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Kevin Watson


Managing Director

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Coaching-led leadership: why it’s time to put more power in the hands of your people


Corporate governance and rigid hierarchies in businesses today could be preventing growth and success. Coaching-led leadership is an avenue through which leaders can empower their team to make the big decisions.

Despite an increasing lack of trust in leadership today and a growing decline in workplace cultures, many businesses are still operating amid a great deal of hierarchy and unnecessary company politics. Teams that are run solely on a model of corporate governance risk lagging behind in today’s customer-centric world, because customers can feel your culture too (or lack of it).

Of course, teams need systems and processes to operate efficiently but the issue is that many businesses get the balance wrong.

Too much corporate governance and varying levels of authority are often counterproductive to business goals and lack the ingredients needed to empower and connect people. Individuals are instinctively hesitant in making decisions, especially if they lack confidence in their leadership, peers and the environment they work in.

Coaching as a concept is nothing new, but in the past it has been far too regimented and formalised. Businesses need to take a step back and look at the purpose of their coaching because there are so many missed ‘coaching in the moment’ opportunities every day, which stifle, rather than free up, teams to learn and grow.

Coaching ‘in the moment’

As a leader, using a four-step coaching model can be very useful.  When a challenge presents itself, take a step back. Adjust your usual mindset and asking yourself the question: ‘is this a coachable moment?’. Ask your team members powerful questions and then actively listen.

There are so many opportunities to coach ‘in the moment’ and it is a far more effective approach to supporting your team’s learning and development because everyone has to play their part from the bottom up to top down.  

Coaching-led leadership is about empowering people, regardless of job title, to make decisions independently and to think for themselves. As leaders, we need to be asking questions such as: ‘What would you do if I wasn’t here?’

The more consistent and empowering coaching is, the more habitual it becomes. We want teams to feel free to challenge themselves, to independently suggest new solutions to problems and to make recommendations for moving forward, until it becomes almost second nature.

We need to encourage some of the key traits of the entrepreneur within our people and teams: the spirit of adventure, the desire to succeed and the will to break down barriers and make a difference. 

Using coaching-led tactics also helps to free up a manager’s time. People are more than capable of making good decisions even though they might be afraid of putting a stake in the ground initially, but it is about developing trust and allowing people to take the plunge and go with their instincts.

If they fail, let them fail quickly and learn quickly while avoiding a blame culture at all costs.  Businesses only succeed in fostering a robust and loyal team by moving forward, not by looking in the rear view mirror.  

A pride and envy culture

There is a difference between coaching and mentoring. While mentoring tends to be more strategic and is dependent on the mentor giving insight, a coaching-led approach should ensure that the person being coached is in the right frame of mind.

For the employee it is about taking responsibility and embracing change, for the leader it is an opportunity to support, listen, encourage and empower people to think on their feet while turning risks into positives.

If it is done right, it can instil that all-important pride and envy culture – a pride in what we do and the people we work for as well as being part of an enviable place to work. This, in turn, nurtures great morale and stabilises retention.

Building the right team around you, one that continues to grow and develop in the future, is vital.

We need to encourage some of the key traits of the entrepreneur within our people and teams: the spirit of adventure, the desire to succeed and the will to break down barriers and make a difference.

Of course, on the flipside, so many entrepreneurs get to a certain point in their journey where they reach a turning point. Leadership can be lonely and entrepreneurs are quick to learn that they cannot be everywhere or succeed in total isolation, they need input from others, structure and process.

It is really all about balance – balance of some corporate governance (which doesn’t limit progression) and encouraging a spirit of empowerment, resilience and responsibility.

Removing governance barriers

Most leaders are time poor and task rich, so coaching-led leadership can help to alleviate some of that pressure. Roles and responsibilities matter in coaching but you also need a strategy.

How are you going to achieve positive results from coaching-led leadership? How are you going to make coaching meaningful? You have to break it down to ensure you have the clarity and the intent to drive it.

Building the right team around you, one that continues to grow and develop in the future, is vital. Coaching-led leadership is a huge part of this development and an even bigger part of establishing a strong and thriving team culture.

In the name of progress, you need to be quick to remove certain levels of governance from your business if they are becoming a barrier.

Getting your team involved in the overall decision-making process to help you redress the balance between systems and processes will also give them some control over their own freedom to achieve, as well as the ongoing opportunity to learn and develop. 


Author Profile Picture
Kevin Watson

Managing Director

Read more from Kevin Watson

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