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


Two words that say you have an accountability and responsibility problem – and how to solve it…

Two words that say you have an accountability and responsibility problem – and how to solve it…

by Karen Amos

As I coach, I am trained to listen.  I mean REALLY listen.  Not just to the narrative, but to those key words from my clients that pop up without thinking, but that tell me so much.

There are two words I hear so often from managers at all levels and when I do, my little coach radar pings into action. (It’s like ‘spidey-sense’ without the cool outfit and wall climbing!)

The two words?

SHOULD and OUGHT

I’m sure you’ve said this – I certainly have and when I’ve done so it’s usually with a sense of exasperation at someone – and invariably due to something they haven’t done right, or at all.

You know how it goes…

‘They’ve been here a year.  They OUGHT to be able to do this by now…’

‘This SHOULD be just a simple task – why is it becoming so difficult?’

These sentences are often accompanied by other words such as…

 ‘It’s obvious…’

‘It’s common sense…’

My late and much-missed friend and mentor used to say, ‘The problem with common sense is it’s not that common!’

What all these phrases tell me as a coach is:

  1. There are some assumptions being made
  2. There is a gap between desired and actual performance
  3. There’s a lack of communication somewhere

So before you descend into full tearing your hair out stage (or your preferred method of manifesting stress and frustration), why not take a coaching approach to find out what’s REALLY going on?

At first glance, this is a counterintuitive approach.  Someone is doing something they shouldn’t, so we’re not going to tell them what to do, we’re going to ask questions instead.  Huh?  Isn't that just letting them off the hook?  Just the opposite actually...

Here are a few coaching questions to start you off…

  • Am I sure the other person knows what is expected of them?
  • How do I know this – what’s my evidence?
  • Have I spoken to the person about this?  (NB: Dropping in vague or sarcastic hints in the hope they will ‘get it’ and suddenly change their behaviour does not constitute ‘speaking to’ someone.)
  • Are there clear and consistent standards regarding processes and work across the whole organisation?
  • Do you know the reason or cause of the problem?

By putting aside our assumptions, we can build on the answers to these questions to set out a clear plan of action moving forward.  And the best bit?  You can’t lose with this approach.  You work with the person to find the solution and if it works, well the job’s a good ‘un as they say round these parts.

And if it doesn’t work?  Well you now have evidence to commence formal capability or performance management measures should you need to.  At the very least you’ve clearly set out expectations and standards in your own organisation or team.

If you’d like to help yourself or your managers to build accountability and responsibility in your teams, we offer down-to-earth, practical support from online and face-to-face training sessions, to 1-to-1 and team coaching sessions.  Check out our training pages using the links below for more information.

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.

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

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


Difficult Conversations: Why you should ditch the praise sandwich...

Why you should ditch the praise sandwich – And what you should do instead…

by Karen Amos

Every time I run a Managing Difficult Conversations training course, I have at least one delegate who advocates using the ‘Praise Sandwich’ as a structure for their conversation or feedback.  I can understand why and I’ll come onto that in a moment, but first a quick explanation of what this is for those who have never heard of it.

The praise sandwich is an approach to giving feedback that starts with something positive, then adds the negative feedback, followed up by something positive to close.  There is another school of thought that calls this a **** sandwich, for obvious reasons, but let's stick with the 'praise' version to save our sensibilities!

So let's look at why we use it - then we can look at why we shouldn't in a moment.

There are several reasons why the praise sandwich seems attractive to the feedback-giver.  One of the main ones though, is that that we erroneously see this as ‘kind’.  I mean, think about it – of course it’s kind.  We’re saving the person’s feelings by telling them all the great stuff they do and leaving them on a high – fully motivated to go back to work.  And we can breath a sigh of relief and tell ourselves, 'That went well...'.

Except…

OK, rather an extreme example, but the effect is the same – the message will be either lost, or misinterpreted.  You’ll come across as either dishonest and manipulative, or you won’t get the change you wanted in the first place.

Years ago I had a manager who used this approach all the time.  I had no idea whether I was doing a great job, or whether I was on the verge of being sacked!

So what should we do instead?

Surely, if we don’t fluff up the message at the end with something positive, we’ve a demotivated, or even irate member of staff on our hands?

Actually, I don’t believe that needs to be the case.  We just need to say what we need to say - but the key is to say it well.

I like to call this the 4 C's:

  1. Courage - Having the backbone to deal with situations instead of burying our head in the sand and hoping it will go away
  2. Clarity - Saying what you have to say, getting to the point and not fluffing up the message
  3. Compassion - In our haste to deliver the message, it's sometimes easy to forget there's another person on the other end of this conversation, so let's treat people as we would like to be treated ourselves
  4. Collaboration - Working 'with' rather than doing 'to'.  This coaching approach is a sure fire way to build commitment and achieve positive outcomes

So hopefully you can see that by using a coaching approach to give feedback and have those ‘difficult conversations’ we build commitment, accountability and personal responsibility.  It’s supportive, but definitely not 'fluffy bunny'.

So here’s a quick coaching question to finish off…

  • What are you most worried about when having a ‘difficult conversation’ with your team and what effect does this have on your approach?

If you’re interested in learning tips, tools and how to take a coaching approach for better ‘difficult conversations’, check out our latest live, interactive online training workshops.

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