Is This the Most Important Leadership Skill?

by | Jan 12, 2021

It is difficult to be a great manager if you’re not an effective coach.

NEWSFLASH: Coaching is the most important & deterministic skill that separates highly effective managers from average ones.

If you think about it, it makes good sense. The more we use coaching conversations to…

☑️ …bring out the best in people

☑️ …foster learning and growth in our people

☑️ …help our people solve their own challenges & roadblocks

…the more effective our people are likely to be, and better results we’re likely to get long-term.

The research bears this out.

Orgs with “coaching cultures” are 130% more likely to realize stronger business results.

Seems logical, right?

Smart leaders get the importance of coaching to their team’s success, and their success as leaders.

Case-in-point: In the past couple of companies I’ve worked with, I’ve asked the managers on my teams: “In what area are you most focused on raising your leadership game in the next 6 months?”

The most common answer I heard? Some variation of “Learning to be a better coach to my people.”

Makes sense.

But, there is an issue in a lot of workplaces…

There is some combination of 3 things I see often that hold a lot of managers & companies back from harnessing the performance-enhancing power of coaching:

👉 Managers don’t spend enough time coaching their people ⮕ The average manager spends <10% of their time coaching and developing their employees.

👉 Managers don’t understand what coaching actually is ⮕ Too many managers think they’re “coaching”… when in reality, they’re just giving their people advice or telling them what to do. And when we do this, we don’t help our teammates to think for themselves. We don’t tap into their intelligence.

👉 Managers don’t understand how to coach people, and haven’t found an effective solution for learning ⮕ 93% of executives agree that the managers in their companies need more & better training on how to coach.

Let me bottom-line all of this:

We know that coaching is critically important to a leader’s success—and their team performance. But it doesn’t happen enough. And when it does, it isn’t delivering the performance-enhancing & results-producing impact it could.

In short, there’s a gap.

I’m working on a more scalable solution to this gap than the old fashioned “spend a full weekend in a Holiday Inn conference room coaching training” approach. (Although those Holiday Inn seminars do have great pastries.)

But in the meantime, to the extent that any of the above sounds familiar to you, a few piping hot-takes that you can use right now ⤵️

Here are 3 ways you can raise your coaching game today.

Without further ado, 3 simple, actionable ideas that can help you raise your coaching game today.

 

#1 – Make time.

When it comes to the “don’t have enough time” issue above, effective leaders don’t find time to have coaching conversations. They make time.

“There simply aren’t enough hours in the day,” said most managers, ever. ⏱️

But the measure of an effective manager isn’t how much time they have… but where they place their focus and attention during that time. Its how they use that time.

And to use our time well, we ought to be seeking out activities that can give us leverage. Activities where a little investment of time now can pay big dividends down the road.

When we take a look at coaching conversations through this lens, it becomes clear that investing our time elevating our team via high-quality coaching conversations (when done well) can create big, lasting impact. With not that much time required.

(FYI – I have an exercise I do myself, and with other leaders, that can help them to action this idea… reach out if interested).

 

#2 – Ask more questions.

To dispel a common misconception about coaching, its not about giving our people advice or telling them what to do.

There is a time and a place for this. But when we make it our default mode, as many managers do, we don’t teach our people to think for themselves. (Read: Stop slinging so much advice at your people!)

Great leader coaches embrace the idea that the right question often holds the key to the right answer.

So, turn down the “telling,” and turn up the “asking. Start to become really aware of your ask/tell ratio.

Then, in those moments when you feel compelled to wing your advice at one of your employees, try asking a question instead.

Here’s a really actionable way to do this: the next time someone on your team looks to you for an answer, instead, ask them: “What do you think? What do you think is the right path forward here?”

#3 – Ask better questions.

There’s a great Tony Robbins quote: “Successful people ask better questions… and as a result, they get better answers.”

Swap the word “people” with “leader”… and you can take that to the bank.

Questions are an amazing tool that you can use as a leader to cut through to the heart of things. They allow you to:

⚒️ Cut to the core of what’s holding your team back.

⚒️ Drill to the heart of what motivates your teammates.

⚒️ Saw through the limiting beliefs that sabotaging your team’s success.

And you want as sharp of a blade as possible on the questions you ask.

So let me give you a 75-word crash course on how to ask more effective questions starting now. (Consider this a little dose of question hygiene 🙂

Good coaching questions are:

☑️ Single-threaded – Long, complicated questions will just confuse your team.

☑️ Open-ended – There’s a time and place for Y/N questions, but they don’t allow for exploration or expansion.

☑️ Non-leading – Leading questions that signal your point-of-view hamper independent thinking from your team, and can feel patronizing.

Interested in taking your coaching game to the next level? Want to learn to use simple, but powerful coaching skills to take your team’s performance to new heights.

Check out this FREE MASTERCLASS I created to help busy leaders & managers become better coaches… so they can deliver better results.

 

Coaching Masterclass

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