How to Lead with a Coaching Mindset

By TERRA Staffing Group

Posted on December 12, 2022

leader with coaching mindset congratulating employee Most leaders in an organization are high-performing problem-solvers. But the transition from top-producing individual contributor to effective leader isn’t always an easy one. 

It means helping people learn rather than teaching them; focusing on the team instead of the problem.  

And while many leaders inherently understand the many benefits to leading with a coaching mindset— increased retention, greater capacity, higher productivity, stronger relationships—it can be particularly challenging for leaders who are wired to be problem-solvers.  

It requires more than just hard work; it requires a big shift in identity. 

So how can a leader make the transition from ‘star player’ to ‘coach’? By being curious. 

Below we break down how curiosity is the antidote to judgment and a driver for growth and development, and share the key building blocks for leading with a coaching mindset, so leaders can grow their influence and develop a team of successful, high-performing contributors. 

3 Ways Leaders Can Be More Curious and Less Judgmental 

Listen to understand.

Being an effective listener is a critical skill for any leader who wants to help their team learn and grow.  

But it goes deeper than listening just for facts. Though important, focusing solely on the data can be a roadblock to effective coaching. Leaders may inadvertently default to problem-solving mode and lose sight of employee they are trying to develop.  

Instead, listen for emotions. Pay attention to body language, eye contact and tone. Reflect back the emotions you hear: “You sound frustrated.”  

Often times, when people speak from a place of emotion, they are telling you what they value. Use that opportunity to listen for values and learn from that employee. What is really going on? What is important about that? Why does that matter to them?  

When a leader listens to understand, they create a safe space for the employee to share more—without fear or fear of judgement. And employees who feel validated, heard and understood by their leader are likely to perform better.  

Ask powerful questions.

The most influential leaders tell less and ask more. They understand that asking questions is essential for building collaboration and trust within a team, and a great strategy for unlocking someone’s potential.  

But not all questions are created equal. To get the most out of every interaction, seek to enlarge a conversation.  

Avoid ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions that check boxes. Steer away from leading questions. Instead, ask questions that elicit deeper thinking and new ideas. How is that working/not working? What do you want to happen? What are you afraid of?  

Asking purposeful questions is key to leading with a coaching mindset and is one of the most important tools in a leader’s toolbox. It challenges employees to think differently about a problem or situation. It helps them work through obstacles and identify potential solutions—without feeling defensive or judged.    

Challenge perspectives and beliefs.

Leaders who coach help their employees see things from a different lens. They ask questions that challenge someone’s way of thinking. Questions that push them outside of their comfort zones. 

This is particularly useful when people get stuck on “I can’t figure this out” or “I don’t know what to do.” 

The best part? Leaders can make this fun and playful.  

If you had nothing to lose, what would you? How would you look at this if you were 80—or 8? If you had a magic wand, what would you do? What’s the worst thing that could happen? What’s the best thing? 

Not only can these questions help people get unstuck from their current perspective, they can alleviate some of the pressure and potential fear the employee is experiencing.  

Practicing curiosity, listening without judgment and creating a safe space for learning—and mistakes—is how effective leaders build capacity and confidence within their team and get employees engaged in their own development.  

In other words, it’s how leaders develop future leaders.  

And if you’re not sure where to start, the next time you’re meeting with an employee say, “Tell me more.” 

That’s what Hal Halladay, Founder of Breakthrough Leadership, recommended in TERRA’s recent HR HotSpot webcast. 

During the webinar, Hal also discussed the importance of leadership as a growth-driver for business, provided data and strategies for leaders who want to strengthen, engagement, retention, inclusion, and productivity within their team, and highlighted how coaching can help create a culture where people feel safe to take risks and be themselves. 

Interested in getting more great insight on how a coaching mindset can drive better business outcomes? Watch the full video here.  


And if you’re looking for staffing solutions to fit your organization, we’re here to help. Contact TERRA Staffing Group today to get started. 

Categories: HR and Management Advice, Innovation & Change Management

Tags: , , ,

Related Posts