Coaching Skills for Leaders

| May 25, 2021

Coaching Skills for Leaders. Picture of a woman coaching her employees

Coaching Skills for Leaders

Being a good boss used to mean having the right answers and directing others to do as you would do. Thanks to the past year of constant and rapid disruption, it has become painfully obvious that in order for organizations to survive, and thrive, they must incorporate coaching into the day-to-day culture. Research shows that organizations with strong coaching cultures consistently report higher employee engagement and revenue than peer organizations without strong coaching cultures. *

Additionally, research from the Human Capital Institute revealed that coaching also has an impact on financial performance, with 60% of respondents from organizations with strong coaching cultures reporting their revenue to be above average, compared to their peer group.

There are three main coaching models being applied in organizations today: external coach practitioners, internal coach practitioners and leaders using coaching skills. Though leaders using coaching skills are the most common modality, they often have the least amount of coach-specific training, with 51% receiving less than 30 hours of informal coach training and 22% receiving no training at all.

Increasingly many of the organizations we work with are investing in developing coaching skills in their leaders. More and more, coaching is becoming integral to the foundation of a learning culture—a skill that leaders at all levels ought to develop and deploy. This model, in which managers give support and guidance rather than instructions, helps employees to learn how to adapt to constantly changing environments while fostering innovation.

The Leader-Coach

The most effective leaders often exhibit these key coaching behaviors…

  • They listen deeply

Listening goes beyond being quiet and giving someone your full attention.  It requires you to be fully present to understand what the other person is trying to convey through their words AND body language.

  • They ask, instead of tell

Leaders ask powerful questions such: Are we focused on the right things? What’s your biggest challenge right now? What about your job excites you? The types of questions can elicit compelling answers and spark insights.

  • They build accountability

Leaders and their employees agree upon what the goals are and set specific expectations. They provide regular updates on progress and address deficiencies along the way.

  • They focus on moving forward

While it’s perfectly OK to allow employees to vent, the leader as coach doesn’t allow the conversation to veer off track. They take a moment to acknowledge the frustrations, but then encourage them to think about how to move forward.

Creating a Coaching Culture

Although it is important to cultivate these skills in leaders individually, it’s essential to create a culture of coaching across your organization, at all levels. Between time and budgetary constraints, it can seem like an insurmountable task to create a culture of coaching within your company. So where to begin?

When we work with organizations to train their leaders as coaches and help to create or reinforce a coaching culture, we find the greatest successes come when key leaders are “bought in”. Support from the top down is crucial in a learning-based corporate environment. Not only must these influential leaders support coaching at all levels but, they should also encourage these activities:

Daily learning and development opportunities- Suggest that leaders learn small bits of content when it fits into their schedules. Look for creative and engaging ways that you can bring learning and development into daily activities for your teams. Share relevant content internally via email.

Regular (and impromptu) one-on-one check-ins- Regular check-ins, as opposed to waiting for the annual performance review, allow leaders to work collaboratively and offer support frequently. With so many still working from home & hybrid work-teams, it is crucial for leaders to check in with their employees one-on-one. Check-ins don’t always have to be scheduled either… On the spot coaching can be highly effective to reinforce positive results.

Peer-to-peer coaching-  Coaching between coworkers offers some of the most valuable understanding in an organization. An easy way to incorporate more of this type of learning is to use your regular staff meeting as a collaborative problem-solving session. This creates alignment among your team and inspires them to think creatively about how to solve challenges. It’s also a vehicle for you to coach multiple people in one setting at one time.

Formal coach training- It’s no secret that leaders have a huge impact on an organization’s ability to attract and retain top talent. So, by investing in this kind of development, an organization is creating the conditions necessary for constant learning, growth, and a fully loaded leadership pipeline. Dedicating time and space for your organization’s leaders to be trained on coaching skills is an investment in the future. Formal training can create a consistent and durable coaching model and set of tools for your “internal coaches”.

In Conclusion…

Being an effective leader-coach requires proficiency in a distinct skill set. While leaders have unique expertise and typically provide direction for their employees, coaches, on the other hand, remain curious and ask key questions to evoke insight and guide the individual to discover solutions and strategies that help them develop, grow and perform to meet their goals. Luckily these coaching proficiencies can be acquired through dedicated learning & practical applications.

*Source: Human Capital Institute 2014: Building a Coaching Culture

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