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Might your need for better coaching skills
be met by this London UK based management training course
called Skills with People?

Yes if the following rings a bell

  • Your aim as a coach is to help someone succeed in doing something they don't know how to do or are finding difficult.
  • Your normal approach is to tell them what works for you - give them advice.
  • Or you show them how to do it by saying watch me and doing it yourself.
  • Sometimes these approaches are helpful, but often they're not.
  • When they fail it's because there's an obstacle in the way, a difficulty the person you are trying to help is experiencing, and your advice is unlikely to be helpful if you haven't found out precisely what their difficulty is.
  • But either from habit, or as a result of time pressure, or because you assume you already know it, you tend to give advice before you fully understand their difficulty. 
  • Perhaps your effectiveness as a coach could be dramatically increased if you stopped making assumptions and did more listening before giving advice. 

What you'll take away from this coaching skills training course

This coaching skills training course will enable you to master the art of listening with empathy. With this key coaching skill you'll delay giving advice until you've got right to the bottom of why they're finding the task difficult. You'll often find that helping them realise what's been holding them back is enough to empower them to complete the task without any advice from you. Your listening has helped them think things out for themselves. You'll discover that as a coach, it's how you listen to people that empowers them even more than the advice you give. 

Free exploratory coaching session


If so, you can have a FREE exploratory coaching session.  It'll give you a foretaste of what you can get from the course.  You make no commitment to proceed beyond this until you're sure this training is relevant to your own particular need.

How to accept this offer

Simply contact us for a preliminary chat and to arrange your free exploratory coaching session. 

What this session will do for you

In this session we'll aim to give you something practical you can use right away that'll help you handle a difficult situation more successfully at work.

Price, dates and location of our upcoming public courses

For details of our upcoming public courses see course dates

How the skills you'll practise on this course
will make you much more successful
at coaching

The heart of the matter in coaching

On this coaching skills training course you'll learn to focus not on the problem to be solved or the task to be done by the problem owner, but on what's going on in their mind – what they feel, what they think, what assumptions they're making, what they know and don’t know. You'll develop your ability to spot what difficulty they're having or obstacle they're encountering – what's preventing them from solving the problem or completing the task themselves.

The main coaching skill you need for this is listening with empathy. Your aim, by helping them identify and remove the obstacle, is to enable them to solve the problem or complete the task themselves. Giving advice can of course be useful, but you'll learn to give it only if all else fails. You'll learn to resist the urge to take the lead by telling them or showing them what to do. They'll get far more out of it if you can help them discover for themselves what's been holding them back.

This kind of coaching is harder than telling people what to do, especially if you're in the habit of giving advice and solving people's problems for them, but it's very rewarding and far more effective. On this coaching skills training course we'll give you plenty of practice and expert coaching to help you break the advice-giving habit.

How do most most managers and professional people respond when someone comes to them with a problem or concern?

They automatically assume the role of problem solver and adviser. Solving problems is one of the skills that got them where they are. They're well practised at it and enjoy it. It's become a habit – probably an unconscious one. But though sometimes it's the best way to coach, mentor and counsel people, it can often be even more helpful to listen with empathy instead. Listening with empathy is one of the two crucial key skills you'll develop on this coaching skills course.

What difference does listening with empathy make to the way you coach?

When you take on the role of problem-solver and adviser your mind is focussed not on the person but on the problem, so the first thing you do is try to understand the problem. Rather like a doctor diagnosing a patient’s medical problem you obtain the facts by asking questions. But the effect of your questions is, perhaps unintentionally, to put you in charge. You take the mentally active role, leaving them with the passive role of supplying information on request. They follow your lead, as indicated below:-

Here's an outline of a conversation following YOUR thoughts as you give advice

  • Someone brings you his problem.
  • You acting as problem-solver and adviser asking for the specific facts so that you can offer advice.
  • He gives you the facts you ask for.
  • You offer a solution.
  • He remains dependent on your advice when he has a problem.

The big difference between this and listening with empathy is the focus of your attention. Listening with empathy focuses not on the problem but on what's going on in the mind of the problem owner. Your objective is now quite different. You're aiming not to solve the problem for him but to help him solve it. And in order to achieve this you use a very different way of listening. Instead of asking for specific facts, you listening with empathy. As a result, instead forcing him to go down your path, you go down his – as shown below:-

Here's an outline of a conversation following the HIS thoughts as you help him think it out for himself

  • Problem owner brings you his problem.
  • You listen with empathy in order to tune in to HIS thoughts and feelings about the problem.
  • You help him think about his own problem with open questions (see "8 very useful open questions", below).
  • He explores his own thoughts and feelings with the help of your listening and your questions. In this way he clarifies his own mind about the problem and how to tackle it.
  • Your empathy helps him develop his own ability to solve the problem.
  • He leaves you empowered and less dependent on your advice when he has a problem.

