If you are interested in effective leadership, you know the importance of coaching. It seems obvious, but it’s one of those skills that tend to stay theoretical, because it is hard to start putting it into practice. Leaders can sometimes let their beliefs about coaching get in the way: I’m not a coach; it’s complicated; it’s hard to start.
The lack of a common definition of coaching makes it harder to achieve: there are as many definitions as there are practitioners. As you have your conversations, you might wonder, “is this coaching, feedback, directing, teaching, or mentoring?” It can be confusing. This definition, based on Sir John Whitmore’s words, is particularly powerful: Coaching is releasing a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.
Effective coaching doesn’t need to be complex, perfect, or time-consuming. It doesn’t require a complicated process, certification, or a checklist. It can be fast and easy, and it can help you to work less and have more impact; but it often requires a mindset shift and for you to break some old habits.
Asking powerful questions and creating space for self-reflection is a powerful tool that will help your coachees uncover limiting beliefs that stand in the way of high-performance and unleashing their true potential. At the end of the day, we are limited by what we believe we can achieve, and changing these beliefs determines our attitude and the goals we create which, in turn, determines the results we get.
Consider these three strategies:
Michael Bungay Stanier, author of The Coaching Habit says, “Be lazy. Be curious. Be often.”
Being lazy is a big barrier to becoming coach-like because problem solving feels great. It’s probably how you became a leader. Letting go may feel uncomfortable, but it is critical. Letting others do the work is the foundation of coaching. When your employees find and own the solutions, you get commitment and better results.
One of the easiest ways to go deeper is to ask one question and then STOP, WAIT, and LISTEN.
Conquer your fear of silence. If you ask, “What’s on your mind?” and the person says nothing, seconds feel like hours. You want to break the silence, either with another question or worse, talking about yourself. When you avoid silence, conversations stay superficial and you miss an opportunity to dive into the real issue. A simple trick for embracing silence is to ask a question and mentally count to 10 before speaking again. Silence is golden. It means that you helped someone think and reflect, and that’s where invaluable insight is born.
Ask Powerful Questions
Questions become powerful when they trigger new insights, self-reflection, and shifts in perspective. Give less advice (Have you thought of doing X?) and focus on helping the other person find solutions:
- What is the biggest challenge you are facing?
- What do you have the power to do now?
- What are you saying NO to, by saying YES to …?
Seek Immediate Feedback
Ask coachees what was useful in the conversation. Individuals value different tactics and have differing needs. Asking helps you gain insights and grow as well.
If you put these simple strategies into action and see results, your beliefs and attitude about your coaching abilities will start to shift. Until then, stay patient and keep experimenting because becoming a coach is a journey taken one conversation at a time.