Coaching: A Critical Skill in Effective Leadership

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Coaching is (and always has been) a required and critical skill to effectively lead people to their highest potential and performance but this critical skill is usually what’s missing in the big picture of effective leadership practices today.

We’ve all seen it before – someone gets promoted because of their stellar performance in their last role or project. And because of this person’s positive past performance as an individual contributor or a manager (of projects perhaps, not people), they were crowned skilled and worthy of leading a team of people to achieve just as much success (if not more) as they achieved in their past solo role. 

An individual contributor’s success is paramount to the overall success of an organization’s bottom line.  Organizations (big and small) need high performing individual contributors. They are essential to the multi-layered dynamics and make-up of high performing teams.

In my observations, high performing individual contributors possess an advanced degree of skill and competency in the following areas:

 -       Managing work processes, procedures and tasks

-       Organizing priorities, people, calendars, events 

-       Overseeing deadlines

-       Managing relationships and the various nuances of those relationships

-       Delivering and executing on fulfilled projects 

These skills should be highly respected because they are essential to an organization’s current success as well as its continued growth.  They are descriptive of a highly skilled “manager” but they are only half the scope of skills that are required to effectively lead a team of unique individuals to heightened performance and sustained greatness.

But when we really think about how to help people to achieve more success, heightened performance, increased confidence or aptitude in their work lives/personal lives, we enter into a completely different world of leadership…the unique and multi-layered world of coaching.

Coaching in and of itself is a skill that pulls at the threads of both Art and Science. Becoming a skilled coach takes training, time, mindfulness, heart and intentional practice to master. 

Highly Skilled Leaders/Coaches:

Recognize that coaching is a partnership between employee/client and leader/coach 

This deeply rooted philosophy is reflected in the daily behaviors and conversations/interactions of that leader/coach and their staff. 

Understand how to tailor human motivation to meet each individuals needs

Effective leaders/coaches bring an attuned awareness to what motivates people and how to tailor their unique coaching approach to the meet the diverse and unique needs of each individual on their team.

Value employee input and 2-way communication

Because these leaders recognize that effective coaching only occurs as a true and authentic partnership, they encourage employee feedback and honest input. They rely on each employee to be the expert on themselves, which creates a unified bond of trust in each person’s role and results in the coaching partnership.   

Believe in the need and opportunity to develop their people consistently. 

They believe that effective coaching is the vehicle to bring out the absolute best in the people they serve. Leaders recognize that coaching is an ongoing practice that doesn’t have an end date or doesn’t fit into a fleeting organizational “flavor of the month” strategy in attempts to increase employee engagement. They see coaching as a sacred, long term investment in the development of their most precious assets – their people. This idea translates to how effective leaders/coaches view and approach their performance management processes and their overall learning and development strategy for their department/organization.

Create a Culture of Coaching 

They work diligently to create a safe “coaching culture” among their teams, where the focus is on individual and team growth, support and accountability.

These attributes of highly skilled leaders/coaches prime us to why coaching is a critical skill in the big picture of effective leadership today. When leaders possess the required coaching skills and attributes to effectively lead people to their highest potential and performance, the following outcomes can be expected:

  1. Higher Individual Performance/Team Performance

Effective coaching will over time generate an increase in each employee’s ability to achieve more success and become a self-reliant and mindful contributor on their own and in their own authentic way. This will not only elevate each individual’s personal potential and performance but the overall teams performance as well.

2. Increased Trust, Loyalty, and Connection to the Leader/Job Itself

When an effective leader/coach engages with their employees in an authentic, honest and meaningful way, it resonates. It unites them in mutual trust and understanding which generates a level of intimacy that allows the employees to feel empowered in their relationship with their leader/coach. This dynamic often strengthens the employee’s commitment and motivation to their job/ job duties because they see and feel the consistency in their leaders honest support, deliberate guidance and their professional development plan for continued success and growth.

3. Elevated Employee Engagement and Team Morale

When there is an expectation that coaching is a part of the work culture, people learn to expect and appreciate consistent feedback. Employees thrive on knowing what is expected of them and that their performance will be discussed frequently. When there is a culture of coaching in an organization it breeds predictability, employee engagement and a collective work environment that unites people around accountability, personal and professional growth and leader/peer support.

Ashley Boyd