Leader as Coach – Are you up for it?

Selina Ryan – Masters of Organisational Coaching, Meta Coach.

Do you think you are a good leader? What’s your leadership style? Could it do with some work to get better results from your employees?

Possessing a coaching style of management can dramatically assist effective leadership. Empowering and motivating people around you to step up means work can be taken off your plate. It may seem easier to do it yourself sometimes or tell people what to do, but helping direct reports develop their critical thinking, technical or organisational skills is better in the long term for their development. If you keep giving the answers people will keep coming to you.

One of the many benefits of business or executive coaching is it allows clients to develop their own coaching ability to work thorough problems they are having with their staff in their session and take this knowledge into the workplace. We call this ‘coach the coach’ or ‘leader as coach’. Studies in the Journal of Management and Consulting Psychology Journal highlight the positive impact of coaching on overall organisational performance.

I have many clients who utilise coaching sessions to do just this. They are often clients who understand the benefits and process and look at implementing a similar style for working with their employees.

So what does it take to be a leader as coach?

  • Shift any fixed mind-sets you may have about peoples potential to grow. Low expectations are rarely helpful in coaching. Adopt a growth mind-set that assumes that people are able to learn and develop.
  • Active listening – Become an active listener.   Give people your full attention; with supporting body language and by acknowledging what you hear them say. Paraphrase things and summarise.
  • Recognise any biases you have which can impact on your view of that person, eg their work style or personality
  • Remember that coaching is a supportive approach which is about encouraging independence and allowing people to learn by making mistakes
  • Earn your employees trust, give compliments where they are due, comment on good examples, give honest feedback
  • Commit to a coaching program yourself or a short coaching course to understand the benefits and the style of effective coaching

Have a bag of great questions

Coaching is not about having all the answers but about knowing the right questions to ask people. There are different styles of questions, so here are a few to help you.

Getting Started Questions

  • What could we work on today?
  • What do you want to achieve with this project?
  • What inspires you about your job?

Goal Setting Questions

  • What is the clear and specific goal you want to achieve?
  • What could you do in that situation?
  • If you knew you couldn’t fail what would you do?

Analyzing Questions

  • What stops you from going ahead?
  • Who else is losing sleep over this?
  • What is the bigger picture?
  • What needs to change here?
  • Why is this your problem?
  • What’s missing?

Exploring Options

  • What personal strengths do you bring to this?
  • What is needed to make this work?
  • What are the effects of this action?
  • What option would add the most value?

Further Resources:

– HBR Guide to Coaching Employees – Harvard Business Review Press

– You Coach Now – 101 Life Changing Questions – Ton de Graaf


Equilibrio’s business services are engaged and retained by start-up entrepreneurs, online entrepreneurs, thought leaders, coaches, consultants, venture capitalists, established business owners, managing directors, SME CEOs, general managers and other business builders.