By Annie Thompsett – 20Twenty Leadership Programme Tutor and Executive Business Coach.
Psychological resilience is described as the ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly. It exists when the individual uses mental processes and behaviours to promote their strengths and protect themselves from the potential negative effects of stressors.
Certainly, the last few months have thrown all manner of stresses at us, from coping with the risk of catching Covid-19, to loss of income and the challenges of working remotely whilst perhaps juggling other aspects of life.
There have been many leadership challenges, not only coping with our own lives, but trying to engage, motivate and help our teams build resilience and perform in this new world.
Coaching Leadership Styles
As restrictions are slowly relaxed and we move into this next phase, we will need to continue to flex our style and help our teams adapt to a new way of working. Adopting a coaching style into your leadership toolkit is one powerful way in which you can achieve this.
One of the main principles of coaching is that the individual has the answers within them. A leader who adopts a coaching style, encourages their team to solve their own problems rather than giving them the answers.
As a leader under pressure, particularly time pressure, it can be tempting to ‘direct’ your team, telling them what to do.
However, this creates a ‘problem focused’ team where they have the mindset of “I have a problem, I need to ask my leader”. This results in you being in constant demand and unable to focus on your own role.
Leaders often think that by directing their teams they are in control. However, the reality is this is often illusionary.
Evidence shows however, that when leaders predominantly adopt this style, people lose heart, become demotivated and disengaged. They stop coming up with ideas and can lose confidence.
They may also tell their leader they’re doing things, but the disengaged individual is more likely to either not do something or do it in a half-hearted manner and cut corners.
A Solution Focused Team
Adopting a coaching approach encourages individuals to think for themselves and creates a ‘solution focused team’. They move towards a mindset of “I have a problem and these are the options, can I check in with you?”, to as they grow in confidence “I had a problem and this is what I’ve done about it.”
Asking them what they think they should do, makes them feel trusted and valued which will boost their motivation and engagement. When a person feels in control, it also reduces stress and they feel they can cope, which builds their resilience.
If they implement their ideas and it goes wrong, using the coaching process you can help them to evaluate what happened and how they can avoid making the same mistake again. Conversely, if it goes right, they will grow in confidence and take the next steps.
Stages Of A Coaching Approach
If you have an image of your team running off in all directions, you have the wrong picture.
Coaching has a clear process and there are many frameworks available which provide a clear structure to a conversation. Typically these work through the following stages:
- Headline description of the issue or challenge.
- Identifying what success looks like or where an individual is trying to get to.
- Exploring where they currently are in relation to that outcome or goal, what’s working and what might be stopping them.
- Identifying their options or choices and the pros and cons of those.
- Agreeing the actions they are going to take to move forwards.
- Reviewing progress – what worked, what has not and establishing the next steps.
In working through these stages you can keep track of what they’re doing and how they’re getting on.
I’m not suggesting that you spend two hours a week coaching each member of your team. You can however break the conversation into chunks, with ‘corridor coaching’.
Imagine a team member, stopping you at the coffee machine to ask for help with an issue. Now, I’m encouraging you to hit the pause button and to ask one or two powerful questions such as:
“What is it you’re trying to achieve, and what one thing could you do that might move things forward?”. Then agree to meet at a later date to catch up on progress.
There’s a raft of evidence to demonstrate the value and benefits of coaching for individuals and organisations. However, the leaders who coach, also gain significantly too.
I often use the analogy of Meerkats when describing how coaching benefits the development of leaders. In this image of a group of Meerkats, you can see those who are running around on the ground, up to their neck in the “muck and bullets”.
There are also some standing on their hind legs – one looking backwards, perhaps to spot the great lion about to attack, and the one looking forwards, perhaps searching for the next meal, or horizon scanning for a better den.
Many leaders often describe themselves yo-yoing between the “muck and the bullets” and the upright meerkats. This is often the case when they have teams who don’t have the right skills, knowledge or confidence to perform at a high level.
This may be a consequence of the culture or structure but also may be a result of a leader not letting go and being too directive.
Adopting a coaching style, strengthens your team so that they can deal with the “muck and the bullets” of operations.
This frees you up to have more “upright Meerkat moments”. For example, identifying risks, developing strategy and relationships and generally having the head space to think.
I use a range of models in my coaching practice. Identify a few powerful open questions and the next time one of your team asks for your advice, hit the pause button and instead of telling them what to do, try asking a powerful open question, then be quiet and see what happens.
The 20Twenty Programme looks in depth at different methods of coaching. By learning about coaching models and refining your approach, you will develop valuable coaching techniques to improve your leadership skills.
Annie Thompsett is an Executive Business Coach on the 20Twenty Leadership Programme. She also runs Compass Coaching and Consulting Ltd, helping organisations, teams and individuals to manage change.