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Changing the team dynamic: Becoming a leader who coaches

Changing the team dynamic: Becoming a leader who coaches
Published: July 27, 2021
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Let’s imagine that you are excited to add coaching into your repertoire of leadership actions, but your fast-paced team is not used to being coached; on the contrary, they are used to you giving them advice and telling them what to do. If you were to start asking them coaching questions, rather than providing solutions, they would look at you as if you have two heads!

Breaking established team dynamics is hard, but not impossible. Follow these three steps to create the conditions for your team to be receptive to doing things differently – in this case, engaging in coaching conversations with you.

Step 1: Tell them you want to try something new

This could be in an email, a team meeting, or a one-on-one; the important thing is to let them know that you want to try a different approach.

Step 2: Be explicit when you are implementing the new action

When you see an opportunity to coach one of your direct reports, tell them! You can say something like, “Hey Mithali, remember that email I sent about wanting to practice coaching? You just asked me how to make the payroll process more efficient, and I have some thoughts, but shall we have a coaching conversation instead of me just sharing my ideas?”

If you need to be even more explicit, you could say, “Hey Tristan, can I offer you some coaching instead of a predetermined solution?” Find a way to be clear that feels natural to you.

Step 3: Follow up

After you’ve had some practice at your new leadership action, in this case coaching, follow up with your direct reports and ask what’s different, what’s working well, and what you could do better. Ask your line manager if they have noticed any changes or if they have any suggestions for you, then incorporate their feedback into your future actions. And always thank your people for trying something new with you.

Remember, established dynamics and routines have a strong gravitational pull. Unless you make a concerted effort and transparently invite others into the process, things will slide right back to where they were.

Good luck with testing out new ways of leading! Let us know about your success stories.