Leader as Coach

Blog Apr 27This blog was inspired by the incredible educational leaders at the Edmonton Public School District!

I often find articles and references to the idea of “coaching” being a key competence of leadership, and this heartens me to see coaching embedded in the expectations of our leaders. That said, I also believe that there is confusion out there about what effective coaching looks like in practice. The process of truly powerful coaching requires specific skills and a completely different mindset which requires specific training and intentional practice to develop mastery.

Let’s back up and start with the International Coach Federation (ICF) definition of coaching;

The ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to achieve their personal and professional potential.

Underpinning this definition from the ICF is the shift in mindset that the coach leader must embrace to support them to coach in a way that truly inspires their employees to reach their potential. Here are my top three mindset strategies to unleash your coaching potential:

1. Believe in your employee.
Holding the belief that your employee is capable and competent in that moment will keep your mind open and your judgement at bay. This is a fundamental shift that you must embrace as you step into coach mode. It isn’t easy, but it is essential. As a professional coach I hold all of my clients capable of finding their own path and solutions when I partner with them and ask powerful questions to unlock their thinking. The truth is that people feel that energy from us and they know if we believe in them or not. Give your employee the gift of truly believing in them and notice the shift that happens within you (and them).

2. Stay curious and park your judgement.
This can be challenging for us when an employee makes a mistake or is on the wrong path. I had an employee who had made a poor judgement call and went over my head with a concern about a project and I was extremely frustrated by this behaviour. It would have been very easy for me to call him into my office and tell him how inappropriate that was and lay down the rules going forward. Instead, I worked hard at releasing judgement in that moment and I got curious about what was going on for him and why he made that choice. It was an exercise in me asking questions rather than telling him why that was wrong. By the end, I learned a lot about this person and the way they think and he was clear that I was disappointed in the choices he had made. Needless to say, the message got through to him and I had the benefit of a lot more understanding to inform our work together moving forward.

3. Release the idea of being right.
Is this one poking you in the eye right now? Is it hard to imagine that as a leader you might not be right? This is one of the hardest mindset pieces for the leader as coach to embrace; the idea that there might be another way that looks different from yours! Practice the release of you having all the answers or being right in any given situation and notice what happens for you. You might find it easier to ask questions when you embrace this idea and it will definitely get noticed by your team! The leader as coach is open to new possibilities and they only way to find those possibilities is to stop providing your answers, and start listening to the ideas and solutions that your team has generated.
If you describe yourself as a leader who uses coaching, then I encourage you to practice these three mindset strategies and notice what happens. The art of supporting others to reach their potential requires us to show up differently and engage in a different kind of partnership. I believe in you and your ability to make this shift, and I promise you – the rewards are worth it!

I had the privilege of providing coach training to 50 educational leaders at the Edmonton Public School District this year and I was so inspired by their ability to embrace these three mindset strategies and step into the role of leader as coach. They embraced coaching and transformed they way they showed up as leaders which was incredibly inspiring. I was honoured to have shared their coaching journey this year.

If you want to learn more about Coaching for Performance then join me at the Banff Compass Conference where I will be delivering an educational session and doing a live demo of a coaching conversation!