Leaders who develop solid coaching habits and a coaching mindset that supports their teams will be ahead of the change curve and have the tools to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of business.

To be truly effective as a business leader today, having an engaged and productive team is essential for business growth. 

Now, more than ever, the traditional structure of the business world is in chaos. The lesson for executives is that a shift from systems management to coaching people for engagement and performance is critical. By adopting a coaching mindset business leaders are able to advance creativity, innovation and compassion.    

What does it take for business leaders to begin developing a coaching mindset? Here are 3 habits to help you get started.

1. Be Curious

Business leaders who are open and curious are better at facilitating innovation and creativity. 

Adopting a beginner’s mind of openness and letting go of any preconceived ideas about what might happen next is key to unlocking surprising answers to everyday questions. 

Recently, a coaching colleague assessed the productivity of a medium-sized tech company. As they walked the production floor, the CEO revealed that his development team lacked innovation even though it was a core value of the company and a key differentiator in the marketplace. When the coach asked, “What’s changed since this time last year?” the CEO replied, “Nothing! We don’t want any surprises around here.” The CEO was unconsciously sabotaging his competitive advantage. 

It’s time to get curious about why you do the things you do and ask the following questions: 

What behaviours are holding you or your team back from creating the next breakthrough? 

How might a small change in behaviour push the envelope? 

Take it a step further, and ask the pat question of all curious 3 year-olds, “Why?”  

Innovation thrives on curiosity. 

2. Ask Powerful questions 

Every business leader has the answer to any question that might come up on any given day. They are the CEO or team leader for a reason, right? But having all the answers stifles creativity. Asking powerful questions gets your team thinking out of the box.  

Here are some fundamental components of a powerful question:  

  • Coaching questions should be future- and possibilities-oriented.  
  • Instead of yes or no, a powerful question elicits an open-ended answer. 
  • Integrate and mirror your team’s exact language back to them. It shows you’re listening, builds rapport, and creates trust.
  • Cultivates learning for the team and individuals by promoting self-awareness and internal accountability.  
  • Challenges beyond current thinking and evokes insight. 

Learning to ask the kind of powerful questions that evoke learning and insight are keys to unlocking your team’s full creative potential. 

3. Practice radical kindness 

Leaders who practise radical kindness are more likely to be compassionate and connected with their team. 

According to PositivePsychology.com, “acts of kindness in the workplace impact not only the carer and the receiver, but it also has a positive impact on the performance culture as a whole.”

In a coaching conversation, radical kindness is counterintuitive. It requires allowing the person you’re coaching space and time to get resourceful and find answers from within rather than jumping in a solving the problem. 

I’m always amazed at the answers my clients come up with. My ego gets the better of me at times, and I feel I can intuit what a client might say, but they always surprise me! 

Allow your team to surprise you. 

  • Listen without judgement or comment, and remain unattached from the outcome. 
  • Watch for emotional and physical cues that change is happening—for example, a shift in the tone of voice or body movements. 
  • Remain silent as your team ruminates over your powerful question. Allow time for your team to get resourceful.
  • It’s easy to jump in and give your solution to the problem. But that’s what you’ve always done. Seek to understand rather than solve a problem. 

When you practise radical kindness at work, you build connections and engagement with your team. 

These 3 coaching habits of curiosity, powerful questions, and radical kindness will help you develop a coaching mindset that cultivates compassion, creativity, and innovation. 

There are many more ways for business leaders, entrepreneurs and executives to develop a coaching habit, such as supporting individual and team growth, connecting to your team’s meta-programming, setting realistic and achievable goals, and maintaining alignment with stakeholder agreements. 

Business leaders must push the envelope of what it means to lead in today’s uncertain times. 

Working with a coach will systematically help to improve your coaching habits and create an environment for a coaching mindset to thrive. 

What’s one coaching habit you can begin to adopt today?