5 Key Skills to Becoming a CLEAR Manager

Much of managing is coaching others.  Supporting them to be their best.  Guiding them in the right direction.  Empowering them and letting them grow.  If you want a strong team of players you need to know how to coach them to be their best.  Here are 5 key skills you need to be a great coach in a simple-to-remember acronym, CLEAR.

C – Curiosity

L – Listening

E – Encouragement

A – Action

R – Reflection


Curiosity.  Be Curious.  “First seek to understand, then to be understood.” A quotation from Stephen Covey that in 8 words sums up the idea of having curiosity.  Ask powerful questions.  Suspend judgments and assumptions.  For example, if you know an employee is struggling with a project, get curious about what is going on.  Try to understand, from the employee’s perspective, what is happening.

Curiosity without judgment allows for deeper conversation.  If needed, think of yourself as a third party consultant to the situation.  Ask questions objectively.  Ask questions that are in the interests of the organization and the employee, not necessarily your own self interests.  You can ask meaningful questions and get to the heart of an issue more quickly when curiosity is used authentically, sincerely, and without personal assumptions attached. 

Here are a couple of questions you can try using when you get stuck:

  • How can I support you in this?
  • What is getting in the way?
  • Where might you get stopped?
  • Why is it so frustrating?

Listening. Asking questions and being curious without paying attention to the response would be a waste of time.  Ernest Hemingway put it well when he said, “When people talk, listen completely.  Most people never listen.”  Listen for what someone says and for what is left unsaid.  Think about listening beyond what is spoken.  Listen for feeling and intent.  Listen to tone and pace of what is spoken.  Listen to body language and facial expressions.  The act of listening tells your team that you are being supportive.  Their trust in you will increase when they know that you listen to them. 

Here are a couple of tips on how to actively listen:

  • Clear the chatter in your head.  Don’t worry about coming up with the right thing to say next.  Put aside the thought that you already know what the person is going to tell you.  Allow it to be spoken.
  • Eliminate other distractions.  Close the door, put the phone on “do not disturb”, and turn of IM and email alerts.
  • Reflect or mirror back what the person is saying.
  • Match the person’s pace and tone.

The next letter in the acronym is “E” for encouragement.  It important to keep in mind that while the acronym, CLEAR, is a helpful reminder these skills do not have to be acted on in a linear format.

Encouragement.  This word means different things to different people.  We want to look at it specifically from the context of a manager creating an encouraging environment.  Encouragement means empowering people to solve their own problems.  It means focusing on strengths and endorsing someone.  John O’Donohue, philosopher and poet once said, “One of the most beautiful gifts in the world is the gift of encouragement. When someone encourages you, that person helps you over a threshold you might otherwise never have crossed on your own.”  He reminds us that encouraging is sometimes asking for more than the person will ask of themselves.

Here are a couple of tips on how to encourage:

  • Create possibility where there was none.
  • Help the person move into action.
  • Create a supportive environment where barriers can be identified and removed.
  • Feedback should come from a place of love and be unconditionally constructive


Action.  To provide CLEAR coaching you must be able to support your team members in moving from problem thinking to solution thinking and from talking to acting.  Sometimes this will mean stepping out of the details of their story and pulling them out of the details too so they can begin to focus on next steps.  Other times it may mean setting Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-bound (SMART) goals and determining how to hold the person accountable.  Creating that forward movement can be kindled by powerful questions.  Questions that help drive the individual into action on their own.

Here are a couple of questions you may ask to help move a person to action:

  • What is your next step?
  • What is your strategy for that?
  • What is your estimate for completion?
  • What’s getting in your way of moving ahead?

Anatole France reminds us, “To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.”  As a manager your must help your team accomplish great things.  Allow them to dream, support their planning process, and believe in them.


Reflection.  The last piece of CLEAR coaching skills is “reflection.”  As a manager you look for opportunities to help your team members learn and grow.  Reflection is a tool that supports learning.  This is different than how we use the term to talk about the listening technique of communicating back what you heard.  In this case, it is an exercise in taking a look back at an incident or a conversation from a more objective point-of-view than you are capable of in the moment.  The phrase hindsight is 20:20 fits well with this skill.  You can help your team members use hindsight to reflect on situations and learn from them. The CLEAR coaching skills can help.  Ask powerful questions, encourage them to really place themselves back in the situation, help them identify if any changes were made how they might envision a different outcome. 

Confucius said, “Learning without reflection is a waste, reflection without learning is dangerous.”  If you are going to help a team member ponder over the past, support and encourage them to learn from it.  Our lives can be an on-going lesson if we are willing to pause, reflect, and learn.  Be a manager that coaches others on using reflection as an effective learning tool.

Here are a couple of ways to support a positive reflection exercise:

  • Ask the individual to place themselves in the other person’s shoes.  What could have been on the mind of the other person at the time the situation took place?
  • If you could do it all over, what would you change?
  • Think about what was said.  What words were used in the situation that have the ability to create a strong negative (or strong positive) response? 
  • What was the real result you were trying to achieve?

Using CLEAR coaching skills can help you have more meaningful conversations, ask powerful questions, gain trust, strengthen accountability and support learning.  Practice these coaching techniques regularly and be a CLEAR manager.


NOTE:  This is a little preview into many of the public speaking engagements I have committed to this year.  If you liked this information and would like to know more visit one of the upcoming conferences where I am facilitating a breakout session or contact me directly.

The CLEAR coaching model is intellectual property created Coach Effect, Inc.  If you want to use or re-purpose any part of the model, please contact us for permission.


One Response to “5 Key Skills to Becoming a CLEAR Manager”

  1. A peak at the “Get CLEAR! Coaching Skills Workshop” « Coach Effect's Blog Says:

    […] what “CLEAR” is?  It’s an acronym for: Curiosity, Listening, Encouragement, Action, and […]

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