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Why should professional services firms be thinking about coaching skills?

In this article we explore what the key skills that coaches have are, and why they are key human-skills that professional services firms are increasingly embracing. If you are a leader, work with leaders, or are trying to encourage change and growth, this article is for you!

What are the key coaching skills?

When you train as a coach, you will be taught some key coaching skills that will underpin your practice. These skills sit underneath the tools that you will learn, the code of ethics that you will follow and will be key to forming a successful relationship with your clients.

The truth is, the key skills underpinning coaching are actually human skills. They are skills that we rarely practice, and rarely learn, so good coach training usually starts there. However, as they are human skills they can benefit relationships outside of coaching, and that is why “coaching” is experiencing such a boom as more and more organisations embrace human-centered leadership.

What are the skills we are talking about?  As we look across the core competencies of the key coaching bodies, we can see reference to numerous skills, including:

  • Active listening

  • Evoking awareness

  • Cultivating trust and safety

  • Emotional intelligence

  • Being present

These are all things that we instinctively feel that we have a sense of. However, when we scratch the surface we realise that there is so much to unpick and develop. It is often the case that "we don't know what we don't know".

Why would firms need to cultivate these skills?

There has for a number of years now been discussion in leadership circles about the benefits of adopting a coaching style. Daniel Goleman puts forward coaching as one of his six emotional leadership styles. He sets forward that:

“Coaching leaders help employees identify their unique strengths and weaknesses and tie them to their personal and career aspirations. They encourage employees to establish long-term development goals and help them conceptualize a plan for attaining them.”

He notes that this is the least adopted of all his styles, which he adds is a shame because it means leaders “are passing up a powerful tool”.

Increasing leaders and partners in professional services firms are being supported to be able to adopt this style of leadership. When we provide training and coaching in this area, we often use coaching-on-the-go, a tool that measures how well individuals fare against 15 key coaching dimensions. Leaders learn how to incorporate these dimensions into their day-to-day style.

However, coaching skills are not just useful for leaders, business development and marketing teams in professional services firms are also increasingly turning to coaching to support them in their roles.

How can marketing and business development teams use coaching skills?

In professional services firms, it is often said that marketing and business development professionals need to know how to coach partners. Why?  It is felt that those who can coach fee-earners can add the most value to their firms – by helping them understand client need and how to build stronger relationships.

Indeed, this approach extends outside of firms, with a host of business development coaches existing to help firms sell. The reality is that coach is so often equated with support and is understood to be synonymous with consulting. This misconception harms coaching as a profession, but also stops firms from really extracting the benefits that coaching can bring.

Where MBD professionals are able to build a rapport with their partners, such that they can hold up a mirror, ask challenging questions and build commitment for future action, they are tapping into coaching. This can be taught and harnessed.  MBD teams who can do this can harness the collective insights and potential within their firms. They can deliver growth.

If you are interested in developing coaching skills in your firm, why don’t you get in touch? From 1:1 coaching, through to masterclasses and bespoke training programmes, we might just have the solution for you.

Coaching skills for professional services firms


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