It’s almost 30 years since “Coaching for Performance” by Sir John Whitmore catapulted coaching into the leadership psyche. Before that, coaches were found in the sports arena, not the Boardroom. It’s a good book and its impact endures – there’s a very strong chance you have used Whitmore’s GROW coaching model.  There are spin-offs too – there’s TGROW and there’s GROWER and there’s GROWLER (actually, I don’t think there is a GROWLER, but I like the sound of it 😁).

Coaching is now so firmly embedded in the leadership psyche that the narrative “Good leaders must coach” goes unquestioned. And I believe this has done more harm than good because it means that fundamental conversation practices all leaders should adopt in their day-to-day interactions are assigned to the box labelled ‘coaching’. They’re taken out only for ‘coaching conversations.’

I’ve spoken to many leaders who can’t wait to complete their organisation’s coaching programme because they believe coaching is such a magical activity.

It isn’t – it’s a conversation.

Behaviours such as…

  • Listening to understand
  • Asking insightful questions
  • Challenging constructively
  • Sharing views, when appropriate, but not imposing them

…aren’t coaching behaviours; they’re leadership behaviours.  

So, this brings me to the second good leadership habit I’d recommend you adopt in 2021 if you want to build a really strong, productive team. 

Use these good conversation behaviours in every single interaction with your team; don’t assign them to coaching. 

You will find they have a significant impact. They will bring focus and open up new perspectives. They will help people overcome barriers. They will ensure people take a long hard, realistic look at what is happening and what needs to be done. They will hold people to account. They will get people to step out of the day-to-day and think differently.

By the way, be sure to add these behaviours to the practice of regular, structured one-to-ones that I outlined in my last article if you really want to see an impact.

One important caveat in the behaviours above – I said that leaders share their views, when appropriate, but don’t impose them. Next week I’ll explore more about this in the third core leadership habit I recommend you adopt for 2021.  

New Year’s Resolution No. 2 – Step away from the coaching!