Tips for integrating coaching into your leadership style

Google’s big data Project Oxygen (2008) showed that being a good coach is the number one behaviour for being a great manager. Coaching as a behaviour remained at number one after an update to the project in 2018.

But coaching is not the only skillset a manager needs; coaching needs to be integrated with other skills, that may seem in opposition to coaching. But how can you develop a coaching leadership style?

In the past when I’ve trained managers in coaching skills through coach training schools, the impact was that the managers became dogmatic, turning everything into a question and missing the fact that coaching is so much more than getting a direct report to think for themselves – it’s about developing them. This gave rise to the joke that when a new employee would ask, “where can I get a cup of coffee?” an overly committed manager would ask, “where do you think coffee would be?” 

Sometimes it IS appropriate to tell, not ask.

Integrating coaching skills for managers is complex. It’s much harder to be a coach-like manager than it is to be a pure coach, where the coach has no agenda for the coachee. It’s also hard to be a coach-like manager rather than a directive manager who always tells people what to do.

Keep your manager hat on and coach in a way that serves both the business and the person

  • Get clear about project plans and the business outcomes that are your responsibility.
  • Create an inspiring vision that will drive you and your team forward.
  • Get clear about what you want and need from your team members; you will most likely be evaluating them periodically and giving them feedback, so what does good look like?

Now imagine that the needs of the business, your vision, project plans, and intended outcomes are the boundaries of an arena. And within that arena is the space where your people will apply themselves, use their skillsets and grow and develop. This is the coaching zone and now you can consider how to coach within it:

  • Ask about their personal goals, given this workplace and your arena.
  • Ask what would help them thrive in this arena and how they want to develop here.
  • Consider what you see in them and tell them the potential you observe.
  • Coach them to figure out how they can reach that potential.
  • Champion and celebrate their successes and growth.
  • Consider yourself a partner to them as they work and develop; be invested in their development; be interested in them.
  • Create psychological safety so they have room to try things and make mistakes.
  • Set them up for success, helping them to develop what they need to get them where they want to go (while serving the company’s needs). In whatever way is within your power, offer projects or tasks that develop in the way they want.
  • Give them positive and constructive feedback (with a growth-oriented mindset rather than criticism) to help them develop.

As a manager, you might not know the specifics of how to ask a great question, how to give feedback, how to champion and challenge people. But being a coach-like leader is a lot about the mindset you have and about how you see people. It’s about shifting from having managerial power over others to partnering with them so that you, they and the business get the best outcomes. To find out more about how to develop a coaching leadership style, please contact us.

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Rewired to Communicate offers leaders a wide range of skills for developing others while maintaining business results. This hybrid, scalable programme uses brain-based communication and coaching skills that are easy to apply in the workplace.

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