Coaching is a great way to evoke and sustain disruptive positive change in the individual and the team and organization at the same time. The effect of great coaching is both linear and nonlinear as the person being coached has a new and more powerful impact with others in the organization.
A simple definition of coaching is to enable positive transformation. The leader as coach has conversations with teams and individuals to evoke and sustain disruptive positive change. That’s what matters! An important rule for leaders (whether you’re in coach mode or not) is Inquiry Before Advocacy. The leader as coach spends more time asking questions and less time telling someone what to do. It’s that simple.
There is always a time for advocating for ourself, our team, our position. Yet, leading with advocacy may actually get in the way of what we really want much of the time. When we advocate, we are telling someone what we would do or what she should do. Leading with advocacy results in two horrible situations taking hold in the team or organization. First, the leader becomes ‘solution provider’ and as such, people become dependent upon the leader to always provide the solution. When the leader isn’t around to provide the solution, activity grinds to a halt. You may like being the solution provider; but, is that in the best interest of the organization? Probably not. Second, and even worse, when we lead by advocating a solution we may be unwittingly communicating that we don’t believe the person could come up with the solution themselves (a disrespectful assumption) and creating or strengthening a belief in the person that they are not competent. Either way we are left with a very disempowered and disengaged person.
Leading with inquiry has two real benefits for the leader and the organization. First, inquiry invites curiosity. It is contagious. I asked a leader I coach to show up to meetings one day and only ask questions. The people with whom she works were used to her advocating positions and providing solutions, not asking questions. She reported the experience and results were amazing. Her intentional curiosity begat more inquiry from the others in those meetings. As a result the solutions they came to were richer and had more support from the team. The bigger pay off was for her brand. People were impressed with how she contributed to the process and invited others to fully participate through her questions. People are talking differently to her and about her.
Two simple rules to help you become a more effective leader/coach:
1. 80/20 – Coaching (and leading) is 80% listening/20% telling. Be curious. Ask questions. Help people find their own solutions.
2. To help with #1, Remember WAIT (Why Am I Talking?). There’s no chance you’ll learn anything new while you’re talking. So stop.