One Essential Way to GROW Your Leadership Competence

AdVance Leadership » One Essential Way to GROW Your Leadership Competence

Welcome to Friday 411, issue #028. In 4 minutes, with 1 insight and 1 action, you will gain a Competence tool essential to every leader’s toolbox.

1 Insight

Leaders often have earned their positions because they’re skilled at telling others what to do. But one leadership strategy can be more effective than instructing or advising. The best leaders perfect the transformative art of asking questions.

Four Hats of Leadership

As you grow in leadership Competence, there will be more and more roles expected of you. You may find yourself constantly changing “hats.”

Hat #1: Counselor

Pull out your counselor hat when someone you lead requires emotional support. Counselors give attention and provide support to the painful, hurt, or confused areas in people’s lives. Sometimes, you will need to be a listening ear to someone’s feelings. They may not expect you to offer solutions. A willingness to be present and understanding may be enough.

Hat #2: Trainer

This is when you take on the role of expert and provide instruction and teaching. You have already developed a skill or learned the material, and now you are passing on your knowledge to someone else.

Hat #3: Mentor

Wearing the hat of mentor is usually not offered by the mentor but requested by the mentee. Someone sees something in you that they want to emulate and learn from, so they request that you share stories, experiences, and insights from your life. This relationship is usually ongoing with a specific end-goal in mind, imparting skills, information, or wisdom.

Hat #4: Coach

The term of this leadership hat causes the most confusion.

What the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks Does “Coach” Mean?

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you envision a coach? Most see a sweaty, past-his-athletic-prime man in a visor, pacing the sidelines, gesturing wildly and yelling commands to his players on the field.

In his early career, Garland was disappointed the first time he hired a leadership coach. He had been on sports teams throughout his childhood and was expecting that kind of relationship. Garland wanted someone to:

  • Tell him what to do, when to do it, how to do it;
  • Teach him new skills and push him to develop them;
  • Hold him accountable to his potential and raise his performance;
  • Call out from the sidelines, bellowing at his fumbles and whooping his victories.

Imagine Garland’s surprise when the man on the other side of the phone only peppered him with questions.

When Garland asked, How do I do that, his coach responded with, “How do you think you should do it?” Garland replied, “Well, I don’t know. I’m not the coach!”

With a common, clichéd term like “coach,” no wonder there is confusion on what a coach is. In leadership, there are times when it is appropriate to take on a role similar to a traditional athletic coach. But this method of instruction is often overused. You provide leadership coaching when you encourage someone to dig deep within themselves and make their own discoveries. When you coach by asking questions, you gift someone with more powerful and lasting transformation than if you told them what they should do.

Hat #4: Coach

Coach is the hat you wear when someone needs help drawing skills, information, or wisdom out of themselves. When training or mentoring, you may do most of the talking. When coaching, the other person does most of the talking and you are responsible for asking good questions. The assumption is, they have everything they need; they just need help digging it out. No expertise is required of you.

Sir John Whitmore’s GROW Model

There are a few tools we believe must be added to every leader’s toolbox as they grow in Competence. John Whitmore’s GROW Model is one of these. His model is an easy and practical way to learn how to guide people to their own solutions using questions.

G: Goal

What do you want?

Start with questions that help your coachee clarify their goal or objective. When the goal is set, it needs to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Specific.) But the goal should also drive action by being both challenging and inspiring.

R: Reality

Where are you now?

This is when you clarify the starting point. The coach’s role in this stage is to draw out the facts. Prod your coachee to be specific and thorough about the current reality. This a time for gathering concrete data, not for analysis or impressions.

Sometimes, this will be the part of the GROW process where you could get hung up the most. People aren’t always willing to face their own reality.

People prefer to live within the aspirational rather than the actual. 

During my (Dorothy’s) check-up with my doctor one year, I found myself rattling on about my healthy, low-sugar eating habits. But I had made the dire mistake of scheduling my appointment right after the Christmas holidays. I failed to admit to my doctor (or myself) that for the past week (or two or three), I had not missed my daily cookie. Or two. Or three. As a result, neither of us could see or advance from the current reality.

O: Options

What could you do?

During this stage, you guide your coachee to discover the possibilities. Your role as coach is to foster creative thinking. This is the brainstorming phase of the process. Ask questions that will spark creativity and imagination in your coachee. Pry them out of any box they have locked themselves in. This is not the time to limit them or evaluate if a solution would work. This is a time to collect potentialities. Try to pull out at least five options.

W: Will or Way

What will you do?

Finally, send your coachee off with the will and a way to put their plan into action. The coach’s role in this stage is to secure a commitment from the coachee. They should be able to answer the questions, “What, when, how, and who?” Ask them to identify obstacles as well as the support and accountability they need to succeed.

As a leader, you must learn to serve people in a variety ways. Unfortunately, the role that can be the most impactful is often the one that is the most neglected. Mastering the art of question-asking will elevate your leadership into a level of Competence few leaders reach.

1 Action

Practice asking good questions. For additional help, see John Whitmore’s book, Coaching for Performance or visit the website, https://www.performanceconsultants.com.


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