Simple Suggestions to be a Better Coach

    Like most leaders, I walk around with a slightly elevated belief in myself and my abilities. There is a little Dunning-Kruger in us all!

    In most things leadership, I have room for improvement. We all do.

    I truly believed I was a great coach... I have participated in coaching training programs, read a few books, and have never received negative feedback over my coaching skills. So of course I thought I was great at coaching and empowering my team!



    Here’s the Reality:

    • Many leaders don’t know what they don’t know. They think they are better than they really are, blinded by The Dunning-Kruger Effect, and so do the HR teams that support them.

    • Few companies have rich feedback cultures, so leaders don’t get the feedback they need to improve. (Again, many think they do, but they don’t).

    • Through traditional training programs, we tell leaders what they should be doing. But after an initial spike, they go back to the same old habits because they think they worked just fine.

    That’s also my reality. I thought I was better than I was. No one told me otherwise. However, as I look back, I see that had I many bad coaching habits.

    What about you? Ask yourself:

    • Have you “told” someone on your team what they should do? I have!

    • Have you “advised, consulted or shown” a team member what they should do? I have!

    • Do you enjoy handing “control” to your team and letting them figure things out with the potential for failure? I struggle with it!

    To learn more about the art of coaching, I read some books and did some research:

    I quickly realised that I must get better at enabling my team to find solutions for themselves. I did so by asking provocative questions which lead to 'a-ha' moments for them. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing their excitement and motivation as the team proposed solutions that were far better than anything I would have ever done.

    Here are some examples:

    • When we began the development of our leadership development program on coaching, I did what I have always done. I approached our design guru and said,

      “This is how we should go about the design. This is how I’ve always done it, and if you do it this way, you’ll do well.”

      A couple of weeks into the design process,  I was inspired by what I read in “The Coaching Habit,” and I wanted to start using questions. When a design challenge was very apparent, I asked,

      “What do you think we should do?”

      Their face lit up with excitement and out came an outstanding idea on a design mechanism that I would never have thought of. I realized I let my team down and stole their autonomy. I assumed because of my experience, my way must be the right way. It's simply not true.

    • Towards the end of last year, we wanted to do something cool for our customers. Traditionally we had sent a Christmas card and a little something. Historically I would have said to marketing,

      “Let’s do something for our customers. How about a personal Christmas card and some generic gift?”

      Instead I said to marketing,

      “We should do something cool for our customers, what do you think we should do?”.

      A couple of days later they had created a postcard citing our achievements for the year and some custom-made DX cookies. It was brilliant!



    In both cases, their motivation and enthusiasm to do what was being asked of them was far greater than I have ever seen before. I later learned through my reading of Quiet Leadership that dopamine is released when someone has their own eureka moment, which is why they are intrinsically motivated.

    The concept of Quiet Leadership is a game changer. It cements the concept of asking for ideas from others instead of advising and suggesting things for them. It’s time to stop thinking for your teams!

    This behavior doesn’t come naturally and neuroscience backs that up. We aren’t hard-wired to be great coaches. The human brain craves control, so asking questions and empowering people to think for themselves is relinquishing control. Our brains don’t like that! We need to work hard at this habit to have a chance of success.

    Let's stop working hard to create an army of followers, who will do whatever we say, and create an army of leaders, who can think for themselves.

    The first part of habit formation is to know you have room for improvement to begin with. Embrace that Growth Mindset. You are not perfect, never will be, and the only thing you can do is to improve. That’s the sickness in business that the DX team is on a mission to solve! We create the self-awareness and motivation that inspires every leader to strive for improvement and perform better.

    You will achieve so much more as a Quiet Leader. I certainly have. Don’t do all the talking. Start asking, and start listening.

    In training, we ought to not be telling, advising, and suggesting what leaders can do to get better, we ought to be creating experiences that allow them to think for themselves. that’s the power of experiential learning. Leaders get to learn by doing, and not “told” or “shown” how to be better, they learn it for themselves.

    I am truly excited about 2021! This year I will become a more quiet leader, a superior facilitator, an exceptional designer of leadership development programs that will change the workplace, and a more-attentive husband and father.

    I will accomplish this with one very simple act: Ask more; tell less.

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