SME News March 2018

12 SME NEWS / Q1 2018 , By Stephen Fortune, Principal Consultant at The Oxford Group How to Effectively Introduce a Coaching Style of Leadership In theory, training business leaders to be coaches is a great thing to do: it would give employees better support, and mean that behavioural issues and other challenges can be more easily addressed. In practice, however, this doesn’t tend to be how it plays out. Coaching is a key part of the learning and development toolset, but if it is done the wrong way, it can be damaging. But instead of rejecting the idea out of hand, I feel that the better approach is to build coaching into the everyday working style of your leaders. It’s not as difficult as you might expect. All that is really required is clarity and the chance to have a go and learn. Bear in Mind I have mentioned the potential of ‘leaders as coaches’ but there are a couple of pitfalls that you you need to be aware of from the outset: • The inevitable power imbalance in an employee’s relationship with their manager often means employees are not as honest about their true feelings as they should be which is not conducive to coaching. • When done internally, coaching is often inflicted upon employees by their manager, who will also probably set the agenda. Coaching achieves the best results when the employee recognises and owns their need for improvement. • Leaders naturally bring their own ideals, views and experiences into the session, potentially driving it in a particular direction rather than allowing the coachee to consider all options How to Make it Happen Incorporating coaching into the management ways of working means training your leaders to understand exactly what coaching is and how it can be put into effect everyday. The following tips are practical ways to nurture a coaching culture , whilst developing useful skills in your leaders. • Clear reasons for coaching. It is essential that leaders know exactly why coaching is so important, and this is usually not explored as much as it should be as a starting point. Progress will not be achieved if managers still prefer to point out a problem and tell someone how to fix it. • Clarity on coaching, mentoring and feedback. Leaders commonly do not to know what really defines each of these three key areas, often resulting in muddled interventions with little impact. Everybody involved in coaching must be clear on these concepts before going any further. • Practice asking questions. Asking the right questions is a big part of successful coaching, and making sure that they are asked in an inviting way that doesn’t manipulate the response. Give more thought to really listening, and less to speaking. • Dress rehearsals. This is not the same as role play, but leaders need to get used to asking the right sort of questions in a realistic setting. Coaching buddies and action learning groups are a great way of getting this practice and developing aptitude. • Good coaches are hierarchically agnostic. Being a boss doesn’t make you a good coach. In fact, the charisma and ego of senior leaders have the effect of dampening down new ideas, even if they don’t realise they are doing it. A well-devised programme will work for any level of leader. Top Benefits Implement this successfully and you can look forward to a number of distinct changes occurring around you such as: • Employees feel liberated and comfortable bringing up ideas they have, allowing a more innovative culture to take over. Coaching isn’t just for solving problems - it nurtures new ideas and thought processes. • Levels of psychological safety - a trait that Google found to be the most important factor in high functioning teams - soar,