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  • AutorenbildFriedhelm Boschert

Yes, you can! Be leader and coach

Aktualisiert: 4. Feb. 2019

How to be more successful in staff coaching with mindfulness.

In a broad expert survey made by TU Munich in 2016with respect to apparent changes in leadership, "relinquishing power" (89%) and "relationship-building behaviour" (by means of coaching and enabling) (62%) were by far the strongest statements.

In an #agileteam, the boss must become coach too!

Sebastian F., 42, head of department in an electronics group, is not astonished about that. "If I want the staff to act more autonomously, I must relinquish some power to them." In the survey, TUM uses a bit more scientific terms to express this: "Due to digitalisation along with the increase in complexity, it is more and more difficult for managers to have the relevant knowledge required for tackling an assigned task and to instruct and control their staff in detail. Therefore, team members have to be enabled by managers to work autonomously more than ever." And the boss must become coach.

Sounds good, doesn't it? And moreover, we've always done it like this, you'll probably say promptly. We've always been open for the concerns of our employees, given them advice and even showed them solutions. Very well, meant to be nice - but really previous century! These days, it's not about well-intentioned advice. It's a matter of encouraging employees to solve problems autonomously, enabling them to discover and use own new, not yet used potentials. This is the particular aim of staff coaching!

"Get in touch with yourself"

Before you'll ask for a toolbox then, I have to make you reflect on some aspects before. It's absolutely not sufficient to apply some codes of conduct and questioning techniques. There have to be done some quite decisive things in advance: "First you have to do your inner work!" as Doug Silsbee, one of the leading American coaches, phrased this appropriately. If one has a lack of awareness of oneself, one cannot coach others in a target-oriented way. If one does not understand oneself, one cannot understand others. And, as Anne Morrow Lindberghexpressed this wonderfully, “if one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others." Rather very ambitious, isn't it? Rightly, I think, because as coach you are bearing high responsibility, indeed!

Well, what do we need to tackle this challenge? Richard Boyazis, author of "Resonant Leadership", gets to the heart of it: “#Selfawareness, sensitivity for others, empathy – the three most valued skills for effective coaching. Actually, this means to be aware of myself, my signals, my behaviour and at the same time be sensitive of what I see, feel, hear“. This is, where we start, where mindfulness already comes into play. You'll remember: there is always the mindful perspective as well, the "Mindful Solution".

As Sebastian F. had to learn quickly, the first step in the course of staff coaching is the own inner preparation. "Before, I wasn't aware of what I've been carrying with me". Being aware of own spiritual and emotional habits and routines. Do you know your general #mindset, how to address others? "We all know, what's good for us - or probably not, in contrast?"; "The human being is able to learn - or probably not?"; "People can change only themselves - or probably not?" Certainly, you've certainly answered any such questions for yourself yet, whether you know it or not. And these answers are included in your "general mindset" that leads you through your life. And influences how you address others. Therefore, you should quickly become aware of your "general mindset" before starting coaching!

The coach is master in changing the focus

Well then, you must have a particular ability: Being able to perceive oneself, the others, their message and the environment at the same time. Being always able to change the FOCUS. Towards your inner perspective ("How do I feel in that situation?"), towards the other person ("What do they feel in that situation?"), towards the message ("What do I hear, what do I want to hear, what do others understand by this?") up to the meta-perspective towards oneself and your counterpart ("How do we face each other? What do we express? Is it the right environment?")

Reinhard R., participant in a workshop on "Mindful leadership": "It was immediately obvious to me, but in practice, it was rather difficult at the beginning, because I had problems to reflect the content of the talk. In the meantime, this comes about quite automatically." It's clear, we need a lot of mindfulness to tackle this ability. Simply give it a try: listen to a single tone for a minute, then to your inner "noises" for a minute as well and finally to all noises around you for a further minute. And at the same time, you read a text in addition ... This requires some training, but most of all, regular practice in mindfulness.

Keep the talk open for a long time

In the course of the coaching conversation, it’s again mindfulness that helps not to fall into all traps at once, including: "Do I know the answers yet?", "Do I want to hear anything special?", "Do I replace the other persons' perspectives with my view?", "Do I have to underline my expert expertise?", Do I unconsciously channel the conversation into a direction?" or "Are we elegantly avoiding the actual problem?". "How do I actually recognize the other persons' real needs and how can I distinguish between these and what I think that they need. Or probably that I need?" These are some of the questions that you have to answer yourself on an ongoing basis whilelistening. It's only possible by mindfully changing the focus.

Not judging immediately, but seeing through the beginner's eyes, being present and able to keep distance. Only through these principles of mindfulness, you can put into practice a reasonable coaching process. Such as keeping the options open, thus not having a solution at once. It's absolutely fatal for the employees' solution potential, if youthink that you have the solution after five minutes yet and present it to them proudly. You should even avoid this as manager and as coach more than ever. Even if you are used to act like this as boss. Read more about this topic in my blog post "About Self-Management in the Digital Age".

Even Standing silence - allowing time

Everyone is the expert for oneself. Your employees know themselves better than you'll ever do. You can encourage them to change perspectives, to stop for a moment, to highlight strengths. But you can certainly not tell them, what's good for them. Disappointed now? Have you perhaps intended to coach in this way? Giving good advice? This will be appropriate, if ever, only at a later stage. First, you need the patience and the confidence that there’ll be a solution and the employees will even find it. Give them the required time and silence. Do not channel them at once by means of permanently asking your questions. Ask only if necessary, but you have to feel this sensitively.

And the most important thing when asking: the questions must contribute that the employees understand themselves better, not that you understand them better. It isn't an interrogation after all and you aren't the public prosecutor seeking the truth. "When my boss started to ask questions, I felt that he was searching for something specific, he wanted to hear something special," Raimund W., IT services project manager, said. "I could hardly follow the questions, and I didn't know at all, what I actually wanted." He accordingly experienced the coaching to be unproductive. What his boss unfortunately did not recognize.

The roles as a coach

"Using #mindfulness in the course of the coaching conversation means not to react in a stereotype, but to take a step back and to weigh the appropriate communicative reaction," as mentioned in a coaching guideline issued by a great German corporate group. Excellent! This is the point! It goes without saying that this group offers mindfulness trainings and practical mindfulness exercises in each management and leadership workshop.

In the course of #mindfulcoaching, you learn how to juggle with various roles as coach. Sometimes, you are the reflector, sometimes the teacher, sometimes the guide. The mindful "master role" ensures that you use the right role at the right time. Then, you'll be a MINDFUL COACH and rather effective. And you'll achieve what the staff coaching aims at: enabling employees to initiate own developments, to discover own potentials, to become even more autonomous. Interested? Any further questions? Any counter arguments? Give me your comments, let's discuss!

With mindful regards.


Friedhelm Boschert

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