Four reasons why coach-like conversations are worth it.

Writing to you over the last few years is why I wrote my book Think Like A Coach.

Your challenges and different viewpoints have stretched my thinking beyond where I thought I could go and while writing the book it suddenly hit me that I’ve written a lot about how to use a coach-like approach, like:

A quick way to encourage your team to be more creative and innovative

A framework for more effective development conversations

The brain that contains the problem, contains the solution

but not why to use it.

Thinkers tell me the Coaching Two Step is easy to understand but can be hard to use because:

  • Give me a problem and my brain wants to solve it. I have to learn to hold back.
  • I was dying to give her suggestions
  • Hardest thing is to let the person talk
  • Saying very little requires A LOT of restraint
  • I need to learn to let someone talk and not be the fixer 

We don’t tend to do things that are hard unless the outcome is really important for us, so here are four reasons why experimenting with a coach-like approach is worth it, even when it feels hard.

A person stands in the centre of the picture with their back to us, holding their arms up in a why gesture. The background is blurred trees.

1.It reduces your workload

How much of your day is spent helping your direct reports do their job? One of the reasons you might be a busy manager is that you’re too helpful. You:

  • Answer all questions
  • Tell people exactly what they need to do
  • Make all the decisions
  • Fix all the problems

And while it’s nice to feel needed, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t feel as good at midnight when you’re finally starting on your work for the day.

Using a coach-like approach means that you encourage your direct reports to do the thinking and take on more responsibility. Instead of being dependant on you for every problem and decision they become self-sufficient freeing you up to do the big fun stuff like strategy, team development and innovation.

2. Your team will go the extra mile for you

Daniel Goleman, the person who introduced the world to research on Emotional Intelligence, has also done research on leadership styles executives tend to use. The least used and yet most powerful is the coaching style.

He found that a coaching leadership style inherently says, “I believe in you, I’m investing in you and I expect your best efforts”. As a result, direct reports often exceed those expectations because they feel valued and important. Additionally, they’re willing to take more responsibility because they’re clear on how what they do fits into the bigger picture.

3. It leads to financial results

Goleman also found that a coaching style has a positive impact on financial results. His research looked at the influence of the six most used leadership styles on six climate (or work environment) factors.

Coaching has a positive effect on all the climate factors and yet is the least used because executives felt it took too long in “our high pressure economy”. And that was in 2000!

Why is this important? A coaching style results in more frequent conversations with direct reports which leads to a positive increase in all the factors affecting a positive working environment.

And why is that important? Well, Goleman found that a positive working environment could account for up to a third of financial results. That’s a lot to leave on the table because it takes too long to have a coach-like conversation with your direct reports.

4. It leads to greater motivation for yourself and your team

Michael Bungay-Stanier, in his book The Coaching Habit talks about the power of coaching to connect your direct reports to the kind of work that has impact and is meaningful for them, freeing you up to do that kind of work for yourself.

Coaching stretches people out of their comfort zones and helps them learn from their experiences. By having more coach-like conversations with them you are helping them fulfil their potential and nothing is more motivating that that.

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