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Uncertainty is the new normal. Enthusiasm has dwindled. Teams, and even friends, spend more time pulling each other down with negative speculation than lifting each other up with creative ideas. You might think these times call for you to be a strong leader when actually, this is the perfect time for you to coach.
Yes, people that look up to you need you to be open, honest, and more communicative than usual. They need you to paint a possible vision of the future that gives them hope. They need to see you as strong and confident, acting as a lighthouse shining through the dark.
You can be the beacon of light for others, but when they leave you, they will be bombarded with alarming media posts, fearful messages from family members and friends, and irritating comments by those who laugh at their optimism. No matter how inspiring your vision is, the world around them will put a pin in your vision bubble. Emotions shape our reality more than facts.
You can’t just tell people to focus on the bright side and have them stay there. Without a sense of certainty about the future, real or not, the dark side prevails. You must shift the stories they are living by in order to change their minds.
Coaching is most effective when people must shift their beliefs and release their fears to stay hopeful and productive. They need to be coached so the changes in their brains are real and permanent, lasting long after your conversation with them.
The role of the leader in times of uncertainty is to coach people to think differently, not tell them what to do.
Most humans react to uncertainty by imagining the worse case scenario and believing it exists. They need you to be their thinking partner to discover what new work they are being called to do, which will help lift their spirits above the noise.
Besides, when the future is uncertain, there is no clear way forward for you to share. The best you can do is to coach them to examine their perspective so they find the opportunities in the challenges presented and the courage to be a light for others. If you start conversations with coaching, you give them the space and energy to join you in co-creating a meaningful present that could pave the way for a significant future.
I’ve been teaching leaders to use a coaching approach in their conversations for 25 years. The story never changes. They love the idea of coaching but they think it saves time to just tell people what to do.
I disagree. I think it saves time to coach people to think more broadly for themselves. They become agile thinkers who don’t have to go to their bosses for answers. I often ask my coaching clients, “What will you do with the time you gain when you don’t have to put out every fire for your employees?” You don’t need to be a certified coach to engage others in ways that will expand how they see their capabilities and circumstances.
The International Coach Federation definition of coaching is:
Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”
The key word that differentiates coaching from other interactions is partnering. Coaches act as thinking partners, helping people solve their problems through conversations where they see beyond their blocks. The results are empowering.
Add these four steps to your conversations to quickly change minds and behavior:
To coach well, you must
President John F. Kennedy said, “After the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for our victories or defeats…but for our contribution to the human spirit.” In times of uncertainty, they need you to lead with coaching.
Ideas in this post constructed from excerpts in Marcia’s new book, Coach the Person, Not the Problem: A Guide to Using Reflective Inquiry available for pre-order now. I have bonus content for you if you fill out this form with your purchase information.