Coaching is a hugely helpful skill for leaders and managers. It’s a great way to help team members develop. It’s particularly effective when combined with feedback and reinforcement. We often ask leaders to “show up” as a coach, but what does that really mean? Showing up as a coach doesn’t just happen. 

Showing Up

When I talk about “showing up” it is all about energy and intentionality. I admit I used to be the king of sulking – I could carry a foul mood for weeks. How many times did a bad mood taint my next experience(s) for minutes? Hours? Days even? How many good experiences and moments did I miss when I sulked? I didn’t realize it then, but I was intentionally spending energy creating negative experiences. I was responsible for that mood and how I handled it and for how I showed up. We are all solely responsible for how we show up.

For my coaching clients and teams, it is all about how I show up for them. I call it “being there.” It’s about being present and making sure that I focus and eliminate all distractions (I try to… ), so I can be my best self to help them achieve the goals they want during our session or at work. As a side note, as part of my energy, I do try to use some humor (I have a bit of a dry, dad joke style, so sometimes the humor does not land) to help keep the mood positive when appropriate. When the topic is more somber, I show up and stay focused on assisting, using empathy and compassion. When we show up, we demonstrate our connectedness.

I recently read several articles that suggest as a leader, showing up as a coach, can mean being:

  • Enthusiastic.
  • Supportive.
  • Trusting.
  • Focused.
  • Goal-oriented.
  • Observant.

I like these and add my own perspective regarding key tools a leader can use when showing up as a coach.

  • Psychological safety
  • GROW Model
  • Deep questions

Psychological Safety

Why do employees sometimes remain silent when they should speak up? Do they fear consequences? Do they feel like new ideas will not be respectfully considered? Why do we hold back our potential contributions when we know a process or project is not working correctly?

Typically, because it’s not safe to engage. We perceive the benefit of not saying anything tends to far outweigh the benefit of speaking up. Employees fear their ideas will be rejected or that others, including their leader and managers, will somehow dismiss or penalize them for their ideas. So, they keep their heads down, and they stay quiet.

In a recent survey, 70% of US workers strongly agreed that their opinion did not matter at work. Given that we are in the time of the “Great Resignation” how can we afford this disconnect? Imagine what we could do if we could create an environment in which employees felt as if their voices matter. 

First step in showing up as a leadership coach is creating an environment of psychological safety – a climate in which people are comfortable being and expressing themselves. A study at Google found that teams with high rates of psychological safety were better than other teams at implementing diverse ideas and driving high performance. They were also more likely to stay with the company.

culture of psychological safety enables employees to be engaged. They can take risks and experiment. They can express themselves without the fear of failure or retribution. So let’s look at how to show up and create psychological safety as a leadership coach. 

Leader coaches can use psychological safety to create a culture of safety and to encourage participation. Coaches can create an environment where people are safe to engage, safe to challenge, and safe to take risks. 

How can you show up as a coach?

  • Create transparency
  • Build trust
  • Team psychological safety assessment
  • Establish communication norms
  • Establish meeting norms
  • Establish rules of engagement
  • Establish mutual expectations
  • Establish conflict resolution norms

The GROW Model

In my coaching practice, I coach coachees who struggle to develop meaningful goals. Showing up as a leader coach means helping your team with their deliverables. One way to coach goal development and goal achievement is using the GROW model of coaching. 

Consider that effective coaching is about achieving goals. The coach helps the employee set meaningful ones and identify specific behaviors or steps for meeting them. The coach helps to clarify milestones or measures of success and holds the employee accountable for them. In the GROW Model, the coach acts as a facilitator, helping the coachee select the best options, not offering advice or direction. 

So what is the GROW model? The GROW model stands for Goals, Reality, Options, and Will. The desire is that by using the GROW model, the coach gets someone to think about their current state, their desired future, and how they can bridge the gap between the two.

Goal

The first stage of the GROW Coaching Model is to help your coachee (and team) think about how they’d like things to be in the future. This is done by helping express what their desired GOAL is. This stage may involve some exploration and refinement to help the coachee gain clarity over what they really want to achieve.

