Innovation Through Coaching

Leaders today are leading in the moment. This bold notion may resonate with you since it’s a common concern that many of the leaders we’re partnering with are facing. The challenges of a remote workforce, changing missions and pivoting operations mean that leaders only have the capacity to focus on the day-day demands of their role and the immediate needs of their team. As we emerge from the intense period brought on by the pandemic, and as uncomfortable as it may feel, it is now time for leaders to deliberately spend more time planning for the future to drive business strategy and show new results.

The word innovation can have multiple meanings. For some people, simply hearing the word can evoke a sense of fear. For others, it brings a feeling of exhilaration. Often, it’s a combination of both anxiety and excitement. Leaders must continually modernize structure, shift perspectives, modify operations, and alter processes to excel in their role. While you should have a vision of what the future holds, there is no expectation that you need to know the entire journey of how to get there. In fact, directing or telling employees how to get to the vision will extinguish your team’s ambition and creativity. So how do you get your teams to innovate their way to see your organization’s vision come to fruition? Through coaching.

Coaching is an approach that asks the leader to listen, respect, and honour their people’s ideas. Essentially, if you’re not coaching, you’re telling people what to do. While the concept is more or less basic in theory, the actual technique of asking people to develop their own innovative solutions may not be all that straightforward. Effective coaching is essential to create a diversity of thought and encourage new perspectives, which will always lead to positive business outcomes.

We train leaders and organizations to develop the skills they need to build their internal coaching capability. As it pertains to innovating for the future, here are three basic principles that we believe in because we’ve seen it work thousands of times in action:

#1. Define what innovation means to the project. Establish a framework of what the word represents and then set the expectations of individuals on your team. Doing this can help set boundaries so people understand what to anticipate, containing emotions.

#2. Link the tasks in front of you to a shared vision. An easy way to action this principle is to start your weekly team meeting with a reminder of how each person contributes to the bigger picture. Individuals will be more open to participate and inspired to innovate if they understand the value of their contributions and the meaning of their work.

#3 Create the space for people to innovate. Give your team the time and the focus to collaborate and find ideas and solutions. Ask them what they need and meet them where they’re at.

As a leader, whether you realized it or not, you likely innovated through this health crisis. Now, as you take the time to plan and communicate for a more stable future, lead with a coaching approach. Your team will feel trusted and empowered to create opportunities to carry out your organization’s purpose.

Published May 29, 2021

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