The Power of Coaching

In our last blog, we explored how to strengthen EQ muscles and become more attuned to leading with both your head and your heart. This week, we are going to shift gears and talk about the most powerful leadership style that is sometimes undervalued and seen as too time-consuming by some leaders – the coaching style of leadership.

All too often we focus on immediate results and taking quick, decisive action. We want results now, which keeps us focused almost entirely on the present moment. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it ignores the benefits that can be experienced by helping your people grow and develop on a deeper level by focusing on both the hard and soft skills required to do their job to the best of their ability.

One of our primary objectives and accountability as leaders is to help our people perform at their best and to support their ongoing growth and development. This type of dialogue requires leaders to lean into the coaching style which emphasizes the power of asking the right questions to encourage individuals and teams to think for themselves and come up with ideas and actions that will drive the company forward. Then you get to play the role of a supportive leader who is there to share ideas and collaborate together which is much more empowering than telling people what to do all the time. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we have to be directive, particularly when decisions come top-down, which happens sometimes, and that’s okay.  

Leaders who naturally embrace the coaching style understand that people are at the core of the company’s success and their role is to help develop their people to their fullest potential and to continually strive for excellence together.

The challenge is that this style doesn't come easily to a lot of leaders, particularly those who were groomed under the old style of command and control leadership, which is highly directive and can come across as micromanagement when overused.  

Benefits of the Coaching Style of Leadership

Some of the key benefits of the coaching leadership style include:

  • A positive, measurable -- if not immediate impact on overall performance and engagement.
  • Fosters accountability and creates a high-performance culture.
  • Ability to delegate effectively and empower others.
  • Uncovers the hidden strengths, talents, and abilities of your team members and gauges an understanding of their true potential.
  • Creates trust and deepens relationships with your people.

Coaching Leadership -- What Does it Look Like?

In an ideal scenario, the coaching leadership style might look something like this:

Riley has a strong vision for the Marketing Research team that he leads. He understands the "big picture," and he can see how the development of his team will improve performance, not only in his division, but for the company as a whole. He knows his team members well as individuals, too, and can picture each one of them realizing their ultimate potential.

Riley's focused on getting results and making things happen on a day-to-day basis. He wouldn't be in charge of his team if that weren't the case. But he also knows that the success of his team is largely tied to the potential they have yet to realize. So he coaches them and offers ongoing feedback so they can deliver results and achieve their personal and professional goals.

One specific employee, Catherine, is upset by budget cuts that prevent the team from employing as many research resources as needed. Catherine clearly wants the best for the company, but also has the desire to achieve personal satisfaction in ensuring the initiative is a success. Riley notices that Catherine is upset and needs to deal with this situation.

So what does Riley do?

He approaches Catherine, not as a boss, but as a coach who understands the scenario and feels the frustration she is experiencing. He shows empathy and understanding. Riley also knows that the real issue with his employee is that she isn't being challenged enough in her current role so perhaps it's time for her to go after that promotion and take on greater responsibility.

Even though it doesn't help his division directly, Riley understands that engaged employees who are working up to their potential are the engine of the organization, so he coaches Catherine on ways she can secure the promotion and develop herself within the company.

This is the essence of the coaching style of leadership!

6 Tips for Leveraging the Coaching Leadership Style

  1. Recognize when employees are ready for coaching, and when they are better left to deliver on their own and have the capability to do so.

  2. Understand that coaching is ineffective when employees are unwilling to learn or develop – they need to be an active and willing participant.

  3. Explore how every individual employee fits into the big picture of the overall organization and what you can do to guide them achieve more growth and development.

  4. Develop a habit of offering ongoing feedback and coaching to people through learning opportunities and experiences.

  5. Honestly assess your own expertise -- are you coaching your people from a place of real authority and knowledge and are you meeting them where they are at developmentally?

  6. Ensure your people know that your leadership represents an investment in them as individuals – you value them and are here to support their overall success.

Awareness of your own tendencies as a leader is critical. Check in with yourself from time to time and be sure you're keeping an eye on long and short-term objectives so you can ensure that you're employing the coaching style when it is most likely to be effective.

Coaching a Team of Achievers

Whether the style comes naturally to you or not, the coaching style of leadership is essential to a successful, well-balanced organization. The style is extraordinarily effective at helping leaders get results and move closer to their ultimate vision and achieving bottom line results.

What are your thoughts? Do you employ this style naturally or is there room to exercise this approach more readily with your team? Have you been afraid to lean into this style because of its lack of emphasis on immediate results? I'd love to hear what you think!

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