Unleashing your leadership potential for breakthrough results
BY Lionel Wijesiri
Coaches play an essential role in the success of an organization. They are responsible for implementing the coaching and mentoring processes and procedures set by the organization as part of their employee development programs. As such, the bulk of the responsibility relies on how effective they are, in performing their coaching and mentoring functions and how they carry out their roles.
Most organizations appoint supervisors and managers to take on the role of a coach. They are often seen as the most capable of conducting the coaching sessions because their skills and knowledge levels are apt for the coaching role. Often the employees also treat them as their mentors in developing their careers. The function of facilitating their members and looking after their welfare performed by supervisors is more like a mentoring role.
Suppose you have been entrusted as a coach to conduct sessions. Let me describe a few coaching roles, and situations when you need to consider using them.
Advisor - You’ve more knowledge and expertise than the team members who report to you in certain aspects of their work. Advising involves guiding a team member towards the correct or right way of doing a task where a best way exists.
Partner - You work together in jointly solving a problem, sharing your expertise and ideas to enhance each other’s understanding of the problem and arrive at a decision that you’re both committed to taking.
Reflector - You listen carefully and reflect back your interpretations to the team member to check and clarify the meanings they’re trying to convey, perhaps acting as a sounding board for their proposals and/or offering different interpretations. Use this approach to help team members refine their thinking on an issue and acquire new insights into, for example, how to build a more productive working relationship with a colleague.
Catalyst - You probe team members’ thinking by asking searching questions and listening intently to notice words and phrases that seem to have significant meaning to them and, through this approach, enhance their understanding of an issue or problem and the actions that they’re going to take. Useful for helping colleagues to work through what is, for them, a particularly difficult or complex problem.
Critical friend - You challenge someone about his thinking and behaviour while having a genuine interest in him as an individual, providing moral support and acting with integrity. This approach is powerful for helping team members to enhance their self-awareness, acquire insights into their motives, attitudes and behaviours, and how their behaviour is impacting on others, and to increase their self-accountability.
You need to be highly skilled as a coach or have a strong relationship with a team member to be a critical friend. And remember always to have critical friends yourself — they’re of huge value as you go through your career.
To become an effective coach, you must possess the following ten attributes: (1) Good listener, (2) Emotionally intelligent, (3) Good motivator, (4) Inspiringly persuasive,(5)Realistic and practical, (6) Open-minded, (7) Approachable, (8) Patient. (9) An achiever and (10) Respected.
By practising what great coaches do, you can cultivate these great attributes.This is what great coaches do: (1) They have a genuine interest in helping team members to grow and prosper. (2) They giveteam memberstheir total attention when they are with them. (3) They encourageteam members to fulfil their potential as all times. (4) They keepteam member’s mind open to all possibilities and avoiding being judgemental. (5) They ask searching and difficult questions to enhance the quality of team members’ thinking, explore the reasons for their actions and so on.
(6) They listen intently to the language team members are using and noticing words and phrases that have significant meanings for them. (7) They sense whether team members are showing real commitment to do what is right or necessary. (8) They speakto ream member’s mind; that is, having the courage to say what needs to be said rather than ducking issues or avoiding disagreements. (In short, they willing to challenge team members’ motives and behaviour. (9) They reinterpret information shared between team members and others to create new insights and meanings about problems, and the team member’s self- awareness and self-knowledge. (10) They act vulnerable by remaining willing to have their views questioned and challenged, and acknowledging and saying when team member is wrong.
Coaching Strategies and Tactics
In any type of coaching, the use of strategies and techniques makes the coaching sessions easier to conduct. Here are three fundamental strategies and tactics that coaches can apply:
a. Build an atmosphere of involvement and ownership
(1) Make use of applicable knowledge, necessary tools and resources, (2) Share the coaching goals and objectives and make the trainee understand the current situation. (3) Establish clear standards and gauge for progress and coaching results. (4) Recognize progress in performance and positive changes after coaching
b. Provide challenging role, tasks and responsibilities
(1) Evaluate the skills and abilities of the trainee, (2) Create tasks that commensurate with their abilities, (3) Set expectations and provide clear directions, (4) Trust the trainee’s ability to complete the task, (4) Acknowledge efforts and results
c. Provide ongoing coaching
(1) Constructive feedback should be given every time after coaching, (2) Document coaching sessions and performance trends of trainees, (3) Utilize applicable tools and resources, (4) Demonstrate effective listening and give of feedback
Use a democratic coaching style
The goals you want your team member to achieve are expressed through your coaching style andbehaviours. Most coaches will indicate the following goals in the prioritised order given: a) to assistteam member to develop basic skills, to developpositive self-images, and to learn to cooperate with each other in work and outside; b) to have fun; and c) to achieve targets.
How do you prioritise the goals? How important is targets to you? Does your coaching behaviourreflect your priority of goals? If reaching targets is the least important to you of the three goals, then besure to behave in a manner which shows that the team member’ development and having fun are moreimportant than reaching targets. Striving to reach targets provides healthy competition, provided the propersignificance is placed on the winning. To keep winning in the proper perspective will allow for theoptimal development of your players while having fun.
A democratic coaching style is most appropriate in achieving these goals. Coaches who use thisstyle understand their responsibilities in providing leadership and direction to their team member whileallowing the team members the opportunity to share in the decision-making and responsibilities.
Using a democratic coaching style does not mean that the team members have input on all the decisionsmade. It is necessary for you to provide an appropriate amount of structure and rules to allow forthe optimal total development of your team members. In so doing, you give direction and make decisionswhen it is necessary, but you also realize when it is more beneficial to let the team members make thedecisions and take the responsibilities.
If you provide too much structure, an autocratic coaching style will become your dominantcoaching style and will result in decreasing the satisfaction team members could receive from theirparticipation. Providing just the right amount of structure that is optimal for the team members you coachis the objective of the democratic coaching style.
Using a democratic coaching style will enhance your team members’ abilities to make decisions andbecome responsible, independent adults.
(Lionel Wijesiri is a retired corporate director counting three decades of senior management experience. He is now an independent consultant and a freelance journalist. He may be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org)