Essential coaching skills for leaders in the workplace

Transformative and effective coaching skills are sharply focused on helping an individual to improve their workplace performance and to develop their skillset. They can help to improve the morale of employees while moving companies forward to their overarching goals and objectives. The coaching skills that leaders are able to deploy within the workplace will have a direct impact on productivity and the success of a team or a company.

The coaching approach to leadership challenges some of the assumptions of the old top-down model, encouraging greater collaboration and communication while setting ambitious goals and high standards. It’s a method that builds positive relationships to assist with problem-solving, staying on track and exceeding expectations.

How do you incorporate this approach into your own leadership role, and what support and training are available to help you?

Here we take a look at coaching skills, what they are, and how they can be used effectively in the workplace.

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Understanding coaching skills

Put simply, coaching skills are aimed at helping individuals improve their overall performance. It’s an approach to leadership that doesn’t focus on weaknesses. Instead, it looks to pose questions, foster good communications, goal-setting and reflection to help improve performance. The aim throughout is to develop positive leadership, individual and collective strengths, and improved teamwork.

Leaders who use coaching skills effectively help to develop strong bonds within their team while gaining the trust of others. They create a supportive, goal-directed team with increased productivity and overall wellbeing. Coaching skills create happier working environments and supportive relationships - key factors in the overall success of any team.

The coaching leadership style aims to empower individuals and teams to become as effective as possible. To achieve this, coaching leaders give less direct instructions and instead guide individuals to find their own answers and make the right decisions.

This can be done through asking questions, and strong two-way and inter-group communications. This means that coaching leaders need to be receptive when asking questions, not just looking for a particular answer. They should also be willing to answer questions themselves, helping to build trust and a mutually supportive working relationship.

Coaching leadership provides meaningful and pertinent feedback, letting team members know how well they are performing. Ideally, you should be able to provide positive reinforcement to promote a constructive work environment. Leaders should also be able to accept feedback, encouraging others to give constructive responses. This helps leaders see where there may be room for improvement and will serve as a positive example for others to follow.

Flexibility is also crucial to coaching leadership styles. Leaders understand that change can sometimes happen without previous expectations and being able to adjust to those changes is crucial for the entire team. Flexibility and adaptability show others that obstacles are surmountable when everyone works together.

Coaching leadership places high importance on group morale. Team building is a key part of any coaching leadership strategy, helping individuals to build a relationship with one another. Motivated teams work more effectively, making the process of achieving goals not only easier but also more enjoyable.

Why are coaching skills important for a leader?

Leadership coaching delivers a wide range of benefits that can have a measurable impact on the bottom line of an organisation. It can deliver an immediate positive effect on individual performance, helping people within a team become more effective, self-aware and strategic.

Coaching skills can help leaders deliver critical benefits in the workplace. These include:

An empowered workforce

Coaching skills helps leaders establish advantageous relationships across their team, uncovering hidden strengths and weakness. It helps people identify goals that they can realistically achieve, giving them the confidence to make decisions and think on their feet. Reflective sessions between leaders and their team allow everyone to recognise their improvements as they move together towards meeting their goals.

Greater Insights

Leaders who use coaching skills can help team members gain new insights to help them improve their overall performance. They will be encouraged to step back and reflect on any problem, giving them the opportunity to find the deeper problem.

Creative Thinking

Coaching skills encourages everyone within a team to take a creative approach to problem-solving. Through asking questions, they provoke free thoughts, new insights and greater flexibility helping to break through logjams. Creating thinking underpins flexible leadership and teamwork, helping to foster a team that’s versatile and able to adapt quickly to sudden challenges.

Improved Communication

Leaders who embed coaching skills into how they work and manage will place a strong focus on how they communicate. Leaders will identify areas of communication that need improvement focusing on how they talk to their team and how their team talks to each other. They will create a culture where good communication is embedded throughout the team.

Coaches will attempt to understand how different team members, contrasting personality types, cultures, ages and backgrounds communicate and what their priorities are. They will use this knowledge to inform their communication methods and those of their team.

By helping team members to communicate effectively, they can improve their own credibility within that team. An open communication style will seek feedback, provide new ideas and remove barriers to understanding. Team members who in the past might have been reserved and not forthcoming can change with a new communication style from leaders.

