This piece is part of a multi-article series on workplace Coaching-- one of the most important and in-demand “power skills” of the changing workplace.
Front and center in organizational priorities now is the humanization of the workplace. Human-centered leadership working in partnership with employee-centered strategies can help guarantee employee retention and development success. It is, by and large, the leaders of an organization who set the tone for employee belonging, engagement, and openness to change.
It seems everyone these days is re-skilling or upskilling to keep up with the changing nature of work. If you’re a manager, upskilling to become a coaching leader is the pinnacle in helping your team members become more engaged, happy, and successful.
While practical, management, and productivity skills can be learned, coaching is more of a continuous state of mind. Without planting and nurturing this seed, no workplace coaching will be effective.
Read on to learn the secrets of a successful coaching mindset to help your team be their best.
Why Workplace Coaching Works
Being a coaching leader provides a competitive edge that builds success-driven teams and organizations.
"Coaching builds strategic thinking skills and confidence. It encourages team members to make decisions on their own and solve problems. Coaching sends a message that ‘you are valued’ to the employee and can increase commitment and engagement significantly.”
-- Tara Powers, Powers Resource Center
A manager who coaches:
✔ cultivates sustainable behavior change
✔ delivers results
✔ engages employees
✔ inspires success-driven teams
✔ creates opportunities for collaborative teamwork
✔ develops critical and strategic thinking skills
✔ builds relationships with employees
Managers who Coach, Drive Change
As our collective pandemic journey continues, you as the manager play an essential role in coaching new behaviors and driving change at an operational level. Why you?
It is the manager who yields the most influence when it comes to employee success.
The COVID-era has become an extraordinarily transformative time, driven mostly by digitalization but also by human-centric perspective-taking. People power is what is fueling this era’s transformation.
People may join companies, but they leave managers. By upskilling with a continuous coaching mindset, you develop engaged, productive, and happy employees who will not want to leave (you).
What Makes for a Coaching Mindset?
It’s sometimes much faster-- and easier-- to just tell team members what to do. But, that won’t set them (or you) up for success. In order to take a beat and make the time, you need to live the idea of coaching someone to success. You need to believe that your success is inextricably connected to their success.
A manager as coach needs a mindset that can make coaching a daily practice. One that will break down walls and allow coaching to become second nature.
#1 Put Aside Your Ego
In adopting coaching as a managerial tool, you as a manager must believe that your effectiveness is based on the team's success above and beyond individual success. You must resist the urge to micro-manage or to boss.
You should be enthusiastic about developing your employees and having a role in their success. Try to remember, it’s not about you and your accolades. (Those will come when your team members shine or move on to bigger roles.)
Your goal is to provoke insight by not doing the thinking for them. By empowering your employees to make informed decisions and take calculated risks, you encourage them to become more independent over time.
“To build a success-driven team, people must be treated with respect. That begins with really listening to their thoughts and being curious about their point of view. To be an effective leader, one that people want to follow, requires self-awareness and the humility to get our ego out of the way.”
-- Ellen Cooperperson, Cooperperson Performance Consulting
#2 Focus on the Possibilities
One of the essential characteristics of coaching is to be broadly open-minded, rather than problem-focused. You see the potential in everyone and in everything. You put your limiting beliefs aside. (There is usually more than one way of doing things.)
Think to yourself-- all ideas are possible and this employee can make it happen! Shooting down ideas from inception is not how you develop a culture of innovation, critical thinking, or risk-taking. “It’s how we’ve always done it” is not helpful or encouraging.
Employee growth will come with your consistent, strengths-focused encouragement. Note: That’s not to say that you should only spew sunshine, glitter, and rainbows. On the contrary, you adjust your own opinions in order to help your employee think critically for themselves and come to their own conclusions.
People will generally rise to the expectations set for them. Your job is to lift, support, and ignite.
#3 Ask Powerful Questions
A coach doesn’t need to know all the answers. They just need to try to ask the right questions. Not only is asking questions the most effective way to engage people, but it also teaches them how to think critically and strategically.
