Tips to Turn a Coaching Approach into your Leadership Superpower

Tips to Turn a Coaching Approach into your Leadership Superpower

by Karen Amos

I’ve just finished facilitating BrightBird’s latest Effective People Management programme.  As with the previous programmes, participants bring along concerns, anxieties and ‘Is it me…?’ feelings around the challenges of managing people.

Interestingly, there are always common themes.  Most people come with a sense of frustration of how they can’t just, ‘Get on with the job,’ and a feeling of, ‘Why is this always so difficult?

This is usually accompanied by some sense of one step forward and two steps back, or feeling that managing people is like trying to nail jelly to a tree.

As a consequence, I find many managers of all levels feel they end up playing a role, rather than being themselves.  And it’s not a role they enjoy.  It’s often the role of ‘bad guy’ and whilst they’re prepared to step up and do this, it’s not one most of us would choose given an alternative.

My view is that no-one needs to ‘play’ anything.  The ‘bad guy’ scenario inevitably leads us down a one-way street, with all concerned doubling down into increasingly entrenched positions.  This is difficult if not impossible to step away from and often results in demotivated teams, or even a brain drain from your organisation.

I genuinely don’t believe working life needs to be so difficult – for managers and employees alike.

That’s why I’m on a mission to improve the quality of working life for everyone.

The problem is, most people in my experience, embark on a management career because they’re great at what they do.  I mean, who seriously sets out in their career thinking, ‘I know, I’d love to be the line manager of tons of awkward people!’  Probably the same ones who look up ‘How to herd cats’ on google.

No, the fact is that we usually gain promotion because we’re the expert in our field.  The best sales-person, the best teacher, etc., etc.  The problem is, no-one told us how to be managers.  Very few people are born with an innate ability to lead other people.  But it can be learned.

And this is where a coaching approach becomes a bit of a superpower in my experience.  I’ve used this approach personally and seen my clients implement this with fantastic results.  It’s definitely an approach that sees compound benefits, with exponential growth in performance over a relatively short period of time.  On the surface, it’s counterintuitive.  Management is about putting the right people in the right place isn’t it?  Well, yes… and no.  How about seeing successful management as having your people put themselves in the right place?

So where to start?  Here are a few tips to improve your coaching leadership style, along with some questions to help build insight into what’s going on for you.

1.  ListenI mean really listen. Listening isn’t about waiting for your turn to speak, or jumping in to close down the other person half way through a sentence.

Ask yourself – How would my peers and team members rate me as a listener?

2.  UnderstandOnly when we’ve listened will we understand the other person’s viewpoint. The challenge is to show them we understand – even when we don’t agree with them!

Ask yourself – How often do I find myself or the other person saying some variation of, ‘Yeah, but…’ in my conversations?  (This is a classic sign of a lack of understanding being demonstrated.)

3.  CollaborateIt’s not your responsibility as a manager to solve everything on your own. That’s why you have a team and why it’s important to know who is responsible and accountable for what.

Ask yourself – Do I feel I’m carrying a burden of responsibility that other people don’t share in my team and how can I share this more equally?

4.  ChallengeThere are many types of challenge, but I like to call a coaching approach ‘challenge with a small ‘c’’. This doesn’t mean going out of your way to make people uncomfortable, or being on some kind of power trip.  Instead, it means not accepting everything at face value and using coaching questions to explore and promote personal responsibility and accountability.

Ask yourself – Do I feel that members of your team are tying me in knots, or I come out of conversations wondering what just happened?  If so, how can I be more enquiring in my conversations to find out more?

5.  Problem solveCoaching at its heart, is a problem-solving approach. You want something better and have a plan on how to get there.  This is a gift for any effective manager to get the right results.

Ask yourself – Do my team get bogged down in problems and look to me to solve them, or do they naturally seek solutions themselves?  If it’s the former, what can I do to enable them to problem-solve naturally?

Hopefully, you’ve now a few pointers to begin to develop your coaching leadership style.

If you’d like to learn more about how to take a coaching approach to Managing Difficult Conversations and people management, we’ve just launched our Summer 2024 public courses. 

Click on the link below to find out more:

For Schools and Education

For Business and Charities

Or why not EMAIL US, or book in an informal chat using the button below.  We’ll find out about the support you need and provide you with a no-obligation quote.

 

Karen Amos is an executive coach and Director and Founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners, managers and education leaders to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 

Tel: 07714 855757 or email: karen@bright-bird.co.uk


Why it's not normal to be happy - and what you should do instead...

