During my training to become a leadership coach, I realized that many of the skills required for great coaching can also help leaders be more effective. Here’s what you can do to be more like a coach in your management approach.
Listen. The right way.
Listening is almost always at the top of the list of leadership skills, and it’s huge for coaches, too. But how you listen matters. Many.
As Jennifer Garvey Berger points out in her book Unlocking Leadership Mindtraps, listening to win (focusing on strengthening one’s own position) or listening to solve (approaching the conversation as a problem) can be detrimental to good leadership. Both listening modes are used to end conversations and limit solutions.
Listening to learn, on the other hand, helps leaders (and coaches) be curious to learn more about the problem and explore alternative solutions. It unlocks the trap of having to be right so leaders can be more effective.
Ask big questions… and don’t try to predict the answers.
Coaches know that big questions – those that are open-ended and to which we don’t know the answers – open up conversations with our clients. The same goes for asking your employees big questions.
If something is wrong, try asking, “What could improve the process?” And then listen carefully to what happens. It may not be what you think. Chances are your employees are closer to your customers than you are, and your team may be eager to share their insights with you.
When the conversation starts to slow down, try asking, “What else?” You might uncover something important by leaving more room for conversation. Listening to learn helps here too.
See the potential and focus on growth.
One of the things my clients say they love most about working with me is that I see their potential. I maintain the vision they have of themselves as more successful players, better negotiators and more effective leaders.
Sometimes managers are so focused on the here and now that they can’t (or imagine) what’s possible for their team members. What a missed opportunity!
Virtually every job can be done in preparation for another, whether it’s a lateral move or a promotion. Leaders who help their teams see how what they do today connects to what they might do later – and prepare their employees for that future – drive employee engagement. This increased engagement often leads to better performance and increased productivity.
Don’t be afraid to challenge when something is wrong.
As a coach, I sometimes observe something a client says or does that seems a little weird. Their body language doesn’t match their words, their voice changes volume or pitch, or what they say doesn’t match their actions.
When you see this happening in a conversation with your employees, it can be a big clue that something needs to be explored. It’s normal (and even smart) to notice these things and ask questions. Some of my clients’ greatest breakthroughs happen through these empowering discussions. The same can happen in conversations with your team members.
Get a commitment.
It’s easy to walk away from a conversation with both parties assuming the other is going to do something. One of the questions I like to ask my leadership coaching clients when they commit to an action plan is, “How will I know you’ve completed it?”
Clients often text or email me when they’ve had a tough conversation with a co-worker, or gone through their 360° feedback with their team, asked for a raise, or whatever. they committed to do. Their promise to let me, their coach, know what they have achieved strengthens their resolve and helps them get things done. Using this technique with your employees can help them clarify – and implement – their plans.
Using coaching skills as a leader can open conversations and spark better performance with your employees. How will you use coaching skills to up your leadership game?