How do you ask powerful questions? Never ask a question that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Your feedback should optimize an individual’s strengths and increase team effectiveness. Ask probing questions to help your employees come to their own conclusions or opinions. Help yourself to gain better insight for understanding the situation by asking clarifying questions.
“...[W]hen an employee begins a question with, ‘How do I’ or seeks advice, it is a potential coaching opportunity. Instead of taking the bait and giving your managerial advice, ask, 'What are your initial thoughts?'. This type of question can start a coaching conversation.”
-- Oliver Martin, Stitt Feld Handy Group
Additionally, don’t underestimate the rapport-building power of asking questions. In our connection-hungry world, human-centric leaders who can show empathy, compassion, and support are the ones who go on to have thriving and successful employees.
You will learn more about your team members-- their career goals, diversity or belonging challenges, how they think, etc.-- the more questions you ask.
#4 Actively Listen
Asking questions only takes you so far. You need to be poised to be able to ask the right questions at the right time and listen to the answers, both verbal and non-verbal. As an active listener, you’re not parroting back comments made, but processing what you hear is being said and also what you perceive is being said (non-verbally).
You learn to listen for the emotion behind the words to deduce true feelings.
By the same token, you know how and when to STAY SILENT. You will need to become comfortable with conversational silence and exploit the power of the pause. Pausing is powerful in coaching moments. It makes people feel heard, valued, and understood. Pausing gives time for your employee to think, reflect, and speak with their own thoughts. You’re not feeding them the answers.
#5 Make Coaching a Priority
“Coaching isn’t an addition to a leader’s job, it’s an integral part of it,” according to Cooperperson.
As a manager, you have competing demands on your time. It can be tempting to prioritize upcoming deadlines and “putting out fires.''
Coaching does not have to be a regular, and formal, meeting. When you shift your mindset to a coaching one, you see the value in developing and supporting your team members. You then make it your priority. As such, you are able to spot teaching opportunities and take the time to do so.
An added benefit of prioritizing employee development is exemplifying yourself as a role model. One who inspires and motivates, makes mistakes, and encourages people to take risks. Prioritizing your people inevitably shows them what’s important for success.
#6 Nurture Your own Growth Mindset
Google spent years studying its best managers and found they all shared a growth mindset. As a manager with a growth mindset, you are willing to hold up the mirror to yourself in order to better understand and adapt to the people you coach.
A growth mindset is intrinsic to having a coaching mindset. This means, among other things: (1) recognizing and managing your own emotions; and (2) giving yourself permission to make mistakes.
When you develop your own growth mindset, even you as a leader can learn from those you lead. Ask for return feedback in order to demonstrate its value and your willingness to be vulnerable. Not only can this help you identify potential areas for your own development, but it can also give you a confidence boost.
Retaining a Coaching Mindset While Managing Hybrid Teams
“Hybrid workplace arrangements demand that we work harder to stay connected and aligned with our people. Coaching is an optimal approach to explore their needs, unfold challenges with them and support them to stay focused, healthy, and productive.”
-- Cheryl Breukelman, Epiphany Coaches
With the increase in hybrid teams, it will become even more vital for you as a manager to connect with your people. According to Powers, “the most important thing for managers to do is to keep a pulse on their employees and look for opportunities where coaching is the right approach.”
“The hybrid workplace environment can facilitate one-on-one coaching via Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other virtual communication programs. The biggest challenge for coaches in hybrid situations is the ability to identify the initial need for coaching, and what specific behavioral issues or skills may need to be addressed through coaching.”
-- APLS Group
Trust in your team members is what will ultimately make remote work work. By default, you will need to make intentional efforts for your people to feel heard, seen, and valued whether or not they are present in the office.
Upskilling for a coaching mindset gives you the key to building a resilient and success-driven team.
This article is part of findcourses.com’s series on Coaching. For more insight on becoming a coaching leader, read more here:
About the Author
Rama Eriksson is a Digital Content Editor at findcourses.com. Her writing is complemented by 15+ years as an international marketing professional. She brings her experience and curiosity to connect professionals to the right training to help further their goals. Originally from the New York area, Rama has lived in Stockholm, Sweden since 2010.