Leaders are measured by their ability to inspire and influence others. Another critical measure of leadership is the ability to develop talent for future leadership roles. Effective leaders are less concerned with telling others what, how and when to complete a task and, instead, focus on empowering their team members to discover solutions for themselves and act accordingly as leaders.
However, the transition from manager to leader is, at times, confusing, because the leader’s success in “getting things done” is most likely what allowed them to move into higher levels of leadership. To truly lead, it is important to learn how to influence and guide others and release the impulse to do everything oneself.
Imagine a team of independent and empowered leaders who make solid decisions without needing direction. One of the most powerful tools organizations can use to achieve this type of leadership is coaching. Coaching is a thought-provoking process in which the coach engages with others to help them improve their performance and overcome challenges to thrive at an optimal level based on their own abilities, skills and knowledge. According to the International Coach Federation, employees who receive coaching report significant increases in engagement, retention and collaboration.
Although there are numerous skills a coach can use when working with a client, there are three key techniques team leaders can begin using right away that will have a significant impact on the way they engage with their teams, peers and senior leadership.
While it sounds simple, listening is actually a difficult skill to master. In coaching, listening is more than merely auditory; it involves empathy and creating space to let the other person share their perspective. To truly listen, it is essential for the coach to turn off their desire to find a solution or get to the point quickly. In addition, listening is not a one-way street; the coach should actively reiterate what the other person is saying to ensure that they understand their message without adding their own judgment, suggestions or beliefs.
2. Ask Questions
Perhaps the most crucial part of coaching is asking questions, because it provokes thought and assessment from the other person. Good coaches ask questions not to get an answer that they want to hear but to encourage meaningful thoughts that can help the other person address a challenge or break through to a new level of performance. Unlike mentoring, in which the leader may share personal experiences and provide advice, when asking questions with a coaching mindset, the goal is to help the person uncover that insight themselves. Asking questions creates the space for those “aha!” moments that people cannot experience when they are told what to do or think.
3. Planning Action
With a coaching mindset, the goal is not to give the other person actions or tasks to perform but, instead, to partner with them to define those actions based on their own abilities and knowledge. The coach can brainstorm with their team members and help them explore alternative opportunities, but ultimately, the action they take must be of their own choice, and they must take full responsibility and accountability for it. The coach’s role is to support their progress, celebrate their wins with them and encourage them to find new paths if their original plan of action does not work out as expected.
Leadership has aspects that are both tangible and intangible. They all boil down to the ability to connect with others and inspire them to perform in ways that create positive results for the organization. By approaching the skills of listening, questioning and planning action with a coaching perspective, leaders can build impactful relationships with their team members, empowering them to lead and make clear decisions on their own, which will benefit everyone involved, including the organization.