Friday, June 22, 2012

Coaching as a Leader

Like it or not, most library managers/librarians end up in some sort of leadership or management role.  Whether you have a small staff or a team of volunteers, you are a leader, and sometimes leaders have to face tough questions. Board members also have to play a leadership role, and often end up having to deal with difficult issues and decisions.

One of the leadership techniques I have learned a lot about is coaching.  It’s a very powerful leadership tool if used properly, but can also be very difficult to master (I’m still working on it myself).  In the most basic terms, coaching is about helping your staff find the answers for themselves, rather than giving them the answers. It’s actually a fairly simple concept, but goes against what most of us have been bred to do – that is talk. Steve Roesler, of the All Things Workplace blog, gives 6 tips for being an effective coach:

  1. Stop trying to fix problems yourself. We all give advice all the time without even realizing it.  It’s habitual for most people, and it’s something that we have to stop doing if we want to become good coaches. You might have the right answer, but often we think we know better than we actually do.  If you can empower your staff to find the right answer themselves, that allows your staff to develop and gain confidence in making decisions themselves. And that is what leadership is all about.
  2. Ask for more information – use LOTS of open-ended questions.  Think reference interview.  Use the 5 Ws (and an H) in your responses to a coachee's question (Who? What? When? Where? How?).  Remember – DON’T give advice!
  3. Use the bonus question – “tell me more about that”.  This is a great question to use to both gather information and “buy” time.  The more the person talks about the situation, the more likely they are to come up with the answer themselves.
  4. Listen – which means STOP talking! This one is especially hard for some of us (ahem … me) but is SO important. Most of us are fearful of that ‘awkward’ silence, yet it can be a very powerful tool.  After your coachee stops talking, count to 10 before you start.  They might have more to say – and often what is revealed after a silence is extremely valuable.
  5. Ask more – haven’t found the answer yet? Ask more questions. Coaching is really about asking questions (which help the coachee explore the issue) and listening (which helps the coachee come to a solution). I can tell you from experience, this takes practice.
  6. Support “giving it a try”.  The questioning and listening process will have generated some ideas from the coachee.  Encourage them to try the solutions they’ve suggested.  They will come away much more empowered and confident if it is clear they came up with the answer, rather than having it given to them.  The next time they have a problem, they just might try solving it BEFORE they come to you.
Give these methods a try next time someone comes to you with a problem to solve.  You can read Steven’s blog post on this topic at, or there are some excellent coaching resources available:

There are also a number of great blogs that are both entertaining and informative in regards to leadership, management and HR issues.  These blogs can also be useful for both managers and board members.  Here are some leadership/management blogs you might want to try out (list courtesy of the Sites and Soundbytes blog - one of my favorites):
•    Ask a Manager,
•    Coaching Tip,
•    Evil HR Lady,
•    Fistful of Talent,
•    Great Leadership,
•    Leading Blog,
•    Three Star Leadership,

1 comment:

  1. Leadership is one of the most important quality which a senior officer should have. As a leader you should have different qualities like your communication skills, behavior or your responsibility etc. so there are various firms who works on leadership development.