When we think about great coaches, leaders of well-known sports teams often come to mind. On National Coaches Day let’s consider coaching in the work environment and how it’s crucial for success, just like in sports teams.
This day started in 1972 to celebrate local community members who organized sports leagues and led teams. Over the past 50 years, the concept of coaching has broadened significantly to include:
- Performance coaching for athletes at all levels.
- Life and transition coaching to help individuals make profound, powerful changes in their lives.
- Leadership coaching to increase emotional intelligence and build resilience to lead teams that operate at high levels consistently regardless of circumstance or situation.
Excellent coaches lead, inspire and support. To transform your managers into great coaches, continue reading to uncover the secrets by exploring:
- Key elements of a coaching leadership style.
- A variety of prominent business leaders who embody a coaching leadership style and key learnings.
- How leadership coaching can transform your managers into great coaches.
Many Managers Lack the Expertise to Effectively Coach
When it comes to leadership coaching, a recent study revealed the benefits that employees who are leaders receive when they get quality coaching from their direct managers. These include leaders being:
- 4.3X more likely to feel they have a clear development path as a leader.
- 2.7X more likely to feel accountable for being an effective leader.
- 1.5X less likely to feel they must change companies to advance.
The quality of the coaching is the main factor driving the willingness of leaders to want more of it. Not surprisingly, leaders who reported their boss coached them effectively were twice as likely to want more coaching than leaders who felt their manager’s coaching was ineffective.
While 54% of employees want to receive professional (external) coaching, this variation in performance explains why only 23% of leaders seek coaching from their direct manager.
There are several reasons driving the low interest in leaders being coached by their boss. Many managers lack the skillset, inclination or time to effectively coach. There’s also a fundamental conflict with which managers may struggle.
Effective coaching requires putting the leader’s agenda first. A manager-as-a-coach must often balance several agendas that may compete. This encompasses theirs, as well as that of their boss, company, and other employees.
While the broad perspective may be informative, it often requires the manager to make judgments about what’s most important according to their own criteria. This limits their effectiveness in helping their employees uncover opportunities or solve problems independently. It also represents a missed opportunity for companies and their managers to:
- Deepen engagement.
- Execute employee development plans.
- Boost productivity and creativity while reducing stress and increasing employee satisfaction.
Key Elements of a Coaching Leadership Style
A Harvard Business Review article suggests that when we speak of a manager-as-a-coach, we’re discussing a type of coaching that fosters a genuine learning organization. It’s work that all managers should engage in with their people continuously to help define the organization’s culture and advance its mission.
An effective manager-as-coach must:
- Ask questions instead of providing answers.
- Support employees instead of judging them.
- Facilitate their development instead of dictating what must be done.
A coaching leadership style is one that facilitates achieving high performance versus directing or prescribing how to attain it. It helps team members uncover their “personal success formula” that maximizes their strengths, skills, and abilities and challenges any limiting beliefs or internal blocks so they can perform at their full potential.
The key elements of a coaching leadership style include:
- Listening actively and asking powerful questions – Becoming aware of our tendencies to stop listening and start replying before the other person is done speaking. Using curiosity and reducing judgment to ask open-ended, solutions-oriented questions that deepen understanding and shift the conversation towards possibilities.
- Setting goals, creating action plans, and encouraging self-reflection – Assisting team members in developing meaningful goals that achieve critical outcomes and align with the individual’s strongest motivators and purpose.
- Managing performance and delivering feedback and “feedforward” – Providing constructive feedback that highlights both strengths and areas for improvement, along with suggestions for future actions or strategies to help team members continuously progress.
- Focusing on growth, accountability, and continuous learning – Assisting team members in creating personalized development plans that outline the skills, knowledge, and experience necessary for achieving their short-term and long-term goals. Holding team members accountable for their commitments and actions to support growth, rather than as a punitive measure.
- Providing support and encouragement – Creating a safe psychological space where team members are comfortable sharing their thoughts and concerns. Supporting and encouraging team members to overcome challenges, remain motivated and build confidence.
Business Leaders Who Personify a Coaching Leadership Style
There are a variety of prominent leaders who embody a coaching leadership style. Here’s what we can learn from them:
Satya Nadella, Microsoft: When Satya Nadella became CEO of Microsoft, the corporation lost its way. The management style was rigid, and the culture was inert. Their mindsets evolved from “know-it-all” to “learn-it-all,” thanks to Nadella.
He started talking to everyone and listening to them, demonstrating his capacity to encourage rather than judge. Instead of avoiding or hiding from mistakes, employees were encouraged to learn from them.
Specific examples of Nadella’s coaching leadership style include:
- Adopting a growth mindset – When Microsoft’s mobile phone efforts were languishing, Nadella shifted the focus toward cloud services. This pivot came about from fostering a culture of continuous learning and adaptation.
