Coaching is an under-developed skill for many leaders.  Here are four ways to improve in this necessary (and often quite rewarding) area:

Get clear on what coaching IS.  Coaching has been made to seem way more complicated than necessary.  My definition: coaching is dramatically improving effectiveness by helping people learn to be better.  The definition itself will give you some direction in what to do.  “Help people learn” means highlighting things they may not know or are missing.  “To be” indicates a state.  The best results come when we coach the person and not the problem.  Solving a problem is good.  Helping a person learn to be a better (fill in the blank) and therefore solve their own problems is even better.  How much of your coaching is people focused versus problem focused?

Understand the process.  The coaching process is moving people to a state of higher awareness (of strengths, options, values, etc) to a state of improved behaviors.  At the most basic level, the process is to engage people in conversations that help boost their understanding, get them to select options, and move into actions to which there is attached an accountability structure.  In your coaching conversations, how much are you promoting understanding versus lecturing?

Practice in the moment.  The emphasis of coaching is helping people learn.  Our workdays are filled with learning opportunities.  If your team member has expressed they want to learn to be a more influential leader and you observed behavior in a meeting that would be helpful to them, take the time soon (or best immediately following) the meeting to convey your observations.  To what extent are you taking advantage of learning moments?

Practice with plans.  Many areas of improvement can take time to develop. While the annual review is often a waste of time, it can be significantly improved by actually using as intended – tracking improvement over time.  This is a natural coaching opportunity for leaders.  At any point a coaching goal can be added to an annual plan. DO have appropriate interim check-ins on progress. DO NOT save up comments for an annual dump.  Are there skills and behaviors your employees are working on?  Get them documented.  To what extent are developmental goals written, agreed upon and followed up on?