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Coaching as a Tool to Develop Leaders

Coaching as a Tool to Develop Leaders

The Power of a "Coach Approach" to Develop Leaders

When thinking about the various ways to develop leaders, the usual suspects might come to mind: Online or in-person training, webinars, classes, books, or articles. But without a guide, your leaders might not get the most out of these experiences, or put what they have learned into practice.

An experienced and qualified coach can make all the difference in driving results and return on investment for your leadership development efforts. Coaching builds mastery and directly supports greater employee engagement and on-the-job performance by the leader.

Coaching for leadership involves helping a leader develop a greater capacity to learn from their actual on-the-job experiences. While coaching is certainly a way to reinforce knowledge acquisition from other means, actual learning comes when leaders apply new-found knowledge, theories, and assumptions to a real-life application. After all, learning is an iterative process that takes intention, focus, and optimally a good coach. And the primary tools of the trade for a coach in this process are powerful questions positioned at the right moment with a leader.

Effectively Coach Leaders With Powerful Questions

A coach helps leaders focus in on an experience, reflect, and consider different behaviors and actions they can take at the moment, or the next time a challenge arises. Here are some "coach approach" strategies and questions to share with your team when they want to better coach their leaders:

  1. Focusing: “What do you want to achieve? By when?” (Gets the leader to focus on taking action)
  2. Means: “How might you approach that situation differently?” (Provokes novel ways of problem-solving)
  3. Outcomes: “What will be different and what will you get out of taking this action?” (Asks for consideration of value and benefit of a specific action, thereby increasing motivation and engagement)
  4. Value: “Why is this important to you? To others?” (Solicits individual and organizational values)
  5. Analysis: “Based on your 360 feedback report, what does this information mean to you now? What’s most important to focus your attention on now?” (Assists in analysis and synthesis, and thereby greater meaning)
  6. Obstacles: “What got in your way from achieving x? What could get in your way if you take the tactic you just described?” (Helps identify and mitigate potential challenges)
  7. Action: “What steps will you take? When?” (Solicits specificity in action)
  8. Experience: “What happened and what do you think about that experience? What would you do differently next time?” (Aids in reflection and pre-planning for next action)

There are many, many more questions a coach can ask a leader in support of their learning. Ideally, after a period of time, the leader starts to incorporate the attitude of learning from experience and begins to ask themselves great coaching questions on their own.

Learning in the classroom and through digital and print media is important. But, what makes the difference between a book-smart and street-smart leader is one’s ability to learn from experience. A coach is a catalyst for effective learning and great leader development. Engaging an experienced provider with coaching services may be an essential part of your leadership development programming and talent pipeline.

Photo by Andreas Levers // cc by 2.0 //

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Lauren Parkhill

Lauren Parkhill leads the marketing team in creating creative content that helps organizations develop their leaders and teams.