Last week I spoke to Mark who was struggling with how busy he is right now. He is trying to support and help his team as much as he can and is spending a lot of time in conversations with his team members explaining, guiding, and suggesting. As a result, he is not getting enough of his own work done. He is working longer hours now than when he had to travel to work, and he’s feeling more stressed too.
What I’m observing is that leadership challenges that existed before COVID, things that were small problems and situations, have become amplified under the new conditions for working. And that is creating a bigger challenge for leaders.
If you’re not coaching yet, you’re missing out on some big benefits for you and your leadership.
You can coach your team whether you’re working in the same office, different offices and workplaces, or you currently have a work from home team. Coaching gives you a tremendous opportunity and advantage as a leader when working with your team.
‘Almost every conversation is an opportunity to coach.’
You probable already know that coaching is incredibly beneficial for your team members, because it’s about their growth and development. It is about equipping and enabling them for now and for their future. Coaching is one of the best ways to develop and grow your talent. The 2017 HCI ICF Study found of those who have received coaching, the areas where they report improvement are their work performance, communication skills, productivity, well-being, and business management strategies.
One of the really unique things leaders are experiencing at the moment, as well as being busier than ever, and feeling stressed is that for many leaders they feel unsighted. Many leaders are not familiar with working apart from their team members, or working different hours than their team members. So right now they feel like they are at a bit of a disadvantage. They can’t ‘see’ what’s going on, they’re not sitting nearby someone so they know when to offer support.
This is where I believe that coaching can really one of your best friends as a leader.
It’s like being the conductor of an orchestra. You are responsible for creating the whole symphony, yet play none of the instruments.
The less well understood aspect of coaching is that it also benefits the leader who is using a coaching approach.
Here are a few of the benefits to you of adopting a coaching approach with your team and the people around you.
- You don’t need to do everything yourself
There are a lot of leaders at the moment who feel like they have to muck in and do everything and that’s simply not the case. If you’re using a coaching approach with your team, then they can step up and they can take accountability. You don’t end up doing everything yourself.
2. You don’t need to be the expert in everything
You don’t need to know the answer to everything. You are coaching others to find their answers. You are coaching others to tap into their own experiences, their own knowledge, their own wisdom, their own initiative. So you can let go of being an expert. You don’t need to be the expert in everything. That is not your job as a leader. Your job as a leader is to lead and by using a coaching approach, that’s exactly what you’re doing. So you don’t have to answer all the questions, you don’t have to solve all the problems. Use a coaching approach and tap into your team of people. You can coach virtually very easily. Whether it’s by phone, whether it’s some kind of video platform, there are lots of opportunities for you to be able to use a coaching approach, whether with a single person or with groups or your whole team.
3. Have confidence that your team and team members are focused on the right things
When leaders don’t have direct visibility of their teams, they don’t necessarily have complete confidence that their team members are focusing on the right things in the right way. Now, if you are using a coaching approach with your team to determine what they’re going to work on and how they’re going to tackle it and what level of priority that they’re going to give it, then you know with confidence that that’s what they’re focused on. So you use a coaching approach to build their accountability and commitment to the right priorities.
So you have a clear opportunity to develop accountability in your team members And then you can know with confidence what they are committed to doing and you can trust that they’re going to do it.
4. Provide support to your team
Coaching your people and using a coaching approach is a great way to be able to offer support and help to them without having to do everything yourself. You can provide the support, create the space for the conversation but you don’t have to answer all the questions, you don’t have to solve all the problems. You’re helping them by facilitating the conversation so that they can solve their own problems. They can figure out where to go to get extra information, they can figure out which resources they need. So you can support them without having to do all the heavy lifting yourself, without having to solve the problem.
5. Manage interruptions
Interruption conversations seem to be taking even more of your precious time than normal right now. In normal circumstances, from the start of an interruption it can take on average up to 25 minutes for you to get back to the same place in your own work. So interruptions can be massively impactful if you get a lot of them.
However, if you tackle those interruptions using a coaching approach, you’re going to a) shorten the conversation by asking very specific targeted questions and b) avoid becoming responsible for solving the problem or challenge they came to you with by helping them to help them explore and solve the issue themselves and retain accountability.
So you’ve got a shorter conversation at the end of which they get back to their work, and you get back to your. So you retain greater control of your own workday, rather than being derailed by interruptions, and that means that you’re creating space for your thinking, for your creativity, for your strategic planning so that you can step into your leadership.
SIMPLE STEPS TO START YOUR COACHING APPROACH
- Ask open questions
- Listen really well
- Go into each conversation with the intent of helping others to work through and find their own way forward
Using a coaching approach as a leader removes the requirement to know everything, be everything and do everything. It allows you to tap into ideas, initiative, strengths, action, problem-solving, collaboration and innovation with all of the people around you, to build accountability and to focus on your leadership.
I’d love to know your thoughts.