Leaders as Coaches

June 25, 2019 ProgressionHR

“It is not what the coach knows; it is what his players have learned.”
– Anonymous


The Best Leaders are also Excellent Coaches

We all know great leadership is made up of many different elements, skills and roles. These all come together in people differently around experience, education, personality and leadership style. However, one important leadership role that is often overlooked is that of coach. Leaders are also mentors, and the labels of Coach and Mentor are often used interchangeably in a business context. But there is a big difference between the two.

The Difference between a Mentor…

A mentor is someone who offers their knowledge, wisdom, expertise and advice to someone with less experience. The mentor leverages their experience and skill set to guide the mentee in the right direction, often around career growth and skill set development. Mentoring tends to be long-term.

… And a Coach

Coaches, on the other hand, focus on specific skills and development goals by breaking these down into set tasks to be completed within a specified time. A leader as a coach can help guide his or her team or organisation by clarifying goals and vision. Leaders who coach also balance their concern around employee performance with the goals of the company.

Individual employees, high-performance teams and even entire organisations all rely on coaching to optimise performance. Without great leader-coaches, employee performance – and therefore organisational performance – will fall short.


Coaches Enable Talent to Flourish

The ‘Leader as Coach’ enables individual talent to flourish. Such leaders encourage independence, accountability and personal growth. Often, these leaders surround themselves with people as talented – or even more talented – than they are, and then develop these people. They tend not to be threatened by the talent of their subordinates. Rather, they embrace it. Leaders who coach are secure in their roles – they equip their people with the knowledge and resources they need to make appropriate decisions on their own. Such leaders tend to value differences in opinion and encourage healthy debate. As an outcome, individuals feel valued and loyalty to the leader is a natural result.

12 Key Coaching Ideas from Effective Leaders

If you have ever trained under a great coach (in sport or in business), you’ll understand how valuable the influence of such a coach can be. The best leaders, like the best sports coaches, give those around them the permission and encouragement to succeed and to reach their potential. So what are some of the key coaching ideas as shared by great leaders from which we can all can learn?

1. Create a positive culture

Employees have reasonable expectations: treat me fairly, give me a leader who I can trust and respect, and let me make significant contributions as part of a team. Leaders play a significant role in creating a collaborative culture that enable these expectations to be met.

2. Communicate clearly and with wisdom

Effective leaders have excellent communication skills. People are compelled to pay attention, listen attentively and feel inspired to act.

3. See the potential in people

Just like a great sports coach, leaders as coaches help people discover their hidden potential and see it for themselves.

4. Appreciate the value of teamwork

Good leaders encourage teams to value collaboration over individual achievement. Highlight the value of TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More.

5. Challenge ideas

Good leaders challenge others on their ideas. But they do it without making the other person feel overly criticised, scorned or belittled.

6. Encourage people to be brave

Fortune favours the brave. Courage gets things done. Challenging the status quo often leads to better ways of doing things. And people learn from mistakes and failure.

7. Raise the bar

A leader as a coach has high personal standards. They continually raise their own bar so others can follow the example.

8. Be available

Have an open door. Build a reputation as someone who is approachable and willing to help, especially when the going gets tough.

9. Provide solutions

Develop win-win solutions so all parties benefit. Encourage others to do the same.

10. Be an optimist

A positive outlook is especially important if you want a positive, vibrant culture. The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist fears this is true. Be a half-glass full person.

11. Create a compelling vision

Effective leaders have an inspirational, achievable vision. Communicate it clearly and with passion in a way that encourages others to act. If people believe in the vision, they will follow the leader.

12. Make them feel safe

Employees with effective leaders as coaches feel secure. They know the leader has their back. They’ll go out of their way for the leader, because they know the leader will do the same for them (“I did it for you, because I know you’d do it for me”).

Leaders as Coaches Inspire the ‘Best You’

Leaders who are great coaches succeed because they know how to unlock potential, inspire and motivate people to perform at their best. They encourage people to ‘be the best you, you can be’. And that’s part of what great leadership is about.

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