Book Summary: Unlocking Potential 7 Coaching Skills

I have been a leader/coach for many years now.  I have had a lot of training in this area, and have read a lot of books on the topic as well. I decided to take a deeper dive into the topic and focus on coaching books versus leadership books to really understand the art of coaching and become an expert in it.

This book summary is from the author Michael K. Simpson.  The title of the book is Unlocking Potential 7 Coaching Skills that Transform individuals, Teams, and Organizations.  Michael is part of the Franklin Covey organization.

The following are the seven skills that he focuses on in his book. (the authors comments are in italics)

1.  Build Trust:  This is foundational competency and skill of all great coaching, without it, individuals will suspect you, question your agenda, slow you down, and possibility reject you as a coach.  Thats why it is the first skill that Simpson recommends.

I agree with the author.  To coach more effectively and to be able to have the participant take the advice from the coach, you must have established a relationship and a foundation with the individual and they must feel that you have their best interest in mind.

2.  Challenge Paradigms:  A paradigm is the way we think.  An individual who believe they can’t improve is not coachable and until that paradigm changes, you’ll go nowhere.  Your individuals paradigms might become barriers to achievement, and as a coach, your task is to challenge them firmly and gently.

I think this is an area for many coaches to improve upon.  I think a lot of times, a coach may feel like the person the are trying to coach may know more than them, so the coach may be hesitant to challenge their thinking.  This is where a coach must challenge the coachee’s thinking and ask them where they could possible give more and do more.

3.  Seek Strategic Clarity: With the coaches help, the individual should choose personal goals and be completely clear about them with measurable endpoints.  Without strategic clarity, coaching becomes aimless and endless.

Again, a major opportunity for many coaches.  They think that having a conversation about performance is good enough.  It’s not.  A coach must challenge the coachee with goals and then specific targets with deadlines when those goals should be met.

4.  Execute Flawlessly:  Execution might be the toughest challenge of all, the coach can help individuals actually to set, prioritize, and achieve their goals and help to hold them accountable.

What I have seen many times, is the coach assumes that they have helped the individual set the goal and that should be sufficient.  It’s not.  If the individual was able to set goals and execute them to get them accomplished they would already be doing it.  As a coach you must equip them with the strategy to execute the goals so they can be accomplished.

5.  Give effective Feedback:  All coaches give feedback.  Some of it is effective. The feedback should consist of things that help create awareness for the individual, focus on actions they need to take.

Some coaches never provide any feedback, much less feedback that creates awareness.  As a coach you must ask questions of the individuals performance.  Click on this link for a playbook on concepts a coach should use to create awareness for the individual.

6.  Tap into Talent: Most people underestimate their own talents. As Dr. Stephen Covey would often say “most people have far more talent than they ever use.”  As a coach you need to know how to help people tap into the unique and vast reserve of talents they already have.

As a coach you must point out things for people that they can’t see in themselves. A leader/coach is someone who challenges and inspires someone.  Helping individuals get into their areas of strength and then pointing out those strengths is what a good coach does.  If you look back on all of the good coaches you have had in your life you will most likely discover the reason they were a good coach is they helped you see talents that you didn’t see in your self, or they helped you maximize those talents.

7.  Move the middle:  Coaches are usually focused on helping high performers get even better. It is essential to reward and promote top talent. However, the biggest opportunity for performance improvement in any organization is to help “move the middle”, among those performers who are good, but not yet great.

I agree with the author.  Your biggest challenge as a coach and where you can have the most significant impact on your organization is on the middle 60% of the team members.  The top 20% are going to do what they do, and you just need to encourage them.  The bottom 20% you should be coaching up or coaching out.

In life, as in work, one of our key leadership responsibilities is to help people gain vision and strategic clarity in their jobs, careers, and in their business.

A global survey on topics of strategy and goal execution called the Execution Quotient (xQ) Survey, was gathered from data from more than 500,000 leaders across 18 global industries and 20 languages.  The xQ survey results showed the common challenges with strategy and goal execution.  The dat validates four key root causes for breakdowns with flawless execution.  These challenges dont vary much across industry or culture.

  • Goal Clarity: Eight five respondents don’t know the goals of the organization they work for; 44 percent of the people say they know, but when asked to identify the goals, only 15 percent can actually do it.
  • Leveraged behaviors: Eighty-five percent of the respondents don’t know what to do to achieve the organizations goals. They often don’t know the strategic reasons for doing the work they are doing.
  • Compelling Scoreboards:  Eighty-seven percent of the respondents don’t know whether their company is winning or losing in relation to its most important goals.  They simply don’t know the score. Or if they do, they are almost always looking at historical “lag measures” results that appear only after it is too late to do anything about them.
  • Weekly Accountability: Seventy-nine percent of the respondents are not held accountable for lack of progress made towards critically important goals. Only 21 percent meet with their bosses even as often as monthly to assess achievement of their most important goals. Usually accountability, is top down, punitive, or intimidating, or it is soft, permissive, and infrequent at best.

Most often the strategy is fine it is the execution and communication that lacks, as the above research suggests.

All in all this was a great book on coaching.  What I liked most was the series of questions the author includes to ask individuals to improve their performance.

To your success and your future.


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