To Lead, You Need to Coach

Blurred image of two figures sitting on chairsWe have spoken before about the development of our people being a strategic imperative. Time and again the research shows us that our team members highly value the opportunity to learn and build their skills. The same research also clearly states that the best development tool we have is our ability to help our people grow and get better is through effective coaching. Yet, generally speaking, this particular role is rarely included in a leader’s position description let alone identified as a task that we will be measured on.

As F. John Ray says in his article, How to Coach Your Work Team Members, coaching is something that should start when an employee first joins the team. He also believes that coaches should be clear about what it is they expect from the individual, outline the common mistakes and share those tips and tricks they have learned over the years.  Effective coaches need to understand what motivates each team member and make clear links between each team member’s work and the team’s success. They must also provide regular feedback and help the individual develop their skills.

These concepts are supported by Monique Valcour in her article You Can’t Be a Great Manager if You’re Not a Good Coach. The article also provides five very good tips on how to be an effective coach. The five key tips are:

1 – Listen: Effective coaches are effective listeners. Listening is a skill that we all need to focus on at all times. Effective listening enables us to really connect and demonstrates our commitment to our teams development. Listening is also a skill that will help us in all other facets of our life.

2 – Ask don’t Tell: Resist the temptation to provide answers and to solve the coachee’s issues. Seek the individual’s input into potential solutions by asking searching questions. You are providing a deeper learning experience by letting the individual find their own solutions.

3 – Build Alliances: Assist your team members to build alliances that will assist in the achievement of their development goals. If they need to spend time with another team to build alternative skills, authorise this activity.  By supporting their development opportunities, you are demonstrating your trust in them and their development as an individual.

4 – Be Positive: Be positive in your approach. Let the coachee vent their frustrations and acknowledge them.  Then move into solution mode, seek to ask questions that would help the individual identify potential solutions. Positivity will always outweigh and outplay negativity.

5 – Be Accountable: Accountability is a double sided requirement. You, as the coach, must follow through on your commitments and you must actively encourage your coachee to deliver on their agreed actions. Be clear on the exceptions and the required timelines to ensure both parties can deliver on the agreed outcomes.

Being an effective coach will reap enormous rewards for both you and your coachee. You will develop stronger trusting relationships, help your people develop their skills and encourage them to take ownership of their careers. John Wooden believes a coach is someone who can give direction without causing resentment.  How are you supporting your team?

Happy leading!