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Lessons learned: Coaching to create the future

Lessons learned: Coaching to create the future
Published: June 16, 2020
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Letting go of Command and Control

We know that teams and organizations that regularly coach significantly outperform those that do not. In fact, there’s probably no better way to co-create a resilient and inclusive future than through the simple act of having someone ask you a powerful question and then “hold the space” as you discover new ways forward.

But we’re noticing the following trend: The leaders we work with today are feeling tentative. They want to shift back to coaching and away from the command and control leadership style they used at the start of the quarantine but they’re not sure what virtual coaching of dispersed teams really looks like in action. How do they trust the coaching process when they can’t see their teams face-to-face? What do informal coaching conversations look like when teleconferencing? Mostly, they tell us that coaching takes too much time.

To find out if others were noticing the same trend, my colleagues at Impact and I hosted two interactive webinars in May (in both the Europe/North America and APAC time zones) to discuss what we can do to support leaders—and ourselves—to trust the coaching process in today’s climate. How do we help our leaders proudly support others to discover sustainable solutions rather than solve all the problems themselves?

What we learned

65 people attended the interactive webinar in total, ranging from associate specialists to three Chief officers, along with some consultants and one professor! Their interest was people development as seen from a variety of vantage points including change management, sustainability, talent management, and leadership & organizational development.

There was great consensus with the trends we noticed. In addition to reporting that they see some leaders confidently coaching, they also used words like “patchy,” “misunderstanding,” “very immature,” and “more telling than coaching.”

We asked how they would describe the balance of a tell/directive style of leading to an ask/coaching style. The majority of the leaders (81%) they observe tell/direct at least half the time—with 12% of that group exclusively telling/directing! The minority (19%) of the leaders primarily ask/coach combined with some tell/direct.

The biggest barriers to coaching were lack of time, lack of patience, lack of confidence, loss of control, poor habits, pressure, panic, no desire to change, and not understanding what coaching is.

The first nudge

At Impact, we do not advocate that leaders coach all the time. Great leaders know there is a time to teach, to advise, to delegate, to give orders, as well as a time to coach, all depending on the demands of the moment.

Sometimes even the best leaders need a bit of a nudge. Creating the conditions to invite a leader to let go is not easy, so using an activity like Five-Word Coaching is one of the ways to help them trust the process. The stakes are higher today than many of our leaders have ever faced before. Leaders who do not include coaching in their repertoire will quickly see their teams performing less well than the competition.

Thanks to everyone who attended our Coaching to Create the Future webinar and generously shared their observations, questions and challenges. We all learned from our conversations and now our opportunity is to help others grow too.

Five-word coaching

We recently discovered this simple three step process to help leaders trust the coaching process, even when their teams are dispersed.

  1. Give your leaders an immediate, short-duration, powerful experience of coaching in a virtual setting.
  2. Make explicit the structure, mindset and tools used in that experience.
  3. Empower them to replicate that experience themselves with their teams.

Click on the link below to access instructions for one of the easy-to-use activities we use to demystify the virtual coaching process and get your leaders coaching again.

5-word coaching activity download

Caitlin McClure is an Associate at Impact Americas.