Want to Be A Better Coach? Ask Madeleine

Aloha Madeleine,

I’m currently a Human Resources director in the hospitality industry. I believe right now, more than ever, our industry needs strong coaches.

What resources can you share to help me strengthen these skills through self-learning? Any suggestions you have would be most welcome! Mahalo!

Want to Be a Better Coach


Dear Want to Be a Better Coach,

Well, thanks for asking. What a fun question. Where to begin? Why not with your greeting? I looked up the meaning of Aloha, because I had always heard that it meant so much more than hello or goodbye, and I found this:

Aloha is an essence of being: love, peace, compassion, and a mutual understanding of respect. Aloha means living in harmony with the people and land around you with mercy, sympathy, grace and kindness. When greeting another person with aloha, there is mutual regard and affection. This extends with warmth in caring for the other, with no obligation to receive anything in return. The direct translation from Hawaiian to English is the presence of divine breath. The Hawaiian word alo is presence, front, and face, and ha is breath.

Choosing to step into the spirit of Aloha would be a very good place to start because it is so close to what I think of as the Coaching Mindset. The Coaching Mindset is the willingness to put yourself at service to someone else. As a discipline, coaching requires us to be aware of and manage our natural tendencies and to self-regulate to create an environment in which another can stay totally focused on their own thought process, enjoy new insights, and feel galvanized to take action.

So many people think that coaching is about giving advice or telling others what to do. What we know is that the best use of coaching is to develop people by evoking their own brilliance, connecting to their own motivation, and empowering them to take the action that will most likely help them achieve their goals.

If you ask 10 people, you will get 10 different definitions of coaching. Here is how we define it:

Coaching is a deliberate process that uses focused conversations that create an environment in which an individual will experience accelerated performance and development. It is a relationship between an individual, small group, or team and a coach, driven by specific objectives and expected outcomes. Coaching helps people identify and focus on what they can do to achieve their goals. It supports deep insights and promotes clear thinking and thoughtful, targeted action.

I highly recommend that even as you say you want to be a better coach, you define exactly what that means to you. Ask yourself:

  • Who do you want to be a better coach for?
  • For what purpose?
  • What will you offer people as a coach?
  • How will they know what to ask for and how to ask for it?
  • How will you know you are successful as you improve?

We break down the journey to coaching competence as understanding and developing a coaching mindset, refining some key skills, and learning a solid, replicable coaching process.

  • Mindset. What is your purpose as a coach? What are your natural tendencies, opinions, agendas/judgments, or core needs that will get in your way; for example: your need to be right, your need to show you have the answers, your opinions about the person or the organization, your tendency to interrupt? Are there any other habits that might get in your way?
  • Skill Set. Much has been written about coaching skills, so I am not going to belabor that topic here. What I will say (that no one else really seems to be saying) is that the number one skill to work on is self-regulation. Until you master your natural tendencies to have the answer, tell people what to do, interrupt, and ask questions to satisfy your own curiosity instead of sparking insight for the other person, none of the other skills matter. The traditional skills are listening, asking questions, goal setting, challenging, and creating accountability. The ICF website has an exhaustive list of competencies.
  • Process. There are many versions of coaching processes out there and most of them are fine. Don’t be fooled by any process that promises you a clean, linear path, because it will fail you. Humans process thoughts and feelings more like pinballs than arrows—you need whatever process you use to accommodate that reality.

Resources I can point you to? Yikes. The field is crowded and attracting new entrants every day.

I can’t honestly pretend that I don’t think our one-day Coaching Essentials training isn’t tops. (Hello? I am one of the authors.) I have been teaching coaching skills in organizations since 1995. I also wrote a book with Linda Miller called Coaching in Organizations. It is an oldie but it has a bunch of good, timeless info on process, skills, and all the different ways coaching can be leveraged in organizations.

There is a crazy amazing resource I love: The Library of Professional Coaching. It is a beautifully organized treasure trove for coaches at all levels.

Another organization to check out is WBECS—The World Business and Executive Coaching Summit. They host a coaching summit every year that offers extraordinary value to coaches at all levels. They invite the who’s who of the coaching world to present and share the latest topics of interest and it is very high quality stuff.

There are a bunch of different associations for coaches, and I am familiar with only one: The International Coaching Federation. It is the biggest and oldest, and it has the greatest reach. If you decide to do a full coach training program (which I recommend long term if you love it), make sure you do one that is accredited by the ICF.

I am buried in books on coaching. There are so darn many, but my current faves are:

And that’s just to get you started, heh heh.

In short, start with the spirit of Aloha. Then shut up, listen, and inquire to spark insight (theirs, not yours). You will be amazed at the magic those few steps can create.

So “Noʻu ka hauʻoli”—Google tells me that means “the pleasure is mine.” You are most welcome. And Aloha to you!

Love, Madeleine

About Madeleine

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response soon. Please be advised that although she will do her best, Madeleine cannot respond to each letter personally. Letters will be edited for clarity and length.

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