Leaders are expected to be many things. Managers delivering results; aligning their teams with department and corporate goals. Mentors, encouraging team members to focus on personal growth through offering a broader career perspective. Coaches, helping team members, through introspection and reflection, to become the best versions of themselves.
Daniel Goleman identified six leadership styles in his Emotional Intelligence work. Of the six styles, the least used is Coaching. Leaders offer many excuses to avoid coaching. Do you recognize these?
It takes time to coach.
It is uncomfortable.
It can be scary.
It doesn’t always show immediate bottom-line results.
Are you Coach-Like?
Coaching is a skill, and like any skill, instruction, time and practice are necessary ingredients for a strong foundation. It’s like learning to golf. Golfers know that it is a good idea to take a few (or many) lessons with a golf pro before getting onto the course to avoid creating bad habits that are difficult to change (and before tearing up divots and slicing dozens of balls into the rough). Studies show that if someone takes even a few lessons they will end up developing good habits that can be honed through practice. Leaders should approach coaching like golf (or any endeavor). After all, if coaching is a valuable skill, then it should be worth someone’s investment of time and practice! If it seems too easy, or something that anyone can do, it may lose its value in the eyes of leaders.
What can we do to get our leaders, and ourselves, to be more coach-like?
To start with, leaders need to know how to ASK. Leaders love to tell because it is easier than asking. Asking can be scary (Especially if you don’t know the answers to the questions before they’re asked.) Let’s start to become more coach-like by taking the time to ask. Use empowering, positive questions that focus on what’s working and on people’s strengths. Try How, What, When and Who questions. Ask about what is working and what more you can do for your team members. Ask from a place of curiosity. Be genuinely interested!
Then, be quiet and LISTEN. Jimi Hendrix put it best when he said “Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens”. Coaching isn’t about you; it’s about your team members. Let them speak, and when you get the urge to speak WAIT. Ask yourself, Why am I talking? Talk less and learn to listen more!
Simple, first steps in becoming coach-like. Be proactive. Pick a team member you are comfortable with to start. Surprise your team by showing up differently; as a coach-like leader!