Become the Manager Who Coaches

Katie Ceccarini

Ceiling Breakers Note: This is the first of hopefully many wonderful guest blog posts. Welcome Katie from Endurance Management Coaching to the Ceiling Breakers community!

For the last 17 years I’ve been a people manager and I’ve been pretty good at it.  And yet, it’s been the last year that’s been my most rewarding and productive year of leadership.  

What’s been the difference?  I began formal training to become a certified coach.

Being a good coach is the top quality of a good manager, according to Google’s Project Oxygen.  How can more people leaders adopt stronger coaching into their daily management?

What does this actually look like in the workplace?  Can we still do this in a remote work environment?  Yes, absolutely.

I’d like to share 1 Truth and 3 Tactics that I believe have the power to transform your leadership and management.  

First, the Truth.  

Here it goes… 

Our people have the answers within them and it’s my job to peel back the layers of their onion to help them surface and communicate the answers.  It is not my job to be the problem solver.  

Now, with that as a foundational belief, let me layer on 3 coaching tactics.

Listening & Intuition

Within coaching, there’s a concept of 3 levels of listening.  

Your Level 1 listening is your basic small talk listening.  You’re thinking about other things, and there’s a good chance you’re thinking about what you’ll say next or even how you’ll exit the conversation.  This is not the type of listening you do as an excellent people leader or coach.

Levels 2 and 3 get into paying attention to energy.  Noticing changes in tone, pace, excitement, etc.  You’re doing a bit of “listening between the lines,” so to speak.  It’s here that you’re focused and you begin to tap into your intuition about what might be under the surface.

Building my listening awareness and noticing my intuition sharpened my people leadership skills because I stopped taking answers at face value. 

I found myself saying things like:

  • “I feel like there’s something else here.”
  • “If I’m listening between the lines, I’m sensing you’re not feeling good about where things are landing.” 
  • “Gotta tell you, not sure I believe you - how are you really doing?”

Now it’s your turn...start to notice how well you’re really listening.  When interacting with co-workers, team members, or even your partner at home, start to notice how often you’re fully present vs how often you’re thinking about what you’re going to say in response.  

When you stop thinking about what you’re going to say, you open up yourself and all your senses to take in the other person and help them feel seen and heard.

What impact would strategic listening and using your intuition have on your management effectiveness?

Powerful Questions

Coaching is not the sharing of expertise or problem solving, two things that most managers are really good at.  

Coaching is drawing out answers.  As a coach, you understand what the person wants, what their goals are and then you help them uncover their own answers/actions by being curious.

I’ll give you a quick sampling here:

  • What lights you up?
  • What’s your vision?
  • What are you noticing right now?
  • What does __ do for you?
  • What do you want to do?
  • What is it to ___ (ex. Complete this project / meet this goal / overcome this hurdle)?
  • What else?

Bringing this coaching tool into a management relationship empowers your team member and builds their capabilities because you’re exhibiting trust, creating partnership, and boosting confidence.

When a team member approaches you this week with a challenge, what if you tried out powerful questions?  Try these on for size:

  • What’s your initial thought?
  • What’s your gut telling you about next steps?

As the conversation continues, you can leverage questions like these:

  • What’s a hurdle you think we’d encounter going this route?
  • What’s your thought on how this solves the short term and the long term challenge?
  • What else should we be thinking about?

Notice these are all “what” questions.  These are not “why” questions - which have potential to spark defensiveness.  These are not “how” questions - which gets you focused on execution vs building problem solving capacity.   

Will you challenge yourself to use powerful questions in your interactions?

Fulfillment & Values

One principle of coaching is the notion that humans can and deserve to feel fulfilled.  Fulfillment comes from being seen, heard, and living one’s values.  

It’s honoring the core beliefs people hold most dear.  It’s recognizing that frustration and annoyance are the byproducts of values being violated.

In a management setting, you do this by understanding what fuels people’s fires, as well as, what frustrates them.

For example, it drives me nuts when meetings don’t start and end on time.  My frustration with it is I perceive it as a fundamental lack of respect for my time.  Respect is a core value of mine.

When you take note of your people, and you really tap into those deeper levels of listening, what do you start to surface?  

When I started to deliberately tune into what fulfills my team and what they value most, these were the top values that rose to the surface:  

Being informed

  • Healthy living
  • Recognition
  • Flexibility

Now, what do you do with this information?  

You talk about it.  You use it to make decisions about when and how to share information.  You use it to assign projects.  You leverage it to be more specific with your praise and gratitude for your team members.  

When you tune into your team members, what values come to the surface?  What shifts in communication or decisions could you make to honor the values of your team members even further to support their journey with being fulfilled in their work?

So there you have it...1 Truth and 3 Tactics to bring more coaching into your people management.  I’m also hoping you noticed the questions I’ve posed to you throughout.  Coaching never stops and it’s a give to hold space for others and treat them as naturally creative, resourceful, and whole.  

What will you do this week to step into your coaching skills?

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