The “coaching” style of leadership has become an increasingly popular concept in recent years. Coaching is about motivating, inspiring, and helping individuals reach their full potential. While traditional managers often give directives from above, the coach-manager focuses on guiding the employee to arrive at the right insight to bring things safely to shore. Coaching is something you can learn, but it takes a lot of training. Let’s take a closer look at some of the things that are important to practice.
The perception of leadership has changed a lot in recent decades. One of the most important changes is that coaching leadership has come to be highlighted more and more. Coaching leadership may not suit all workplaces in all contexts, but it is an important tool in the long term when you want to build a work culture in which employees can take responsibility, trust their own ability to solve problems and unleash their creativity.
Coaching leadership contrasts with a more traditional managerial style, which often involves providing precise directives all the way down to the micro level. Instead, the coaching leader strives to support and guide the employee to come to an understanding of how the work should be carried out and how different problems can be solved. A great advantage of this leadership style is that it strengthens the employee’s internal motivation, so that the work is driven forward by an inner curiosity and desire to succeed.
Can any leader learn to embrace a coaching leadership style? The answer is yes, but it will not happen overnight. It takes a lot of training – and daring – to let go of old ways of thinking. And it takes more than one blog post to learn how it’s done! But let’s take a closer look at some of the basics of the coaching leadership style.
Reaching their full potential
The purpose of coaching leadership is for employees to reach their full potential and learn to trust their own ability to solve problems. The leader should be a support during the process but should not give precise instructions on how to carry out the work. Rather, the employee should learn to become their own manager. If you succeed at this, the effects on the organisation’s productivity, profitability and well-being can be enormous.
A very important part of coaching leadership is to motivate and inspire employees. This places high demands on the leader, who must want to get to know each individual employee on a more thorough, personal level. Different people are motivated in different ways, depending on personality, interests, values, objectives, strengths and weaknesses, and so on. In other words, to motivate and inspire in the right way, the coaching leader must have high emotional intelligence (EQ) and be interested in how each individual works.
It is also important to have good knowledge of each individual employee’s work and work process. The goal is for the employee to be able to do their job as independently as possible, but to achieve this, you as a leader must keep track of the current situation and what strengths and weaknesses the individual has. Based on this knowledge, one should then inspire and nurture a learning process, where it is important that the employee is helped to adopt a growth mindset – i.e. an insight that they can actually learn new things, and that this ability is not limited by what “talent” they have or what they have previously heard about their ability to learn the specific knowledge.
Communication is key
A very important part of coaching leadership is communication, and here it is important to remember that it should always be two-way communication. Coaching leadership is not about giving directives from above, but about working together, with the goal that employees should be able to lead themselves.
Feedback is, of course, a core part of communication. A coaching leader must not be perceived as judgmental and should therefore place a great focus on positive and genuinely constructive feedback. Pure criticism rarely produces good results. In that case, it is better to cultivate insights from the employee that will enable them to figure out for themselves how to solve problems more effectively next time. Reaching such insights on your own is very motivating and can give the employee enormous confidence.
Ask open questions that help the employee think about the right things. But the questions should then be genuinely open. Otherwise, there is a risk that the employee will feel that you are manipulative and trying to make indirect criticisms. Be humble enough to know that there are actually many possible answers and solutions.
Be sure to be a very active and conscious listener. Really listening to other people, without judgment and without sitting around thinking too much about your own next line, is a difficult art that you have to train a lot on if you want to become a coaching leader. When you listen actively, you can find many small keys to how the employee works, which can be absolutely crucial to your ability to succeed in your coaching leadership.
Finally, it is important to remember that the coaching leader should focus not only on each individual, but also on the team as a whole and how different team members complement each other. Not everyone has to be good at everything or live in perfect harmony with each other. The important thing is to create a whole, where the team reaches its full potential. The hard worker who acts quietly has one role, the team’s “star” has another, the social type who makes everyone laugh has a third, and so on. You as a coaching leader need to have a good overview and see if the team is developing towards its full potential and achieving the desired results and milestones on the way there.
Coaching leadership is a powerful tool, and with the right training, that leadership style can take both you and your team to whole new heights, helping you achieve goals that you previously didn’t think were even within reach.
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