By Sharon Walsh, VP, Technology Management
As with many things in life, coaching is not one of those skills where you can follow a step-by-step guide to become an expert. In my opinion, coaching is a highly personal approach that you develop over time as a leader, but it must be an authentic representation of you. It can take years of practice to hone your style.
In my early days as a manager, I would have been much more directive with my teams in terms of my coaching approach. When I was responsible for more junior associates that was perfectly acceptable as it was my job to tell them how to do their job. As I moved into more senior leadership roles which required me to grow and develop the next generation of leaders, I needed to adapt my style. My style had to change from that directive way of leading to one where I didn’t instinctively offer solutions and where I became much more of a facilitator.
As a facilitator I try to ask more questions and help my team to determine the solutions themselves rather than me telling them what to do or how to do it. Over the years I have learned and observed that giving solutions is rarely a bridge to a conversation that really matters. Questions invite everyone to the conversation whereas providing answers offers little in terms of learning for everyone involved. This approach takes practice and patience – it can be hard not to respond with answers and solutions – I am still guilty of this from time to time.
Two other elements of my coaching approach are empowerment and fostering a strong culture of collaboration within the team. Listening and continually iterating on what our next steps should be is necessary for our collective success. I have personally found that this approach leads to better decisions and outcomes than I could have possibly come up with myself. My team is also well positioned to learn and develop because they are making the decisions and going through the thought process themselves.
Through my coaching journey I have accepted being comfortable with not responding and by not being an expert in fixing all problems or having all the answers. My coaching style is always under pinned by my desire to support the learning and development of my team members.