Coach-like Leadership is Crucial for Leading and Managing Teams Today
In today's environment of change, leaders have more questions than answers.
“Coaches are change experts,” Coach and Trainer Tony Stoltzfus says. People managers must be coach-like leaders in order to successfully lead and manage teams.
How to Become Coach-like: Learn from the Coaches
“The indispensable role of the coach is to be able to help them—not tell them as a coach, but help them discover the truth and the reality of what is happening, that may or may not be something that they want to discover about themselves,” Coach and former CEO Tim Khoo explained, in a dialogue last July hosted by the AEN (Adult Education Network). “It takes a deft skill to be able to help someone see themselves.”
Chat over Coffee session hosted by the AEN (Adult Education Network) Special Interest Groups (Coaching and Mentoring): "Of Containers & Content - Coaching from the perspectives of a previous CEO."
Tim Khoo is former President and CEO of Prison Fellowship International, and currently a Sojourner Guide and Existential Coach. Tim was joined by Wen-Wei Chiang, Senior Consultant and Head of Executive Coaching at ROHEI, and Jean Yap, Senior Consultant and Executive Coach at ROHEI.
Tim’s experience as a former CEO was instrumental in his path toward coaching.
At the AEN session, Tim’s dialogue with Wen-wei and Jean dug deep into the heart of a coach, to unearth pivotal principles that can empower and inspire leaders as they lead teams through this season of change.
What follows are key perspectives from that dialogue that encapsulate the heart of a coach, and what it takes to be a coach-like leader.
The Heart of a Coach: Key Perspectives
As much as we try to reduce leadership to a series of actions, to a set of skills, it will always transcend that. - WEN-WEI CHIANG, COURAGEOUS LEADERSHIP
We know that listening and asking questions are key to coaching. But developing coach-like leadership goes beyond having the right questions, frameworks, and conversational tools. It involves a shift in one’s mindset and perspective of a leader’s role.
1. “Be the best FOR the world” rather than “be the best IN the world”
Tim’s own journey from being CEO to a coach was a painful but rewarding transformation that re-framed his sense of purpose and allowed him to discover the essence—the fundamental heart-set—of being a coach.
“Do I want to be the best in the world again? Do I want to be the CEO again?” Tim asked himself during a reflective season in his journey. “Or is the second half of my life about being the best for the world? One word difference but it makes all the difference in the world.”
“Leadership begins the moment you are more concerned about others' flourishing than you are about your own.” ANDY CROUCH
The big shift is from the leader trying to perform, to helping others with their growth and transformation. A leader wanting to be his/her best, not for oneself, but for others.
That is the difference between coaching the person and coaching the problem.
When this shift happens in a coach, they are able to help the individual succeed, with no ulterior motives. The leader does not see the person as a means to meet their goals.
This shift is significant, and people can sense the difference.
When leaders are able to focus on the person and are not fixated on the issues and problems, they bring out the best in the person. This enables the leader and staff to work together to find solutions.
2. Have the courage and willingness to go first
Being a coach-like leader is having the courage to take the first step and lead by example, being vulnerable and talking openly about one’s own faults.
Tim shares that some people find it very uncomfortable to hold a mirror to themselves. They feel unsafe, so coaches gain trust by lending their own personal stories for reflection.
“Some people just find it very uncomfortable to introspect. So they can reflect on my story, but actually, they’re reflecting on themselves. I found that to be the case in a number of different instances," Tim shares. "That way, it is safe for them. It’s about saying, “I have a story. I’ll just tell you in a minute, because it’s not about me, it’s about you. And then the powerful questions, thereafter, help them into that space as well.”
This empowers staff with the courage to go into uncomfortable places and gain greater self-awareness, helping them build wellness and resilience, and discover their own next steps.
3. Walk alongside them and understand their stories and context
The power of being a coach-like leader is relationship. Through an exchange of listening and sharing, coach-like leaders are able to build a foundation of trust and relationship.
The power of being a coach-like leader is relationship.
It’s a radical shift from leadership that simply shows the way and tells people what to do. The leader moves from being above a person, to walking alongside. Listening and understanding, he is then able to respond meaningfully and lead effectively.
4. Be curious and interested, not assuming
Tim highlighted that wisdom requires unlearning—identifying and letting go of one’s assumptions and biases. This takes place when leaders are willing to listen, curious to learn from those they are leading.
If knowledge is about learning, sometimes wisdom is about unlearning. - TIM KHOO
“So, if knowledge is about learning, sometimes wisdom is about unlearning. Sometimes, people have to unlearn in order to excel, not really learn,” Tim says. “So, it is not about skills acquisition at a certain point in their career. It is about unlearning some, maybe, bad habits.”
Staff also have some unlearning to do, which coach-like leaders can help them with.
“And the curiosity of a coach enables the individual to look afresh at their journeys through the corporation, and say, ‘Yeah, I have been making assumptions about this new role from an old role that I shouldn’t anymore.’” Tim points out.
“If I coach the person, and I’m curious about them, wherever they want to go, I can ask the powerful questions that will help get them into that place, even if I knew nothing about that particular area.”
Tim says that it doesn’t matter whether you are coaching a CEO or a 25-year-old. “It’s a great journey because I am learning from them, and I am having to unlearn as many of us are, along the way.”
Coach-Like Leadership Can Lead to Breakthrough
Amidst the changing realities of work, the value of people stays constant. Crucial and indispensable, people are the heart of a thriving organisation.
Leadership must evolve to serve people and empower them for growth.
Leaders and managers who are coach-like nurture people into flourishing and being their best. This is beneficial to the individual, the leader, and the larger organisation. When people flourish, so does the business.
In a season of crisis like this one, the heartset of a coach stands out as a human, authentic, and courageous way of leading. This dynamic paves the way for new levels of innovation, collaboration, and performance.
These are challenging times for leaders and teams, but they also present a great opportunity. An opportunity to build deeper bonds of trust and relationship, and in so doing, discover better ways of leading, collaborating, and thriving.
Note: These insights were shared by Coach Tim Khoo at the Chat over Coffee session hosted by the AEN (Adult Education Network) Special Interest Groups (Coaching and Mentoring): "Of Containers & Content - Coaching from the perspectives of a previous CEO." Tim was joined by Wen-Wei Chiang, Senior Consultant and Head of Executive Coaching at ROHEI, and Jean Yap, Senior Consultant and Executive Coach at ROHEI.