Fundamentals of Coaching Leadership

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Last edited: October 20th, 2022

Fundamentals of Coaching Leadership

When it comes to coaching leadership, the focus is on developing people and finding their maximum potential. This is not about managing things, but about people. Rather than giving straightforward instructions on how to do things, coaches are rather asking and trying to help solve problems.

One excellent book on coaching leadership is Michael Bungay Stanierin – The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever.

“Your advice is not as good as you think”

Leadership is often thought to be much about giving advice and directing things in the right direction. However, coaching is not really about counseling, but about asking and listening.

“A little more asking. A little less telling people what to do.”

When you tell your subordinates what they should do and what to do, they rarely learn much about the situation and the decision-making process themselves. Through coaching leadership, the goal is to get people to learn and support that learning in their daily lives.

Coaching leadership is easily confused with once-a-week or monthly coaching sessions, but instead it is a way of doing business. A daily activity that should be featured in your business every day.

Questions, tools for a coach

Coaching leadership is largely about asking the right questions. This does not mean that you lead by leading with rhetorical questions that you often see when it comes to coaching leadership. Rhetorical question are often at the level:

“Have you wondered if you would do x, y or z?”

In practice, in such situations, you only give instructions and put a question mark after them. Michael Bungay Stanier summed up the difference between questions and answers in his book like this:

“Answers are closed rooms; and questions are open doors that invite us in.”

Asking the right questions will lead you to the role you would like them to play. Instead of having to help every time you come to a tight place.

Coaching at workplaces is in a way more challenging than at sports as supervisor often has the opportunity to jump in to help and even save the situation. In sports on the otherhand, a coach can’t jump on the field, but he or she really needs to get the athlete to realize and grow.

Of course, the big difference between sports and business is that in sports, the role of coach is almost universally perceived to fit into this mold. Not everyone in the world of work is yet to flag in the name of coaching leadership.

What questions should the coach be asking?

First, the coaching leader should ask questions one by one. And give the subordinate time to think and answer, not breaking all the uncertainty of silence with a new question.

Here are seven questions from The Coaching Habit book that may be helpful for your leadership:

  1. The Kickstart Question – Whats on your mind? – Note! Open question
  2. The AWE Question – (and) What else? – This question is the best way to keep the “advice monster” in the background and, instead of solving the problem, ask for another perspective
  3. The Focus Question – What’s the real challenge here for you? – Drill into the right problem, not the first problem that comes up
  4. The Foundation Question – What Do You Want? – Purpose for the tasks
  5. The Lazy Question – How Can I Help? – 4 Answer Options. Yes, No, another suggestion or let me think. Think carefully about what is the smartest option for subordinates development
  6. The Strategic Question – If You’re Saying Yes to What Are You Saying No to? – Yes is nothing without something being sacrificed in front of it.
  7. The Learning Question – What was the most useful to you? – How can you learn about interaction? You also need to learn constantly as a coaching leader.

In summary of coaching leadership

Ask, don’t give instructions. This sums up coaching leadership, if anything.

However, it is good to remember that the instructions also have their place. If someone asks a specific question, like, “Where in the drive folder was thing x?” … It might not make much sense to go further than just giving clear instructions.

Trustmary team
Trustmary team


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