There are thousands of professionals all across the world who call themselves “leaders.” In reality, the vast majority are leaders in title alone. While they have direct reports and authority over others because of seniority or prior performance, they aren't actually leading; they’re managing.
One of the ways a leader separates themselves from being a manager is by coaching their people. A coach, by definition, is one who trains and instructs. The late great John Whitmore took the formal definition even further saying: “Coaching is unlocking people’s potential and helping them learn rather than teaching them.”
Leaders who coach others have never been more critical than they are today. A strong, dedicated leader plays an integral role in elevating people to new heights of development, exactly how John Whitmore envisioned it.
Coaching involves a focus on your people’s role development (skill) and beyond (life).
Coaching for Role Development
Focusing your coaching efforts on the progression of each team member’s development in their current role helps them to reach their full potential. While it's each professional's responsibility to develop their skills, you can play a significant role in assisting them in growing. Which is why the quote from Tracy Spears is so essential, "coach them up or coach them out."
There are four clear stages a person moves through in a role. Well-tuned leaders are able to identify where a team member is currently in their development and align their coaching appropriately. The goal is simple: help your people reach a stage of development that exceeds where they are today.
The Most Important Thing to Remember
While there are different activities you should engage in at the various levels of role development, there is one coaching tactic that is somewhat effective at all levels. It’s centered around asking great questions. This allows you to pull the information out of your people instead of the other way around.
Delivering the answer to a question is quick and effective. However, it rarely does anything to encourage a person’s development. It would be best if you rejected your natural instinct to solve every problem. Instead, use questions to pull the answers out of your team members. During an interview with Michael Bungay Stanier, the author of The Coaching Habit, explained this well. He told me, “Leaders should stay curious a little bit longer and rush to advice-giving a little bit slower.” By taking this approach, you are forcing team members out of their comfort zone and encouraging them to be more self-reflective.
Use open-ended questions, free of judgment. Here are some of my favorite examples to add to your arsenal:
- What can I do to help you?
- Walk me through your thought process
- What do you think we should do to create the best result for everyone?
- What other approaches might you take next time?
Regardless of how good or bad you are at coaching your people, remember my favorite Latin phrase, “Nunc Coepi.” Which means “Now I begin” and decide to be a coach to your people starting right now.
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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company that exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.