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Great Leaders Coach or Risk Cheating Team Development

This guest blog post is by Cynthia Mills, FASAE, CAE, CMC, CPC, CCRC.

There is usually a difference between how we are leading and how we would prefer to be leading – not to mention the impact on our teams and organizations. 

Our ideal condition - striving & thriving energized colleagues, who are highly aware of the diverse talent at our table, support and encourage the team, and celebrate our accomplishments in service of others. 

Often our reality - daily overwhelmed, task-oriented teams, just trying to knock things off the list. Leaders are trapped in “the doing” instead of being the leaders they desire; frequently finishing the task for someone, instead of assessing how they may be cheating on their team’s development and negatively impacting career trajectories. 

The way out is to coach - to give guidance, and yet stay in a position of inquiry. Instead of immediately asking questions to provide an answer, ask questions that allow them to create the process by which they can solve issues, develop greater creativity, and build career potential. 

To choose not to do so prevents you from achieving your greatest leadership impact, as you will never be able to focus fully on being a leader, when spending your time as a conductor. It ultimately stalls your team’s creativity, their self-confidence, and their ability to shape dynamic careers. We are essentially cheating on our organizations, ourselves, and those with whom we are co-creating.

Next time you feel that pull to just do it yourself or give an answer, try one of these coaching style approaches, depending upon their development and the type of request:

  • I’m delighted that you are feeling the stretch with this assignment, so you can grow professionally. 
    • What steps have you taken so far, so I have context? 
    • What alternatives are you considering? 
    • What are you leaning towards and why?
    • What’s at risk with each choice?
    • Who will be impacted by your judgement call/decision?
    • Who needs to be informed before you take action?
  • Share with me your thought process on who should be engaged to solve this issue and how they can bring value to the decision, as well as further develop their capacity in their role? (For those who tend not to collaborate naturally.)
  • Here are a couple of suggestions for next steps. Circle back with me when you have completed these, regarding your experience while designing their execution and the next actions you plan to take after that. Be ready to discuss your thought process, based on this experience and make a recommendation for how we proceed. (For those earlier in their development.)
  • Thank you for informing me.  This is your responsibility, and I trust you to complete the assignment/task, etc. (For those who love to delegate up!)

Staying in inquiry and adopting a coaching style will leverage your leadership, your organization’s mission impact, and the individual careers of your team - a win/win strategy for all!

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