Coaching and leadership: Two sides of the same coin?
Leaders need coaching skills and coaches need leadership skills. Peter Koijen and Ligia Ramos from in2motivation, an Amsterdam-based personal and professional development company, explain.
Coaching is the art of helping someone from A to B by asking the right questions, giving the right tasks and intervening when necessary. This kind of support comes from the ability to see, recognise and break patterns: patterns of mindset, body, emotions and behaviour.
These patterns give you results, and when you are not happy with your results, coaching can help you.
Leading a new generation
Nowadays, leaders have a challenging task. Firstly, they need to deal with a generation that is addicted to their smartphone, wants to fast-track their career, and looks for variety and challenge in a way that generations before have never demanded.
And all of this in an environment where identity is changing fast, technology is dominating business and decreasing the life cycles of products and services, and marketing and sales have never been more important and integrated.
Those who are leading the aforementioned generation need to be more aware of the A’s and B’s of their staff. The volatile environment requires leaders to sometimes step away from being a coach from a content point of view (sharing knowledge and experience) and to facilitate their staff without this knowledge and experience.
This means that the leader needs to be able to support their staff by asking questions, providing them with the right tasks for them to grow, and by intervening at the right time.
Coaching is the answer to separating content from process. A coach is someone who is able to be more neutral instead of being the expert for their staff. Knowledge is available everywhere, and experience is only a part of success.
Formal and informal leadership
Secondly, leaders have a bigger and more complex span of control. Nowadays, the standard organisation is a matrix one, and rules are different in an organisation like this. Formal and informal leadership are equally important, meaning the team you are leading is not only the one that is formally assigned to you. Overall, you have a bigger number of people you need to influence.
Being able to coach others makes you a real leader and a true added value for others. This is how you will be recognised as a leader- because you can improve the performance of other people. You become a leader not by knowing or having the experience, but by knowing how to push the buttons for others to be motivated and perform better.
Only when you have coaching skills and are able to ask the right questions at the right time, and/or are able to provide tasks for someone else to break patterns and become a better version of themselves will you be seen as a true leader.
Developing emotional intelligence
Thirdly, leaders need to develop their coaching skills to increase empathy and emotional intelligence. The basics for being a great coach are being open and congruent in expressing emotions; being open in a mature way, saying exactly how you feel and at the same time leaving room and space for someone else to exchange their feelings with you and to improve relationships.
True leaders embody coaching skills because they know that every emotion has a positive intention and that it is not about allowing the emotion or not. The emotion is there and it is useful. The emotion makes you and provides you with a signal to find out the motivation behind it, and possibly find alternatives.
It is important to connect with your own emotions. All of this flexibility requires empathy.
Coaching, and the role of being a coach as a leader, is crucial for the future of leaders. There will come a time that coaching is a standard part of leaders' roles, and one of the required skills in every job interview.
And there will come a time that we will have a coach-leader or leader-coach. In other words, in the future, the distinction between these two roles will disappear.
Two sides of the same coin
Leaders: prepare for your future. Since everyone is a leader in something, leaders should prepare themselves better for their coaching role. Just like coaches should prepare themselves for their leadership role.
The only way to lead is to follow first. If you don’t follow, you don’t dance the same dance, and if you dance the same dance, you should follow in order to lead.
Just like you cannot coach someone dancing with you if you don’t follow, you cannot coach someone if you don’t lead them and develop your leadership skills in your coaching role - just like leaders need to develop their coaching skills in their leadership role.
No dance without music. No music without motivation. No motivation without leadership. And no leadership without coaching skills.
Co-authors Peter Koijen and Ligia Ramos are life coaches and motivational speakers at in2motivation, offering personal and professional training courses to optimise individual and group motivation and performance.