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Lead Like a Coach: 3 Guiding Principles for Transformative Leadership

Lead Like a Coach: 3 Guiding Principles for Transformative Leadership

3 mountain peaks overlooking water
3 Principles for leading like a coach

Today I explore the art of coach-style leadership. This style involves asking more, having less answers and finding better challenges for your colleagues and your team… In the bustling world of leadership, where time is a precious commodity, embracing such a coaching mindset might seem like a daunting task. However, with the help of these guiding principles, you can begin to transform the way you lead, making your interactions more meaningful, your team more engaged, and your time freed-up on more productive topics.

The Story of Transformation: My Journey with Leaders

Fifteen years ago, Daniel Goleman, known for his work on Emotional Intelligence, shed light on the often overlooked approach of coach-style leadership. He emphasized the significance of this style, even in the face of time constraints and high-pressure environments. My experience working closely with leaders revealed a common struggle: the more they worked, the less engaged their teams became. This paradoxical situation led me to discover the magic of coach-style leadership and principles for leading like a coach:

1. Relax: Letting Go of the Need to Have All the Answers

A man standing on mountain-top overlooking rolling forest
Relax and let go

One of the fundamental shifts in coach-style leadership involves letting go of the pressure to be the expert in everything. In my experience, leaders have often been promoted for their ability to solve problems, so they have a learnt tendency to give advice too early and too often. Instead of providing immediate solutions, embrace the power of asking the right questions. By relaxing the urge to control every outcome, you create space for your team members to explore their thoughts and ideas freely. This principle empowers your team, allowing them to explore their thinking and potential without constraints.

Storytime: Imagine a scenario where a team member approaches you with a complex problem. Instead of jumping to conclusions, you take a deep breath and ask probing questions. The result? Your team member discovers a solution they never thought possible, all because you gave them the space to think.

2. Listen: The Art of Curiosity and Safety

Active listening is not merely about hearing words; it's about understanding emotions, intentions, and unspoken thoughts. While you listen with interest, you give room for the other person to unfold. Importantly, with this approach, you're not able to give advice so the space remains open.

An owl with head cocked sideways
Staying curious

By showing genuine interest and practicing humility, you build trust and create psychological safety within your team. Asking questons to check your understanding extends on this. This safe space encourages creativity and innovation, allowing your team members to express their ideas without fear of judgment. The art of curiosity opens the door to genuine connections.

Storytime: The brain checks for psychological safety 5 times a second - imagine if you are showing signs of stress, defence, doubts, or even interrupting! When I practice coach-like conversations in group workshops, leaders are often surprised to hear from the observer how fidgety and uncomfortable they appear. Some talk about the uncomfortableness that comes with silence or wanting to help by giving fantastic advice!!! Stay with the curiosity. Once you've asked the question, silence often means you're on the right path, so try to avoid filling the space.

3. Discover the Real Challenge: Unveiling Hidden Potentials

Albert Einstein once said,“ If I had an hour to solve a problem my life depends on, then I would fathom the problem for 55 minutes and spend 5 minutes solving it." Innovation guru, Stephen Shapiro, later commented on this in a business context and said, “I find in most organizations, people are running around spending sixty minutes finding solutions to problems that don’t matter.”

Exposed roots of tall tree
Getting to the root cause of the challenge

In the rush to find solutions, leaders often overlook the essence of a problem. Discovering the real challenge requires patience and persistence. Ask directly what the real challenge is and don't be afraid to ask this question more than once. It helps to discover the topic behind the curtain, not to stay with the first thing that just came into the other person's head or the most popular idea in a team brainstorming session. This principle unveils hidden potentials within your team, enabling them to focus on the problems that truly matter and contribute meaningfully to the organisation.

Storytime: Consider a situation where a team faces a recurring problem. Instead of jumping to quick fixes, you delve into the root cause. Through persistent questioning, you uncover a systemic issue that, once resolved, transforms not only the immediate problem but also enhances overall team efficiency.


Your Journey: 1:1 Coaching or Group Workshops

Embracing these principles might seem challenging at first, but with practice, they become second nature. I offer individual coaching and "Lead Like a Coach" workshops designed to immerse leaders in the art of coach-style leadership.

These workshops provide a safe environment to practice the principles, enabling leaders to embed these transformative behaviours into their daily interactions. The goal isn't to turn leaders into coaches but to empower them with a coach-like style, fostering fulfillment, meaningful connections, and efficient teamwork.

Ready to Transform Your Leadership Journey? Schedule a Discovery Call with Me

If these principles resonate with you and you're eager to explore the transformative world of coach-style leadership, as a group, or individually, I invite you to schedule a Discovery call with me.

Leadership isn't just a role; it's a transformative experience.

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