As a business leader, you wear many hats, one of the most important being that of “coach”. Just as athletes look to their coaches for both inspiration and instruction, your team members look to you for the same.
In recent years, “coaching” has become a catchword in the business environment. Professionals hire coaches of all stripes to provide guidance and support for overcoming a workplace challenges: career coaches, sales coaches, executive coaches, you name it. These folks utilize a wealth of techniques and strategies aimed at bringing out the best in their clients.
Business leaders can certainly benefit from honing the same skills employed by business and sport coaches alike. Here, we outline 4 in particular.
Perhaps the most important tool in any coach’s toolkit is listening. The coach is always gathering information to better lead the team member.
- What motivates this person?
- What are his goals?
- What challenges him?
- What does he need from me?
Listening involves a great deal of emotional intelligence on the part of the coach. It’s not just about the words being said. A good coach is also listening for unspoken clues—those expressed through body language, tone, facial expression, action or inaction.
Here’s the catch: A great coach collects these clues but is cautious about the meaning he interprets from them. Where there is uncertainty, the great coach makes a direct inquiry, which leads to the next key skill.
2. Powerful Questioning
Coaches are extremely proficient at the art of questioning. They have a natural curiosity and know how to probe in a way that is both respectful and inviting. While many business leaders have become more accustomed to answering questions rather than asking them, coaches do not shy away from open dialogue. They push their team members to develop and articulate their own point-of-view with questions like:
- “What do you think?”
- “How would that look?”
- “How would you resolve this?”
- “What are the options?”
- “What do you recommend?”
In doing so, the coach engenders a sense of inclusion and contribution amongst his team members.
3. Challenging & Reframing
Of course, the coach does not always merely accept the answers he receives. When the coach disagrees or holds a conflicting point-of-view or simply wants to deepen the discussion to see what wisdom unfolds, he challenges the team member. He “reframes” the conversation by suggesting alternative scenarios, what-ifs, hypotheticals, and more. This inspires creativity and encourages the team member to think differently about problems and opportunities.
The concept of “challenging” goes far beyond conversation. A great coach will frequently push a promising team member outside his comfort zone by offering projects that stretch his capabilities and skills. Over time, the team member’s comfort zone begins to expand as his confidence and competence grows, making him a more valuable contributor overall to the team over time.
Finally, a great coach doesn’t drop the ball. Too many business leaders allow day-to-day distractions to absorb their attention, leaving team members to fend for themselves. While independence and autonomy are critical, the coach’s role demands consistency. When commitments are made, the coach holds team members accountable. He checks in, inquires about progress and offers support to ensure goals are met. As a result, team members come to see their contributions as meaningful, increasing their personal investment in the work and the team.