How to Lead Like a Coach?

Asking good questions is an essential leadership skill. What makes a good question?

How to Lead Like a Coach?
Photo by Evgeni Tcherkasski / Unsplash

My Executive Coaching Graduate Studies at Royal Roads are coming to an end in August and something is becoming clear to me: employing a coaching mindset is valuable, even essential, for leaders. Why? Because questions are a way to make progress.

A solid question, asked in the right situation, and with no personal attachment is the best way for your peeps to learn, grow, challenge their assumptions and it inspires them to do their best work.

What makes a good question?

It's open-ended

No yes/no question has ever provided the fuel that drives the engine of change and improvement. Ever.

A positive mindset

You must have positive intent, not a desire to manipulate to the outcome you want. Ask questions because you are truly curious about the answer, and just listen. Quiet your mind.

Don’t try to be clever

Sure, you can ask someone to double click on something, but why not just ask "What do you need right now?", or, "What are you considering doing?". Don't be fancy, don't use "coaching" jargon.

Be bold

Go for the core of the conversation. It’s so tempting to skirt real issues. You want to know what is motivating an employee to actively work against a team objective, ask them what's going on for them right now. Tell them how you are experiencing them in context (with an example).

Give people time to think

And finally, a solid question sometimes creates a "gold fish moment". You know when someone looks at you with their eyes wide open (and maybe their mouth too). Give them time to process and formulate an answer. Resist the urge to fill the silence with more of your words.

The essence of leadership is to provide your Employees with support, and also with opportunities to grow. I'm discovering that coaching, because it offers an opportunity for leaders to be curious and ask questions to get to the root of things, is a way to create sparks that will ignite the fire of innovation.