Not everyone wants or needs to become an external coach or to coach full-time as I do. Many leaders have shared that their main motive for coach training is simply to add coaching to their skill set, in order to be better leaders, better managers, and better supervisors.
In coach training, they may point out that their interactions with team members are very different from typical coaching sessions. “I can’t meet with them multiple times, and wait till they have the aha on their own.”
This topic reinforces the importance of hat switching, which I explored in my book about internal coaching. “I can’t just sit here and listen,” these leaders tell me, “I have to step into my other role and speed things up a bit—to help them have that aha sooner.”
How do you develop a coach approach to telling people what to do?
One way is to establish a set of benchmarks or strategies that both the manager and team member are aware of. That gives the leader a concrete way to check in with the team member. “So how are you on X, Y, or Z?”
From there, they can go into coach mode. “So what’s getting in the way? Let’s look at what you’re doing and brainstorm some solutions.”
It can be a frustrating process. Listening takes time. “This is a business, and we’ve got to get going.” After all, leaders are responsible for the bottom line and the timeline.
Yet with a coach approach, they can speak directly about that timeline, but in a collaborative way that addresses reality but doesn’t dictate any particular path of action.
Rather than telling the team member, “You need to do this, this, and that,” it’s, “We have a time crunch here. Let’s talk about how we can get to where we need to be by this date. What do you see as the obstacles that keep getting in the way? What am I missing as your supervisor?”
With a coach approach to management, you’re directing, while still developing the person and giving that person the chance to identify the problems and, together, the solutions.
Content-rich versus content-free coaching
All coaching falls along a continuum of content-rich and content-free, and hat switching between manager and coach requires fluency in both.
There’s this mistaken belief that you’ve got to be in this 100% content-free zone—where you show up free of any agenda or assumptions—to actually coach or even to use a coach approach.
Content-rich coaching or leadership, on the other hand, is where there are some definitive elements to the situation that must be adhered to. These may be coming from above you, or from other stakeholders such as your customers or board.
Switching hats from coach role to manager role does not mean we’re going to the other side of the pendulum. Rather, there is a whole continuum in between content-free and content-rich. Our role as leaders and coaches is to fluidly operate within that whole spectrum depending on what’s called for in each moment.