Leaders, how are you ‘showing up’ for your team?
The way a leader ‘shows up’ during a conversation and the ability to switch between various leadership roles, are key ingredients to be a great coach.
Forward-looking managers by now know that to be a coach is an important element in managing high performance teams.
If managers do not become skilled at coaching their team members, it is unlikely that they will be able to achieve sustainable long-term positive results for themselves or the companies they work for.
In my previous article I’ve discussed how to build a coaching culture in an organisation.
Leaders as coaches are unbiased and do not push their own ideas on the team member – it is all about empowerment. With coaching, the principle is that team members can generate their own solutions. The role of coach is supplying supportive and discovery-based approach.
Determine the right situation, then apply coaching
You need to decide if coaching is the right approach in your current specific situation. Emergencies and crisis are not ideal to apply coaching. When the house is on fire, instant and clear directives are needed, not coaching. Coaching techniques is effective when there is allocated and committed time to have a conversation with your team member without any pressure.
A good frame work to reference is the Situational Leadership Framework. It helps managers to adjust their style to fit the development level of the follower he/she is trying to influence. Managers can switch between a directing, delegating and supportive role, depending on the competence and commitment of the team member. Effective leaders are versatile in being able to switch roles according to the situation.
As a leader, are you able to switch between the different roles?
When building a coaching culture, it is important for the leader to determine which situation requires which role and then to switch back into the coaching role as soon as possible. Let’s have a look at the different roles leaders/managers of teams can have:
Role Modelling: A leader should always ‘walk the talk’ and can’t say one thing and do something else. The behaviours and actions must be aligned with the values of the company.
Mentoring: In this role, the leader shares his/her experience and expertise through story-telling and discussions. The employee has some knowledge but lacks experience on the topic. Sometimes mentoring is confused for coaching as both require good listening skills. Return to a coaching approach by asking “how will your future action/decision be different based on the lessons learned from my experience”?
Advising: You are giving options, evaluating their experience or creating insights. Leaders need to be aware that coaching and advising is conflicting activities.
The role of a coach is neutral and unbiased at all times.
As an advisor, it is expected to give options and suggestions. It is therefore impossible to be coach and advisor at once. One should also consider that when giving advice or making a recommendation, it goes hand and hand with taking responsibility for the advice given.
A better approach can be to leave the responsibility with the employee by asking or suggesting “Could this be a possibility for you?” or “Another approach worth exploring is…”. This tends to signal that it is their call to come up with the solution and to be accountable for their decision.
Teaching: In this situation the team member is lacking knowledge in a specific area. The leader can teach by explaining the concept/topic in a clear way, answer the relevant questions and verify that the employee is comfortable with the new knowledge.
Switch back into the coaching role by asking “How will this new knowledge affect your future actions?” Once again you are giving the responsibility back to the employee.
Which skills can be developed to assist leaders in becoming better coaches?
Active listening is an important foundation for any leader in a coaching role. This diagramme by Centre for Creative Leadership summarize it well:
- Be attentive – Pay specific attention to the non-verbal cues. For example, the tone of voice or the body language. This is often more honest than verbal communication.
- Asking open-ended questions – Too often, leaders approach interactions from a problem-solving mindset. By using open-ended questions, it can create new insights or possibilities to a situation as it takes the employee out of the problem into solution thinking.
Here are a few powerful open-ended questions that you can try if you are stuck (Conversational Intelligence for Coaches):
- If we had no vested interest in this, how would you look at it?
- What’s another side we haven’t yet considered?
- What if we could implement any solution, what would we go for?
- What questions would guide this situation to a positive outcome?
- If money were no problem, what would we do?
- How would our customers see this?
- Paraphrase – To show you are listening and to clarify your understanding, restate what the employee said in your own words. Don’t “parrot” everything they have said but do include the words and terminology they have used.
- Have compassion – The Consciousness Coaching definition of compassion is having an understanding of what the team member is going through yet expecting the best of them.
What is the role of the team member in this? Coaching is a journey and you begin with the end in mind.
The team member must take responsibility and be committed to achieving their ambitions. The leader can provide the framework for exploring but ultimately the employee has to take ownership of the outcome. Be very clear on the objectives and goals they want to achieve and how you will support them in your various roles as a leader.
Lastly, but almost the most important aspect in the role of a coach, is to consider how you are showing up during the conversation. Are you judging the employee’s actions, lack of experience or diverse views? Do you want to force your opinion, or do you allow the employee to find their solutions even if it might be different to your own views? It is a 40% 60% split between what you are doing and who you are being in the discussions.
Great coaches aren’t born; they’re made through dedication, commitment, and practice.
By taking the initiative and proactively working to become a better coach, you will elevate not only your own performance, but that of your team, and by extension, your organisation.