The Importance of Coaching as a Leader and How to Do It
Today’s leaders and managers won’t get by with just a command-and-control attitude anymore. It’s become almost a requirement to develop and use the mindset of a coach.
We’re not talking about directive coaching — primarily telling employees and direct reports what to do and how to do it. This approach assumes the boss knows things the person on the receiving end doesn’t, which isn’t always true. Furthermore, it doesn’t build organizational capacity well.
The kind of coaching we’re suggesting is that of asking questions and inspiring insight from the other person. Don’t confuse this with nondirective coaching — built on listening, questioning, and withholding judgment. We’re encouraging situational coaching — the balance between directive and nondirective styles. It’s based on the specific needs of the moment, which means it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach because each moment and individual is unique.
If you’re not familiar with the practice, you’ll need to give yourself grace and time. We recommend starting with nondirective coaching on its own, and once it feels natural and comes easily, balance it with periods of helpful directive coaching.
One of the best ways to do this is through the GROW model — created in the 1980s by Sir John Whitmore and others. Each letter correlates to an action step. Conceptually, it is quite simple to grasp, but putting it into practice is a bit harder. You’ll need to train yourself to think differently about your role and value as a leader.
Below are the four steps:
- Goal. This applies to the now. What does the person hope to get out of this specific exchange? This is not to be confused with project or job goals. A helpful question to pose is, “What do you want to have when you leave this meeting that you don’t currently have?”
- Reality. Ask questions rooted in what, when, where, and who. This allows the person to focus on specific facts and makes the conversation real and constructive. Leave out why — it demands the exploration of reasons and motivations instead of facts. A good question to ask is, “What are the key things we need to know?”
- Options. Encourage them to think broadly and deeply. Consider this question, “If you had a magic wand, what would you do?” After their perspective has broadened and new options have been discovered, prompt even deeper thinking and advocate the exploration of the upside, downside, and risks of each option.
- Will. Part one can be fueled by the question, “What will you do?” This encourages them to revisit the action plan that was created from your conversation. This will be easy if the conversation has gone well; if not, you’ll need to cycle back through the earlier steps to help them define how they’ll tackle the problem. Part two answers the question, “On a scale of one to 10, how likely is it that you’ll do this?” An answer of 8 or higher means they’re probably motivated enough to follow through. An answer of 7 or less means it’s unlikely it’ll get done. In that scenario, you’ll cycle back through the previous steps until you arrive at a solution in which they’re more likely to act.
Most workplace coaching takes place outside of a more formal session — brief exchanges when a manager responds to a request for help by asking a single question like, “What have you already thought of?” or “What really matters here?” When these interactions become the norm — in which managers are indirectly communicating that they don’t have all the answers — you’ll know you’ve left the command-and-control era.
Stay tuned for our next article where we’ll discuss how to incorporate this culture throughout your organization!