How did 25 years' experience of working in public relations and communications equip me to become a personal and business coach? And how does my newly acquired training as a business and personal coach, improve or enhance my PR consultancy skills?
Few would argue that communication is the key to effective coaching. Perhaps less discussed is how good coaching skills can lead to better, more targeted, PR strategising and planning.
Coaching is all about having better conversations. Used well, coaching skills will help to establish a good rapport between client and consultant from the outset of a PR assignment; help to clarify the brief and both parties' expectations of the work they will do together; and identify the specific goals of the PR exercise. The quality of this conversation then needs to be maintained throughout the life of the project.
The skills can be summarised as follows:
Listening - allowing space for the client to think-through and articulate their aspirations for the outcome of their work with you. These aspirations may not all be 'surface' ("sell more") and the good coach/consultant will pick up on this and create the space for a deeper conversation to take place.
Being present - a coach/consultant will be totally focused on what they can learn from the client, rather than itching to jump into the conversation to say what they can do for the client. Their own ego ("I can") is parked, and they are fully engrossed in the conversation taking place right here, right now.
Using empathy - this is not the same as being present. Real empathy means the ability to see things from the other person's perspective. An experienced coach will 'tune in' to both the verbal and non verbal cues they receive from their client, building a deep rapport and understanding of the client's point-of-view.
Being succinct - as professional communicators, both PR consultant and coach should be able to distill complex messages into bite-sized chunks. But a coach will use this ability to zone in on what is really going on, reflecting the client's needs and requirements back to them in clear, simple language and establishing the expectations of the relationship from the outset, and throughout.
Good questioning - good coaches use powerful questions not to demonstrate their superior creativity and powers of insight, but to help their clients focus on their issues with a new and totally different perspective. Key to the coaching process is the conviction that the client is the 'expert' and has the solutions. The coach's role is to unlock these, with carefully chosen questions.
Giving feedback - the best client/consultant relationships involve being able to receive, and offer, authentic feedback. Good clients get great work. This is also true of coaching relationships. Effective feedback, which is specific and accentuates the positive, helps both parties to stay focused and keep learning for the duration of their professional relationship.