Being a Leader-Coach: 7 Steps to Bringing out the Best in your People

One of our most critical roles as leaders is developing people and sometimes this means being more of a coach vs. a leader. While most of us possess the technical training, experience, and know-how to functionally lead teams, we often overlook the value of training and skills to effectively manage and inspire our people. How we handle sensitive situations, mistakes, mismanagement, or office politics can influence the entire department’s morale and energy levels. Ultimately, we want to manage challenges to outcomes that motivate, inspire, and develop people and expand the capacity of everyone involved.

Coaching our people doesn’t always come naturally, yet if you follow these 7 simple steps, you will be able to handle most human-to-human situations. A good leader and coach always pave the way for greater understanding, engagement, loyalty, and performance. 

Here are 7 Steps to be a Leader-Coach:

  1. STOP – Check-in and observe your personal state as well as the state of those around you. What information can you pull from the situation? Notice how you are feeling in your body and presence BEFORE you engage in the situation. Use awareness to find answers, regroup if needed.
  2. LOOK – What do you notice in the surrounding environment. What is the energy of the room: Is there tension? Stress? Noticing these nuances can provide critical information on how to respond to the situation. Sometimes naming it for yourself and others can help ground the condition.
  3. LISTEN – We generally think that everything requires our immediate action, but as you can see from step 1 and 2, and this step 3, you haven’t even opened your mouth yet. By listening we open up another sensory experience, our ears. And it’s more than just the words we are hearing, it’s the tone and sound of how it is being conveyed. What do you notice about the energy behind someone’s communication and how they are speaking: Is there worry? Doubt? Panic? Fear? The more you notice, the more you will be able to adequately respond to the person and the situation in the most complete and compassionate way.
  4. RESTATE – After you have heard, listened, noticed, and observed, restate what you think you heard. Rephase or use exactly their terms and get consensus from them. “Did I hear you correctly?” After this add, “And what I’m also hearing….(and add all the non-verbal cues you are picking up on to confirm if the energy you are reading is also correct). This signals to your team member with certainty that you are hearing and seeing them, validating and making their situation real, even if you don’t agree with it.
  5. INQUIRE – Asking questions opens the doorway to information. With more information, you make more informed decisions and can support the exact needs of the person you are coaching.  Asking questions, or inquiring, can reveal deeper insights that may not have otherwise been clear. This strategy is effective in engaging others in the development of solutions vs. putting forth your own ideas. Asking questions like “What would it take to resolve this issue?” “What solution do you see possible to bring this to a resolution?”
  6. OFFER – Based on dialogue and answers to your inquiry, suggest a step forward that addresses the need and puts the person you are coaching in the driver’s seat to lead the change. Suggest a few scenarios and openly explore the implications of the scenario options. In your offer, you may include your experience, guidance, role expectations, and other elements tied to incorporating the company culture and values into the solution.
  7. AGREEMENT – Getting agreement on a proposed way forward is critical to ownership, growth of the employee, and impact of the solution. If the person you are coaching feels heard and seen, feels ownership of, and the support to drive the solution to completion, then you improve the chances of your team member taking steps toward professional growth and improved commitment. For the majority of situations, these steps, if done in sequence, can have a dramatic effect on your effectiveness as a leader,  team cohesion, connection, and engagement, resulting in improved performance and commitment.