Almost all elite athletes or professional teams have coaches. The coaches identify their performance gaps and deliver direction and strategy for winning outcomes. They define championship-level strategies to help players reach their potential. These coaches are the connective tissue that identifies talent and hone it to produce extraordinary results.
Coaching has now become essential to the business landscape as disruption becomes a constant.
The pandemic accelerated the pace of change in customer behaviors and demands and propelled technology investments, and indelibly changed the workplace. In this new world of work, command-and-control leadership styles have to be replaced with styles that develop adaptability towards change and improve organizational resilience.
The workforce now needs active engagement and as such, it becomes critical for managers to transition into coaches. However, this transition demands a mindset shift.
Why must managers be coaches?
Managers have to now ditch traditional performance management systems and replace that with manager-led coaching to drive career pathing. Replacing the controlling styles of managing with coaching conversations enables employees to remain actively engaged in finding their way forward.
Impactful coaching conversations fuel the desire to effect change. Given the non-judgmental nature of coaching, team members become more comfortable sharing their challenges. Impactful questions assist managers to help their team members identify perfect, workable, sustainable solutions.
Coaching is a continuous activity that is confidential and continuous. As such, it becomes a great tool to affect behavioral change and can play a great role in improving ownership and accountability. The constant assessment and evaluation of goals, action items, and outcomes make sure that there is constant forward movement.
By transitioning their leadership style to that of coaching, managers can foster better employee engagement. Highly productive and high-performing teams are then born out of this style of management.
Transitioning to the coaching mindset
Developing a new mindset demands learning new things and unlearning some behaviors. It needs managers to be willing to embrace this new style.
The business world of today is akin to a competitive sports arena. In the sports arena, we see coaches standing on the sidelines offering words of encouragement, fine-tuning strategies, and offering wisdom. They help the players get into the mental zone that encourages them to perform at their peak level. The coach offers guidance and training to gear up for the final game and continues to offer support for as long as the players are on the ground. The players, consequently, end up achieving a great deal more with the coach than they individually could.
The role of the manager in the business world is now that of a coach. They have to teach, lead, train and identify areas of improvement to help their team members achieve high performance and sustainable success. For this, managers need to develop a coaching vocabulary and shift their mindsets from directors of success to enablers of success.
Developing a Coaching Mindset – 5 Things to Remember
A coaching mindset is not equal to being a friend/counselor
A coaching mindset does not come at the cost of diluting professionalism. A coaching mindset is not the same as being a counselor or a friend. It is about being a partner for success.
A coaching mindset is about developing the curiosity to probe, ask questions, and facilitate discovery. It is about helping people identify their goals, helping them develop an action plan, and driving accountability towards those goals.
A manager who is also a coach believes that their team is capable of generating perfect answers. They are confident in delivering support to their teams by helping them identify problem and improvement areas with empathy, non-judgment, and understanding.
Develop active listening
Coaching demands active listening. In fact, most successful coaches credit active and deep listening as influencers of powerful questions and consequently, impactful outcomes. Active listening is a communication technique that involves listening to what is being said, rephrasing, and repeating it to gain consensus.
Through active and deep listening, coaches can identify any limiting beliefs and barriers to success.
Active listening also helps managers ask impactful coaching questions that compel thought and promote action. That apart, it helps people feel seen and heard. It makes them feel valued and understood.
However, it is not an easy skill. To develop active listening, managers have to completely remove judgment and train their minds to be still and focused during that time.
Develop a growth mindset
Not only employees but all managers and leaders across the organizations must also move towards adopting a growth mindset. Adopting a growth mindset involves looking at challenges as opportunities. Be it skill development or hurdles in executing work, a growth mindset allows people to be works-in-progress.
A growth mindset is all about developing the willingness to put in the work to help the team become successful. It helps managers give their team members individualized attention and guidance according to their needs from a place of non-judgment and empathy.
Developing a growth mindset helps managers remain on their path of learning. It ensures that their teams too are constantly evolving and developing skills relevant to the dynamic business world.
Implement situational coaching
Managers will still find situations where they need to be directive. They have to thus identify the way to coach even when providing direction. Whether it is getting into the ring and bouncing ideas with team members or sharing experiences, managers have to remember that as coaches they will be expected to give direction sometimes.
In the case of an emergency, a manager is expected to lead the way. However, they must strive to ask for input and compel the team to come up with answers even when providing direction.
For this, managers have to create a balance between directive and non-directive coaching approaches based on each situation.
From giving answers to asking questions
Coaching is about helping people discover answers. And these answers result from asking great questions. However, for managers, developing the art of asking questions that compel and promote forward movement is a key skill.
Good questions try to identify the reason behind an incident. Great coaching questions are entirely forward-looking. They look at the incident as nothing more than a data point. Just like a GPS that must look at the current location to chart a route, great coaching questions also look at incidents with the same intent.
Great coaching questions are focused on clarifying objectives, understanding obstacles to success, and building an understanding of why an issue is important. Mastering the vocabulary of coaching questions helps managers secure employee buy-in and commitment to solving problems and challenges.
Forward-looking questions help with planning, action, and execution and, like the GPS, help employees move from their current location to their final destination.
Robust executive leadership is critical for business success as organizations continue to transform in the face of constant disruption. However, it is the managers who have the potential to affect change and drive high-performing teams.
The managers can no longer simply direct tasks. They are the drivers of performance and loyalty. For this, they need to transition into coaches and not only coach individuals but also the teams collectively.
Adopting the coaching mindset helps managers establish engaging and trustworthy leadership. This in turn can improve employee retention, lower stress levels, and burnout, and create a more enabling environment that is rooted in respect, empathy, and agency.
As the world of work changes, organizations have to get committed to helping managers develop new-age skills to build and lead winning teams. Provide the people managers in your organization an opportunity to improve their leadership skills and become effective coaches for their teams.