Becoming a coaching leader is critical for leaders who want to effectively improve the performance of their organization and those they lead. There has been much discussion about leaders spending more time coaching and how it can benefit their leadership performance, but I continue to see many leaders struggle to practice coaching on a regular basis.
There are typically two reasons for this:
- It is competency-based. Leaders may frequently hear about the importance of coaching, but they have not have received the training necessary to coach effectively.
- It is not a priority. In addition to managing the daily operations of the business and their role within the organization, coaching is neglected because they believe they lack the time.
The good news is that you, as a leader, can significantly increase your effectiveness as a coach to drive the performance of your people and the overall organization, regardless of where you are now. Even if you believe that coaching is not one of your strengths, you can improve. And it is crucial to remember this, as your improvement as a coaching leader is a prerequisite for future performance. Employees do not desire be managed or directed more. They want to be coached and given the chance to learn and improve so that they can do great work.
The following are four actionable ways to become a better coaching leader who drives both the business and the performance of those they lead:
1. Make it a Priority
Coaching must become a daily priority in order to truly become an effective coaching leader. It cannot be something that is done once in a while. It must be nurtured and developed on a daily basis with the same rigor and focus as executing your business strategy. When coaching becomes a priority, it remains at the forefront of your mind, prompting more cues on how to influence your people and drive maximum impact. In addition, for you to be an effective coach, your people must anticipate consistency and a regular cadence. Prioritizing something increases the likelihood that it will be performed on a continuous basis. I encourage all leaders to implement the best practice of scheduling weekly coaching sessions with their employees. Don’t leave it to chance. What is scheduled is more likely to be completed.
2. Ask the Right Questions
A major pitfall for many leaders is the belief that they must have all the answers and appear to be the foremost authority in everything they do. In reality, this is the furthest thing from the truth, and great leaders are aware of this. In actuality, it’s the exact opposite. The more a leader is able to be vulnerable and transparent, admitting what they do not understand or that they do not have all the answers can be incredibly powerful. Continuously asking the right questions of your team members is a necessary practice for becoming an effective coaching leader. These questions will vary based on the organization, industry, present obstacles, and desired outcomes.
The goal is to figure out what those questions are for you and your team, and then to check in on them on a regular basis and ask them those questions. One of those questions could be getting into the habit of asking what their biggest challenges are that are preventing them from doing their job to the best of their ability. Another important question to ask is whether they are able to use their strengths the majority of the time. The answers to these questions provide you with essential and valuable talking points as opportunities for coaching continue to arise.
3. Be Extremely Clear on Expectations
Any successful or effective coaching relationship between an employee and their manager will be marked by clear expectations about where the employee is, where they need to go, and what needs to happen to get them there. Failure to address expectations in a concise and clear manner can backfire in a number of ways, but most importantly, it hinders on-the-job performance and continuous growth in the ways that are most significant for future performance. Even if a team member does not ask publicly what is expected of them, nine times out of ten they will express to their coworkers or family members that their engagement at work is diminishing by the day if they do not know what they should be working toward.
4. Master the Art of Informal Coaching
Informal coaching has been mastered by the most effective business leaders I’ve seen develop into great coaches. When some leaders hear they need to coach their people more, they immediately think about how they will have to create a formal mechanism to coach and how much time and energy it will take. Even though there should be a formal outline and strategy in place to consistently coach and develop your people, an informal approach can make a significant difference.
When done correctly, it appears authentic and as if the leader genuinely cares about helping their people improve. An example of informal coaching is calling a team member immediately following a presentation to a client rather than waiting three weeks for a scheduled meeting. There is a good chance you will have forgotten what you wanted to discuss with them if you wait three weeks. Informal coaching can take different forms depending on the leader, but mastering the art of on-the-spot and informal coaching can yield significant returns.
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