Would you agree it is sometimes challenging to coach someone on your team to better performance? In these cases, our natural tendency as results-oriented leaders is to tell that person exactly what to do.
While this method will accomplish the task at hand, it doesn’t help the person to develop and think more independently so he or she can deliver results the next time. To any leader, this is an obvious problem.
As a leader, your role is to guide the people on your team to become more confident, skilled, resourceful, and independent – independent of requiring your day-to-day direction to accomplish what you have hired them to do. As this development happens, you can fix your sights on having a greater impact in your organization. When you stop to think about this, it is really a win-win-win. It’s a win for you, for those on your team, and for the organization!
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How can you become a leader who is equips and motivates your team to be more effective? In other words, how can you become a coaching leader? I have three practical suggestions:
1. Be Less of a Problem-Solver – I once worked for a boss who was the consummate problem-solver. Before I could fully state a problem or situation I was dealing with, he’d be on the phone (today it would be email or text) to the person who could remove the obstacle I was facing. While this was action-oriented, it didn’t help me in the long run. Why? Because his taking action to remove the obstacle did nothing to develop my competence or resourcefulness to address a similar situation in the future.
2. Develop the Habit of Asking Questions – Questions are the catalyst to help someone think more broadly or differently. Questions enable a person to see a perspective they may not have seen before. Questions also help someone examine any limiting beliefs or assumptions that are no longer valid.
In fair disclosure, asking good questions does require patience on your part; specifically, giving someone the time to process new thoughts and the implications of those thoughts. I’m not suggesting you adopt this method for all your interactions with your team – just those where a development opportunity is clearly present. Although you may not realize instant results, this approach will produce more long-term fruit for both you and your team member.
3. Ask Curious Questions – Curious questions are not so much concerned with the answer as they are with the process. In other words, you are not asking a Socratic question where you know the answer you want to hear. Rather, the more curious the question, the more insightful the answer will be. The following dialogue will then be equally rewarding for you and for your team member. This also allows your team member to know how much you value his or her thinking and perspective on the issue at hand.
Asking curious questions enables a person to examine experiences from a different light altogether. It’s been said that experience is not the best teacher, evaluated experience is the best teacher. These type of questions will help the person evaluate the experience in light of the end result. If a different result is needed, the process will have to be altered, and this is why the right question can be so powerful.
As I’ve said, this approach isn’t always appropriate– there will be times in a leader’s day when telling a person what to do is still the necessary and best course of action. However, if you adopt the suggestions above and look for opportunities to implement them in the right situations, your influence as a leader will grow, your team members will develop new insights and skills, and your overall results will be greater. All in all, a really worthwhile outcome, wouldn’t you agree?
If you want to further develop your skills as a coaching leader, I can help. I have recently been appointed as an Executive Director of the John Maxwell Team, which enables me to teach the Maxwell Method of Coaching, among other valuable leadership curriculum. The Maxwell Method of Coaching has truly powerful techniques you can easily adopt. If you would like to learn how to bring these skills into your company, please let me know. You will be helping yourself, your colleagues, and your teams. Once again, a win-win-win.