Coaches Succeed When They Have the Right Mindset
Command and control isn’t the only way to relate to employees, nor is it the best mindset when you want to engender staff who are more creative or empowered. Coaching skills also help managers demonstrate their interest in their employees, a key factor for retaining and engaging employees.
That’s why there’s a lot of talk these days about managers and leaders using coaching skills. It’s actually an acronym referenced in courses and coaching studies by the International Coach Federation: “MLUCS.”
And while the skills of coaching tend to feel more tangible and executable to the learner (or boss who is funding the training), the coach mindset is the more important factor in whether or not your coaching conversations with others come across as genuine, growth oriented, or even well intentioned.
Many factors contribute to getting the coach mindset wrong. Here’s how to shift your mindset:
- Skillset: After years of telling and directing, most managers and leaders are well-practiced at watching out for problems, telling staff how to avoid or fix them, and having the answers themselves. Managers and leaders have to move from the mindset of “problem solver” and allow for the employee to be a part of creating the solution.
- Identity: Let’s not forget how easily one’s sense of self is built by, and rewarded for, having answers. Instead, asking employees for creative answers, and starting conversations about an employee’s development without prescribing their path or even pretending to have the right answer, can feel like a relinquishing of control, threatening a leader’s identity by altering perhaps long-held views of how leaders provide value. Think of coaching as adding a new dimension to your identity as a leader—as a coach, you aren’t dispensing answers. You’re standing side-by-side with somebody and giving them room to grow.
- Time: Additionally, taking a coaching approach to supervision rings in many MLUCS’ ears as having to spend even more time with employees in an already packed workday. They want conversations to be quicker or less frequent, not longer or more frequent. Thing is, effective in-the-moment coaching is the short and frequent, open communication that empowers the employee.
- Role: Shifting to a coach mindset often needs to take place in the middle of the same conversation in which suggestions or answers are offered based on experience and expertise (mentoring/teaching), or performance-related directives are being given (supervision). Ask your employee if they’d like you to help them think through some options together. This helps you make sure you’re providing the support that is needed, and once confirmed, you can intentionally reframe your mindset in order to focus on asking open questions and listening effectively.
Your coaching mindset is the place where your intentions lie. This is your reason for bothering to have coaching conversations in the first place. Whoever your stakeholders are, don’t leave them guessing about whether they can assume you have positive intent, or see them as a situation to be “dealt with.”
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