Are great leaders great coaches?

In the last two decades coaching has become increasingly popular. With change in life and business still accelerating – and coaching being a highly effective methodology which assists in working with change – it is one of the most powerful communication and leadership instruments. Unfortunately it´s not being really practiced yet by many managers and leaders. Only a smaller group of exceptional business individuals has realized its relevance and power to develop team members and companies.

Although there exist mental coaches, stress coaches, career coaches, conflict coaches, family coaches, executive coaches, team coaches, success coaches, health coaches, and many more, in the corporate world coaching still seems to belong to a more exclusive domain of top executives and a few chosen ones. In addition in Europe, for a long time and only until some years ago, coaching has been considered as a “special” development effort granted (prescribed) by the company to successful and simultaneously difficult managers who would need to get their rough edges a little bit softened in order to be turned into real corporate superstars.

coaching CToday, however, there is a need that leadership coaching (the coaching of current and future leaders) becomes a given component in organizations to assist executives, managers, and employees in their personal and professional development. As most companies have understood that highly motivated and fulfilled team members enjoy what they are doing and as such are more effective, coaching should be chosen as a key leadership option (among others; depending upon the situation the manager/leader is confronted with).

This article aims at assisting managers and leaders to apply a so-called “coach approach“ adapted to various settings by focusing more on their people skills, their emotional and personal intelligence, and as such more on the holistic development of their teams. With the objective to help their employees to achieve the results that matter, to live accordingly to their values, to develop their own vision and objectives, and ultimately to lead a fulfilled life.

DEFINITION AND UNDERSTANDING OF SUCCESSFUL COACHING
Coaching is a model, a set of skills and a technique as well as a relationship and communication approach which aims at accompanying a coachee (=client) to realize his self-defined wish for change and development.
Coaching is not about solving problems in the first place (although eventually they will be solved). It´s about actively listening, asking the client powerful questions, stimulating his awareness and curiosity, helping him to obtain new perspectives and options, encouraging the client to find his own solutions and answers, supporting him on his path of change, challenging and re-assuring him, and helping him to discover that he already possesses all resources needed.

As such coaching is a Co-Operative relationship in which the coach and coachee are two active equals for the purpose of meeting the coachee´s needs and wishes.

ASSUMPTIONS OF SUCCESSFUL COACHING
The Coachee is capable, resourceful, and already has the Answers – The coach fully trusts in the know-how, competencies and capabilities of the coachee. A coach may propose a course of action. Although the coachee himself will need to make decisons in the end.

The Coach is not a Hand-holder. Instead she´s a Catalyst – Since the coach assumes that the coachee is resourceful, capable, and creative she´s a fan ofcoaching A the coachee. As a catalyst the coach is a main piece in the coaching process by assisting in speeding up the process of change.

The Coachee is the one working and being accountable within the Coaching Process– The Coach lends a hand by creating a framework and process for the coachee. Like building a wooden frame for a painting. However, the coachee himself needs to take the brushes in his hands and needs to start drawing the picture he´d like to paint of himself and his life.

The Coach enjoys assisting the Client in achieving his higher Purpose – The coach loves to live and to display passion, commitment, and sincere interest for the coachee. By doing so it´s not only a job for her, but a mission.

The whole Coaching Process is built on Trust and Confidentiality – To hold all coaching conversations confidential certainly is a main criteria for successful coaching. Trust is also expanded by respectful, open-minded and honest exchanges among coach and coachee.

Coaching is about what the Coachee creates – As such the coachee requires sufficient space for himself to think, feel, experiment, dream, visualize, and to be able to embrace different thinking patterns, models of the world, and perspectives to possibly come up with new ideas and/or solutions.

CHARACTERISTICS OF A SUCCESSFUL COACH
A coach understands that coaching is not just a form of good communication with the coachee/client. Instead coaching is seen as moving to a deeper level of human interaction and connection.

The coach considers herself as a peer-to-peer communicator, i.e. she´s not following an authoritarian communication style, but a cooperative communication pattern concentrating on opportunities and new ways of thinking and feeling.

The coach respects being only in charge of the process and the structure. Not setting the agenda nor leading the discussions. She would only take charge, if it were to serve the client´s agenda; e.g. if the coachee were getting side-tracked by non-relevant topics.

Another two key qualities of a good coach are “Active Listening“ and “Asking Powerful Questions.“ Active Listening means that the coach is very present, asks questions to clarify when she has not fully understood, listens in search for direct and indirect information about the coachee´s vision, values, attitudes, and objectives. She tries to get the story behind the words and demeanor while not thinking of her own agenda.
If the coach asks a Powerful Question she would phrase an open-ended question (versus a yes-no-question) to stimulate clarity and to receive new insights by having followed the client´s lead. The two techniques want to invite the coachee to see his issue, life, objectives, etc. from different angles to present new perspectives and to possibly arrive at new conclusions. The coach could further elaborate on it by applying a reframing statement (by taking the original information of the client and interpreting it in a different way).

In addition, during the first stage of the coaching process, the clarification and discovery stage, the coach might need to assist the coachee in clarifying his situation, topic, and desired outcome by using powerful questions, reframing, etc. Coaching goals should be set and possible actions and timings should be discussed to keep the coachee focused during the whole coaching process.

coachin BAn effective coach should also be emotionally detached from situations described by the coachee (in order of not becoming an active participant in the coachee´s plot), she should be honest and respectfully direct (e.g. if the coachee were to start kidding himself), and she should request the coachee – based on his agenda – to take care of certain tasks in order to forward the coachee´s action (e.g. asking him to write a coaching diary that might include homework, observations, etc.).

Finally, a successful coach would enable the coachee not only to achieve his originally defined objective, but in addition enabling him to put it into a broader context. She would have realized the inter-connectivity and inter-dependency with other aspects of the coachee´s life. She would try to assist the coachee in seeing the bigger context and variety of options. She would encourage and induce transformation.

FINAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR LEADERS AS COACHES

As a leader and line manager you´re always wearing multiple heads. That´s okay. You just need to be aware of it and to be clear with your coachee. As a line manager you´re having the right – if the situation demands it – to impose your agenda on the employee. As coach you are following, however, the coachee´s agenda. Full stop. You would need to change your head and your attitude in many situations, if you are a more directive leader and if you were serious about applying a coach-driven leadership style.

Still it´s acceptable, if you possess valuable and relevant expertise and information which would help the coachee to accelerate his development process, that you share these with the coachee even when you are wearing your coach head. In such an instance you would act as a “consultant“ and you would need to ask the coachee for permission in order to be sure that he really wants to hear it. Be also clear offering it without any strings attached.

Most importantly, as a coaching-driven leader you will need to be able to build trust with your employee to accept your coaching leadership style. Creating a safe and highly confidential coaching environment is key. The coachee must feel respected, reassured, and being in good and trustworthy hands to talk freely and to open up.

Coaching is a complex and at the same time very rewarding exciting communication medium with specific rules and techniques. It´s built around mutual respect, listening, asking, clarity, relying fully upon the coachee´s own resources, opening up new perspectives, and the absolute willingness to address challenging conversations and situations. Coaching assists people to achieve the results which truly matter living a successful and fulfilled life

Source: Linkedin.com, 30 October 2014
By: Andreas von der Heydt
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