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Coaching, a critical leadership skill to build empowered teams!

In the context of modern leadership, which is not defined by title, status, and authority but by influence and empowerment, coaching has emerged as a critical skill.

So much so that it’s become part of the contemporary leaders’ outfit or collection of hats!

Leaders wear many hats, one of the most effective is their coaching hat. This hat empowers team members to find the answers within, growing confidence, igniting autonomy, setting intrinsic motivation on fire.

As one leader put it, it gives team members the confidence to see what they already know, to use what they’ve learnt and explore a world of possibilities. It makes for better decision making, and when we feel better about our choices, naturally we become more reliant on ourselves than others, and this feeling cascades into feeling good about our achievements and life.

Coaching is not an easy skill to master. At the core of mastering your coaching skills is patience, safety, trust, comfort with silence and sensing energy. And well, leaders, humans, are not so skilled in sensing energy, emotions, waiting and staying silent!

Let’s expand on the skills needed to master coaching.

Silence. Space for others to consider, process, think and ponder, to shift out of doing mode and auto pilot and be, because when we are being, we are also becoming. Leaders often tell us about their discomfort with silence.

Silence is an invitation to listen, actively, beyond the words, listening for language, energy shifts, markers, stories and what isn’t being said.

Safety + Trust. This level of safety requires connection and for leaders to sit in curiosity, throwing out judgement, assumptions, and biases. It’s in this space that the people you are coaching feel comfortable opening up, being vulnerable, which gets them (not you) to the heart of their story. It’s this deep level of trust that provides people with scaffolding to experiment, get creative, express and be comfortable having their perspectives and assumptions challenged.

Tip: Ring fence your coaching conversations as being different to other conversations, verbalise they are confidential and when you catch yourself assuming and believing you have the answer, ask a question instead. Be clear about the objective of these conversations, they are to explore and grow your team members skills.

Sensing energy. This isn’t easy and takes effort to lean into. Start with you, sensing your own energy shifts, be present to sense the subtle shifts in others. It takes practice, when you sense right, it's powerful for the person in front of you and makes for a productive coaching conversation.

Tip: Practise mindfulness breathing before a coaching conversation and notice any subtle shifts in voice. Offer what you notice as an observation not a question.

Questions. I was taught early the importance of powerful questions. Yes, questions are critical and it’s a skill. But this perspective has you in your head, focused on what to ask next rather than present to the story that’s unfolding in front of you. Anchor to the three skills above, keep questions short, simple, using similar language to the person you’re coaching.

Tip: We find it useful to remember inside/out/around - what’s happening inside, what does that have them doing, what around them is being/creating impact. Start with a point of focus, explore inside/out/around, end with a what now to activate agency.

Tension. The right amount of challenging. This for me is akin to dancing, knowing your partner's next step to stay in rhythm, yet pushing them beyond their limits when you sense confidence rising. And to do this well takes a level of EQ or self-other awareness.

Tip: Ask before the conversation starts how they want to be challenged and wait for trust and safety to be established before you do.

Timing. Knowing when coaching is needed. Leaders tell us that recognising the moments that call them to wear their coaching hat can be tricky. When team members face unfamiliar challenges, coaching can provide guidance while nurturing their problem-solving skills. It's a chance to foster growth and build confidence in uncharted territories. During projects or initiatives that encourage learning, coaching shines. It encourages self-discovery and helps team members derive meaningful lessons from their experiences.

Tip: When you notice a team member paining over a choice, offer them space to self-reflect.

PeopleQ are executive coaches, skilled in 1-2-1 and team coaching. And we bring this expertise into our leadership programs. We love getting to know people over coffee, f2f or virtually, connect with us today to decide if we’re the right fit for you and your organisation.



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