Needed: Leaders with Coaching Skills

I hear the term “coaching” thrown around in business a lot these days.  (Ok, maybe that’s partly because I’m an executive coach – so my ears are tuned in to this.)   There’s the “let me give you some coaching” throw — which is code for: “let me tell you how you messed up and correct you.”  And there’s the throw I used to get via email from my former employer’s IT group who offered “executive coaching” to executives who wanted a 1-1 tutorial for how to use the latest version of Excel.

Increasingly, enlightened organizations are using “coaching” to describe the accelerated individualized leadership development that a business executive gains by teaming with a professional coach to tackle performance and development goals.  This kind of “coaching” can be a powerful tool for increasing performance for key leaders and aspiring leaders.

Manager as Coach

It’s even more powerful when companies’ leaders use coaching as a part of their leadership and managerial skills arsenal.  When a manager uses a coach approach – and by manager, I mean leaders at all levels who oversee others – this pays off in several ways.  Here are a couple of ways:

Coaching fosters greater innovation.

I recently heard someone from a well-known company describe their phenomenal growth over the last ten years.  They went from being a stalled out $300 million company to a $1.4 billion industry leader.  He and other executives in their organization have created a culture of innovation, high performance, and learning that have fuelled this growth and success.

How did they do it?  Almost 10 years ago, top leaders from this company began working with professional coaches to help them improve their ability to creatively and successfully tackle the business challenges they faced.  They saw innovative and quick gains, and they have continued to effectively leverage executive coaches.

But even more importantly, they have also focused on building leadership and coaching skills into their broader leadership ranks and into the culture of how they work together.  Now, armed with some coaching skills themselves, their managers are better at drawing out the best in those they lead.  Leaders at this organization are convinced that coaching has been a key to their success.

Here’s another pay-off…

Managers with coaching skills help improve engagement and retention.

Thanks to Buckingham’s and Coffman’s book First Break All the Rules, it is now common corporate knowledge that “employees join companies but leave managers.”  The good news is that people are less likely to leave managers who use a coach approach.  Why is this?  One reason is that at the core of a coach-approach to managing is a genuine concern for people, along with the ability to demonstrate this.

Managers who use a coach approach prioritize results and people; they care about performance and development.

Test yourself

How good are your coaching skills as you manage others?  Would the people you manage say that you…

  • Focus on the company’s goals and also on their individual agenda?
  • Ask powerful questions that challenge people to find new perspectives and innovative and practical solutions?  Do you stretch those you lead to think creatively as they approach new challenges – drawing from past experiences but not being limited by them?
  • Collaborate to solve problems – instead of only directing and advising – in ways that promote ownership, accountability, and growth?
  • Convey respect and belief in people’s potential, ability, and career aspirations – even if those aspirations involve changing roles or changing companies?
  • Motivate others more by inspiring them than scaring them?

If you’re shaking your head “no” or staring blankly at this article, then it’s time to sharpen your coaching skills.

Joe Baker is a Partner and executive leadership coach and consultant  with PeopleResults.