“Lead from the back and let others believe they are in front” – Nelson Mandela
“Coaching” – it’s one of those words that creates mixed emotions. For some people, it makes them shut down, shy away, feel like it is cliché. Perhaps they’ve had a bad experience, perhaps they have met a coach with whom they didn’t share rapport, maybe it’s because the thought of allowing someone to help them fills them with dread, or perhaps they simply don’t understand what good coaching really is. Whatever the reason, if we are to coach anyone they must be willing and must feel comfortable to be able to engage fully with the process.
All too often employees are told they are going to have coaching and are subsequently put in a room with no warning, no brief and no plan. The knock-on effect is that it will be a waste of time.The whole idea of coaching is that we don’t tell someone what to do, we help the person to discover what they can do. Deep down most people know what they want to achieve and what is stopping them; with help from a great coach, clarity can be found and progress can be made.
Not only is it critical that leaders fully understand coaching, and how effective it can be, but also how damaging it can be when coaching isn’t used in their role at all, or is practiced incorrectly. In my experience, great leaders show natural attributes which make them the best coaches, and I have covered these below so you can really start to think about the leaders in your business and the ones who you work with.
Great Coaching Attributes
Coaches are empathetic
Here are three definitions of what it means to be empathetic:
• Showing an ability to understand and share the feelings of another
• Having the ability to imagine how someone else feels
• The psychological identification with the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of others
Empathy is one of the most valuable attributes they will have. It is the start of building trust and cementing the coaching relationship, ultimately benefitting the business and the person they are working with.
Coaches are great listeners
A great listener never assumes. They hear everything by observing body language and by hearing the unsaid words. They are not afraid of silence as they realise this is one of the most powerful forms of coaching; it allows someone to speak freely, express themselves, and often work things out without intervention. Listening with inclusive language, pace and tone is also very effective. Our language is complex and often misinterpreted. One of the most positive and powerful things great leaders do is to use the other person’s own words when they are coaching them.
Coaches ask excellent questions
Questioning is a skilled technique. Recognising the use of closed or open questions is critical to achieve the right outcome. People who have been in sales will be familiar with the art of questioning, but it is still surprising how many don’t realise the affect a closed question will have when it is asked at the wrong time. Equally a badly formatted open question will stifle the coaching relationship. Great and effective questions create fabulous ‘light bulb’ moments.
Coaches practice detached involvement
Remaining engaged with someone but keeping focused, non-judgmental and objective is the perfect way to coach. Coaching is, and should only be, about the subject receiving coaching, and how they can move forward positively. The agenda should only ever be that of the person being coached.
Coaches are curious
Without curiosity, people don’t develop or learn. Some people may call it being ‘nosey’ but I say who cares what we call it, as long as it has a positive effect! As children we ask question after question, and annoyingly for our parents, we are seen to overuse the question’ why?’ This is curiosity. Some people are continually wanting to learn, to know, to understand. When a leader is curious about what makes their team tick, they possess a powerful attribute which they can use in subsequent coaching sessions.
Coaches understand the strength of the individual
By getting to know their people, engaging with them, knowing their strengths, leaders can work on the right things with them for the benefit of the business and the individual. Great leaders help people with their self-improvement, something an individual can then take through life, not just within that job, as well as achieving team and business results
Coaches know how to develop a process and are accountable
The way that they manage and coach their people is a process for them. It is replicated and measured to prove that it achieves success. It is questioned whether coaching can be replicated as it is about the individual and we are all different. It is true that all teams are different, but the attributes and skills that we have talked about above can be used universally and it therefore becomes a process. The same measurements of success can be used with everyone; ultimately these will be based on improvement and results.
Coaches partner rather than manage
There is nothing worse than being ‘told’ what to do. It is demotivating, it harms self-confidence and doesn’t allow people to be true to themselves. People are employed by a company for a reason and will have also gone through an interview process, which for some would have been brutal, so why would an employer then proceed to instruct and direct without allowing for a degree of autonomy? Even worse is when they say, ‘we brought you in to do what you do best so now go and get on with it’, without providing the right tools or support.
The best leaders are the ones who consider their team members as a ‘partners’. They want to work together and support their team, and understand what is going to ensure that the best results are achieved by all. Yes, at times they may become a mentor, but when coaching is used effectively they will empower their employees to find the answers to their own questions.
So, why coach?
I am passionate about us all having an experience of working with a good leader. I am also passionate about us being great leaders. I also believe we can do this better with the right coaching in place. My aim is to share the benefits that coaching brings and to ensure businesses realise that their people are their biggest asset and should be appreciated and nurtured as such.
I encourage you to ask yourself these questions:
Do your leaders have these attributes?
Do they use them to get the best out of their team?
Do you have these qualities as a business leader?
Do you provide your leaders with a coach?
Do you have a great coach?
If you’ve answered no, to any of the above, just one more question remains…why wouldn’t you coach?
If you enjoyed this blog then you may like my book – Live it Love it Sell it – you can buy it at www.liveitloveitsellit.co.uk/product/book
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More about the author – Jules White on www.liveitloveitsellit.co.uk