August 11, 2022

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Why Coaching Is a Key to Your Leadership Success

Success as a leader is never achieved through your efforts alone.  

Too often, managers promoted because of their previous achievements as individual contributors forget this critical lesson. 

One of the ways a leader separates themselves from being a manager is by coaching their people. A coach, by definition, is one who trains and instructs. I define it in Coaching for Excellence as, “Coaching is improving the current and future performance of others to achieve higher levels of excellence.”

Leaders who coach others effectively have never been more critical than they are today because behind every excellent professional is a leader who acted as a coach and refused to settle for anything other than their best. 

Behind every excellent professional is a leader who acted as a coach and refused to settle for anything less than their best.

As easy as this is to write, its application is complex. Most managers default to typical management activities instead of coaching. Ray Smith said it well, “to create a high-performance team we must replace typical management activities like supervising, checking, monitoring, and controlling with new behaviors like coaching and communication.” Not only is Ray Smith correct, he exposes a drastic shift in that managers must make in today’s workplace around their core responsibilities.

Core Responsibilities of Every Manager

Managers have many responsibilities regardless of industry or company. However, if you boil it down, there are two core responsibilities every manager on the planet must focus on:

  1. Recruiting

  2. Coaching

Instead of going deep on the recruiting piece today, let’s keep our focus on coaching. One of the reasons managers don’t coach their people is because the outcomes of their effort aren’t guaranteed. They can spend countless hours teaching, challenging, and asking great questions, and the team member’s behavior doesn’t change. Since other people’s behavior is out of their control, they retreat to focusing on things they can control, like setting expectations and hiring different people. While expectations and getting the right people on the bus are essential to sustained performance, refusing to act as a coach is an enormous miss. 

The managers who consciously choose to act like a coach are doing the right thing for their team members. Because when a professional is fortunate enough to have a manager who acts as a coach, it dramatically increases the chances of reaching their potential. 

When you are fortunate enough to have a manager who acts as a coach, it dramatically increases the chances of reaching your potential.

If you are ready to take your coaching skills to the next level, here’s a playbook to assist you.

1. Choose the Right Moments

Timing is everything in coaching because every moment isn’t a coaching moment. So many managers who struggle to coach their team treat every moment like a coaching moment.

As painful as this is to write, I am guilty of overcoaching my team. But, thanks to a courageous team member, she brought overcoaching to my attention, allowing me to make changes.  

Do your best to choose moments like one-on-one’s, performance reviews, or training sessions to provide coaching in the right moments. 

2. Focus on the Individual 

Coaching might appear like a group activity, but it’s about the individual. While there are scenarios like a basketball coach where group coaching is essential, the focus should be on each person more often than not. 

One of the things I have learned in my leadership coaching practice is how essential it is for managers to identify where team members are currently in their development and align their coaching appropriately. The reason is that the goal is simple, to help each team member reach a stage of development that exceeds where they are today. 

The goal of coaching is simple: help each person reach a stage of development that exceeds where they are today.

3. Go Beyond Work

Coaching in the areas you are comfortable with isn’t all that difficult. What’s remarkable is when managers coach their people beyond their current role or responsibililty. While it may seem a little odd to coach your people beyond their current role, the best coaches don’t only help improve performance, they help improve lives.” 

The best coaches help improves lives, not just performance.

As I wrote in Building the Best, the simplest way to implement this type of coaching is to ask your people about their goals, dreams, and aspirations inside and outside work.

Coaching people beyond their role isn’t easy, and it often doesn’t show up in immediate results. This means most managers will ignore it because they believe it’s less important than the other things they do. Instead of taking on this mindset, embrace the challenge of understanding your people beyond the job and relish the opportunity to help them make it happen.