Why it's not normal to be happy - and what you should do instead...

by Karen Amos

I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently – around happiness.  Actually, that’s not exactly true – I’ve been reading about how so many of us have drunk the ‘happiness Kool Aid’ and ironically, find ourselves miserable that we’re failing at happiness.  As an occasionally grumpy, middle-aged Yorkshire woman, I find this fascinating.

Recent publications, such as Bad Therapy, The Antidote and The Anxious Generation are showing that for many of us, modern living standards have never been better, yet increasing numbers of young people and adults find themselves so unhappy they resort to therapy, including medication.  The question surely is, if this is such an effective cure, why are people still unhappy?

Many years ago I was a student nurse.  There are many stand outs from my training, good and bad, but one that changed my life was a sentence uttered by a lecturer on Mental Health…

‘The most you can expect is to be reasonably content most of the time.’

That’s it.  And it profoundly changed the way I viewed my world and my expectations.  To the extent that I am – reasonably content most of the time.  So to that lecturer, wherever you are – thank you.

This may seem a bit lack-lustre for a coach, I admit.  After all, aren’t we meant to be uber positive and seeking Nirvana-like states of happiness and success?  Well some are I guess, but not me.  I’m about doing.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe there is a right time to seek therapy.  I refer clients to specialist therapists if I find we’re addressing something that’s out of my area of expertise.  In fact, I have sought counselling on occasions at certain points in my life and regularly use psychoanalytical models with my clients to help them make sense of their world.

But there is a danger in rumination.  We won’t make ourselves or others resilient to the pressures of life by constantly going over the past and looking inwards.

So what is the answer?

I believe the answer lies in a stoical approach to coaching.  This isn’t the ‘British stiff upper lip’ version, but the true version of Stoicism that says…

In life, circumstances will continue to challenge us, but it is within our gift to decide how we will respond to them.

Often coaching is seen as a bit ‘Pollyanna – all in the garden is rosy’, which is why many people (justifiably) call out, ‘toxic positivity’ at the relentless ‘just think positive’ messages.  In fact coaching at its best is nothing of the sort.  Tony Robbins has a great approach to this.  I paraphrase:

Just relying on positive thinking alone is like going into your garden and chanting ‘there are no weeds, there are no weeds’, when your garden’s clearly full of weeds.  You need to get in there and pull them out!

We need to accept that life is frequently challenging and bad stuff happens.  Rather than passively accepting that, drowning in self-misery, or railing against the universe, we need to roll up our sleeves and deal with it.  We need to take action that will serve us well.

My clients know I’m always going to come around to some version of this question…

‘So what are you going to do about it?’

That’s it – you want something to change – go change it!  And if it’s not in your control to change it?  Then work out what you’ll do to deal with that.

Here are a few coaching questions to get you started:

  • What’s my main challenge here?
  • What small, practical action I can take right now that will serve me well?
  • Is trying to fix this, worth the energy and time?
  • Is there anything I need to accept isn’t in my control?  And what will I do to focus my energies elsewhere?

Remember, we’re all human and it’s important to acknowledge our feelings.  If something bad happens, it’s perfectly natural and healthy to feel down, upset or angry.  The problem is that simply dwelling on these feelings and responses will not serve us well, or help our situation.  It’s therefore in your gift and best interests to start to coach yourself to a better way forward that will.

If you’d like to learn more about how to take a coaching approach to Managing Difficult Conversations and people management, we’ve just launched our Summer 2024 public courses. 

Click on the link below to find out more:

For Schools and Education

For Business and Charities

If you would like to find out more about BrightBird’s 1-to-1 and team coaching, check out our web pages using the links below:

For Business

For Education

For Charities

Or why not EMAIL US, or book in an informal chat using the button below.  We'll find out about the support you need and provide you with a no-obligation quote.

Further reading:

Bad Therapy: Why the Kids Aren't Growing Up - By Abigail Shrier.  Publisher: Sentinel

The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness - By Jonathon Haidt.  Publisher: ‎Allen Lane

The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking - By Oliver Burkeman.  Publisher: Vintage

Happy: Why More or Less Everything Is Absolutely Fine - By Derren Brown.  Publisher: Corgi

Karen Amos is an executive coach and Director and Founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners, managers and education leaders to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 

Tel: 07714 855757 or email: karen@bright-bird.co.uk


Challenge or opportunity? You decide...

Challenge or opportunity? You decide...

