How Coaching Can Transform the Leader-Team Relationship
Posted on February 2, 2022
Every day, leaders and organizations must contend with and respond to unforeseeable challenges — whether they be cultural, environmental, institutional, societal or personal. These can be sources of stress and resistance between leaders and their teams. If the stress is not managed right, it can result in a degradation of trust and damaged engagement, performance and retention.
In times like these, leaders must lean into the collective wisdom of their team and organization. Leaders must unlearn the “tell them what to do” approach and adopt the mindset that “leaders build leaders.” One of the most powerful ways to do this is by incorporating coaching skills into leadership.
How Coaching Empowers Leaders
In recent years, coaching has become an essential resource for leaders. When leaders learn coaching skills — especially in a Co-Active paradigm — they learn that they are responsible for their world. This means they have the natural ability to respond to whatever is happening in their environment in conscious and constructive ways. Leaders who willingly accept responsibility inspire others to do the same.
As a result of coaching, leaders experience a heightened sense of self-awareness. They recognize old perspectives that no longer serve them. They are more in tune with their core values, emotions, and reactive behaviors. They also begin to recognize the impact they have on others. This gives leaders new perspectives they can choose from, instead of reacting to situations in habitual ways.
When coached, leaders are also much more confident in their leadership style. They are conscious of how they lead and what kind of examples they set for their team. They are clearer about their top priorities and are less likely to procrastinate. They learn to assign responsibility to others with clear expectations, and they are quick to own their mistakes, learn from them and apply that learning in the future.
Leaders who have experienced coaching also reframe their relationship with conflict and disagreements. They see the sharing of different ideas and perspectives as learning opportunities.
Applying Coaching Skills in a Team Environment
How do these coaching skills translate to a team environment?
CTI coaches begin with the foundation that every leader is naturally creative, resourceful and whole. They learn it’s important to see that as human beings we have everything we need to move through the world. Leaders leading from this foundation remove any expectations or assumptions about how others should be. They begin to see their team as a collection of human beings with resources and creative powers needed to meet daily challenges head on.
The role of the leader is to create a safe and inclusive environment for their team to show up with all of their creativity and resourcefulness. Everyone wants to be seen for who they naturally are beyond what they are assigned to do. An effective coach is particularly good at acknowledging a leader’s natural qualities and gifts with great respect. This inspires the leader to bring more of themself into the world.
When leaders practice the skill of acknowledgment, they are drawing attention to the inner qualities and strengths of their team members. When these qualities and strengths are seen for what they are, teams experience a transformation that empowers them to bring more of themselves to the table. They are more engaged and inspired to share ideas, points of view and desires for their work.
One of the most talked about and misunderstood leadership skills is listening. We often listen for what we want to hear: “How is what you’re saying going to help me get what I want?” This level of listening is closed and can bring in judgments.
Coaches practice the skills of deep listening with powerful questions. The intention of deep listening is to openheartedly learn about who they are talking with. When a leader can listen deeply, they receive much more than what their team member is saying. They can hear their vision, values, longings and sense of purpose. They can also hear the underlying fear or anxiety that may be sabotaging their success. This not only creates new insights about their team members, but it also creates connection and evokes transformation in their relationship.
When a coach asks powerful questions, these questions are intended to encourage thoughtfulness and reflection to get to the heart of what’s important for the leader. When a leader can practice the skill of powerful questions, they guide their team members to a deeper sense of knowing. They can tap into their inner wisdom and unspoken creative desires and wants. This new resource can inspire new ways of being and innovative ideas.
Designing the Leader-Team Alliance
Every coaching relationship should begin with a design alliance. This paves the way for a relationship that empowers the leader. It creates a space that is safe and courageous and that includes everything for the growth of the leader. The coach and leader could have differing points of view, but as long as the alliance is honored they can find alignment.
When a leader can consciously design alliance with their team members, they can disagree on certain issues because they are aligned on vision, values, needs, and wants. This builds safety, trust, and engagement within the team. When team members experience this, it can manifest in greater productivity and innovative ideas as they are willing to take on greater challenges.
Once the alliance is built, the potential is there to unlock all of the positive benefits I have described here. Coaches: go forth and lead! Organizations: coach your leaders!