Blog Post 8-5-13

Increase Your Leadership Effectiveness through Coaching Skills

Once upon a time, it was expected that the managers at the top of the organizational ladder had all the answers. They were the subject matter experts who had worked with the organization for their entire careers, and knowing the operation inside and out was what had made them successful. When a problem needed solving or a decision needed making, there was no question as to who would do the solving and deciding.

But then the world began to change. Information became constantly and completely available to anyone with a computer, 24/7. Consumers of media became producers of media, and change became our new currency. Any organization that couldn’t thrive in an environment of constant change found that it couldn’t survive. And the leaders of organizations realized that it was no longer possible for them to know everything and make all the decisions by themselves.

This momentous shift calls for an equally significant shift in leadership style and communication. Today’s leaders must learn to be in “asking and listening” mode rather than in “telling mode” in order to serve their organizations well. As Walmart founder Sam Walton says, “The key to success is to get out into the store and listen to what the associates have to say. Our best ideas come from clerks and stockboys.” Here are some things leaders can do to harness the power of asking and listening:

• Get out of your usual office routine on a regular basis so you come in contact with employees you don’t usually interact with. Visit the mailroom; ask people you don’t know well to lunch; walk around on a floor you never visit and say hello to the folks who work there.

• Practice active listening on a regular basis, both at home and at work. For most of us, truly listening to someone else without injecting our own point of view into the conversation becomes more challenging as other factors increase such as stress, workload and time-pressure.

• Learn to use open, probing, non-judgmental questions to encourage others to think well and be creative in solving problems.

• Learn to use reflecting questions, summarizing and paraphrasing to check for understanding.

• Be genuinely curious when someone has an opinion completely different than your own. Force yourself to ask questions and listen actively before you attempt to argue your own point of view.

• Designate others to lead your team meetings so you don’t dominate them with your own point of view.

• When employees come to you with a question, resist the temptation to give them an immediate answer. Instead, ask questions that encourage them to think through the problem themselves.

Kevin McCarthy, author of The On-purpose Person says, “The quality of your leadership is a direct result of the quality of your questions.” When we think of ourselves as coaches rather than managers, we can leverage this powerful tool.

Need help developing your coaching skills? Contact Ben Hassinger at CI International for information about our executive coaching services and coaching skills workshops.