- Continuous feedback and development – Nadella introduced a system of “One Microsoft” that encourages cross-functional collaboration and regular feedback sessions. As part of the performance management process, employees are encouraged to give and seek constructive feedback to improve their performance.
- Establishing a clear vision – While giving autonomy, Nadella ensures all teams are aligned with Microsoft’s vision. This guides teams and connects their actions and initiatives with the company’s overall purpose, which enables individuals to see clearly how their work fits into the bigger picture.
Brian Chesky, Airbnb: Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, has a leadership style built on a foundation of vision, resilience, empathy, innovation and a genuine desire for continual improvement. Chesky’s leadership style is characterized by a hands-on approach. But rather than slipping toward micro-managing, his deep involvement aligns solutions with a strong sense of vision and innovation.
Other examples of Chesky’s coaching style include:
- Active engagement and collaboration – Chesky facilitates, rather than directs, problem-solving sessions and coaches his team and property owners to find solutions to challenges. Instead of directing from a distance he actively participates in discussions and workshops while leveraging active listening skills to promote open dialogue and accelerate employees sharing ideas or concerns.
- Learning from mistakes – When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Airbnb was sharply criticized for implementing strict cancellation policies that adversely impacted both guests and hosts. Based upon the feedback and lessons learned, Chesky coached the team to develop policies that were more host-friendly and accommodated a changing travel environment.
- Setting direction, facilitating progress, then stepping back – Chesky coached teams to incorporate sustainability into the Airbnb experience. Instead of directing teams to make the platform more sustainable by doing “XYZ,” he began by establishing clear and measurable goals for sustainability.
He then worked collaboratively with outside experts and Airbnb teams to develop principles and guidelines for the platform. Chesky ensured that all teams had the necessary resources and support to implement sustainability practices and encouraged teams to learn from each other and other companies within and outside the travel industry. He also recognized and celebrated sustainability achievements within the organization.
Reed Hastings, Netflix: Co-founder and executive chairman of Netflix, Hasting’s approach to managing talent has gained more attention than any other management skill. The company’s core philosophy is “people over process,” which includes nine valued behaviors that enable and support a coaching leadership style through the organization.
As opposed to being highly directive, some of the most distinctive attributes of Hasting’s style include:
- Promoting independent decision making – Hastings provided Netflix’s content teams with the freedom to make independent decisions about the types of films and shows to produce. This enabled content creators to take ownership of their projects and make creative choices based on their expertise.
- Empowering cross-functional collaboration – Hastings encouraged teams to independently identify opportunities and challenges, while fostering and facilitating communication and collaboration across the organization.
- Encouraging responsibility and accountability – Instead of micromanaging Hastings coached leaders to hold their teams accountable for achieving goals. This empowered employees to take responsibility for their projects and find their own solutions to overcome challenges.
Leadership Coaching Transforms Managers into Great Coaches
Leadership coaching is a powerful tool that can transform managers into great coaches by helping them develop the necessary coaching skills and mindset to effectively develop and lead their teams.
Some ways in which leadership coaching can facilitate this transformation include:
Coaching helps leaders develop robust self and situational awareness to connect the dots among their own emotions, their effect on others, and the results they’re getting. As EQ increases, so does the leader’s capacity to regulate their emotions. This enhances their ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses. Empathy and improved understanding of others’ perspectives and needs also grow, as does the leader’s effectiveness in managing relationships, developing networks, building rapport, and finding common ground.
Dealing with setbacks, delays or disappointments are common challenges for many leaders, particularly those who tie their own self-worth to the results they achieve. Coaches work with leaders to spotlight beliefs that lead them to a fixed mindset and a focus on “not failing” versus “succeeding.” This helps the leader maintain a high level of motivation and confidence for themselves while also eliciting them from their team.
Improving active listening to lessen judgment and build curiosity
One perspective I share with clients is how the quality of our relationships depends on the quality of our conversations. This depends more on how well we listen and the questions we ask, than on how emphatically or effectively we make our own points. Quieting our own internal dialogue and being open and curious to understanding more about the other person’s perspective helps tame our own ego and our need to be “right.”
Creating alignment around a shared vision and driving innovation
Building buy-in, gaining consensus, and dealing constructively with objections, concerns or other perspectives increases alignment to a shared definition of success. This shifts our focus to finding the best solution to a problem by bringing innovation and creativity to the forefront.
In closing, leadership coaching equips managers with the mindset, tools and techniques needed to effectively lead, support and develop their teams. It’s a process of skill development and personal growth that benefits both the manager and the entire organization. To find out how 4D Leadership & Executive Coaching by Leading Edge can transform your managers into great coaches, follow this link to schedule a complimentary discovery session.