3 Essentials for the Leader Coach – Lynn Scott

3 Essentials for the Leader Coach – Lynn Scott

I am excited that Lynn is back as a guest on my blog this month.  You may remember her great post on the 10 truths for leaders who coach.  Today, Lynn shares 3 essential ingredients for the leader who coaches.

3 Essentials for the Leader Coach 

Essential No 1 – Trust and a strong relationship are key to effective coaching.

Sounds obvious, right?

Here’s the science bit:

The two dimensions of interpersonal trust are cognition-based trust and affect-based trust. Cognition based trust focuses on a person’s rational basis for trusting another. Factors which may be considered in this rational process are how competent, reliable and dependable the trusted person has been. Affect-based trust is characterised more so by the emotional bonds between individuals, for example, how much genuine concern is exhibited for the care and welfare of that person’ (Ladyshewsky, 2009).

So, in a nutshell….. are you competent, reliable and dependable and do you genuinely care for your people as human beings?

I worked with a client recently who was adamant that he ‘cared for his people.’   When I challenged him on this, it turned out that he knew very little about his people. How many children they had, what their names were, what their interests were outside work…….and the team had been together for two years!

He is a highly competent man who is now working on developing his ‘human touch’!!

Essential No  2 – Challenge and Support

In my experience, challenge and support (and challenge WITH support) are essential to good coaching. Coaching is not a cosy chat, a talking shop or a ‘whinge’ session.

Firstly, a note on these two words. We all interpret them differently. What is a challenge to me might not be to you. My definition of support might differ from yours. So ALWAYS check the meaning of both these words with the person you are coaching. Simple questions such as ‘what would support look like for you?’ or ‘how will we know you are being sufficiently challenged?’ are useful here.

Many novice coaches worry about the word challenge as they interpret it as something akin to bullying or threatening. It isn’t!

When there is trust, respect and support leader coaches can offer challenging interventions which compel the individual to confront reality and challenge their thinking. One of my ‘must reads’ on this subject is John Blakey and Ian Day’s Challenging Coaching. I highly recommend it for independent and leader coaches alike.

I know when I’m being challenged by my coach….. I get that ‘damn, you’re on to me – I can’t hide!’ feeling which enables me to confront reality, squirm a great deal but find a way to move forward. My coach is using what Blakey and Day would call her ‘Loving Boot’ – in service of my higher performance!

Essential No 3 – Good Coaching Skills

If I asked a roomful of people what good coaching skills are, I’d probably hear:

  • Open/powerful questions
  • Listening
  • Building rapport
  • Agreeing goals and following up
  • Feedback
  • Challenge and Support

To name but a few. And these are, of course, all good coaching skills.

Much has been written about these skills so rather than re-inventing the wheel I’d like to elaborate on a couple of them and add my thoughts based on training a number of leaders over the years in coaching skills.

  1. My very wise coach-mentor once said to me that ‘the best questions are the ones you would ever only use once’. I love this! Whilst when we’re starting out it can help to have a few standard questions up our sleeves, it can actually detract from really good listening. Why would we only use these questions once? Because they use the language of the person being coached. So instead of interpreting or translating what we think we’ve heard….. we use their language as part of our question or response. Try it!
  2. Silence…. Is golden. Many new leader coaches in training want to fill the silence with words. We’re often uncomfortable with silence. Practise staying silent for five seconds. It’s really not that long but it can often encourage deeper thinking, reflection or more time for the person being coached to ‘think out loud’.
  3. Don’t get bogged down in the detail. It’s rare that you need it! Focus instead on what the real issue is. Ask yourself ‘what’s really going on here?’ Is all the minutiae helping you get to the heart of the matter? Probably not.
  4. Listening is a skill that can be improved vastly with practise.   So put down the notepad, or turn away from the screen and focus on what the team member is saying (and not saying).
  5. Help the team member to define, achieve and map clear tangible steps and actions. One step at a time. Work with her on the ‘how’ as part of your discussion. So for example rather than letting your team member leave the discussion with ‘I’ll go away and speak to Jane about it’ you can ask your team member to plan that discussion with Jane in the room with you. So she’ll not only know what, she’ll know HOW!
  6. Watch out for red-herrings. Poor time management is rarely resolved by sending someone on a time management course. We all know the principles of good time management. What stops us being organised is normally a set of faulty beliefs about ourselves and others. Work on the REAL issue.

If this sounds like it all takes too much time – it doesn’t have to. If you only have ten minutes for an informal discussion you simply start by saying ‘I’ve got ten minutes – what’s the most useful thing we can do in that time to help you move forward’ or words to that effect. Your goal is to avoid having to say ‘leave it with me’. At least in most cases!

Lynn Scott


Lynn Scott is a Leadership and Team Coach, Coach Supervisor and Coach Trainer and Mentor. Previously Lynn had an international career in the highly competitive and fast moving travel industry which included management roles in Europe, USA and North Africa. She was the first female Head of Operations for Airtours PLC (now part of Thomas Cook) with responsibility for overseas destinations that included Australia and Thailand, before setting up Lynn Scott Coaching Ltd. She trained as an Executive Coach in 2001/2.



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