Coaching is a useful skill for anyone in a leadership position. As a leader, manager or supervisor, you're likely in the best position to know what your people need to be able to improve their performance. While the traditional way is telling them what to do, the coaching mindset is different. It comes from the premise that you're not just supervising people to ensure that they do the job—you want to invest in their growth and develop their strengths and abilities, too. As such, your employees are not just subordinates, or seen as a problem to be fixed. Rather, they're viewed as a reservoir of talent to be nurtured and developed. A leader as coach may keep this perspective and look for opportunities to coach rather than only give orders. They may also display other good leadership qualities, such as being communicative and listening to others.
Signature research conducted by the Human Capital Institute and the International Coaching Federation showed that having a strong coaching culture can be indicative of increased employee engagement: 65 percent of employees in companies with strong coaching cultures rated themselves as highly engaged, compared to 52 percent from organizations without strong coaching cultures.
If you're looking to exhibit good leadership qualities and establish a high-performance culture, you might like to consider employee coaching as one of your leadership tools. If more and more people in your organization are encouraged to adopt a coaching mindset, a coaching culture may naturally emerge, which may have positive effects on employee performance.
So how do you hone your leadership skills to become a good coach? Here are some guidelines to help you:
Establish A Planned Coaching Approach
A coaching moment is any time you see an opportunity, in the moment, to help your employees learn. This means that as a leader, you may find yourself coaching all day, every day. This can take the format of an aside, an informal conversation or behind-the-scenes feedback. But, to be more effective in establishing a coaching culture and exhibiting good leadership qualities, consider coaching more than just once in a while when the opportunity arises. You may want to make coaching a part of a larger framework of employee development.
Gaining clarity on what skills employees need to improve, and what they want to learn in order to grow, may help you as you make coaching a part of your culture. Noticing the gap between where they are and where they want to be may help you coach and help them bridge the gap.
Use A Coaching Process
Coaching is not a point-and-click process. At its best, effective coaching is a meaningful conversation that evolves organically. Consider following your natural curiosity so that you can remain open to what the conversation yields: Information you receive from the person you coach, casual comments, insights, hunches and anything else you glean that can help you coach your employee in the moment. In essence, it's a proactive dialogue between you and the employee you want to help.
Having said this, you may also want to have some coaching processes in your toolkit. Some of these are ensuring, first of all, that you understand the core issues the employee may be struggling with; helping them see patterns of behavior or self-limiting beliefs that may not serve them well; helping them come up with strategies for aligning their behavior with their roles; helping them identify measurable goals; and helping them plan next steps, to name a few.
Develop Essential Coaching Skills to Build Good Leadership Qualities
A fundamental skill in coaching is listening. Consider listening without interrupting instead of rushing to fill the silence, completing their sentences and dispensing advice. Giving advice has its place, but it's generally not considered coaching. Listening with the third ear, that is, listen for the deeper layers of meaning so that you may glean what's not been said outright, may be helpful. It means perceiving the emotional underpinnings of a conversation. This can make you more effective in the coaching process. You may want to share your experiences, if they help, but guard against telling your own war stories. Reminding yourself that this is about them, not you, may help.
Another vital skill in coaching is the ability to ask insightful questions. Good leadership qualities include listening carefully and caring deeply for your people. These two prerequisites may help make it easier to come up with the right questions to ask in order to move the coaching conversation forward. Consider asking open-ended questions that start with "what," "how," "who," "when," and "where." For more effective coaching, consider having these questions come naturally from a sense of curiosity rather than through a canned process (i.e. asking predetermined questions that you know the answers to). This could be perceived as manipulation and could harm the effectiveness of coaching.
Here are examples of questions that can help facilitate a dialogue:
What are you finding challenging in your job at the moment?
What are some things you have tried so far?
How will you communicate the changes to your team?
How will you deal with resistance?
How can I/we support you?
Where do you see the biggest obstacles?
When did you realize that?
How confident are you about following the action plan?
What resources do you need to assist you?
In addition to coaching questions, consider having some questions or expressions ready to help you when you need to prompt your employee to reflect and give more in-depth answers. Statements such as the following may be useful in deepening the coaching conversation:
Help me understand . . .
Walk me through the steps . . .
Tell me more . . .
Can you elaborate on . . .?
Can you give me an example of . . .?
Can you explain what you mean . . .?
Practice Appreciative Coaching
Most people want recognition and encouragement, especially when they try new processes or behaviors. So, consider keeping a healthy balance between providing feedback for improvement with appreciative feedback for what the employee is doing right. Consider providing encouragement and reinforcement, and try not to dwell too much on small errors here and there. It's generally better if the balance of the coaching conversation weighs more heavily on strengths, achievements and progress.
Be Prepared With Some Problem-Solving Techniques
An inherent part of the coaching process is problem solving. You may want to be prepared to help your employee come up with solutions to issues, or brainstorm options to drive results or improve their performance. To that end, it might be helpful to keep in mind some of the many problem-solving tools available. Here are a few to consider:
- A Means-End-Analysis: Begins by helping the employee envision the end goal, then helping him or her explore the best strategy for attaining the goal in the current situation.
- A Root Cause Analysis: Helps the employee determine what happened, identify why it happened and explore what to do to prevent it from happening again.
- A SWOT Analysis: Helps the employee see the strengths of a situation they're in, the weaknesses, the opportunities and the threats.
- A Force Field Analysis: Helps the employee explore a particular change. Determines the desired change, helps them explore the forces that would support the change and the forces that would work against the change, and then uses that exercise to help them make a decision about the change.
Coaching is a great way to open doors for people to help them grow. As they grow, they may help you grow.
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