ICF: communication matters

ICF professional coach Kara Exner explains how coaching can help leaders enhance their communication skills

Research shows that executives who work on their communication skills manage people more effectively

Research shows more organisational leaders than ever before are interested in coaching as a way to enhance their leadership skills and, in turn, maintain the health of their organisations. According to Stanford Graduate School of Business’s 2013 Executive Coaching Survey, top areas that CEOs use coaching to improve include sharing leadership and delegation, conflict management, and team-building.

These functional areas all rest on the same foundation: excellent communication skills. Here, International Coach Federation (ICF) Professional Certified Coach and 2013 ICF Global Board of Directors member Kara Exner discusses how partnering with a professional coach can help you take your communication skills to the next level.

Why is it so important for leaders to have top-notch communication skills?
Leaders are accountable for achieving results through others, and any interaction with others – from direct report and peers, to stakeholders and senior executives – requires an ability to clearly communicate one’s own ideas while listening to others’ points of view.

In my experience of working with leaders, many are so eager to approach the task at hand that they lose sight of how they are communicating. Creating agreements up front for how group members are expected to interact is an investment of time that pays off in the end. It is much easier and more efficient to refer back to the agreements, ground rules, roles and responsibilities, and expectations that were set out at the start than to perform damage control when a miscommunication occurs.

…many [leaders] are so eager to approach the task at hand that they lose sight of how they are communicating

How does one identify and leverage one’s communication style?
Communication is enhanced when you understand your own communication style and the impact it has on how you’re perceived. Working with a professional coach can help increase your self-awareness and put you on the path towards more effective communication.

The ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential. A professional coach will: discover, clarify and align with what you as the client want to achieve; encourage self-discovery; elicit solutions and strategies; and hold you accountable for new learning and development.

A growing body of research shows that, for executives who strive to communicate effectively and better manage the people within their organisations, coaching works. According to the 2009 ICF Global Coaching Client Study, 72 percent of coaching clients reported improved communication skills, 73 percent reported overall improvements in interpersonal relationships and 61 percent reported improved business-management skills.

How do those who are interested in coaching find a coach to partner with?
The ICF recommends that you interview three coaches before you decide on one. In addition to requesting at least two references each, the ICF recommends asking them about their coaching experience, training, specialities and philosophy, as well as previous businesses they have worked with and what levels, the types of assessments they are certified to deliver, and whether or not they are accredited members of ICF.

The ICF’s membership eligibility requirements make it easy for coaching consumers to make an informed decision. All ICF Members must pledge to uphold the ICF Code of Ethics and commit to coach-specific training. As a result, consumers can have confidence that ICF Member coaches are well-prepared to offer their services.

Possession of an ICF Credential is another clear sign of a coach’s commitment to professionalism. ICF Credential-holders have met stringent requirements for education and experience and demonstrated a strong commitment to ethical behaviour, ongoing professional development and excellence in coaching.