Updated: Dec 16, 2020
There's no two ways to say this. Business and the role of leaders has become more complex. The reasons alone could fill an article, but that's not why we're here.
In your business or your team right now, are you managing or are you leading? Most of us think we're leading when really, we're just managing - just as we've been managed throughout our careers. My view is that managers do what needs to be done to execute the work and reach the goals. Leaders on the other hand don't conform to hierarchy, rather they can influence and motivate others towards a common goal to achieve success.
The truth is, real leaders in business - the kind this generation of millennials really wants to work for are relatively rare. When you come across one, they stand out and people naturally seek them out because they want to work with them, for them or around them.
Assuming you are leading, how are you doing it?
Are you the leader who supports your team by providing all the answers when problems arise or do you subscribe to Nancy Kline's philosophy that 'the mind which holds the problem probably also contains the solution'?
Over the years, I've had to learn that unintentionally creating a dependent relationship where team members rely on me to provide all the answers to their questions and problems does more harm than good in the long run. Sounds logical, but when was the last time you truly resisted the urge to give advice to a team member who asked for help? As experts in a role where you want to help, it can be a tough adjustment to make.
While studying coaching at the same time as leading a busy bid and capture team who deal with masses of information and complexity every day, I'm convinced that there's even more long-term value in taking a coaching approach to leadership.
So, if it's such a powerful tool in the long-term, why don't more leaders use coaching?
Focusing on today and tomorrow - as the rate of change in our external and internal business environments continues to accelerate many leaders focus on what's essential right now. With so much going on, it's often easier for leaders to direct activity for the quick wins rather than coach for longer-term development.
Lack of time - extending on the above, leaders often feel they don't have the time to coach and develop employees when the result is less certain. I would argue that taking a coaching approach grows the skills the business needs to grow and helps leaders identify whether or not an employee has the skills and attitudes that are right much sooner.
Not skilled in coaching - most of us haven't been trained in how to effectively coach employees and it is likely many leaders have never been effectively coached. This is a relatively easy hurdle to overcome but it requires new skills, a new way of looking at employee development and a willingness to be more courageous than most of us might want to be.
Increasingly, the largest proportion of the workforce - the millennials - are craving coaching, inspiration and authenticity from their leaders (Willyred, K., HBR, Feb-2015). For today's leaders to remain competitive, this requires an entirely different approach than how many of us were led throughout our careers.
The great news is that just like emotional intelligence, anyone can develop coaching skills and use them as they would any other tool in the leadership toolkit. Some of these skills include:
the ability to remain curious, open and empathetic while asking appropriate questions that will help people problem solve and reflect, rather than prescribing solutions based on past experience or 'expertise'
providing constructive feedback that will help employees to self-reflect and self-correct behaviours or performance
assistance with goal setting within the framework of a bigger vision that is set by the leadership
effective listening so that employees feel heard and understood, even if there is a difference of opinion or an agreement on an alternative course of action
ability to identify strengths and capitalise on these while also recognising and working with limitations and areas of development
creating alignment between the individual's short and long term goals with the organisations goals
understanding different perspectives when working with problem solving.
I won't sugar-coat the fact that this style of leadership takes longer and requires an investment in skills development, but he rewards speak for themselves. According to the Institute of Coaching, the benefits are:
Empowers individuals and encourages them to take responsibility
Increases employee and staff engagement
Improves individual performance
Helps identify and develop high potential employees
Helps identify both organizational and individual strengths and development opportunities
Helps to motivate and empower individuals to excel
Demonstrates organizational commitment to human resource development
80% of people who receive coaching report increased self-confidence, and over 70% benefit from improved work performance, relationships, and more effective communication skills. 86% of companies report that they recouped their investment on coaching and more (source: ICF 2009).
In my own experience, coaching is an enriching process for both participants and if you're inspired to truly lead people to reach their potential, seeing people transform their perspectives or break down a limiting belief right in front of you is one of the most rewarding experiences a leader can have.
We don't have to chose between leading or coaching. We can use coaching like any other tool at our disposal. Coaching isn't just for leaders - employees with coaching skills can help each other as well.
Tim Snell is a Coach, Facilitator and Senior Director of Bid & Capture at ICF. Tim will be facilitating a 3 hour interactive workshop 'Coach to Lead' for the Association of Proposal Management Professionals UK Chapter Professional Development Day. Full details are available here.
Tickets are available here and seats are limited.
At the APMP UK Conference, Tim will also facilitate a breakout session on Connection, Trust and Stress Resilience for Bid Teams.
"Refreshing material and love (yes, I said the L word) the interactive session" (APMP BPC 2019 Orlando)