Applying real coaching skills in managers and leaders

Applying real coaching skills in managers and leaders

Often I hear of frustration and disappointment that managers and leaders who have been on a coaching skills workshop do very little with it on their return to the workplace. It seems, from my experience, that the introducing managers to the skills and models applicable in coaching is a realtively easy task, they are bright people and intellectually the content is not that challenging. What appears to be much more of a challenge is implementing the ‘coach approach’ in their everyday business life. The approach and effective conversations of a ‘leader / coach’ are often very different to what they learned in the past, not least because it demands a shift from the problem solving behaviours that so many managers have found successful, and have been rewarded for in their organisations. The legacy role of ‘manager as problem solver’ can be deep routed in corporate / professional cultures.

Training has an important role in introducing new constructs, behaviours and propositions for future business success, it’s in implementation that the challenges arise. So how can we go about sustaining the momentum in building a coach apporach to leadership?

I would recommend a structured approach over time. Following an inital say 2 day workshop bring the managers back together regulary in ‘practice and build’ sessions where they co-coach each other on real business issues and/or their challenges / experiences of integrating a coaching style into their leadership. This way they get to experience first hand on how coaching can be used in e.g. issue / problem resolution, and are encouraged to use this approach with their people. These sessions also give the opportunity for us to give more input to them, according to the challenges they are facing, e.g. coach approach to development, or coach approach to performance management, or coach approach to delegation. If you can’t get them back together face to face every time, run some 90 min telecalls where they come and share what’s working / not working and encourage them to coach each other so others can listen, give feedback etc. I’ve learned the hard way over some 15 years of bringing coaching skills to business leaders – Always contract follow up sessions, Never leave them with just a (for example), 2 day coaching skills workshop, This will rarely be successful, Stay with them over a 6 to 9 month period, keep the dialogue going on how coaching is helping the business, get them to publish success, encourage their managers and support each other.

2 thoughts on “Applying real coaching skills in managers and leaders

  1. Ray Lamb

    I strongly believe that it is essential to understand our views on the successful acquisition and implementation of a coaching skill / style in managers and leaders. So often I hear of this being through training alone – not enough for me! It’s a mind set shift, and counter intuitive to many managers who have been brought up in hierarchical structures; these are not soft skills for me but fundamental hard skills focused on dealing effectively with others. Acquisition is hard work, involving training, coaching others and being coached oneself, over and over again, using real business and personal issues to illustrate the power of the approach. How long do professional coaches take to get their skills? – rhetorical I hope!

    Adding to the complexity is the fact that coaching is only a part of the required spectrum of effective management and leadership behaviours, no wonder it’s tough!

    What works well in my experience is to build internal coaching capability, using external qualified expertise, and use this to support key managers to implement the ‘coach approach’ effectively. All this over an intial 9 – 12 month period and ongoing.

    The next step for me is to get beyond coaching as ‘a tool’ and have it be, ‘it’s the way we behave around here’ – so it gets way away from a ‘doing’ activity towards new management / leadership behaviours which define an open collaborative purpose. The deal becomes to encourage new identities in leaders who believe that they can be effective by creating environments which foster joint accountability for extraordinary results in their people and teams.

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