong rapport and trust, creating a safe space for open and honest communication.

This also helps reduce and even eliminate the stress of figuring out the next question to ask. Because you’re listening, your questions will come from the information they're sharing with you. Overall, empathetic listening is a powerful tool for you to connect with your people on a deeper level and facilitate positive growth and change.

5. Feedback & Feed-Forward

Uh oh...feedback! This word triggers some serious cortisol secretion causing stress. But it's necessary. Therefore, consider not only looking backward but also looking forward. I often say:

The future cannot be defended, it can only be designed.

So, in providing feedback and feed-forward, it is important to skillfully and empathetically share observations about what has happened and then move to discussing the possibilities that lie ahead. It is crucial to provide specific and constructive feedback in a manner that is encouraging and supportive and then invite them to share their initial reaction to what you've shared. This conversation must be a dialogue.

Remember to acknowledge their efforts and accomplishments when you address areas for improvement. This helps build trust and facilitate growth and development.

When sharing observations about what has happened, it is important to focus on facts and specific behaviors rather than making assumptions, generalizations, or evaluations. This allows for a clearer understanding of the situation and provides a solid foundation for discussion. Additionally, it is important to approach the conversation with empathy and understanding, considering the feelings and perspectives of those involved.

In discussing the possibilities moving forward, it is important to be open-minded and collaborative. Encourage them to reflect on their experiences and consider alternative approaches for new ways of doing things. Be sure to provide them with support and resources for continued growth and improvement to support them in taking the next steps forward.

6. Goal Focus

As a coaching leader, you're not only focusing on the relationship. As a leader, you must also focus on results. There is work to get done for the benefit of the organization and its clients.

In order to achieve a harmonious blend between strengthening relationships working towards generating results, and fulfilling commitments, it is essential to maintain a clear goal focus. By keeping a specific end goal in sight, you can actively work towards achieving objectives while also nurturing and strengthening their relationships with each other.

One way to achieve this is by having a shared understanding of the goals and commitments. Regular communication and open dialogue also play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy balance between relationship-building and goal achievement. By openly discussing any challenges or roadblocks, you can work together to find solutions and move forward.

7. Growth Mindset

Finally, you will not be effective with the other skills without having a growth mindset. Believing that people can improve, become smarter, and reach high-performance levels is essential for personal and professional development and is crucial in coaching and leadership.

As a coaching leader, it is important you convey and transfer your positive belief to your people and instill a sense of confidence in their abilities to grow and excel. You can transfer a growth mindset to your team.

When they adopt a growth mindset, they are more likely to embrace challenges, persist in the face of obstacles, and see their incremental efforts as the path to mastery. This mindset fosters a love for learning and a resilience that is vital for success in any field.

By transferring the belief in growth and improvement to them, you can inspire them to set ambitious goals, take risks, and continuously seek opportunities for development. This creates a culture of continuous improvement and innovation within the organization.

My Invitation to You

Take a few minutes to consider on person with whom you might use coaching skills to help maximize their potential and elevate their performance. There are many other coaching skills and techniques you can use in addition to what you've read in this article, but this is a great starting point for you.

And if you want to hone your coaching skills and move to a level of mastery with coaching, then contact me to discuss the possibilities that lie ahead for you.



You are only one conversation away from removing the barriers that are blocking the path towards your best achievements.