As a coach, you should ask exploratory and refining, future-focused deep questions at this stage (more on deep questions shortly). You should aim to help your coachee identify a goal that is stretching enough to be rewarding, but also achievable enough to be motivating.

Questions you might want to ask as a coach could include:

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What are your objectives?
  • How will you measure your objectives?
  • What does success look like?
  • How will you measure your progress towards your objectives?
  • When would you like to have solved this problem?
  • Are there smaller steps you’d like to work on? (*The journey begins with one step)
  • What will it feel like when you reach your goal?

Reality

Once someone has developed a clear picture of where they wish to be, it’s time to help them gain a clear view of their current state (the REALITY check). As a coach, you should use this stage to help your coachee develop a truly honest view of exactly where they are at the moment. This may involve asking them to broaden their thinking, consider feedback they’ve received in the past or to assess objective evidence.

Questions you might want to ask as a coach could include:

  • What is the current state?
  • What does the true reality look like?
  • What’s your current position?
  • What evidence have you received in relation to the current situation?
  • How would your peers or manager describe your situation?

Options

As a coach, your role in this stage is to help your coachee think creatively about the many OPTIONS and different things they could do to achieve their goals. There are no wrong answers at this stage, it’s all about generating many options and becoming enthused by them at the same time. Sometimes it’s difficult to identify real options.

Questions you might want to ask as a coach could include:

  • What options do you have?
  • How can you achieve your goals?
  • What other ways could you achieve your goals?
  • Who could help you achieve your goals?
  • What skills do you have to help you achieve your goals?
  • What else could you do to achieve your goals?

Will

The final stage of the GROW Coaching Model is designed to help a coachee identify a specific set of actions, and to commit to them. The leader coach/coach helps the coachee visualize the specific steps they have the WILL to take towards achieving their goals, which increases the probability they will actually do those actions. Similarly, voicing their actions and committing to them in a conversation with a coach also increases the probability they will do them.

As a coach your role at this stage is to help your coachee obtain real clarity over what their specific future steps will be and to help them commit to these actions. Knowing what steps to take can help you achieve your goals. 

Questions you might want to ask as a coach could include:

  • Given your options, what will you do next?
  • What specific steps will you take?
  • When will you take them?
  • What will it feel like?
  • How will you make sure you start the process?
  • Who will you tell about this? (accountability partner)
  • What will you say to me about this next time we meet?
  • What’s the first step you need to take?

Deep Questions

The last tool for your toolkit is deep questions (referred to in the GROW model discussion). Balancing compassion and concern for deliverables is a critical element of effective leadership. As the leadership coach you can show up by creating an opportunity for your team by using deep questions. 

The process of asking deep and thoughtful questions is something we spend a lot of time coaching our leaders around.  A good question can completely change the dynamics of a relationship.  If you want to ask questions that will spark deep conversation, start showing up as a coach. 

Showing up as a coach looks like:

  • Pause
  • Reflect on what was said
  • Summarize/paraphrase to ensure understanding
  • Ask good and thoughtful questions

Examples of deep (and thoughtful) questions?

  • Are there any roadblocks I can remove to help you succeed on your project?
  • What is preventing you from completing your work?
  • What options did you consider before making your choice?

Deep questions can be asked to individuals, teams, manager to employee, manager to team members, team member to team member, etc. Let these deep questions start to drive a new level of psychological safety, transparency, contribution, and engagement.  

To talk through how to show up as a leader coach, reach out to me at david@alvcoaching.com or check out our leadership coaches. We would be happy to provide you and your team some personalized follow-up based on how your conversation goes. 

What are you doing to “show up” for yourself and others?

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David Molotsky

Howdy! David Molotsky here and I am a Leadership Coach with Ama La Vida. My coaching approach is founded in Emotional Intelligence. We explore what you know about yourself and your action, as well as what you know about and how you behave with others.

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