Many business owners will hire a coach to assist them, whether it be defining goals and creating actionable steps to move towards accomplishing these or developing professional skills that will aid you as an owner. But, how can you transfer these skills on to your employees? It can seem difficult if you receive 1-to-1 sessions with a business mentor or consultant, to then put these valuable skills learnt into practice with your team; however, the key is to utilise the ‘leader as a coach‘ mindset.

In this article, we’ll be assessing what makes an effective leader, and how you can use this method within your organisation. The main difference you’ll notice throughout is the focus – the most common thought is to instruct (command and control) employees rather than encouraging them to learn and use their own intuition. To begin understanding this style of coaching, let’s look at this quote from the Harvard Business Review in an article by Herminia Ibarra and Anne Scoular before we delve into the method:

The coaching we’re talking about—the kind that creates a true learning organization—is ongoing and executed by those inside the organization. It’s work that all managers should engage in with all their people all the time, in ways that help define the organization’s culture and advance its mission. An effective manager-as-coach asks questions instead of providing answers, supports employees instead of judging them, and facilitates their development instead of dictating what has to be done”

In effect, it is now a necessity for managers to become coaches if you wish your business to thrive.

leader as a coach

leader as a coach

So, what skills do you need to become an effective ‘leader as a coach’?

To be an effective leader and coach your employees, you need a range of skills or qualities. You’ll be dedicated to the development of your team, sacrificing your time and effort to see them succeed. This may seem like a big ask alongside running your business, but in the long-term, this will see your business thrive and will actually take away from your workload.

#1 Expertise and experience

You’ll need experience to lead to a high level; if you are yet to develop your own core skills or lack the necessary knowledge, you’ll find you don’t have the authority to guide employees towards excellence. The leader as a coach should be a top performer, thereby ensuring the standard is set for their team – furthermore, they should be then pushing employees to go above and beyond expectations. In effect, the manager or leader here will act as an aspirational goal and this will also give credibility when giving feedback to their team. They’ll be trusted due to the vast experience and expertise, which will guide and assist development.

#2 Passion and enthusiasm

Leading by example is a key element of becoming a coach rather than a manager in the workplace. A team feeds off passion and motivation, without this, they can quickly lose momentum. A leader as a coach will bring a sense of optimism and enthusiasm to their daily workload, demonstrating a passion for the organisation that will spread and improve employee loyalty.

In addition, if you can bring a genuine interest and enthusiasm to your team’s individual growth and development, you’ll not only be encouraging and celebrating their improvement but you’ll also be assisting the organisation’s success too. The leader will help team members identify their strengths, weaknesses and professional goals challenging them with new projects and assignments to make professional and personal progress.

#3 Self-improvement and humility

No matter how long you have been in business, there is always room for growth – if you can recognise the need for consistent evaluation and development without this being the centre of your focus, you’ll become a highly effective coach. It’s important to develop your skills for your team and they’ll want to see you investing in yourself, but at the core of leading as a coach, is the ability to step back from the limelight – putting others ahead of your own self agenda.

We are all learning, and whilst you may have more experience or expertise, it is vital you remain approachable. By doing so, your employees will remain engaged and want to work with you rather than avoiding your advice.

#4 Be an active listener

There is an impulse as a manager or leader to jump into conversations with an employee rather than sitting back and listening, immediately you want to correct, fix and change. And, whilst the intention is to offer advice, the result will often be a defensive reply from employees. To be an effective leader as a coach, you need to sit back and create a safe environment in which your team will explore their ideas with confidence. Whilst not every suggestion or idea with be appropriate for your company, if you can actively listen and invite innovation, you open up the possibility for success that may have otherwise been unattainable.

You may find your employees consistently come to your for guidance and you may find yourself asking “Why do I get all the questions?” but this is typically because employees are not given the opportunity to openly discuss. They may see you as holding the final say and therefore may not feel capable if you do not invite them to come to you with suggestions rather than questions.

#5 Dedication

Coaching is not a short-term fix, as a leader you will need to dedicate yourself to your team to be most effective. This is perhaps the most overlooked quality required, as often leading is considered an “as and when” role – a manager or leader will only kick into gear when called upon to do so. But, this is not what coaching is about, you’ll need to consistently converse with your team to uncover where to focus your attention to build and adapt a path to success. Remember, there is also room for improvement so this should be an ever-changing and developing role for you.

#6 Ability to delegate and align skills

To challenge and inspire your team you need to delegate projects to them that will focus on their development. But, you should also ensure that tasks are aligned with an individual’s strengths to allow them to feel confident and understood within the workplace. Leading by example as a coach, you’ll recognise where your own weaknesses and strengths lie and will work to both improve certain areas whilst also working to strengths where possible. It’s therefore crucial you get to know your team on a personal level to delegate effectively as they’ll be more engaged and follow your leadership, in fact, it is proven that coaches that get to know their team see:

  • 38% more likely to have above-average performance
  • 65% more likely to recommend their company’s product to family or friends (your best brand ambassador!)
  • Take 3.5 fewer sick days per year on average
  • 87% less likely to leave the organisation

Inspiring others to find the answer: Helping your organisation succeed

Leader as a coach is not the only leadership method available to you – one of the most effective routes is to coach “in the moment” instead and the right route of coaching/leadership will vary depending on the needs of your team. The most effective leaders will make a calculated decision before deciding on the approach they take, understanding the individuals included, the task at hand and desired end goal.

There are a few different approaches within leader-coaching – generally, these are categorised into directive, situational, ‘laissez-faire’ and non-directive. Each requires a different amount of information and effort put in and again, the route taken should be tailored to the team or individuals. But, why the “leader as a coach” mindset is so useful for an organisation is because it places the workforce at the very focus. An effective coach will put their own development on the backseat, allowing them to concentrate on enabling their team to succeed. This process will allow employees to grow in confidence and rather than always turning to their manager, they’ll begin trusting their own abilities and not rely on your constant guidance. As a result, you won’t become frustrated with repetitive questions such as “Should I do this?” as your team will develop the skills required to make their own informed choices.

If you are interested in developing your leadership capabilities, work with an expert you can trust. With over 3o years in the business sector as an owner myself, I have the expertise and experience you need to help your organisation thrive. Together we’ll create an actionable plan that will see you progress and I’ll provide you with the tools you need to implement change within your organisation. Contact me at or complete this contact form, and reach your business’s full potential now. I’ll be happy to discuss how I can help you over an initial consultation free of charge.