Jan Ng - Aug 27, 2018

Learning to Coach with Less Time

Learn the 5 essential coaching skills and be empowered to practice and apply them in your daily lives

What is Coaching and Why is it Important?

 “Coaching is engaging and empowering, and it enables people to see their situations with new perspectives and possibilities,” said Tan Swee Heng, Leadership Coach of LZ Leadership International, who was speaking at the inaugural SkillsFuture Festival Executive Series @ WeWork co-organised by Emergenetics Asia Pacific and Lifelong Learning Institute.

What Swee Heng said in his opening preamble about coaching and why it is important resonated with me, as I believe that helping someone see something from a different angle would introduce them to new possibilities and might even lead them to the elusive a-ha moment.

Swee Heng pointed out that it is important to remember that the coaching exchange is a two-way communication: the coach asks questions, and the coachee comes up with their own solution and therefore, feels empowered and have a deeper sense of ownership which would then lead to enabling them to solve their problems. The coaching conversation is meant to equip the coachee with new capabilities that can be applied in any situation that he experiences in the future.

To sum it up, Coaching:

  • engages people to think and to speak their mind
  • empowers people to develop their own solutions and the ownership to implement them
  • enables people to take action and equips them with the skills for greater responsibilities

With that, Swee Heng went on to share on five fundamental coaching skills:

1. Coaching Mindset
Swee Heng suggested that it’s important to catch the coaching moment. It’s not difficult and doesn’t require any formal training, it just takes some observation. He asked that we keep in mind that we would like to help the other person out. Formulate some questions in our mind to assist in the reflection process to empower the coachee to see what was done well, and what can be improved on.

2. Listen
Listening. To really listen, at 100% capacity, is tougher than it sounds, but not impossible. Our ability to ask powerful questions comes from our ability to listen. A human mind is able to listen to 450 words per minute, but we are only able to speak at an average of 150 words per minute. Therefore, there’s that spare capacity of about 300 words for us to think about other things and distract us. Reminded me of what my team mate Samantha shared about power of listening.

Swee Heng pointed out that if we take the time to internalise that information, it creates self-awareness. Acknowledging that our mind can get distracted, even sub-consciously, brings the knowledge to the forefront, and thus, enabling us to pull our mind back to the present.

3. Ask
Swee Heng asked: “Why is asking questions important in coaching?”  With questions, the coachee is encouraged to think deeper and really understand the situation they are in. As we ask open questions, assume that the coachee has the answers. A good place to start would be with the 5 Ws and 1 H – Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. Focus the questions on the coachee, not the problem. Swee Heng reminded us that it’s important to remember that we are not trying to solve a problem here, we are here as a coach.

As the coachee answer the questions that we ask, encourage the thinking of alternatives so that we help the coachee to dig deeper and to use this technique to make decisions in the future. Questions are like lights down a dark path, they guide the way, but the coachee needs to take action and to walk down the path.

4. Pause
After we have asked a question and the coachee is thinking, Swee Heng cautioned us against filling in the silence with another question, or try to prompt the coachee with our own ideas of an answer. Create and hold the space for him. The silence we offer lets the coachee know that it’s safe to open up, to speak and that whatever that is said, will be listened to. Not interrupting our coachee while he or she is speaking, is equally as important.Swee Heng asked that we value the words that are spoken – it took time for the coachee to get to this point, so let’s respect that.

5. Clap
Motivate our coachee along the way. Affirmation encourages the coachee to open up further and lets him or her know that it’s a safe space to speak up. With this positive reinforcement, repetition of this behavior will definitely take place in future. Building our coachee’s confidence energises him or her, and this energy will be transferred to solving the coachee’s problems on his or her own. Affirmation also helps to get a coachee unstuck. The coachee might be too caught up in negative thoughts that when we offer something positive, it might pull the coachee out of the rut and encourage him or her to take a step forward.

Keep Practising!
Swee Heng’s five fundamentals of coaching are simple steps that we can take into coaching anyone at anytime. I know that I would need to keep practising, and the steps will come naturally to me. For me, I certainly look forward to making it a habit to ask questions, instead of telling someone what to do. This is because I believe, too, that empowering people helps them make confident decisions on their own.

This article was originally published on the SkillsFuture Festival Executive Series @ WeWork

About the Speaker
Mr Tan Swee Heng
Mr Tan Swee Heng

Leadership Coach,
LZ Leadership International

The author of “Coaching In The Moment — How busy leaders can make more impact with less time”,  Mr. Tan Swee Heng is a leadership coach with more than 31 years of management experience in Asia. He is a professionally certified coach with ICF and is an authorised distributor for Gnowbe, the leading smartphone micro-learning platform.


Coaching in the Moment
Learning to Coach with Less Time

Coaching in the Moment offers a powerful and practical approach to engage, empower, and enable your people with less time. Within the pages of this book, you will learn simple coaching skills and techniques to develop the capabilities of your people to create more impact for your organisation.

This book is for busy leaders like you. Coaching in the moment will enable you to achieve greater success and make more impact with less time. You do not always have to set aside time to coach. You can coach anytime and anywhere, in the moment, just when it is needed.

Asking one coaching question will change your conversation and pivot the focus on your people, where it should be. By using coaching in the moment as your primary leadership approach, you will:

  • Achieve your work goals and develop your people at the same time
  • Fulfil your KPIs by raising your team’s competency
  • Engage, empower, and enable your people
  • Attract and retain talent
  • Grow and nurture your team’s potential
  • Free up more of your time by enabling delegation
  • Build trust and closer relationships

Written by Jan Ng