Effective leaders coach. 5 guaranteed ways to better conversations


Tony wants to have better conversation with his staff. He is keen to enable his team to experience the benefits of coaching conversations as he did through our coaching sessions.  ‘How will I know that I am engaging in coaching conversations?’ he asks.

Coaching conversations differ from normal conversations. The purpose of a coaching conversation is to stimulate thinking, growth and change which leads to action or a different outcome.

This type of conversation focuses wholly on the other person. It’s not about you, when you experienced something similar; how you solved a related problem…this is about the other person.

Coaching conversations can vary from a 5 minute informal conversation by the water cooler to a 90 minute formal coaching development session. A coaching conversation could be with your direct report, the receptionist, your partner or child…

Engaging in coaching conversations takes some skill and practice. Once mastered, it becomes an approach which will transform the conversations and relationships that you have with others.

Practice these 5 aspects of hosting good coaching conversations and you and those around you will soon notice the difference:

1. You hold the space for the other person

This is a space that you have created that is safe. That enables the other person to open up, to share feelings and emotions. This is the space where you are not judging, where you put aside your assumptions and preconceptions. This is the space where you show compassion, unconditional support and let go of control.

You are not here to fix problems, give advice, belittle, criticise…You have left your expertise and ego outside of the space. Your role is offer guidance with humility, to harness inner resources and strengths, to create the space for growth and learning.

You will find that holding the space will differ depending on the individual and context. Some will easier, some more challenging and demanding, some will have you question your own assumptions and judgement. The great thing is that in engaging in this process, you are also learning and increasing your self awareness.

2. You have built rapport and trust

You are curious and genuinely interested in the other person. Your language, tone, voice, body posture… all signal that you present and interacting fully with the other person.

You are paying attention, maintaining eye contact and focusing on what is being said and how. You allow the other person to speak without interrupting even though you are dying to share what you did in a similar situation, how you felt and what you think the other person should do…

You are checking in to see how you are both interacting. When two people are really paying attention to each other they often copy each other’s posture and will have similar body language. Their gestures and movements match each other. This is called mirroring each other, because they form a mirror image.

3. You are doing more listening and less talking

You value what is being said and want to engage in dialogue and inquiry and not be the one who is doing the talking. You are mindful, paying attention and focused on what is being said. You are listening with your ears, heart and eyes – for meaning, patterns, feelings and emotions and are attuned to verbal and non verbal clues such as gestures, posture and facial expressions

4. You are asking questions and reflecting back 

You are listening well enough to paraphrase and summarise what has been said. You are asking open ended questions to stimulate and clarify thinking, bring new perspectives, explore assumptions and re-frame limiting beliefs.

You are in essence, holding up a mirror to reflect the other person’s thinking, actions, behaviours in a non judgemental, objective and supportive way.

Your questions are not interrogative even though you challenge assumptions and generalisations that the other person hold.

5. You are facilitating learning and development 

A coaching style conversation provides challenge through feedback and reflecting on what you see and hear. When you give feedback, your comments are focused on helping the other person move forwards.

Ask permission to give feedback. When it is invited it keeps the other person in control of the process. Encourage self assessment from the outset and be specific and direct. Think about the language you use and how you use it and be honest yet supportive in your approach.

Through the process, you have enabled the other person to find his own answers and solutions. He has taken responsibility for his actions and outcomes. You have helped him to become better at problem solving, decision making and take accountability for results.

Use coaching conversations to get better results, improve performance and a culture that fosters growth and development

As a leader, you are in a prime position to role model a coaching approach to leadership, shifting from ‘command and control’ to motivating, inspiring and supporting your people to utilise their strengths, find their own solutions to organisational challenges  and take responsibility for their own development and aspirations

Start using these 5 ways to have better conversations with your team


About verawoodhead

I'm an executive coach, leadership facilitator and learning & development consultant working with managers and leaders to develop the skills and behaviours to inspire performance and drive results; achieve promotion ; make successful career changes, be resilient and thrive at work. Within organisations, I help to facilitate better conversations, design learning interventions which deliver practical and lasting solutions aligned to business strategy and goals. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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