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Home » Blog » Coaching Skills for Leaders

Why? What? And How? – everything about using the coaching approach in leadership. For most, the word “leadership” brings a visual association to being hedonistic, powered, ambitious, and aggressive. Bringing ‘coaching’ into leadership sounds like an oxymoron.

But, the deep truth is adding coaching skills to one’s leadership style would encourage more engaging conversations with the organizational tribe. This is why you see many world-class sports teams using coaching as an indispensable dynamic lever to best team work.

Kara Exner, PCC brings the unarticulated, hidden, and often ignored theories of applying coaching skills to leadership in real life practices. This exclusive conversation is an extract of the Coaching Matters webinar held on 9th December, 2020.

Gaurav: Why do we need coaching skills for Leaders?

Kara: Leaders and companies are looking for ways to help the leaders be more engaging, empowering presence in an employee’s and team’s existence. And hence, a coach approach is a great way to improve interactions and conversations. This will help leaders have more meaningful discussions with their employees.

Gaurav: How do you define coaching?

Kara: Coaching is a partnership between coach and coachee where the intention is to elicit the potential of the coachee while the personal and professional potential is maximized.

Gaurav: What are the hurdles that stop a leader in an organization from using the coach approach?

Kara: The fundamental hurdle is the presumption that coaching is already put to use. As coaching is interchangeably used with other terms such as mentoring, training, and so on.

It also emerges from a perceived lack of time by the leaders.

Another hurdle is a perceived lack of control. In a coaching we allow the employee to explore on their own and that may not be acceptable by leaders. But, the reality is that a leader’s job is to still set an expectation about what the employee intends to do.

So, coaching is a mechanism or tool when you are setting expectations that can help employees overcome hurdles and achieve the expectations that are set out for them.

Gaurav: Do these hurdles emerge from the space of holding onto an identity by the leader?

Kara: Identity is a vulnerable space which has built up over time. Coaching helps them shift in identity anchored in self awareness. This goes back to questions such as ‘what do I want to be known for now?, what is my purpose as a leader?’

And the common thread among all that a coach or a leader needs to realize is a ‘sense of loss’ that holds them back from exploring a coaching approach in leadership.

Gaurav: What is the required shift for a leader to let go of the identity mindset and move into the space of coaching as a leader?

Kara: The key is ‘shift in identity’ with a sense of self-awareness anchored to understand the purpose behind being a leader. So, an underlying motivation is what helps leaders to use the coaching approach.

Gaurav: What are skills one cannot compromise when one is trying to implement a coaching approach in their leadership journey?

Kara: I have three skills to share. The first one is to do better listening. In reality we are often waiting for our turn instead of listening. The next place of listening is all about rebuttal. The midpoint place in this continuum of listening is understanding what the content is all about. Even further is to listen beyond the words and listen to their intent, emotions, and everything in between the lines. Challenge yourself for deeper listening.

The second one is ‘ask better questions’. Better questions are questions that invite the coachee to look inside themselves or look into the future for answers. Instead of focusing on the team, focus on the person in front of you while coaching. It is like following the breadcrumbs. Ask questions starting with, “What and How”. Opening up the questions creates a growth-edge for leaders. This helps in eliciting the best potential of the coachee.

The third one is to enhance your self-awareness. What are the types of questions we ask are dependent on who we are. This includes our biases, triggers, blindspots, strengths, weaknesses, personalities, how others perceive us and things like that.

I use a combination of two assessments which are DISC which measures behavior and one-call driving forces which takes a look at our deep motivators. But, what matters most is to help one wear a coach’s hat to get a better sense of who we are.

Tip: Just notice when might my strength not be a strength in coaching.

Gaurav: What are the benefits of a coach approach for a leader?

Kara: From the experience of leaders and how they have benefitted, I have some benefits to share.

  1. They get more time
  2. They experience less stress by letting go of ownership to the coachee.

The benefits for a leader are closely tied to the benefits of the employees. Some of those benefits to employees are:

  1. They feel more valued because they are asked questions about what they think.
  2. They feel more empowered because they are asked to come up with their own solutions.
  3. They feel more engaged because they have been asked for their own ideas so they are doing more creative thinking.

The benefits to the relationships within a team or organization are:

  1. They experience a higher sense of trust.
  2. More meaningful conversations
  3. Increased positivity
  4. Increased productivity

For the full video and updates, stay signed up for upcoming webinars with Coaching Matters