Coaching Skills to Step Up Your Leadership Game
by Kate Dixon
Pro Bono Director, ICF Oregon
In my training to become a leadership coach, I realized that so many of the skills required for great coaching could also help leaders to be more effective. Here’s what you can do to be more coach-like in the way you approach management.
Listen. The right way.
Listening is almost always on the top of any list of leadership skills, and it’s huge for coaches, too. But the way you listen matters. A lot.
As Jennifer Garvey Berger points out in her book “Unlocking Leadership Mindtraps,” listening to win (focusing on reinforcing your own position) or listening to fix (approaching the conversation as a problem) can be detrimental to great leadership. Both ways of listening serve to shut down conversations and limit solutions.
Listening to learn, on the other hand, helps leaders (and coaches) use curiosity to find out more about the issue and explore alternative solutions. This unlocks the trap of needing to be right so leaders can be more effective.
Ask big questions … and don’t try to predict the answers.
Coaches know that big questions — ones that are open-ended and that we don’t know the answers to — open up conversations with our clients. The same holds true when you ask big questions of your employees.
If something goes wrong, try asking, “What could make the process better?” And then listen carefully to what comes up. It might not be what you think. Chances are good that your employees are closer to your customers than you are, and your team may be eager to share their insights with you.
When the conversation starts slowing down, try asking, “What else?” You might uncover something important by allowing more room in the conversation. Listening to learn helps here, too.
See potential, and focus on growth.
One of the things my clients say they like best about working with me is that I see their potential. I hold the vision they have for themselves as stronger performers, better negotiators and more effective leaders.
Sometimes, managers are so focused on the here and now that they can’t (or don’t) imagine what’s possible for their team members. What a missed opportunity!
Virtually every job can be done with a view to another, whether it’s a lateral move or a promotion. Leaders who help their teams see how what they’re doing today relates to what they could do later — and who prepare their employees for that future — spark engagement with their employees. This heightened engagement often leads to better performance and increased productivity.
Don’t be afraid to challenge when something doesn’t feel right.
As a coach, I sometimes observe something that a client says or does that feels a little off. Their body language doesn’t match their words, their voice changes volume or pitch, or what they’re saying doesn’t align with their actions.
When you find this happening in a conversation with your employees, it can be a big hint that something needs to be explored. It’s okay (and even smart) to notice these things and ask questions. Some of my clients’ biggest breakthroughs happen through these challenging discussions. The same can happen in conversations with the members of your team.
Get a commitment.
It’s easy to walk away from a conversation with both parties assuming the other is going to do something. One of the questions I like to ask my leadership coaching clients when they commit to a course of action is, “How will I know you’ve completed it?”
Clients will often text or email me when they’ve had their difficult conversation with a colleague, or reviewed their 360° feedback with their team, asked for a raise or whatever it is they’ve committed to doing. Their promise to let me, their coach, know about what they’ve accomplished solidifies their resolve and helps them move things forward. Using this technique with your employees can help them clarify — and act on — their plans.
Using coaching skills as a leader can open up conversations and unleash stronger performance with your employees. How will you use coaching skills to up your leadership game? Let us know in the comments below!
This article first appeared on Forbes.com.