Published in Forbes June 10, 2021 (read the article on Forbes here)
As we look with optimism toward the other side of this pandemic, it is more important than ever for organizations to invest in their leaders, specifically in their coaching skills, to bring business through this turning point with agility and confidence in the ability to create the future.
Whether intentionally or not, to be a leader is to be a coach: It is our job as leaders of leaders, and as leaders of the next generation of leaders, to develop our people. And in some cases, it is our job as informal leaders to bring out the best in those around us. Coaching is the tool that enables individuals and teams beyond the basic completion of their tasks and responsibilities and supports them in achieving their highest potential.
Building coaching skills within your teams will energize your people, create a shared responsibility throughout your workforce and contribute to the future readiness of your organization. Below are five key reasons to intentionally build strong leadership coaching capability at an organizational level.
1. Strengthen The Innovation Muscle
Innovation as an organizational behavior is a muscle that requires the right leadership regimen to develop and strengthen. A sustained directive leadership style stifles innovation as teams look to their leaders for instruction rather than looking with curiosity to what is possible. Leaders and organizations that can adopt a coaching style by asking questions and creating space for their team to apply the approach they think is best enable teams to innovate and solve problems in ways beyond simply completing tasks. Providing employees with an environment to be curious and supporting them when they make mistakes will create an environment of psychological safety that connects employees to organizational goals while building a culture of innovation.
2. Build Deeper Bench Strength
Name a professional sports organization with a history of success, and you will find numerous quotes about how “depth wins championships,” the critical “points from the bench” or the importance of “building from the draft.” Building a culture of consistent leadership behavior through developing strong coaching skills in individual leaders allows organizations to be in a constant state of people development. Through a coaching approach, teams experience incremental gains that allow for knowledge transfer, strong relationships and shared commitments. This equips organizations to better identify and support high-potentials, create succession plans and target future opportunities. And simply put, this enables employees to more readily enjoy their jobs and give back in the form of discretionary effort.
3. Close The Generation Gap
Younger generations of employees, and those identified as high-potentials key to succession planning, have consistently expressed the desire for a coach and leader, not a boss. Developing coaching skills such as situational leadership will allow leaders to engage team members from all generations with an approach that is most effective for them and applicable in the moment. This coaching style of leadership builds trust with team members as they are more likely to feel heard, set up for success and supported in their development. This trust enables the confidence to take calculated risks for innovation, makes space for diversity of thought and, as mentioned, encourages discretionary effort. The culture of development and performance that results leads to increased retention as future leaders can more easily see their path for growth and influence within the organization.
4. Create Space For Strategic Leadership
Coaching is a critical skill that enables leaders at all levels to move from operational leadership to strategic leadership, from reaction to responsiveness and from surviving to thriving. There is a direct correlation between a leader’s ability as a coach and the amount of time that leader has available to focus on the more strategic elements of the team and organization. As leaders strengthen their coaching skills, they spend less time managing tasks, providing the answers or controlling the work of their team members. The line-ups at their proverbial door start to decrease. The incremental growth and development of their team enable more delegation, which in turn allows leadership to focus on strategic and longer-term objectives.
5. Shape Learning Cultures
Leaders who use powerful coaching questions and a coaching approach to leadership create new understanding and foster accountability in their teams. This skill development becomes contagious as team members take the skills learned in that scenario and apply them with others, actively seeking the same benefits they have experienced. The impact of coaching skills on developing people is truly exponential and long-lasting. Leaders who simply provide the answers shut down opportunities for learning and create a transactional relationship that shirks the responsibility to develop their people. The old metaphor of “if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for life” applies here. Organizations with strong learning cultures develop and support the capability of their people to acquire new skills, adapt to new ways of working and confront future challenges with confidence.
It is more important than ever to build and support a strong organizational leadership culture to succeed both now and in the future’s constantly changing business environment. Coaching, developing and retaining top talent will be the critical leadership skills needed at the organizational level to remain future-ready.