Enhanced Performance

Leaders who use coaching skills encourage enhanced performance across their team. They will target problem areas that can make a significant difference to abilities and attitudes. They will be able to implement new leadership techniques tailored to the collective and individual weaknesses of their team.

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Must-have coaching skills for managers and leaders

Leaders who put great coaching skills into practice are able to earn the respect and appreciation of the people that they work with. These skills can help them gain trust, build strong bonds and deliver better results for their organisation. Coaching skills as part of a leadership strategy can help to improve culture, employee satisfaction and overall productivity across the organisation.

Here are some of the key coaching skills that leaders should develop:

Communication

As outlined above, good communication is essential to be effective as a coach. Leaders should aim to communicate with clarity and transparency, keeping channels open and non-judgmental. This can help everyone to remain clear about expectations.

Coaching leaders will seek feedback from team members, using active listening, as well as being forthright and clear when voicing their own ideas. The aim is to create an inclusive environment where people can freely express thoughts and ideas, without any fear of being judged.

Good communication helps to improve performance while enabling team members to take ownership of their work.

Empathy

Good coaches are highly empathetic. They are able to connect with others in a way that’s free of judgement, focusing on how they can help people improve their performance. They will tend to focus on the individual rather than focusing on the problem. This can help people overcome difficulties while illustrating that they are someone to be trusted. Empathetic leaders inspire loyalty from their team members who feel they are understood and their opinions are respected.

Curiosity

Coaching leaders stay curious, looking to understand more and improve whenever they can. They want to learn and develop professionally, helping to guide their team by example. Curiosity teaches others that learning and developing is a continual journey, rather than an end-goal. Staying curious allows managers to facilitate the learning of others.

Innovation

Coaching leadership skills incorporate a search for new ideas and innovation. Through probing and open-ended questions, ideas can be generated and problems solved creatively. The ability of a leader to ask pertinent questions and to focus on solutions rather than being overly fixated on problems can lead to transformative breakthroughs.

Leadership skills help team members to maintain their focus on a common goal. Good leaders encourage, foster and support innovation and give their team the confidence and autonomy to solve problems and implement new solutions.

Keeping Positive

Even the happiest and most productive workplaces are always positive places, but it’s the job of the coaching leader to accentuate these positives. Focusing on weaknesses or problems discourages and leads to disengagement.

A positive leader helps team members to identify their individual and collective strengths, harnessing those skills to help them grow professionally and personally. It doesn’t however, mean that problems are ignored or brushed under the carpet. Instead, it looks to address any challenges in a positive and constructive way, finding out what currently works while addressing what doesn’t.

Sincerity

Coaching leadership places a sincere focus on the individual. They have a sincere desire to help them grow, improve and meet their career goals. Good leaders are passionate about their work, honest about the areas they need to improve, realistic about their abilities and able to demonstrate patience with others.

Persistence

Sometimes it can be hard to see where progress is being made. A strong leadership coach keeps the bigger picture in mind, even when it seems there’s a risk of getting bogged down along the way. They anticipate issues and use obstacles and challenges as a means of improvement.

Persistence and determination set an example and inspires others to keep pressing on through any temporary setbacks. Sometimes persistence might mean stepping back and taking a course correction in order to reach particular goals, but it never means giving up or accepting second best.

Guidance

Effective coaching leaders are able to provide timely guidance to help their team reach key goals and objectives. They are able to challenge excuses and resistance through a process of reflection and clarification. Skilled leaders are able to reform problems into solutions that provide insight that helps the team overcome any obstacles.

Developing the skills you need to lead effectively

The coaching approach to leadership can be challenging for many professionals at first. It has a set of different demands to other management styles, and perhaps requires a more proactive strategy. It requires leaders to be fully engaged with their own professional development as well as that of their team. The rewards from incorporating a coaching style are tangible, however.

At Leadership Success, we’re committed to spreading the benefits of a coaching leadership style through our programme of leadership training. Our expert leadership coaches lead focused learning that goes way beyond a standard leadership course. They work intensively with you to help you achieve your goals.

We’ve coached over 25,000 leaders at all levels and our results speak for themselves. On average, participants have seen a 40% increase in their performance and 97% of our participants said they were either satisfied or very satisfied.

To find out more about our leadership coaching programmes and how we can help get in touch with one of our expert coaches today.

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