Have you had a vacancy in your executive leadership team and been unable to immediately appoint someone from within your organisation to that position?
Are you struggling to find internal candidates to step into senior leadership roles inside your business? Coaching and developing your emerging leaders will ensure that you have a pool of home-grown contenders feeding into your succession pipeline. Whilst transforming your pipeline takes time, there are 3 things you can do right now to role model exceptional coaching so that others can follow your lead.
1. Be present
How hard is it to be present these days? An unprecedented amount of distractions, physical and digital, continuously hijack our focus and attention. When you’re coaching you need to be present; fully focused on the coachee and not distractedly thinking about ‘other stuff’. This will ensure that your coachee feels that you’re fully tuned in to them.
To do this:
- Set your intention for each conversation
How do you want to be in the conversation? What do you need to let go before the conversation? How would you like your coachee to feel during and after your conversation? Ensure you take five minutes to set your intention before you coach.
- Remove digital distractions
They erode presence. Switch off your phone, move away from your laptop, have your back to any screens and face your coachee. Find a quiet space where you will not be interrupted.
- Notice and manage your wandering attention
Try to keep your mind in the ‘here and now’, focused on the person. When you notice your mind wandering, take mindfulness teacher Jack Kornfield’s advice and treat your mind as a playful puppy and gently ‘bring the puppy back’ to the present moment.
2. Shut up and listen
Silence is golden and nowhere is this more important than within a coaching conversation. It is essential to keep your mouth closed and your ears open to enable your emerging leader to do the work. Here are three useful tips to enable your listening:
- Listen with your whole being
Listen with your ears, eyes, heart and body. When you are deeply listening, you can hear more than just words. You can also listen for emotions, meaning and even the unsaid. What can you hear, see, feel and sense when you listen fully?
- Don’t interrupt
Interrupting your emerging leader is a sign that you’re not listening. Instead of listening, you’re formulating and sharing your own thoughts. Let them finish.
- Watch out for your biases and assumptions
Confirmation bias wires your brain to listen out for what you already know. Assumptions cloud your listening and block out the intended message. Let go of what you think you know and listen to understand.
3. Stop advising, start questioning
Make it your mission to park your advice and ask questions instead; there’s nothing more useful than a powerful question. The most significant challenge for you as a senior leader is that you’re going to have to let go of being an advice-giving Guru. This can be particularly challenging when people perceive you as an all-seeing, all-knowing authority. You will be amazed at what your emerging leader can come up with when you ask a great question and provide silence as they formulate their response.
- Ask open questions to help you open up a conversation
Asking ‘How… ?’ and ‘What… ?’, questions to help your emerging leader get clarity on their goal and figure out where they’re currently at is a good first step. If you’re keen, find yourself a good question framework to boost your coaching capabilities. Sir John Whitmore’s GROW model or Michael Bungay Stanier’s book ‘The Coaching Habit’ are great places to start.
- Use ‘And what else?’ to stretch your emerging leader’s thinking
This question encourages them to come up with even more ideas and deeper thinking. When they have a stream of good ideas keep asking ‘And what else?’ until they can’t come up with anything more.
- Select closed questions to wrap up conversations
‘Can you … ?’ and ‘Do you … ?’, and “When will you… ?’ are important to ensure that there are concrete actions following your discussion. Coaching is all about enabling your emerging leader to think differently and act upon it, therefore the action step is essential.
This three step coaching process will work wonders with your emerging leaders and in fact any other person inside your organisation. You can even use it at home! Become present, open your ears, formulate an excellent question and let the magic of coaching do its work. One final question: what’s one thing you might do to bring a coaching approach to your leadership?