“Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.”- Tom Peters
For a long time, the key to career progression was all about having the right answers. The same set of answers formed the basis of decision making and were shared and repeated across an organisation. ‘Command and control’, ‘tell and sell’- these were the mantras by which managers led.
However, in an era characterised by constant change, it is no longer a manager’s role to simply provide answers. This approach is rigid and hinders an individual’s ability to develop on their own. Instead, a manager must ask questions to guide teams towards exploring possible alternatives. Their job is to be that of a coach.
‘Since 2007, companies have emphasised the importance of social skills in leaders and de-emphasized their operational expertise.’
What exactly does coaching involve?
As John Whitmore, a leading figure in the field, defined it, “skilled coaching involves unlocking people’s potential to maximise their own performance.” Effective leaders have mastered both parts of this process- they can impart knowledge, whilst also helping others to discover it themselves. They support their employees without judgement or blame and facilitate their development. They recognise that they themselves do not hold all the answers and are prepared to take on the role of the listener.
‘You cannot coach a problem – That is problem solving! You can only coach a person with a challenge – That is Real Coaching’
(Ben Larkey, ‘Dancing with an Octopus: How to Stop Telling and Start Coaching’,2018).
What are the benefits of employing and deploying a coaching skill and mindset?
- Empowered and accountable relationships
Relationships are at the front and centre of the coaching process. Effective coaching requires constant open communication between employees and managers, securing trust and alignment. This builds confidence and empowers people to be their best selves.
- Builds capability on the job
Investing in the coaching process benefits both the coach and the coachee. When coaching is applied in the workplace, it builds essential skills that can be applied to solve other challenges a person is dealing with. It reduces the dependency on formal classroom type training.
- Increased employee productivity
In today’s highly competitive market, employing and deploying a coaching mindset is a great way of cultivating and retaining top talent. Coaches know when it’s time to step up and lead, but they also know when to step back and follow. The result of this is that employees feel supported and motivated and in turn have greater commitment both to their work and organisation.
- Fosters ownership for innovation and creativity
A coaching style of leadership challenges the conventional authoritative style of leadership, so often seen across larger firms. Leaders that can coach break down traditional hierarchies and foster environments where diverse talent thrives. This provides the opportunity for different perspectives to be brought to light that are perhaps unconventional and unique against what already exists.
‘77% of respondents at Fortune 500 companies, said that coaching had a significant impact on an element of their business.’
(Merrill C. Anderson, PHD).
While the benefits of coaching are clear, it is not easy to put into practice, and managers often resist it. It takes time and effort to teach people and help them grow and it is only with repeated practice and the right tools that the skill of coaching can be harnessed.