Leadership coaching has become very commonplace around the world during the past 10 years. An increasing number of corporations, non-profit organizations and government agencies have proactively budgeted funds for coaching to help executives and managers grow, improve and fulfill their potential.

However, serving in a client role is not the only way in which leaders can benefit from coaching. Leaders can also serve as unofficial coaches for the teammates they supervise or manage.

When I was younger, I did not believe that managers could effectively coach the people they managed. How could managers build a trusting-necessary coaching relationship with people they might have to reprimand, penalize or even terminate at some point in the future, I wondered?

Then I read a perspective-altering book that helped me revise my attitude. That book, “The Coaching Habit” by Michael Bungay Stanier, explains how managers can serve in a coaching role for the people on their teams. I am not talking about formal weekly scheduled coaching sessions. As Stanier explains, leaders can provide coaching input to their direct reports in short, intentional conversations.

These conversations need not be about you giving your teammates advice in handling a tough situation or how to attack a challenging project. That would be a typical managerial approach: giving advice and showing someone how to address an issue. When managers take that approach, they are serving as consultants – giving tips, answers, ideas and solutions.

Too often in these instances, the direct report does not grow but rather is focused on pleasing the boss and doing the right thing as explained by the boss. When the manager comes from a coaching mindset, there is a different approach. The manager is speaking from a curiosity standpoint, addressing the colleague with a questioning attitude.

Instead of saying “This is how I would do it” or “This is what you ought to do,” the manager using a coaching mindset can ask questions like:

-What do you think is most important here?

-How would you approach this challenge if I was not here?

-Who could you seek input from here?

-What past experiences could you lean on to help guide you here?

-What resources do you have at your disposal that will help you attack this problem?

-What potential solutions have you considered for this problem?

-What questions do you have for me at this stage of the process?

This form of curiosity-based management challenges the employee to engage in self-reflection – to pause and think about things rather than plow forward to check off boxes or merely complete a process or project.

Managing teammates with a coaching perspective motivates employees to examine their own mindsets, paradigms and assumptions. When teammates are given the opportunity to look in the mirror and challenge their own attitudes and ideas, they have a greater capacity for personal and professional growth.

The same positive changes can take place when the leader is on the other end of the coaching equation, not as the manager-coach, but as the client. When leaders open themselves up to a well-planned and organized coaching process, it can frequently benefit both the client and the client’s organization.

Coaching can help leaders:

-Develop enhanced self-awareness

-Build more openness and vulnerability

-Learn non-judgmental attitudes

-Develop more curiosity and open-mindedness

-Strengthen active listening skills

-Build trust and trustworthiness

-Develop both/and thinking to replace either/or thinking

-Expand professional horizons

-Strengthen relationship-building skills

So as you move forward into this new year, I encourage you to think about leadership coaching from two angles:

-How can you utilize a coaching mindset to help your own teammates and direct reports?

-How can you work with the people at your organization or on your own to benefit from coaching as a client?

There are many benefits to adopting a supervision coaching mindset or in receiving leadership coaching.

Think about how you can benefit as you continue your own unique leadership journey.

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