The case for leaders of charities – and indeed all organisations – to become effective coaches is compelling. But to learn the skills required and become an effective coach requires effort, commitment, courage and humility. So is it worth it? Let’s examine the personal benefits that could come your way.
The big prize is improved performance – both the improved performance of a well-coached team and your own performance as the boss. This is important, as organisations are waking up to the fact that leaders ought to be judged on their ability to get results from others. Some organisations now include measures in these areas in their performance review systems and it’s very encouraging to see targets concerning coaching and development alongside those for revenue and cost containment.
It’s also crucial for modern leaders to recognise that leading is different to doing. The most obvious example of this is in fundraising. Many leaders struggle to find time to get out and about amongst their contacts, promoting their charities themselves, but have to influence their teams to do so instead.
Allied to this is the benefit of saving time. Traditionally, leaders are seen as being the people with the answers: when a team member approaches with a problem, leaders tell them how to solve it. Of course the next time there’s a similar problem, leaders are approached again for an answer, and more time is absorbed.
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This is frustrating and exhausting as well as time consuming. Coaching can help fix this. If leaders coach people to develop their skills and independence they’ll be able to solve problems for themselves. This then creates more time for leaders to do more coaching and build this capability further, and a nice cycle is established.
All of this leads to improved relationships. Coaching – with its emphasis on asking questions so that people can discover answers for themselves – honours other people’s intelligence.
A coaching style helps leaders demonstrate how positively they view people’s ability. When people are valued in this way they begin to see leadership and leaders in a different light: they’re more forthcoming in coaching conversations, more willing to show initiative without waiting to be told what to do, and thus another helpful cycle is established.
Telling and instructing, on the other hand, fails to tap into people’s abilities, their thinking muscles wither and they can become quite resentful of situations which find them simply following orders.
Covid 19 and its restrictions are still making workplace communication very difficult. Video calls help, but nothing comes close to the fullness of communication that comes from face to face conversations, and it’s very difficult to compensate for that.
Additionally, when leaders and their teams are both working remotely we miss the spontaneous communication that happens naturally and which doesn’t need an agreed date and time.
Coaching helps because it switches the emphasis in communication from simply being a transmitter or receiver. As you move towards a coaching style of asking questions, and having your team think for themselves, it’s natural to move from considering ‘What do I need to say?’ to ‘What do I need to know?’
Coaching leaders spend time checking in with their people not checking up on their people. They ask How are you doing? not What are you doing?
A coaching approach also taps into every individual’s internal drivers. This avoids relying on salary and rewards as the only source of motivation – and if these external sources of motivation are inappropriate, they can actually do more harm than good.
The opposite of motivated is not demotivated, to the point where people want to leave. It is a strange neutral state, where people do what they need to do to get by but fall a long way short of engaged high performance. No-one, and no organisation, can get away with working this way for very long in the current climate.
To use a cliché, adopting coaching principles encourages leaders to work ‘on’ the team, rather than ‘in’ the team. As people become more willing and able to take on routine tasks, it frees the leader’s time – and their mind – to concentrate on longer term priorities, solving problems once and for all rather than fire-fighting every time they occur.
This ability is highly prized by employers, so it’s no surprise to see coaching listed amongst the essential skills required in job adverts at leadership levels. Developing coaching skills has huge benefits, for you, your teams and your organisation, and will also boost your career prospects too.
About Matt Somers
Matt Somers is the founder and Managing Director of Coaching Skills Training Ltd, a specialist training consultancy focused on the idea of the leader as coach. It operates throughout the UK and beyond, working in partnership with clients to ensure that what is intended is achieved. It has a wide and varied client list including charities.
As advocates of the coaching approach Matt works hard to make sure clients are able to continue developing the skills learned long after any initial project has finished.
He is a leading voice on training and coaching in the UK publishing Coaching at Work in 2006 and Coaching in a Week in 2016. He holds an MSc in Human Resource Development and is a Fellow of the CIPD. Find out more at: https://www.mattsomers.com/