There are some very distinct differences between being a “boss” and being a “coach” and many of today’s most successful leaders, use a coaching style of leadership. Here are four easy coaching leadership strategies:
Create an Environment of Trust
Bosses sometimes think their employees will work harder and produce better work if they are afraid of the consequences of missing deadlines or making mistakes. They think it’s a good thing for employees to be a bit afraid of them. This could not be further from the truth.
A good leader will create an environment of trust and leave a little room for imperfection. None of your employees will ever be perfect and you’re not going to make them any better by tearing them down every time they make a mistake.
Coaches recognize that it is better for employees to feel safe coming to them to explain a situation rather than trying to hide it, fix it themselves and making it worse for everyone. When your employees trust you, then they are comfortable coming to you for assistance. This then provides you with the opportunity to teach them the right way to handle certain situations and how to avoid similar mistakes in the future. In this scenario, everyone wins.
Practice Active Listening
The Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” This is excellent advice for anyone, but especially for leaders.
A boss simply tells his employees what to do. He doesn’t want to hear excuses for why his idea won’t work or suggestions for how to improve upon it; he just wants it done. A coach, however, recognizes that his employees are the ones in the trenches doing the work every day, so their questions, concerns and suggestions are important.
To lead like a coach, you need to actively listen to your employees. This means, when they come to you with questions or problems, you have to focus your complete attention on them. Don’t look at your cell phone; don’t check your email; focus on your employee. It’s important to the success of your team that you know everything that is happening – the good, the bad and the ugly. By having an open door policy and making your office a safe place for employees to speak, you will build that essential foundation of trust with your team. You’ll be amazed at the insight you will gain by closing your mouth and opening your ears.
Ask the Right Questions
So now that you’ve established trust and listened to what your employee has to say, the next step is to start asking effective questions. A good coach doesn’t just ask basic questions, however, a coach asks questions that force the employee to take a step back, reflect on the situation and come to an answer all by himself. Ask questions like:
- What do you think is the best way to solve this problem?
- What resources will you need to follow this plan?
- What problems do you see arising as a result of taking this path?
- When will we see results?
- What do you need from me and from your team members to accomplish this?
By asking questions that force employees to pause and analyze the situation, you’re training them on how to effectively solve problems or accomplish new goals while also helping them reach their own conclusions. This method gives employees more confidence in their abilities, empowers them to solve their own problems, and ultimately, helps your team become more effective.
Make Training a Priority
Sports coaches encourage their athletes to train new muscles, learn new skills and perfect the skills they already have. Professional coaches should do exactly the same. As a leader, you need to put a strong emphasis on training and development. Send your employees to industry training workshops, bring in speakers and host lunch-and-learns for your employees, and encourage them to sign up for webinars or online training websites like LinkedIn Learning. With the amount of technology available today, your employees have access to a wealth of training, literally, at their fingertips. Helping an employee reach her highest potential is one of the greatest achievements a leader can have, so make training and development a priority.
Coaching may be more time-consuming and require more effort than other leadership styles, but it will be well worth it when you have a team that is happy, trusting and well-equipped to handle the job.