At Padraig, not only do we coach leaders in organizations throughout North America, but we also help leaders bring a coach approach to their own leadership.
So, what’s the difference between coaching and a Coach Approach? Well, coaching is a professional service requiring significant training, experience and certification whereas a Coach Approach is a tool in your leadership toolkit. By learning some of the techniques used by professional coaches, you can lead your team by using a coach approach in the workplace.
What does that look like?
Using a Coach Approach with your staff can be summed up in a few lines:
Shifting from a conversation where, as the leader, you are answering, directing and telling, to a conversation where you are asking and listening, helping the other person dig into what they know.
That sounds simple, but most leaders have risen to their role by being problem-solving machines. Shifting to a role of exploring a problem with your employee – with no hidden attempt to guide them to your solution even when you absolutely know what you would do and what you would advise others to do – can be challenging.
It’s hard for many leaders to sit with silence in conversation, but learning to do just that allows your team members to think things through.
You might be thinking, why would I do that? Why wouldn’t I just tell them what I know?
The biggest reason is because you want to lead your team members so they learn and grow into their roles. You want them to be capable, strong and assured in their work.
If they’re relying on you for problem solving, a couple of things are going to happen – and none of them are good. For instance:
- You’re going to be swamped with people asking your expert advice. You’re in a leadership role – if you spend your time solving the problems for everyone who works for you, you’re going to burn out and not achieve the things needed from your own role.
- The folks who work for you are going to feel uninspired, which usually means they will be unproductive. (“Why bother trying to figure this out – he’s just going to tell me to do it his way. I might as well save the hassle and just ask him how he wants it solved.”)
- There’s very little learning going on. Sure, the person who asks you how to do something might learn how you want them to do that specific task. But what about the next task that is similar, but not the same? Do they have the problem-solving skills to figure it out, or do they have to come to you for direction again?
- You’re going to have a lot of trouble differentiating the rock-solid performers from those who aren’t. If everyone is coming to you for advice and direction on challenges, and you’re engaging them by giving them your answer, how are you going to know who would have gotten there on their own, and who wouldn’t have?
- You’re not going to get any brilliant new ideas. If your staff ask you how you want something done, or what the solution is to problem X, they’re not likely going to share with you the ideas they have for doing it differently. Imagine how many good ideas you haven’t heard or solutions you haven’t had a chance to observe. You could miss out on a lot of ingenuity.
Those are just some of the reasons we advocate having a Coach Approach in your toolkit as an individual leader. We can help you develop that skill to lead your team, starting with our COACH Approach to leadership course (COACH in this case is an acronym for the steps we teach you in using the approach).
Of course, a coach approach is only one approach to leadership and there are many others you’re likely already using. For example:
- Delegating is an important leadership tool. Knowing how and when to delegate effectively will save you time – and sanity.
- And, while somewhat opposite to a coach approach, answering questions is also an important leadership tool to be used in the right situations.
- A directive approach (telling people what to do with little or no engagement around it) is probably the most extreme version of a non-coach approach. That, too, has a place in your leadership toolkit – think emergency situations, critically urgent deliverables, etc.
We don’t advocate giving up on those tools, but every good leader ALSO uses a Coach Approach. In the Padraig COACH Approach course, we help you differentiate when to use each tool as you lead your team.
Have you ever tried a coach approach with your team? What would make you more confident in trying a coach approach? Who on your team do you think would benefit from a coach approach this week?