Based on Mikko’s experience, the most important skills for an executive coach are listening, and the ability to sit present and quiet with the person being coached. He raises a few considerations for successful coaching that may be overlooked, especially by novice coaches:
1. Coach the person, not the issue
“I’ve noticed that the people being coached often already have the answers for themselves. They just want the coach to affirm and pat them on the back, ‘yeah good, go like this, do like this’. But they would have done the same without the coach. Leaders know their job. So it’s important that you learn to coach the person, not the issues,” Mikko says, extending this to include human relations in the workplace.
“Often people who are being coached come in having had a difficult conversation or situation with a colleague, subordinate or supervisor. They start talking about that person, and you as the coach start asking more about that difficult person. But that doesn’t help at all! The focus has to be brought back to the person being coached, not to the other person”.
2. Focus on what matters
Coaches often start to deal with the acute issues of the moment and according to Mikko’s experience, it is often not worthwhile: “It makes both the coach and the coachee feel good to spend an hour on an acute issue, but it often doesn’t lead to any long-term results. Sometimes, however, you have to let the coachee vent so that he or she can concentrate on the session in the right frame of mind” .
3. Listen sensitively
Mikko puts a lot of emphasis on the coach’s ability to be sensitive and present, so that the coaches don’t miss the coachees’ quick shots with the stick to try out the ice: “Many executives come to the coaching session with something they might say at the beginning as a joke or a joke to lighten things up. They often justify it with ‘no, I’m just lightening mood up here’ and it gets lost in the humour. As a coach you should stop and say ‘hey let’s get back to this’ There must be a reason why they say that. It’s worth asking what was the need to say this particular thing under the guise of humour. Often it’s the thing you want to discuss, but you’re not quite ready to bring it up directly yet. And it’s therefore easy to miss. It’s worth trying to get to the core of what they want to discuss, rather than the secondary issues that are easy to go into.”
4. Don’t consult
A coach is not the same as a consultant. The coach helps the coachee to realise and reflect, the consultant tells them how things should be done. Mikko explains how to avoid consulting: “It’s important that even if you feel you have the right answers, you don’t become a consultant and tell people what to do. If you don’t know what you are doing, then the responsibility shifts from the coachee to the coach. In this case, you start solving problems too early. Let them think through those things and own the thing.”