🌟 Emotionally intelligent leaders understand the power of coaching! 🚀

In the ever-evolving realm of leadership, a striking trend is emerging – emotionally intelligent leaders are recognising and harnessing the profound impact of coaching. More than a mere leadership skill, coaching has become a cornerstone for success, guiding teams toward effective communication, understanding diverse perspectives and the ability to make complex decisions – which is paramount in our world that is becoming more BANI, VUCA or TUNA (whichever acronym sits well for you!).

In my work with leaders as their Thought Partner, I am seeing a difference in how they are leading their team members. They are being more successful, they demonstrate greater confidence in their leadership capabilities, they are seeing personal growth within their team membership and they feel more competent. What is connecting this growth and development? One of the golden threads seems to be when they are learning how to effectively use coaching as one of their core leadership skills. 

In another role, I work as a ‘team coach’, I am measuring success by their communication strength, their ability to understand diverse team positions, the lack of emotional ‘charge’ between team members, their ability to co-regulate, their ability to move swiftly to make comprehensive and complex decisions, an appreciation and acceptance of one another, becoming comfortable with being ‘safely uncomfortable’ and finally a clarity on their collective goals. Again, this seems to work most effectively once the team have learnt how to develop a team coaching approach to their work and one another – rather than purely focused on task and output. The ‘why’ and ‘how’ just as important as the ‘what’ and ‘when’. 

Taking this into consideration, as I (and I would invite us to) stand back and observe leadership – coaching emerges as a key leadership competency. I would even suggest that when you are using coaching within your leadership – you are developing a systemic leadership perspective that also develops team members as team leaders.

Beyond 2-day Training Programmes – Leader as Coach…

What I am ‘always’ amazed to hear is people’s perception of ‘What is coaching?’ and, ‘Surely it is something we all do!’ ‘Are there any particular skills involved?’ ‘I have been on a two-day Leader as Coach programme – I know how to coach’. As you would imagine – those kind of comments get me firmly engaged in the conversation! 

Any skill that is worth developing takes a number of hours. Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 book, Outliers purports that practice builds the skill and his magic number of practice is ten thousand hours. He is saying this is how you build mastery, although that belief has recently been challenged. (Gladwell’s sample group was a narrow group in society.) Whilst I would agree there is something in the time/energy/commitment etc. we take to develop any skill. What I would question’ ‘What were the foundations of learning?’ ‘What was the training and understanding?’ Any foundation forms how I am now practising the developing skill? If I have received poor training, this will impact how my skill develops and may determine the level of competence or mastery I attain – no matter how many hours I put in.

Inadequate training/understanding cannot magically turn into great practice and capability.

This leads us to the quality of the coach training. The International Coaching Federation (ICF) say to be a competent coach at their first credential level you need a minimum of 60 coach education hours. We know that many leaders do not have 60 hours to give to coach education – and see that as too much. However, at Sandown Business School – we have noticed that those leaders who have completed our Professional Award in Coaching course do build that leadership coaching muscle. Now, this article is not a sales pitch, but what I want to highlight is that a 14-hour training programme will give you some insights into coaching, the differences between coaching, mentoring, counselling and training and hopefully give you a go at practicing coaching, but this is a far cry from the level of coaching required by leaders into today’s business environment.

Mentoring -v- Coaching

And this is where mentoring emerges. So many leaders are using mentoring instead of coaching. Whilst mentoring is a strong skill for any leader to have in their leadership toolkit, it cannot be the only skill you use. If you only use this skill you will limit the growth of those you lead. Why? Because they will always be coming back to you for direction, decision making, feedback and even, approval. 

If your team is not maturing – are you just using mentoring as your supportive/developmental leadership skill with your team?

Coaching, on the other hand, develops mature team members who are able to confidently make decisions, they may check in with you about direction – but they come with ideas and suggestions, they look for feedforward not just feedback and are not looking for your approval as they have built their inner voice which is guiding them with self-approval. What a difference!

Leaders who Coach ultimately Coach Leaders” Pheona Croom-Johnson

One of the challenges for any leader is; ‘If they have been coached, what type of coaching did they receive?’ ‘Did they receive mentoring or coaching?’ There are sadly too many ‘coaches’ who mentor their clients rather than coach them. It is fine to offering mentoring and coaching as a professional coach (often my Thought Partnering work includes both approaches), but there needs to be a difference. And how do we know the difference if we are not a trained coach or have not experience clean, pure coaching? Because we come away from any session holding our own power – not giving our power to our coach.

We know coaching works. According to a survey conducted by the International Coach Federation (ICF) 80% of individuals who receive coaching, report increased self-confidence and over 70% benefit from improved work performance, relationships and communication skills. The statistics are showing time and time again, coaching makes a significant difference.

What does this mean for me?

So what does this mean for me? How do I make sure I am an emotionally intelligent leader utilising coaching as one of my key competencies as a leader. If I believe there is a coaching culture in my team, department, organisation – how much energy have I, do we, put into making sure our leaders have a valid qualification that gives them the skills, competence and confidence to coach?

I will need to make sure: 

  • I appreciate and can demonstrate how I am an emotionally intelligent leader.
  • I understand the differences between mentoring and coaching and regularly coach my team rather than rest on the skills of mentoring.
  • I embrace the uncertainty that coaching brings, moving beyond the perceived confidence of mentoring.
  • I receive strong, clean coaching from a credentialed coach.
  • I explore and develop my personal Leadership Coaching Signature Style.
  • As a coaching culture our leaders are properly trained to the level required to adequately reflect our espoused coaching culture.
  • I stop trying to put a band aid on as a temporary fix – and instead move to a thriving environment where prevention, well-being and strength is nurtured.

As a Harvard Business School professor and leadership expert Linda Hill says: 

“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”

In conclusion, emotionally intelligent leaders understand the transformative power of coaching in leadership. A coaching muscle needs to be built, practiced and honed to the standards required in today’s demanding environment. There is no shortcut or magic wand. It demands we give time, be open to continuous learning and commitment and learn from those who really understand coaching. By investing in coaching, you as a leader will create resilient, enabled teams who will empower themselves to navigate the challenges ahead and learn how to thrive in the ever-changing landscape of leadership.

Pheona Croom-Johnson is Co-Founder and Academic Director of Sandown Business School. She has been in the OD field for over 35 years, partnering with Coaches, C-Suite and Senior Leaders. Pheona is a triple credentialed Master Coach (ICF, EMCC, AC), Master NLP Trainer, Team Coach Supervisor (ACTC, ICF) and credentialed Supervisor (ESIA, EMCC), IFS Trained therapist (Level 1) with psychological foundations (BPS). Get in touch to find out more about coaching, leadership and/or supervision.

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