What is coaching leadership

Dileep Marway

Posted On: January 2, 2023

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Coaching is a term that is now being mentioned a lot more in the leadership space. Having grown successful teams I thought that I was well acquainted with this subject.

I was wrong, and having been trained by an exceptional coach, it has leveled me up. We should all do the same and should reach out to be led by a coach if possible.

The best leaders for me were those who asked questions instead of providing answers, supported employees instead of judging them, and facilitated development instead of dictating what had to be done.

I fondly remember one scenario where we were asked to automate our test cases and were told by a leader to use Java and Selenium as the framework, primarily as he had used this in the past for automation.

The automation product met the objective of automating some test cases, but the tests were flaky, we had false negatives, and we generally spent more time on maintaining/fixing the framework. The worst part was that we did not even trust the results that came out of the automation run.

Now if the approach was created in a coach-like manner it would have meant that the team would have devised the approach together. We would have used a language and framework that the team had the skill set to support, and also base our framework and language on the architecture of our application.

Companies are now moving away from traditional command and control practices. For me, coaching supports this evolution.

How easy is coaching?

First and foremost, most leaders feel they are great at it. Though, most are not!

It is a skill that is never complete and you will be learning all the time.

How can we be more coach-like?

An approach that worked for me is rather than advising all the time I now ask some of these questions in at least one of my daily conversations. Why don’t you give this a try?

  1. What is on your mind?
  2. And what else?
  3. What is the real challenge here for you?
  4. What do you want?
  5. How can I help?
  6. If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?
  7. What was most useful for you?

Coaching vs mentoring 🚌

In some cases, I have found that I still need to mentor. For example, if someone has the skill already then they can be coached by asking the right questions and they can be inspired to take action.

For example, if someone has expertise in accessibility testing, a leader can use coaching to use their previous experience to make a difference for the team.

In cases where they do not have the skills, showing them how to act on their request can help. Mentoring helps in this scenario, for example mentoring someone on how to write and run scripts in Jmeter when running performance testing scripts.

I will coach when:

  • The person has the ability.
  • They have worked in a similar situation before.
  • They will get more value from seeing the task from their own perspective as it needs deep thinking.

I will mentor when:

  • There is an ability gap
  • It is the first time they are trying a new task
  • It is a complex task where working and pairing add more value.

I may also mentor and coach at the same time, they are not mutually exclusive. From my experience sometimes doing both at the same time can help to teach a tricky skill that is hard to memorize.

Closing

We should all try to be more coach-like – for me, reflecting, reviewing, and adjusting my approach has been key, and I have learned by not always advising and dictating.

We should do this as it means that team members will grow and they will be happier.

It increases diversity of opinions, conversations are better, and it’s a win-win all round.

Coaching is an extra skill you can add to your toolkit as a leader – give it a try!

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Dileep Marway

Founder of Be More Meerkat (https://bemoremeerkat.com/), where I write blogs on leadership and I provide technology consultancy. I am passionate about the use of technology and innovation to create change, deliver value and solve complex problems whilst improving the lives of users, by using the most effective technology stack. A commercially focused, results driven executive level technology leader with over 15 years experience: leading strategy development and execution, successful digital transformation and delivering organisational, IT change alongside cost effectiveness (to budget), secure and high availability operational IT. Extensive experience of outsourcing and managing IT delivery in multi-site environments. Strongly focused on partner selection and management, actively managing IT and change risk with an emphasis on quality assurance (QA), and full review of technology and engineering effectiveness. I create, scale and optimise business portfolios that bring customer success and better service. To accomplish this, I focus on delivering key outcomes and building “high performing” teams. I act as a bridge between the C-suite and the technology technical teams.

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