05 Dec Can One Be a Coach and Leader?
Common advice to today’s leaders: be emotionally intelligent and avoid using an authoritarian style, opting for a coaching style instead. Personally, every time we talk about coaching as an approach for leaders who have “line” responsibilities, I have a double-sided reaction – I get excited and I get scared. Here’s why:
A coach must always come from a point of view of trust, curiosity and service.
- Trust in the abilities of the coachee as a learner and resourceful being. Without trust, it is likely your own agenda and intended result are your motivation, which inevitably gets pushed onto the other person. With trust you will leave room and co-create.
- Curiosity and a genuine interest in finding what the other person is “made of”, what makes them tick, who they are, how they thrive; everyone has their own sources of energy and their own core/essence from where they commit and thrive. A coach helps the individual identify this part of self that fuels the rest and creates the contributor.
- The intention of the coach to be of service, to be available and to support, encourage, adapt and provide a context that will facilitate the attainment of the coachee’s goals. In coaching, the agenda is the coachee’s not the coach’s.
An External Coach can come easily from such a stance.
An external coach, one from outside the organization, has no stake in the “organizational outcomes” of coaching. The coach works at empowering the coachee, at helping them see who they are, who they want to be, what their resources are, what their motivations are, what their patterns are, what they want to learn and try, and help them turn intention into action, and celebrate.
The Leader as Coach is in a very different situation.
A leader in any organization has the responsibility of delivering organizational results through team members. In order to do so, using a coaching approach can help in specific contexts – it would be one of the many ways the leader can interact with team members to increase the probabilities that they contribute to the fulfilment of the organizational mission. It remains that coaching is not always the most proper approach for a leader.
Usually, both leader and team member know the organizational mission. It is the universe into which they have agreed to evolve as employees. Leader and team member also agree on a performance agenda that becomes a shared goal, with the team member bearing the responsibility for delivering it. Because the leader is ultimately responsible for the delivery of organizational performance, pure coaching is not always possible when one is a leader.
The right conditions do exist to increase a leader’s success with a coach approach.
Ideally, one of the following conditions are present that will enhance a leaders’ success with a coach approach – situations where you can enter the space and state of trust, curiosity and service.
1) You know the employee well and he/she is already performing well and delivering what you and the organization expects
2) The employee is new and you have all reasons to believe that delivery will occur in the expected time
3) The employee performs well and wishes to develop additional skills or habits that you know will not hinder their performance in their current role (and will possibly enhance it).
In these conditions, a leader can “reasonably” and mostly authentically come from a stance of trust-curiosity-service, and follow the agenda of the coachee to increase their performance.
The advantages to using a coach approach are numerous and well known: enhanced loyalty to one other, deep personal and professional growth, satisfaction and motivation of both, and often, improved results and a sense of achievement on the part of the employee. This success undoubtedly impacts positively the leader’s results as well.
In part 2 of this post, we’ll talk about when coaching is not the best approach (check back with us in 2 weeks for part 2).
Janon Hamel is a Conductor and Executive Coach at ViRTUS, specializing in emotional intelligence, Neuro-Linguistic program (NLP), leadership and organizational development, and executive coaching.