How do organizations build and support strong leaders while also improving company culture? In a word: coaching.
Coaching builds stronger leaders — and the benefits are many. A commitment to coaching can increase employee self-confidence, improve work performance and help build more effective communication skills among your team. And with these well-documented benefits, training leaders to be coaches should be a focus for all organizations, as 70% of employee engagement is influenced by a manager. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report found that ensuring employees are on track to be leaders is a key component of ensuring their well-being at work.
Coaching is understanding that the work must be done, but it’s also vital to set goals, have the right expectations and work collaboratively with people to put processes in place. Coaching will help bring out the best thinking from your people and let them find their best way to get to that point. The more we do that, the more that a culture is strengthened, people feel alive in their work, feel trusted and empowered, and feel like they can take some liberties and not wait for leadership to always make the decisions.
One of the main differences between managing the business and coaching the employee is allowing employees to find ways to meet and exceed the goals they’ve set together. With Gallup’s findings that managers need to be better listeners, coaches and collaborators, there’s work to be done in terms of elevating a coaching mentality in the workplace, one that allows people to move things forward on their own, requiring less management of the person in the long run.
Five Coaching Tips That Build Leadership Skills
The development of self-awareness — our presence with other people and how that affects the people around us — is one of the most basic elements of coaching leadership mentality. But it is oftentimes missing. Some key coaching leadership skills are asking powerful questions, self-managing responses and leaving space for people to think and answer questions on their own.
Here are five tips that can help further build coaching leadership skills:
- Move away from a “need all the answers” mentality. One way to earn deference and respect and lessen your load as a leader is to adopt an approach of asking thought-provoking questions of your managers, and not be a “know it all.” This act of inquisitiveness demonstrates a caring approach to your team members’ skills and work product and shows you appreciate their responses. It will also help you build trust with your team as this approach encourages creative thinking, problem solving and collaborative skills. Become comfortable with uncomfortable silence when coaching your managers. Our instincts are to fill that void in conversation, but as you ask questions, they may need time to process and think.
- Be challenging, but in a positive way. When questioning a decision or approach, ask employees “how” they came to that determination versus a more startling “why” questioning line. This helps you as a leader to understand not only the how, but also the why behind a decision in a positive, affirming light. But be sure to not interject any of your assumptions or voicing of less important insights that may come off as judgmental. As a follow-up, ask your managers to reflect on their own decision-making process — how they are now thinking about their own choices. This helps build confidence in self-reflection and fosters a greater capacity for understanding.
- Facilitate collaborative conversations. Often, leaders take on the work of managers when they struggle. Through collaborative conversations, true leaders ask more of their team, encouraging them to create more solutions on their own. A simple approach is to start a conversation and then look to your manager to problem-solve. This gives managers a safe space to share in a positive feedback loop scenario.
- Don’t assume that you have all the answers. As leaders, we may think we know the right way to complete a task or achieve a goal. So, is a different approach wrong? Not necessarily. If leaders only default to their own approach, it inadvertently shuts down the employee’s ideas. Rather than immediately sharing your expertise and advice, ask your managers to elaborate on their idea, which may then provide more insight to you as you coach them through successes and areas of growth.
- Offering flexibility in work environments is key, especially from a cultural perspective. Hybrid work environments don’t immediately lend themselves to a coaching mentality. However, flexible work arrangements meet people where they are and demonstrate that an organization cares about the unique needs of their team members’ lives while empowering them to do their best work. Make sure leaders focus on their own unique needs.
Building Leadership Resilience Strengthens Workplace Culture
To be successful in a coach approach, leaders must first take care of themselves. While stress can be a part of any job, senior-level positions come with high demands and expectations from multiple stakeholders — employees, customers, boards of directors and shareholders. That can affect a leader’s confidence, temper and ability to perform effectively.
Resilience is an important trait that helps not only prevent burnout, but also helps heal from it as well. Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. Not only does a resilient person adapt to difficulties, but they bounce back and grow from the experience of those difficult times.
To help grow resiliency throughout their company, leaders today must focus on five core components: connection, wellness, purpose, healthy thinking and seeking help. People who grow stronger in these areas tend to be better, happier and more productive leaders because they are better, happier and more productive outside of work as well.
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