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. 

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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