Coaching is increasing in popularity as a leadership approach with many Australian businesses adopting coaching as a preferred leadership style both with individuals and with teams. Equipping managers with basic coaching skills such as listening, questioning, goal-setting and feedback appear to be very useful.
Listening and questioning
Coaching is generally described as non-directive. However, as managers are used to providing solutions, they can find it hard not to offer answers or advice, sometimes before an employee has even finished outlining an issue. This can result in solving the wrong problem, not understanding the detail, or in the employee not having ownership of the solution. Moreover, an existing solution may not be as strong as one that emerges through collaboration. In this context one of the most important coaching skills, is the skill of listening. Listening makes people feel engaged, interested, included and cared for. Given the increasing focus in many organisations on employee engagement, it is important for managers to learn how to listen at a deep level.
Goal-setting for Coaching Managers
Coaching managers are located in an organisational context with a focus on organisational priorities. Care needs to be taken with alignment. Managers should set goals that fit with the inner needs and values of their team members. Coaching can help people get clarity about their values and about how aligned they feel with the values and goals of the organisation. The coaching manager can help people gain clarity about their motivation, aspirations, and commitment to change. The coaching manager can help team members to visualise the future, generate options for achieving the goal, clarifying how each individual can contribute and give feedback on progress towards achieving it.
While there are many approaches to coaching, some appear more useful in the managerial coaching context. Solution-focused coaching is goal-oriented and hence useful for coaching managers. This approach may also suit managers as it can be more directive than other coaching approaches, with the coach sharing his mental models. A systems approach to coaching can also be useful in organisations, helping employees to see where they fit in the broader context. Even when goals are set by the organisation, the coach can help align their intrinsic and extrinsic drivers with the organisational goal.
Coaching conversations between managers and employees help people make progress towards organisational goals and in their professional development. For these coaching conversations to be useful managers need to be able to give feedback constructively. Coaching may help people accept feedback, which is particularly useful if there is a discrepancy between how people see themselves and how other people see them.
Team coaching is a relatively new area for coaching and suggests that coaching teams can have a positive effect on self-management, team empowerment and other factors which contribute to team effectiveness. Some studies have found that coaching enhanced commitment and reduced tensions, leading to increased team effectiveness. One study of coaching a group of managers helped reduce their stress, increased their networks, and improved their communication and other soft skills while another explored the use of coaching to help teams make better.
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