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Eight coaching skills every HR leader should master

Good leaders are good coaches. HR leaders are on the frontline of guiding, inspiring and encouraging people to perform and change. By effective coaching of those around them, they become game changers.  So, what are the coaching skills that every HR leader should master?

1. Big goals are only achieved through everyday actions

Big goals, grand visions and hefty strategy documents may show us where we are heading but most people are daunted when confronted with them. They need translating into the everyday actions which are needed to get there. That’s the role of the HR leader as a coach.

You only move towards the big goal through many small steps.

Focus your coaching on encouraging others to identify and create the new habits they need to make a difference. By consistently taking these actions individuals will advance themselves and the business towards the big goal.

More on effective goal setting:

What's the evidence for... goal setting?

Listen now: How to create an outcomes-based culture

What are OKRs? And how do you use them well?


2. Coach don’t tell

Coaching is about helping people to discover for themselves what they need to do to move towards the big goal. That is far more effective and longer lasting than commanding someone to do something.

Encouraging self-discovery makes coaching powerful and differentiates it from mentoring. Remember, if you give someone a fish, you feed them for a day. If you coach someone to fish, you feed them for a lifetime!


3. True meaning is in the sub-conscious

Most people aren’t aware of what they are doing, never mind why they’re doing it. So many are living their professional and personal lives in the 10% of their conscious awareness. They are blissfully unaware of many things, including their impact on others.

Skilled coaching means diving down below the tip of the iceberg to help colleagues understand what is really going on. This is the key to unlocking improved performance and to discovering the behaviours which are blocking advancement. Asking the critical questions and going deeper with the answers is at the heart of the effective coach.


4. We are all products of our past

The way people behave in professional life, especially in stressful situations, is hugely conditioned by our past. Our life experience, especially in our younger days, holds the key to how we are today and how we respond when challenged when the heat is on. This is rich and effective ground for the HR leader as a coach. We need to uncover the past to discover how people can advance in the present.


5. There is a rationale in every human act

But it’s often not what we see immediately on the surface. As a coach, stop to consider what’s really going on. Don’t be seduced by what you see at first. Deploy lashings of fair-minded scepticism.


6. Recognise difference

Don’t coach people by comparing them to what you would have done in that same situation. Coaching is not about you. Recognise difference in your coaching. Understand that others may have different but equally powerful values. It is these differences which prevent group think and often provide game changing innovation and smart solutions to intractable problems.


7. All data is evidence

Some of the smallest things our colleagues do is powerful evidence and data which can unlock the way to self-development. Watch the small things closely. Sometimes it is the body language or observing the detail of social interactions which give the greatest insight.


8. Be kind

See the whole person in front of you. Our private lives and our professional lives are one and the same thing. The pandemic taught us that. We are not two people. We are the one person intertwining home and work.

The HR leader as a coach is well placed to help colleagues confront wellbeing, mental and physical health, work/life balance and many other things which help us live a balanced and fulfilled existence. The HR leader as a coach is a critical and a supportive Sherpa in life.


Jeremy Campbell is a people and business transformation expert and CEO of Black Isle Group