By Karen Amos

As a small business owner, I don’t always have the luxury of lots of spare capacity or fall-backs when things quickly change.  Such a thing happened recently when one of my support team decided to take up a new job opportunity.  Whilst I’m gutted to be losing a key support, I do understand their reasons for moving on and wish them every success.  Inevitably though, this still caused pressures within my business.

After my initial OMG moment, feeling like I should be a model for a Munch painting, I remembered what I did for a living, gave myself a shake and put my coaching hat on.  This helped me to re-frame the situation and ask myself:

Is there another way to see this? 

It was hard not to focus solely on the multitude of upcoming challenges - our brains are wired to concentrate on perceived dangers, so that's our default setting.  Once I'd named what was going on, there were also many positive opportunities for my business that I might otherwise not considered.  These included building future capacity, re-prioritising my offer to clients, revisiting my pricing policy and many others.  It’s easy to just go with the flow, particularly when things are going well, rather than giving things a bit of a shake up.  Let’s face it, who doesn’t like a bit of comfort zone now and again - again, we can thank our brain for this - keeping us out of danger and seeking safety.

It's so easy for businesses and organisations to just grow organically in response to our market or circumstances, in good times and bad, but now and again we need a good reason to go back to the drawing board.

I would just like to add this isn’t about being all Pollyanna about things.  As a slightly grumpy, middle-aged Yorkshire woman, Pollyanna isn’t my default setting I can assure you!  As good old Tony Robbins says, ‘There’s no point standing in the garden chanting “There are no weeds, there are no weeds” when you’re surrounded by freaking weeds!  The only thing that will help is to roll up your sleeves and pull them up!’

So let’s start to see the challenges as practical opportunities for change and getting out of our comfort zone and make the most of things!

If you’re struggling with a challenge or change, ask yourself the following coaching questions:

  • What are the opportunities, or positives in this challenge?
  • Is there a way to slow things down a little to create some thinking space?
  • If so, what are the priority things and what can I put down?
  • If I was starting from scratch here, what would I choose to do?

Have you turned a challenge into an opportunity recently?  Let’s share the positive mindset!

If you’d like to find out how our 1-to-1 and team coaching programmes and training can help you get ‘unstuck’ and move forward this year…

Check out our website:  www.bright-bird.co.uk

Call us: 07714 855757

or click HERE to book in a short, no-obligation chat

 

 

Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports leaders and managers to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth, practical approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 

 


Feeling overloaded? The solution might not be less work...

Feeling overloaded? The solution might not be less work...

By Karen Amos

I’ve just had a couple of interesting sessions with clients, exploring how to create capacity within their organisation and their life in general.  Many of us know the feeling of being up to, if not over capacity and the stress, pressure and often anxiety this brings.  It’s almost a fact of modern working life - that feeling there’s just no wriggle room and that you daren’t even think about what happens if one more thing goes wrong, or there’s a bout of sickness or a resignation.

I’m a coach not a magician, so I can’t manifest time that doesn’t exist – although it wouldn’t be a bad superpower would it?  What I can do often feels a little magical though in the turn-around it brings people, but there’s no woo-woo involved – I simply help my clients find clarity.

Often when I start working with clients, particularly around any ‘Time Management’ type issues, they expect me to do the usual, ‘Prioritise your tasks… delegate…, etc., etc.’   There's very much a time and a place for these tools and I frequently use these along with other time management techniques, this usually isn’t my starting point.

The fact is that most time management issues stem from a mindset issue.  This is a kind of good news/bad news situation though.

The bad news is that this means the root of the problem lies with how you view it, so no blaming other people for your problems.  You know, the whole, 'My boss is so mean to me' routine.  A bit harder to do when you're self-employed mind.

The good news is that simply changing how we think, can completely transform our situation.

When I work with my clients, we look at what’s going on… then look at what’s REALLY going on!  That’s the key to coaching – getting right down to the root cause of the problem.  We often find this too difficult to do on our own, as we’re viewing the world through a filter of our emotions, values, experiences and expectations.  A good coach will help you work out exactly what your pressure points are and also your priority outcomes. (Hint – we often confuse activity with outcomes and these really, really are not the same thing!)

One of the questions I often ask my clients is:

What would change if you accept the fact there will always be too much to do in any given day/ week/ month/ year? 

Along with:

What would you do differently if you believed your wellbeing and happiness was just as important as everyone else’s?

