Written by Monique Honaman Tuesday, August 14 2012
Doesn’t it seem like “coaches” are everywhere these days?
My son has a team of football coaches at every practice. I can’t keep up with them all (defensive coach, offensive coach, special teams coach …). My daughter has her gymnastics coach and her softball coaches. A volunteer organization that I am involved with has “huddle coaches.” I even have a friend who recently became a licensed “parenting coach.” While we are accustomed to hearing it on the sports fields, today we also use the word “coach” routinely in the business world, especially with respect to leadership or executive coaches.
What does the term “coaching” mean to you? Does it mean mentoring or advising, and what the heck is the difference? Is there a difference? Is it a fancy name for giving someone feedback?
Does this situation sound familiar to you? I was coaching an executive woman who worked in finance at a large, well-known retailer. She was a high-potential woman with a great career path in front of her. Her employer wanted to provide her with some targeted coaching to help her get focused to drive some key accomplishments and achieve some critical metrics. I worked with her for about nine months. During that time I asked her the right questions that led her to rethink the way she was doing a few things and the way in which she was working with a few people. I was able to help get her focused – and maintain that focus – on the critical issues. Her vision and her strategy for achieving that vision became clear. She nailed it!
Fast forward a year, and I received a call from her one day. “Help,” she said, “I need you to come back in and do some more coaching.” I assumed she meant with her and asked her to fill me in on the situation. Turns out, it wasn’t for her, but rather for two of her team members. She wanted me to “do” with her direct reports what I had been able to do with her: get them focused, help them to prioritize, help them to understand how to accomplish certain things and then encourage them while they executed on that plan.
A light bulb went off! Leaders didn’t simply need executive coaches themselves; rather, they needed to learn the tools and the tricks of the trade so that they could become coaches themselves. What a concept! Imagine if every leader was able to naturally and skillfully help their team members and their colleagues consider options and make decisions using skillfully crafted questions. Imagine how much time would be saved from a leadership perspective if leaders weren’t having to make decisions for their teams on a regular basis, but rather coaching them through selecting options. Ultimately, you create a more productive and self-sufficient team.
Since that aha moment, my business partners, Stacy Sollenberger and Ellen Dotts, and I have studied the concept of coaching in the workplace. Specifically, we have been working to redefine the term “coaching” and focus on what it takes to make great business leaders also function as great business coaches.
Here’s what we have found: The best leaders have a natural tendency to become great coaches. Give them a few tools and highlight a coaching process, and great leaders become great coaches. The single biggest challenge is redefining this mindset: “I am the leader, therefore I must not only have the answer, but I must also provide the answer.” Most leaders have been rewarded and been promoted throughout their careers for having the answers and for telling people what to do. It becomes a vicious cycle.
Great coaches know that they don’t necessarily have the best answer, and even if they did, they know the value of having someone else come up with the answer on her own. It makes her more vested and more committed to the action. Even better, it creates a way of thinking through options and decisions that will help her to think through things differently the next time. Coaching helps to drive decision-making and is very encouraging.
My partner Stacy created a model called GUIDE Coaching, which we have used with clients around the world. Think about this model. Can you apply it to your next “coaching” conversation?
Ground – This step embodies the essence of engagement. It is all about establishing a relationship “beyond just business” between you and the person you are coaching. This is where you begin to understand what motivates your coachee in terms of her values, her vision for the future and her goals.
Understand – In this step, you and your coachee gain mutual clarity on her intentions and vision, either for the short-term or long-term. Here’s where you will clarify those things that drive intentions and often serve to unknowingly confuse the issues and inhibit positive momentum.
Incite – This is where you are encouraged to foster multiple perspectives of the issue and various methods to address the topic being discussed. This is the “meat” of the coaching and the point at which you facilitate an exploration of opportunities and obstacles, while also analyzing various options. You will help your coachee to evaluate the pros and cons of each opportunity.
Decide – In this step, you facilitate your coachee to make a conscious choice to achieve her vision by clearing the obstacles, confirming buy-in and guiding her toward the necessary next steps.
Encourage and Execute – As a final step, your role is to motivate your coachee to move forward on the commitments she has made. Your role is to build confidence, provide encouragement, drive accountability and generally act as a champion to ensure that the positive momentum and the desired outcome is achieved.
Our goal is to teach leaders how to become better coaches (and to recognize that coaching is indeed different from mentoring or advising). Coaching moves people forward. It is designed to consider options and alternatives that achieve the objectives of the person being coached. It doesn’t require any expertise in the subject matter. The only skill is in the process itself. The key to GUIDE Coaching is this: The Coach is the guide on the side, not the sage on the stage.
More leadership advice:
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Top-notch business schools across the country are offering leadership development certification programs aimed specifically at executive women.