Becoming a coaching leader
Leading an organisation is never straightforward and as we live through increasingly unpredictable times the ability to adapt and be agile is more important than ever. This means that we need to look beyond the 'leaders lead and teams follow' approach.
Taking a coaching approach to leadership is all about moving away from giving teams instructions and instead of giving them guidance and support. To not default to seeing yourself as the provider of answers but asking questions to help your team find solutions instead.
Coaching well can be tricky and does take practice, and shifting your mindset to move away from a prescriptive style of leadership will take time. But working with your team in this way can help you address problems, develop and achieve long-term goals and improve performance.
The power of non-directive coaching
There are lots of coaching models, but increasingly leaders are recognising the opportunities non-directive coaching offers.
This approach to coaching is built on listening, questioning and resisting the temptation to judge. The focus is on drawing insight, creativity, and solutions from your people to help them learn to overcome challenges and solve issues on their own.
The GROW model
If you want to start using a coaching approach with your team this widely used model is a great place to start. It's a simple but powerful framework based on an acronym:
- Will/What next?
This is the first step in the process and it's about establishing what the person you're working with wants to achieve at this moment. Not long-terms goals, aspirations or business strategies but the topic for this discussion. It's not the usual way conversations evolve so as the coach you might need to establish this with a direct question like: 'What do you want to achieve today?'.
The second stage is where you start to drill down into the facts. Where both parties can discuss the current reality of the situation: the what, when, where, and who. By asking questions like 'What is happening right now?' and 'What impact is it having?', you can start to draw out the major challenges and start to identify any opportunities. It's key at this stage for a coach to be actively listening and not making any assumptions or judgements about the situation.
This is where the exciting bit happens. Your team might come into these conversations stuck, thinking there are no options to resolve situations but now is the time to help them find new directions. Simple open-ended questions like 'In an ideal world what would happen next' can be freeing and help people start to think more broadly and once there are options on the table focusing on the detail with questions like 'What could help you achieve this?' or 'Who do you need on board to make it work?' can help them explore the best way forward.
The final stage is to end the session with a plan of action. 'What will you do next?' 'How will you make it happen?', 'How committed to this are you?' you'll need to pose questions like these to help them form a clear sense of what happens next. You might need to revisit earlier steps in the process if forming a plan is tricky. It's important as a coach to remain flexible and open throughout the process and resist the temptation to judge or steer the outcome.
Embedding coaching in your culture
For coaching to truly transform the way your business operates it needs to be embedded in your culture.
In reality, when you’re a coaching leader much of your coaching will – and should – happen away from set sessions. When your everyday exchanges with your team are based on asking the right questions, active listening, and supporting them to work through challenges you’re heading in the right direction.
And when you've started to employ a coaching style, share it with your leadership team. The more this style of communication becomes the go-to in conversations across the business the more your team will start to feel empowered to take responsibility and create positive change.
Work with your leadership team to help them see the value they can get from the conversations they have, the new insights they have the potential to uncover and the development opportunities coaching offers to both coach and coachee.
When a new way of working is embedded across the team that's when cultural transformation happens.
Ultimately coaching is about unlocking potential – potential for positive change in your business and the potential of your team. It’s undoubtedly a powerful tool and can help to break through barriers and overcome challenges. Changing to this style of leading and communicating will take time but it can have a lasting effect on individuals and the success of your business.
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