7 Key Ideas for a Leader-Coach

The first thing to know about leadership is that good leaders are great coaches. Being a good coach is a challenging, long-term duty but it's one of the most rewarding things you can do. After all, what's better than helping others reach their potential for the benefit of the entire team?

Every leader of a team should strive to be a leader who coaches.

Here are 7 tips for coaching your team better:

1. Coach to improve long-term performance.

The best coaches are also some of the most patient people on earth. Why? Because they understand that leading employees to greatness takes time. They also understand that coaching is a multi-step process. Coaches help and show people what they're capable of, guide them how to get there, and then encourage them along the way. Great coaches see the value in each of these deliberate steps; they know coaching is about the journey, not the destination.

Coaching is a marathon, not a sprint.

2. Help team members find and focus on their strengths.

Part of being a coach is helping people discover what they're good at. When people realize what they're good at, they gain confidence. And when people gain confidence, they're a lot more motivated and driven to contribute those strengths in a positive way. Helping team members discover their strengths starts with close communication and trust. While helping each team member recognize their individual strengths, also show each team member the power of coming together. Show them how to be stronger together.

Coaching is bringing out the best in others.

3. Ask open–ended questions.

As a motivational speaker and leadership trainer, I am always looking for ways to probe my audiences with thought-provoking questions. I've realized that the best questions I can ask are those that challenge people to think with their brains and their hearts (both logical and emotional). The types of questions that truly move people into self-exploration and positive action are the most open-ended. Since these questions don't have a right answer, they allow people to freely express and discover their own answers.

I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum potential.
— Robert Nardelli

4. What works for you might work for your team member.

Part of being a leader or coach is sharing your greatest lessons. Perhaps you remember having a grandparent or elder tell you a personal story with a strong lesson that resonated with you. Almost everyone has had some sort of mentor who inspired them that way. Now, it's your turn to do the same. Think about your own experiences and the lessons you've learned, and share them with your team. While they may not have gone through something similar to you, what's important is the lesson.

A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.
— John Wooden

5. Focus on your relationships with team members first.

Being a coach requires you to forge strong relationships with your team members. Even when it seems challenging to connect with certain team members, remember that these relationships are key to helping you do your job better. For example, knowing your team members' interests, values, and goals enables you to continuously find personal motivators and helps reinforce goals that are important to them.

Relationship before content.

6. Put your team in charge.

Coaching isn't about telling people what to do. Coaching is a way to bring out the best in your team through nurturing, passionate dedication and fervent guidance. It sounds easy to remember, but many go through life dictating orders and micromanaging a team's every move. To be a great leader-coach, put them in charge. You want to help your team learn from their own mistakes. And that means sometimes you have to sit back and allow them to figure out things for themselves. If you're always stepping in as soon as something goes wrong, they'll never learn.

Coaching is an action, not a title, and actions will result in successes!
— Catherine Pulsifer

7. Reward team-oriented behavior.

As individuals, we're often focused on our personal problems and goals. While there's no harm in this, it can make teamwork more difficult. To help your team focus in a more team-oriented way, try rewarding behavior that exemplifies teamwork. You might see a team member sacrificing personal successes for the greater benefit of the team, or you might notice a team member being inclusive to the rest of the group when someone's feeling left out. These are signs that your team is truly beginning to understand the art and power of teamwork—be sure to reward it.

Coaching is 90% attitude and 10% technique.
— Unknown

Please add to the conversation—comment below or on Twitter at @gregbellspeaks.