5.3 Critical skills as a Coach – Observational
All leaders need training in coaching. There are five key skills that managers need in preparing to be a coach
Mentors should keep track of their members’ performances on an everyday basis, to spot opportunities for members to expand their capabilities. Once they identify relevant opportunities, they must act Immediately. To the extent that members associate their behaviours with their leader/mentor’s observations, they will be more likely to make amends and improve their performance in the future. In gathering information, leaders may obtain data via direct observation, or their networks of relationships with other members.
Leaders must be able to recognize development opportunities for their members, and they must determine whether and when coaching is needed to take full advantage of these opportunities.
Identifying such opportunities depends on the information gathered through direct observations and through indirect data obtained from other sources. In addition, leaders should talk with members to ascertain the validity of their data. Overall, a mentor will need the answer to several of the following questions before providing feedback and advice to a member:
- How did he or she perform the task?
- What was done properly?
- What areas need to be worked on?
- What other procedures or techniques might he or she use?
- What specific alternatives can the member try to improve himself and his performance?
The purpose of this step is not to label or embarrass the member but rather to establish where the member is at. What is his or her real potential? A superficial understanding of a member is potentially dangerous to both the leader and the member. If the members receive poor advice, they may become discouraged, and keep away from the jama’ah. If the leader is identified as a poor coach, his or her own credibility and effectiveness will suffer. The leader should probe patiently until he or she has carefully assessed what is really going on, and how best to help the member. To avoid any potential negative reaction from members being coached, proceed incrementally, rather than in quantum leaps.
Delegation is the process by which a leader assigns to his members the right to act and to make decisions in certain areas. Delegation is an important leadership skill that should be developed. It enables the leader to give others a chance to develop themselves. It also motivates them because of the enhanced sense of responsibility that it provides. Finally, in situations where the follower is separated by a large geographical distance from the leader, delegation becomes even more critical because the leader cannot be present.
Delegating involves three components:
- A task
- Some degree of authority or power
Delegation starts when leaders divide the tasks that need to be performed in order to achieve a certain goal. In delegating, leaders should select their delegates carefully, and grant them an amount of authority equal to the responsibilities being allocated.
Leaders should remember, however, that they may delegate away some authority or power, but that they are ultimately accountable for the results of any tasks assigned to their members. In other words, delegate, do not abdicate. Simultaneously, the leader needs to explain to the delegates both the scope and nature of their tasks.
Progress checks are still required, and specific, mutually agreeable time limits need to be set. A leader’s ability to delegate effectively is one of the more critical skills that must be developed.
Leaders need to develop their skills as interviewers by asking appropriate questions and by listening attentively. Three types of questions can be asked in performing this task:
- Open-ended questions that lead members to reconsider their problems. Do not say, “What you did will never work. Do as I do.” Instead, ask the member, “What other strategies have you looked at?” or “What may or may not work with your strategy?” or “What have other members tried in similar situations?”
- Closed questions that help the leader to focus on a specific area. For example, ask, “Who in the organisation is responsible for processing membership applications?”
- Reflective questions that repeat a statement the person has made for the purpose of clarification. If a brother were to say, “Sister Aafia is uncooperative,” an effective coach may ask, “Does she refuse to work on a specific project, all projects, or only on projects that you are in charge of?”
While interviewing a member, a leader should remember the importance of listening. Develop active listening skills. Keep quiet and listen; if you keep interrupting the member or find yourself using the word “but,” you may not be listening at all. Also avoid selective listening: hearing what you wish to hear while filtering out any data that does not fit your preconceived ideas. Use appropriate body language such as nods to elicit more information. Active listening does not mean breaking the Islamic etiquette of modesty when communicating with a person of the opposite sex!
See next topic for feedback skills