Leader As Coach


Leading with a coaching mindset involves bringing out the best in each team member and working together to achieve a goal. Just as in sports, you need each player to play their best for the team to win. A good coach learns each team members strengths and weaknesses. A coach understands the individual talents of each team member and what motivates and inspires them. Good coaches utilize communication, observation, and motivation to help the team member develop and grow. A leader as coach mentality helps you to bring out the best in your team.

The benefits of a coaching leadership style:

  • Teams typically reach their goals and achieve results more often than with directive styles.
  • A high level of trust is developed between the leader and team members.
  • Team members grow and develop further with the encouragement of an experienced leader.
  • Teams feel a sense of cohesiveness, cooperation, and enhanced morale.

To be an effective coach, start by opening the lines of communication and building trust with your team members. The coach and team member relationship needs vulnerability and honesty to evolve. Begin by transitioning from:

  • Talking/Telling -> Listening
  • Selling/Solving -> Questioning
  • Judging -> Understanding
  • Acting/Owning -> Empathizing
  • Criticizing -> Supporting or Celebrating

“Coaching is no longer just a benevolent form of sharing what you know with somebody less experienced or less senior, although that remains a valuable aspect,” according to Herminia Ibarra and Anne Scoular in the Harvard Business Review. “It’s also a way of asking questions so as to spark insights in the other person.”

Developing a coaching relationship involves:

  • Creating Psychological Safety
  • Setting Meaningful Goals
  • Monitoring Progress and Creating Accountability
  • Providing Aligned Development Opportunities
  • Maintaining Relationship (Even During Conflict or Stress)

“Why is coaching so critical to career advancement?” asks Kara Dennison in Forbes. “Because it’s not just about professional development, but about boosting your employees’ confidence and building strong communication skills, thus improving their performance and productivity.”

The GROW Coaching Model

The GROW coaching model is a four-step process that leaders can use to help team members learn new skills, make decisions, and solve problems. The model can add structure to coaching and mentoring sessions, making them more effective. The process can also help individuals set strong goals and achieve them, helping them to reach their potential.

  • Goal: Help the employee clarify objectives for the coaching and the session
  • Reality: Ask the employee for more information about the situation
  • Options: Ask questions that better illuminate the known or unknown opportunities
  • Will: Ask the employee what they are willing to do and what support they may need from you to do it

Coaching leadership and the GROW coaching model can foster growth, encouragement, and a productive, positive environment. The leader as coach style promotes the development of new skills, open communication, individual empowerment, and team cohesiveness. Embracing a coaching style motivates team members and creates skilled, productive individuals who can go on to coach others.

Further reading:

Harvard Business Review: The Leader as Coach

Forbes: Why Leaders Should Consider Shifting To A Coaching Leadership Style Now More Than Ever

Leader As Coach: Strategies for Coaching & Developing Others” by Mary Dee Hicks

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