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Companies often ask for my help in transitioning their management teams from tactical managers to strategic leaders. “Our managers need to get out of the weeds,” they say. ”They’re getting too bogged down in the minutia and not focusing enough on the big picture.”

“Their people need to feel empowered and inspired.”

So what does leading vs. managing really mean? It means inspiring and influencing instead of taking a command-and-control approach. It means moving away from being a subject matter expert focused on tasks to leveraging the strengths of your team to accomplish results.  It requires letting go of some of the details so you can set direction that others are inspired to follow. It’s about being proactive instead of reactive.

Leading also means being able to have critical conversations, and approaching those conversations from the position of a coach.

Coaching is one of the top competencies required of leaders – and one that people often struggle with because they have not formally been given the training or tools to do it well. A leader who coaches effectively is able to create an environment where employees feel encouraged and nurtured to achieve their highest levels of performance.

Coaching is one of those buzz words that gets thrown around a lot, but often people don’t really understand the meaning. I, myself, initially even resisted the term “coach” as a title because I wondered, “what does it really mean?” I didn’t fully understand the true meaning behind the term, nor the profound impact working with someone in a coaching environment could have, until I experienced it myself.

To help clarify, let’s start with what Coaching IS:

  • Listening and asking questions
  • Empathetic
  • Judgment-free
  • Ego-less
  • Focused on the coachee
  • Being fully present
  • Co-creating the solution

And what coaching is NOT…

  • Telling the coachee what to do
  • Attached to judgment
  • Focused on the coach
  • Giving advice
  • Being distracted/Multi-tasking
  • Solving someone’s problem

The magic formula of coaching involves asking powerful questions, actively listening, and being committed to honest, direct communication . Employees today are looking for meaning and purpose in their day-to-day. They want to understand the “Why” of their organization and feel connected. And they want to feel empowered to develop an outcome, not simply be given orders to follow.

The next time someone on your team is struggling to solve a problem or needs development in a certain area, use this 5 step coaching process to help them work through the issue. These simple steps will help you encourage that person to find the right solution for them—while building self-confidence and personal development.

1. Ask the coachee to describe the situation

  • Ask questions to clarify
  • Use ‘What’ and ‘How’ questions; stay away from “Why” questions

2. Ask the coachee: What have they done so far to tackle the situation?

3. Ask them to think of possible alternatives

  • Encourage creativity and a free flow of ideas

4. Ask them to choose one of those options to start with

5. Agree on next steps – action, timing and follow up

I’ve seen first-hand how implementing these coaching techniques can increase morale and productivity for organizations. When coaching becomes a strategic leadership tool, employees are inspired to do their best work and leaders are able to spend more of their time focused on strategy formulation and long term success.

Have you made the transition from managing to leading? Have you been using coaching as an effective leadership tool? I would love to hear about a best practice or learning from your experience in the comments section below.

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*image courtesy of ffaalumni

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