Adopt a Coach Approach: Take Your Leadership Game to the Next Level
Let’s talk about leadership and an idea called “Coach Approach”. These are not my words they are the words of my first coach. She had a great vision to have supervisors and managers change from being ‘The Boss’ to being a leader, by using a “Coach Approach”.
What does that even mean? I hear these words thrown around quite often. The word ‘leader’ seems to have lost all meaning. It’s used in so many different ways to refer to so many different things. For me a Leader is someone who: Models, teaches, creates and develops a commitment to personal responsibility.
That’s a big ask, first you need to model the behaviour you want from your team. Then teach them the how and the why, create an atmosphere that makes people feel safe to follow your lead, and continually develop yourself and them to keep everyone moving forward.
The goal is to have everyone being responsible for themselves so that you can get the team to mutual accountability. This is where everyone is doing what they said they will do, and when they can’t the team is helping out. Everyone is being honest about what they can deliver and what they can’t so that the team is aware of what to expect, and when they should and shouldn’t help.
The idea of a coach approach is to step out of the idea of being “The Boss”. When I think boss, I think of someone who is constantly telling others what to do. They keep tabs on everything that is happening, barking orders and are only around to talk when there is someone to punish. To get an idea of what I mean, think of your favourite boss and write down what you liked most about them. You will find that most of what you liked had nothing to do with the tasks that you were completing. Their technical knowledge is far less important than how they treated you.
Active listening is another very important skill to have as a leader. The better you are at listening, the better solutions you will find for any challenge that presents itself to you and your team. There is nothing more frustrating than talking to someone who clearly isn’t listening to you. Have you had that experience? They are looking at you, but you can tell they aren’t taking it in because once you are finished your sentence, they are telling you a story that might be a little related to what you said, but often is not.
I had this happen when I was speaking to a leader in a Volunteer organization I am involved with. I was sharing a problem in our Division and the response was: “You should see what’s happening in China!”. I was not impressed. Not that I don’t feel for the people having to deal with the problem in China but hearing their issue does not solve mine. Plus, the sentence was incredibly dismissive. I trust that the leaders in China will figure out how to handle their challenge, but who is going to deal with mine? Clearly not my leader, she wasn’t even interested in hearing about it. As a leader, are you listening to your team? Really listening to understand, or are you throwing band aids at the surface problems without having heard what they are really concerned about.
A Leader, or someone who uses a “Coach approach”, trusts that their team is capable of doing their jobs. Your role as a leader is NOT to do all the tasks. Your role is to provide an environment that makes it easy for your team to do their tasks. You hold the Vision, Mission and the Values and you ensure that your team has the tools and skills to take you to your Vision in a way that stays true to your values. A leader removes obstacles and keeps the team focussed on the same goals. They listen to the team members and support them where needed. They set the guideposts up far enough apart that the team has room to use their creativity to do things better than the leader could have imagined. When someone steps outside of the guideposts they are there to bring them back in line so that the team continues to function as a unit.
The better you get at this, the more likely your team will succeed. Have you reviewed your Vision and Mission lately? Are you and your team working towards them? Have you checked in on your values? Is everyone in line with the values? These are questions you should be asking regularly. Especially now, we are so busy with tasks and learning to do things in a different way, we can lose sight of the big picture. As I wrote this blog in 2021, the world had just gone through a difficult year, one which forced people to change the way they lead their teams. Those already using a coach approach had a much easier time adapting.