The secret life of sustainable behaviour change: coach training for managers

20th May by Karen Smart

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It goes without saying that effective leadership and management are a cornerstone of organisational success. But what if there was a secret ingredient that could not only further enhance leadership and management effectiveness, but also transform the social dynamics within teams or with direct reports?

Enter coach skills training – a transformational tool that can empower people leaders with the skills to not just lead, but to inspire and develop their teams or colleagues in a sustainable way, while reshaping the very fabric of interpersonal relationships.

Unlocking the power of coaching skills

A good manager or leader with coaching skills can be compared to a Swiss army knife in many ways. Just like the knife, a manager equipped with coaching skills is versatile, adaptable and remarkably potent. Through coach training, managers can gain access to a comprehensive toolkit for leading their team members. From mastering active listening to asking smarter, powerful questions, coach training equips managers with the tools they need to navigate the complexities of leadership effectively, while encouraging a culture of trust and collaboration among team members.

Empowering leadership – sharing power as equals

One of the most profound shifts that can occur when managers undergo coach training is a move towards empowering leadership. Power and how it is held by individuals and leaders has been extensively discussed over the years and ‘power-over’ someone else is absent in the coaching style of leadership. Rather than adhering to the outdated top-down management style, coach trained leaders recognise the value of sharing power with their direct reports and team members as equals.

In recent research conducted by my AoEC Faculty colleague and MCC level coach Shruti Sonthalia notes: ‘Coaching is said to be effective when the parties involved share equal power, even if there may be differences in their roles, intersections of power, or personal power (Pedrick, 2020).’ In her study, she found that managers who had received coach training reported ‘experiencing a shift in their understanding of power and leadership after undergoing coach training. They mentioned that they were able to question the traditional, top-down approach of leadership and discovered a new way of understanding and embodying power by opening up communication channels and not projecting themselves as superior to others.’

Featured in Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, she states that participants in her study ‘experienced a profound shift in their relationships with themselves, their teams and the broader system. They began to entrust more responsibility to their teams, moving away from the traditional power-over dynamics’.

This egalitarian approach not only fosters a sense of ownership and accountability among team members but also transforms the social dynamics within the team. As hierarchies dissolve and barriers to communication breakdown, team members feel empowered to contribute their ideas and perspectives leading to greater innovation and creativity.

Cultivating a coaching mindset

At the heart of coach training for managers lies the adoption of a coaching mindset and this is a fundamental shift in how managers perceive and enact their roles. Coach-trained leaders more easily embrace empathy, curiosity and vulnerability as essential components of effective leadership.

By assuming a coaching mindset, managers can better create an environment where team members feel supported, challenged and encouraged to reach their full potential. This mindset shift not only enhances individual performance but also strengthens the bonds of trust and camaraderie with the team leading to greater cohesion and collaboration.

We also see evidence of this in Sonthalia’s research. She states that study participants repeatedly mentioned that embodying an open and flexible mindset made them willing to place more responsibility and faith in their teams, which transformed their relationships with their teams and their working style.’

‘Their newfound ability to be present with others deepened their relationship with themselves and others. Some participants highlighted that earlier, they had set themselves up to in the role of constantly providing solutions to meet the expectations of their organisations or team members. However, after embodying the coaching mindset, they started believing in the resourcefulness of their teams to find solutions for themselves. This shift allowed them to be more vulnerable as they challenged the traditional expectations regarding their organisational roles.’

The evolution of leadership style

Coach-trained managers transition from a directive and authoritative approach towards one that is inclusive, empathetic and enabling of others. As managers model vulnerability and authenticity, their direct reports or team members feel more comfortable expressing their own thoughts and ideas. This inclusive style not only fosters a sense of belonging and psychological safety but enhances team performance and morale.

The ripple effect of coach training

The impact of coach training extends beyond individual managers to encompass the entire organisation. As coach-trained leaders promote a culture of collaboration and continuous learning, the social dynamics within the organisation undergo a tangible transformation. As a result, teams can become more cohesive, resilient and adaptable. Where colleagues have greater autonomy, this cultural shift not only drives better performance and results but creates a more fulfilling and rewarding work environment for all.

By undergoing coach training, leaders and managers gain the skills and mindset needed to not only lead, but to inspire and develop their teams in a sustainable way. The benefits of coach training are clear especially when leadership and coaching are moving ever closer together and the qualities, competencies and behaviours are so pivotal in business agility.