When you hear the word “coach”, what comes first into your mind? Do you picture a basketball team with a man/woman shouting out directions? Or perhaps a football team with a man/woman pacing to and fro and calling out the players’ names?
Coaching is no longer reserved for sports teams; it is now one of the key concepts in leadership and management. Why is coaching popular?
Coaching levels the playing field.
Coaching is one of the six emotional leadership styles proposed by Daniel Goleman. Moreover, it is a behaviour or role that leaders enforce in the context of situational leadership. As a leadership style, coaching is used when the members of a group or team are competent and motivated but do not have an idea of the long-term goals of an organisation. This involves two levels of coaching: team and individual. Team coaching makes members work together. In a group of individuals, not everyone may have nor share the same level of competence and commitment to a goal. A group may be a mix of highly competent and moderately competent members with varying levels of responsibility. These differences can cause friction among the members. The coaching leader helps the members level their expectations. Also, the coaching leader manages differing perspectives so that the common goal succeeds over personal goals and interests. In a big organisation, leaders need to align the staffs’ values and goals with that of the organisation so that everyone can pursue long-term directions.
Coaching builds up confidence and competence.
Individual coaching is an example of situational leadership at work. It aims to mentor one-on-one, build up members’ confidence by affirming good performance during regular feedback, and increase competence by helping members assess their strengths and weaknesses towards career planning and professional development. Depending on the individual’s level of competence and commitment, a leader may exercise more coaching behaviour for the less-experienced members. Usually, this happens in the case of new staff. The direct supervisor gives more defined tasks, holds regular feedback for the latest team, and gradually lessens the amount of coaching, directing, and supporting roles to favour delegating as competence and confidence increase.
Coaching promotes individual and team excellence.
Excellence is a product of habitual good practice. The regularity of meetings and constructive feedback is essential in establishing habits. Members catch the habit of constantly assessing themselves for their strengths and areas for improvement. They perceive what knowledge, skills, and attitudes they need to acquire to attain team goals. In the process, they reach excellence individually as well. An example is in the case of a musical orchestra: each member plays a different instrument. To achieve harmony of music from the various instruments, members will polish their part in the piece, aside from practising as an ensemble. Consequently, they improve individually as an instrument player.
Coaching develops high commitment to common goals.
A coaching leader balances the attainment of immediate targets with long-term goals towards the vision of an organisation. As mentioned earlier, with the alignment of personal goals with organisational or team goals, personal interests are kept in check. By constantly communicating the vision through formal and informal conversations, the members are inspired and motivated. Setting short-term team goals aligned with organisational goals and making an action plan to attain these goals can help sustain increased motivation and commitment to the members’ shared goals.
Coaching produces valuable leaders.
Leadership by example is vital in coaching. A coaching leader loses credibility when they cannot practice what they preach. This means that you should well organise a coaching leader, highly competent in their field, communicates openly and encourages feedback, and has a clear idea of the organisation’s vision-mission-goals. By vicarious and purposive learning, members catch the coaching leader’s same good practices and attitudes, turning them into coaching leaders themselves. If a member experiences good coaching, they are most likely to do the same things when entrusted with formal leadership roles.
Some words of caution, though: coaching is just one of the styles of leadership. YOu can do it in combination with the other five emotional leadership styles depending on the profile of the emerging team. Moreover, coaching as a leadership style requires that you are physically, emotionally, and mentally fit most of the time since it involves two levels of coaching: individual and team. Your members expect you to be the last one to give up or bail out in any situation, especially during times of crisis. A coaching leader must be conscious that coaching entails investing time in each individual and the whole team. Moreover, the responsibilities are greater since while you are coaching members, you are also developing future coaches.