The 8 Key Skills For Effective Coaching

The power of coaching has been recognised in many areas for many years. Astute managers and leaders are starting to see coaching skills as a vital addition to their personal effectiveness toolbox.

When you come across a good coach or mentor it can appear to be simple.

Of course the reality is very different.  No one just becomes good at coaching overnight.  Like every skill it has to be worked on and improved.

So if you are a manager or leader or even a finance business partner supporting others in the business, what key skills do you need to develop in order to be effective?


When growing up we received formal education on reading and writing but not how to listen. Yet when it comes to business, listening is probably one of the most important skills to have.

If as a manager you take on the role of coach, you need to learn to listen with real focus, suspending all of your judgements and opinions. You also need to be listening not just to the words but also to the non verbal signals such as body language.

This is probably one of the hardest areas to improve and takes really focused attention and practice.

Next time you are in a meeting, really pay attention to how much listening is happening compared to speaking.

Also pay attention to your own ratio of speaking to listening.

Small changes might make a big difference to the results that you achieve.


Most of us can ask questions. When coaching, you need to be using powerful questions. These are questions that:

Are short, typically 7 words or less

Are open rather than closed

Deepen the learning of the person being coached

Move the person forward towards a goal

Examples include:

  • What do you want?
  • What’s important?
  • What’s the first step?
  • What are the options?
  • What else?
  • What are the advantages?
  • What are the disadvantages?
  • What’s the deadline?
  • What support do you need?

Constructively Challenging

Challenging constructively is about not holding back but at the same time not destroying the relationship. Many people associate coaching with helping, which clearly it is. At the same time if the coaching never rocks the boat it just becomes another nice chat. Playing back contradictions is a great way of constructively challenging. For example:

I hear that you want to get your MBA but at the same time you seem to be resisting making the time for assignments.

You said that you need to get a professional qualification to get to the next level but are not studying consistently.

You told me you wanted more challenging work but you turned down the opportunity to be part of the digital finance project.

Holding to account

Accountability is one of the most powerful aspects of coaching. It has been suggested that people have a 95% chance of achieving an objective when they have accountability in place. When someone gives a commitment to doing something and they know that they will be held to account, it drives them forward.

Now you may worry that holding people accountable is mean or bossy.  Remember though that you are only holding people accountable for what they said they wanted to achieve.

In many ways the accountability is actually helping people move closer to the result that they want.

How effective are you at holding people to account as a manager?

Seeing different perspectives

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where it feels like you are pinned into a corner and there is nowhere to go?

If so, the chances are you were stuck in a perspective. When coaching, you need to be able to help your client to explore different perspectives, so that they can choose those that are most powerful.

Perspectives are simply looking at issues from different angles.  Sometimes looking at it from a different perspective with a powerful question can really make a difference.

Encouraging and supporting

Encouraging and supporting when coaching can be the difference between someone keeping going or giving up. Acknowledging another person is an incredibly powerful way of keeping them motivated.

It’s easy to forget just how much effort it takes to achieve something.  Showing and pointing out how far people have come is a gift.

Trusting and using intuition

We all have a hunch about something from time to time. The chances are that you have probably started to analyse it and make it logical or not. When coaching, your intuition is a powerful tool. Throw it out if it might be of benefit. The worst that can happen is that it is off the mark.

Present it in a non judgemental way.  Say something like I get a sense that you are saying you want X when what you really want is Y.  Is that right?

Keeping the focus on your client

When you are in the role of coach your focus needs to be 100% on your client and their agenda. What this means is putting all of the attention on the client and keeping your agenda out of the way.

These 8 key skills can not only help you when coaching but also make you an even better manager or leader. Take time to assess where you strengths lie and where you need to develop.

Duncan Brodie of Goals and Achievements helps accountants and professionals to become highly effective leaders and managers. 

About the Author Duncan Brodie

Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 8,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.

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