“You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself.” The Italian sage Galileo changed the way people perceive life in many ways, not just in science. Through coaching, people find their inner passion and drive for optimum performance. And this is why coaching is one of the most powerful management tools.
What is coaching exactly? Picture, if you will, a coach and cart from the good old days before exhaust fumes. As the passenger, you would tell your coach where you wanted to go. The coach would then skillfully guide you to your destination and goal.
Think back to when it used to be acceptable to rap schoolchildren’s knuckles with a ruler to teach them a lesson. No one advocates physical violence these days, but words leaders use can be just as powerful and mentally damaging.
When you give so-called constructive feedback to someone, you’re effectively rapping them across the knuckles. Their mind goes into the same defensive mode because any form of feedback threatens their self-image and social status.
Alternatively, you can develop coaching leadership skills to drive performance, generate a growth mindset and boost employee engagement.
It drives performance
Gone are the days when we focused on weaknesses and banged our heads against brick walls to will ourselves into someone else. That doesn’t mean we ignore our weaknesses but we simply learn to manage them. They will never become strengths.
As this paper on delivering effective performance feedback explains, strengths-based feedback promotes well-being and engagement. People are more motivated to improve their overall performance and increase their productivity.
Similarly, strengths-based coaching uses appreciative inquiry to move away from simply fixing weaknesses. Through dialogue, leaders ask their teams how they can keep furthering their strengths. Together they envision what improved performance could look like and the employee is empowered to find their own way to achieve that.
Why is coaching one of the most powerful management tools? With a coaching approach, you move away from a transactional “telling” mode to an open dialogue. As a senior leader, you can still describe behaviors you observe but you withhold judgment Instead, the coaching-style leader asks questions to encourage the other person to reflect on those behaviors and how they impact others. This then allows them to discover their own motivation for change.
Coaching and mentoring are very different. Whereas coaching is a continuous process, mentoring revolves around specific discussions to impart advice and industry tactics. Both have great value but coaching is specifically designed to enable people to learn for themselves. It isn’t about giving them answers.
In fact, coaching-style leaders accept that they don’t have the answers. Instead, they focus on partnering with their teams and co-creating solutions. They don’t set goals in isolation but they seek input from everyone which inspires commitment. After all, people are motivated to follow through on their design, including their personal development.
Coaching-style leaders drive performance through the environment they create.
As this study on coaching leadership styles describes, there are different types of styles. These include removing roadblocks, promoting self-efficacy, reciprocal and encouraging collaboration.
All this to:
- Improve team effectiveness: Coaching-style leaders encourage everyone to listen more deeply and to look for different perspectives. They become role models for conflict management because they show others how to leverage open-ended questions to uncover common ground.
- Increase self-efficacy: A coaching approach allows people to believe in themselves. Moreover, as trust flourishes, coaching-style leaders become sounding boards for new ways of thinking.
- Promote learning through failure and mistakes: Coaches work with people to increase their self-awareness and self-regulation. Similarly, coaching-style leaders help normalize emotions so that failures don’t seem like the end of the world but instead, become learning explorations.
It generates a growth mindset culture
Transactional leaders tend to focus on giving external rewards for good behavior and performance. They generally only interfere when processes and goals are deviating from expectations. Instead, leadership and organizational behavior guru, Bernard Bass, coined the term transformational leadership. Those leaders coach their teams while providing a long-term vision and inspiring them to believe in themselves.
Coaching is one of the most powerful management tools because it takes people away from a fixed viewpoint to one where they believe in personal growth. Their work life revolves around improving both themselves and the team. All relationships deepen as the culture develops into a co-learning and co-sharing environment.
With a growth mindset, people are more likely to want to learn and embrace challenges. They become more resilient because they don’t let mistakes and failures get them down. On the contrary, their coaching-style leader has shown them to relish mistakes as the only way to grow.
All this comes from the coaching approach where asking questions forces others to pause and reflect. With self-reflection, people become aware of other perspectives and how their behavior relates. This then translates as valuable input for their growth and development and how to support their goals.
As you might expect, coaching-style leaders are themselves highly aware, empathic and curious. While some might naturally have these traits, we can all develop them through leadership coaching. Only then can leaders become the wise guide that gives people the space to be themselves and find their own path.
A coaching-style culture engenders these skills:
- Self-awareness: Through coaching, people discover how they can keep growing. They learn to observe their behaviors from other people’s viewpoints because of the focus on self-reflection.
- Self-adjustment: It empowers people to define their own change by observing their behaviors and making continuous tweaks.
- Communication: Curiosity becomes the norm as people try to understand each other rather than impose their opinions. Discussions become transformative as people seek to discover solutions together.
- Resilience: A coaching approach lets people believe in themselves so that they become more open to challenges. They move away from the human mind’s natural negativity bias to focus on the strengths they have to overcome whatever challenges come up.
It boosts employee engagement
The right learning and development program is highly motivating. It drives loyalty and pushes people outside their comfort zone just enough to be effective. The danger with any form of training or teaching though is that you can quickly create a hierarchy where “someone knows best.” This can be demoralizing at best.
Professional coaches form an important foundation for any L&D program because they tailor their approach to the individual. You can still have group training, peer sessions and team simulations but coaches give the individual value and power over their career development.
Coaching is one of the most powerful management tools because there’s no better way to engage people than by making them feel that their inputs count. So, rather than imposing company-wide development goals that are more beneficial for creating clones, coaches bridge the company requirements with each individual’s goals. With their coachees, they define career goals that can support both the person and the business.
While business leaders aren’t professional coaches, they too can learn a similar approach from their coaches. Again, this allows them to co-create goals with their teams. Of course, employees might still have a good mentor to work with as well. Nevertheless, their coaching-style leader actively listens, welcomes inputs and develops caring and trusting rapport.
To summarize, coaching is one of the most powerful management tools because it provides a safe place where people are valued and feel supported. People feel in control of their destinies and are motivated to keep learning and to keep driving forwards. They have purpose and a sense of ownership because they can see how they fit into the big picture.
In short, coaching impacts people deeply so they become self-driven and self-adjusting.
That’s not to say that everything is perfect. Developing a coaching style isn’t easy because it involves changing your language to be more curious and less “all-or-nothing”. A language coach can further enable you to move away from biases and judgments and to see people for who they are, not who you want them to be.
The more you develop a coaching style, the more you’ll engender:
- Motivation: Having a coaching style means listening deeply and openly. That’s how people feel that their opinion matters. So, they offer up their solutions and plans to achieve their goals.
- Accountability: People naturally deliver when they feel empowered. When goal-setting is a collaborative approach between manager and employee that leverages strengths, accountability is no longer a problem.
- Trust: With a coaching approach, leaders move away from command-and-control leadership where they bark orders. People feel psychologically safe and empathically supported because their leaders truly care about their perception.
Why is coaching one of the most powerful management tools?
When compared to mentoring relationships where a senior person gives advice and imparts knowledge, coaching is very different. It’s about enabling someone to gain awareness of their own behaviors as seen by others.
A coaching-style leader gives people the ability to see things for themselves. They ask questions to encourage self-reflection and self-analysis. Through this process, employees feel empowered to take responsibility for their own development. Moreover, they feel engaged and trusted which motivates them to keep working on themselves which, in turn, drives performance.
Most importantly, a coaching style approach soon matures into a culture where everyone seeks to co-share, co-create and co-learn. That’s the ultimate in transformational leadership.
Coaching, Company Culture, L&D, Leadership, People, Skills-Based Coaching