By asking these types of questions, I can bring a fresh pair of eyes for my clients, helping them make decisions and create the space they need to work on the stuff that really counts.   So to paraphrase that paragon of Stoic philosophy, Marcus Aurelius, the difficulty is often not what's going on around us, but our response to this.

If you'd like to find out how our 1-to-1 coaching programmes can help you get 'unstuck' and move forward this year...

Call us: 07714 855757

or click HERE to book in a short, no-obligation chat

 

 

Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports leaders and managers to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth, practical approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 


Wrestling the shark - getting to grips with the unknown...

Wrestling the shark – coaching questions to help you get to grips with the unknown…

By Karen Amos

I’ve just been reading an article about Great White Sharks in Scotland (Spoiler – there are some, but not many, so you’re more likely to die of hypothermia!).  As it does, my mind went on a little meander, taking me back to watching the film Jaws for the first time as a kid.  I wasn’t old enough to watch it at the cinema, but later watched when it aired on TV in 1981.  The rest of my family was out and I remember my Mum asking if I really wanted to watch it on my own.  She knew I wasn’t a fan of scary stuff, having been traumatised by the daleks and a pantomime of Beauty and the Beast years before.  (I know, it’s not exactly the exorcist, but I’m a horror lightweight OK!)

The article vividly brought back the suspense in the lead up of the film. The tension, anxiety and fear.  The glimpses, the terror of the characters and of course, the music.  This was going to be horrific – should I be watching it alone?

Then we finally had the reveal and saw the shark in all its terrifying monstrousness… erm, no… I remember laughing out loud.  Special effects weren’t exactly enhanced in those days and Steven Spielberg definitely got the hang of it later, but the sight of the obviously latex shark just took the scariness out of everything.  From that point on I just buckled in for the ride and enjoyed the rest of the film as a bit of a comedy adventure.

This lead me on another little meander to think about how I use this technique in my coaching to help clients with change.  No, I don’t make them swim with great whites (although perhaps there’s a business opportunity in there somewhere…), but the process is the same.  Simply, that

We fear what we can’t see.

Fear is disabling.  We’re all familiar with the ‘fight or flight’ adrenaline response to danger, but there’s actually another, less well-quoted response that’s equally as powerful.  That’s Freeze.

For this response, think rabbit in the headlights.  The rabbit knows the danger is coming and even though it’s naturally built to flee, it just can’t get its muscles to move.  We often have the same response in life and the causes and effects can be quite insidious.  Usually the cause is nothing so obvious as a shark attack, or a car about to run us over – it’s the stuff lurking in our subconscious.  It’s there, we’re largely unaware of it – but it’s controlling our every action, thought, emotion and decision.

This stuff includes fear – particularly fear of failure, or of being judged.  Other things can be good old imposter syndrome, or a past negative experience that we subconsciously don’t want to repeat.  The problem is that we’re often completely unaware on a conscious level of what’s actually going on and berate ourselves for not driving forward in the way we would like.

My wonderful coach supervisor has a phrase to sum this up perfectly…

‘Let’s identify it – let’s name it – then we can control it.’

If you find yourself procrastinating, or tinkering around the edges of a task or project, this could be the root cause.  The fact is that once we name the thing that’s causing the problem, we find, just like with the latex shark, that it no longer has a hold over us.  It’s common for my clients, once they’ve named the issue, to quickly and metaphorically roll up their sleeves and crack on with the task at hand as if there never was a problem.

So as usual, here are some coaching questions to break out of the freeze mode and identify and name what’s really going on.

  • What is it about this task/issue that I find so difficult?
  • What’s the part I really don’t want to do?
  • What am I worried may happen if I do this?
  • What are the risks for me here? (NB: risks can be personal/emotional as well as physical or financial)
  • Can I relate this situation to something that’s happened to me before?
  • What would I be embarrassed to admit about my approach to this?
  • What’s ‘unseen’ or uncertain here?
  • If there was one thing holding me back, what would it be?

It’s a fact that whilst coaching has a focus on action and goals, often the biggest part of the work is around the reality check of ‘What’s REALLY going on here’.  The fears, anxieties and general horrible imaginings that hold us back from getting what we really want.  Do remember that these are also questions you can use to help someone else who seems ‘stuck’ too, whether you’re a manager, a colleague, or just a friend.

If you’d like to find out how our 1-to-1 coaching programmes can help you get ‘unstuck’ and move forward this year..

Call us: 07714 855757

or click HERE to book in a short, no-obligation chat

 

 

Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports leaders and managers to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth, practical approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 

Wrestling the shark - getting to grips with the unknown