6 Key Skills

“Organizations have embraced the practice of coaching to grow their human capital and advance their goals and mission. Managers and leaders who use the coach approach to management and leadership are better equipped to develop their team members’ value to their organizations, as well as influence their career paths”

This quote from recent research conducted by the International Coaching Federation (ICF)* confirms the ongoing development and application of coaching skills and a coach approach within organisations. This important “muscle” within the leadership skillset is gradually becoming more mainstream as organisations increasingly realise and experience the benefits of having managers and leaders who are capable of holding great conversations with their teams and their colleagues which are enabled and underpinned by a coaching style.

Given our current world circumstances and challenges, never have such skills been more necessary and needed. The need to motivate, encourage and support employees in their ongoing and often difficult working conditions. The need to understand, support and address some of the concerning emotional and wellbeing challenges being faced. The need to rally and inspire people to keep digging deep to make every effort to keep the organization, and their jobs, going during difficult times. The need and the opportunity to inspire people to find new and innovative ways of working and delivering products and services in order to thrive as well as survive this period in our history.

So, what are the most important skills that help to build this coaching muscle?

1. Have a solid Definition of Coaching

Even though coaching conversations within your organisation might not necessarily be as formal as those provided by external coaches, it is still helpful to have clarity on what coaching is and how a coaching style might differ from other ways of managing and leading.

2. Set the Foundation

There are two key elements that provide a strong foundation for great coaching conversations. One is acting with professionalism and integrity which, in a coaching context, means understanding and honouring important features of that conversation such as safety and confidentiality. The second is considering what kind of mindset or attitude we bring into that conversation and how that might be helpful or unhelpful.

3. Build the Relationship

Relationship is at heart of a great coaching conversation. The nature and quality of that relationship will directly influence how the conversation goes and also the outcomes that are experienced as a result. Our mindset is of course a significant contributor to the nature and quality of that relationship. Adding to this is our ability to establish clear agreements, nurture an environment for the conversation to be open, explorative and safe and our ability to give our fullest attention to the other person.

4. Communicate Effectively

Great coaching conversations sit alongside great communication skills. Two specific skills are firstly, our ability to listen…deeply, to what is being said and not said, as well as listening with our eyes and our instinct. Secondly, is our ability to ask insightful, thought-provoking questions that invite and enable the other person to expand their thinking and enhance their own awareness of themselves, their situation and their options for future progress.

5. Cultivate Learning and Growth

The purpose of coaching conversations is to enable a person to tap into their best self. In this way, they can learn, grow and evolve over time.

6. Be a Lifelong Learner

There is a saying: “The mind is like a parachute; it works best when it is open”. Managers and leaders who hold great coaching conversations over time tend to be people who stay open to learn themselves. If we can retain a beginner’s mind, we stay open to what is possible and helps others to do the same.

If you would like to learn more about these 6 key skills then sign up to receive my free resource to find out more! Or, watch the first of our video series below:

These key skills have been taken from the essence of the ICF Core Coaching Competency model which is described in detail in my new book: Becoming a Coach: The Essential ICF Guide.


(*) An exploration of the Coach Approach to Managing and Leading. A white paper for managers, leaders and professional coaches. Joel A. DiGirolamo and J. Thomas Tkach, ACC, International Coaching Federation (ICF)

Tracy Sinclair, MCC

Tracy Sinclair is a multi-award-winning Master Certified Coach (MCC) with the International Coaching Federation (ICF). She is also a trained Coaching Supervisor, Mentor Coach and ICF Assessor. Tracy trains coaches and works with managers and leaders to develop their coaching capability. She works as an international Corporate Executive and Board Level Coach, a leadership development designer and facilitator working with a wide range of organisations. Tracy also specialises in working with organisations to support them develop coaching culture. Tracy has co-authored a book Becoming a Coach: The Essential ICF Guide published in 2020 which provides a comprehensive guide to coaching for coaches at all levels of skill and experience, the psychology that underpins coaching and the updated ICF Core Competency Model. In this same year she founded Coaching with Conscience which exists to have a positive impact on society and our environment through coaching. As part of this work, she collaborates closely with MIND, the UK’s leading mental health charity and the British Paralympic Association (BPA). She also offers pro bono personal development and coaching programmes to young leaders (18-25-yrs). Tracy was named as one of the Leading Global Coach winners of the Thinkers50 Marshall Goldsmith Awards of 2019 and was a finalist for the Thinkers50 Coaching and Mentoring Award in 2021. She won the ICF Impact Award for Distinguished Coach in 2023 and is a member of the Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coaches. She was the President of the UK ICF from 2013-2014 and was an ICF Global Board Director since 2016, serving as Treasurer in 2017, Global Chair in 2018 and Immediate Past Global Chair in 2019 and Vice Chair and Director at Large on the International Coaching Federation Global Enterprise Board in 2021.

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