8 very useful open questions

An open question, unlike a question asking for a specific fact, gives the problem owner freedom to answer without restriction and implies that you're interested in whatever they have to say. Below are 8 open questions you can use when listening to someone with a problem. They help the problem owner explore the problem from a variety of different angles:-

  1. How do they feel?  (Try to name their feeling or feelings).
  2. Precisely what is the feeling is about?  (In other words, what has happened?)
  3. Why does it matter to them?  What is the underlying belief, value or need behind this feeling? 
  4. How they have tried to tackle it or thought of tackling it?
  5. What specific obstacle has prevented them from resolving it?
  6. What would they ideally like? What do they really want?
  7. What will be the consequence if they do nothing about it?
  8. Now having thought more about it what further help do they need from you if any?

Question 8 gives you an opportunity to give advice if needed. Having listened so attentively you're now in a better position to give advice if you have any, and the problem owner is more likely both to be receptive and to find your advice relevant and useful.

Practical tips on using open questions  

  • Instead of asking the questions, try answering them and reflecting back the answers, e.g., “What you seem to be saying is …”. This is harder work but more helpful because by holding up a mirror to the problem owner it helps him be more aware of and think again about what is going on in his own mind.
  • A good listener makes as much use as he can of the information he has already received before asking for more.
  • Never give advice before exploring at least some of these open questions.  

The urge to rush in and give advice is a common obstacle to effective coaching.  By making the effort to listen with empathy you can learn much more about the problem, and then, if advice is needed, it will be more relevant and helpful. On this coaching skills training course you'll get lots of practice at handling people in this way.

Example of coaching, first without, and then without the key skill of empathy    

Imagine that Viv, a member of your staff, is in difficulties. Her problem is that she takes on too much work. She's losing the confidence of the people who use her services because she's often very late in completing their work. This is what she says to you:-

VIV:  Everyone says their work is urgent and that I’m the only one who can do it. It’s impossible. I just can’t cope.

How would you try to help her?

Here are three possible ways:-

First way - Give quick advice

YOU:  Never accept work unless you know you have time to complete it. Just tell them when you’re too busy. Okay?

VIV:  Okay. 

But the problem continues and she leaves the job. Your advice was probably correct. It is what you would do in Viv’s position. But the trouble is – there’s an obstacle in the way. So although it may be good advice, it's useless to her.

Second way - Come to the rescue

YOU:  Oh dear. We can’t have this. I’ll tell you what we’ll do. Jean can act as your gatekeeper. People who need your services will have to approach her first to ask if you can do it. 

VIV:  Okay.

But she soon feels humiliated and quits.

Third way - Coach with empathy

YOU:  You sound very worried. 

VIV (lets off steam):  I am! It’s keeping me awake at night.

YOU:  I get the impression you’re worried about letting people down.

VIV:  They might think I’m not up to the job.

YOU:  You think they’ll assume you’re not up to the job if you say ‘no’.

VIV:  Yes.

YOU (pointing out a flaw in her story) But by saying ‘yes’ when you’re too busy to do the work aren’t you making inevitable the very thing you’re afraid of?

VIV:  Well, yes, I suppose I am. But what should I say when I’m too busy?

YOU:  What stops you telling the truth?

VIV:  I hate saying ‘no’. People will think I’m just making an excuse.

YOU:  Are you just making an excuse?   

VIV:  Of course not.

YOU:  I believe you, but you seem to think others won't – and I get the impression that's what stops you saying it.

VIV:  Mmm. I was always taught to get on with things and not make excuses.

YOU:  You're now wondering if that was such a good lesson.

VIV:  It's being dishonest, and I don’t like that.

YOU: You'd prefer to be honest, if only people would believe you. 

VIV:  Yes, I would.

YOU:  Suppose I bring you work and you’re too busy to do it. And imagine I’ll believe whatever you tell me. What would you say?

VIV:  I'd say, please don’t think I’m unwilling or incapable of doing your work. It’s just that I’m too busy right now because I’m in the middle of a job for someone else. I want to do it, but it'll have to wait till later.

YOU:  That sounds perfectly okay to me. Are you comfortable saying it?

VIV:  Yes, but didn’t it sound like an excuse?

YOU:  What do you think?

VIV:  No, I don’t think it did.

YOU:  I agree. If you need a bit more practice to develop your confidence why not video yourself saying in on your smart-phone. Then you can see it and practice as often as you like.

This way of coaching isn't easy if you're in the habit of giving advice. But on this coaching skills training course you'll have plenty of practice with expert coaching to help you break the advice-giving habit.

Is there more information on this website
relevant to coaching skills?

Yes. You might also find our pages on emotional intelligence and dealing with difficult people relevant and helpful.

  • Civil Service
  • Grass Valley
  • GIC
  • IGT
  • NHS