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Autumn Road

The 5 Minute Leader

  • Writer's pictureCarl Blanz

Express Your Inner Coach

You’re probably a leader because you are good at getting things to happen. If you are in a high-level position, then you’ve also been rewarded for your ability to solve problems and to get things done.

As you advance in your career, the challenges of leadership pull your time and attention away from what you can get done, to how much of a positive influence you can have on the organization by way of supporting and developing others in making things happen.

In our business, we work with managers and leaders at all levels. One of the great rewards for us is to see someone make the transition from having to do everything, to enjoying the rewards of developing leadership capacity in others.

As an example, a leadership team had us facilitate their biannual planning retreats for three years. Twice a year, we would spend two days with the leadership team assessing and envisioning the next year in the business. When we began our work with them, their biggest worry was being able to concentrate at the retreat and to do the follow-up work because the business demanded so much of them. This client now facilitates their own retreats, and not only that; they have four managers participating in the facilitation of weekly leadership meetings and biannual retreats. That is the power of leading through coaching.

To my knowledge, the leadership methodology that best supports people in developing and mastering new leadership skills is coaching.

You have probably been coaching already and it’s likely you’ve done some coaching without even knowing it. As a way to make your coaching more intentional, Patrick O’Brien offers us this guide.

Coaching Basics

When you establish a coaching relationship with someone, you engage your intelligence, intuition, wisdom and inquiry for the express purpose of fostering growth. This relationship is unusual in most people's experience. Work relationships are often “one-way” and are formed to produce specific external results. The purpose of the coaching relationship is to expressly support each individual in stretching toward new goals and insights. Coaching is a creative process. You make it up together as you go and each coaching relationship will be different. Here are a few ideas to help get you started.


  • Listening is your primary job as a coach. Assume that the person you are coaching has all the wisdom and insight they need to tackle the things that stand in their way. People automatically think more clearly when they are listened to with an attitude of attentiveness, respect, appreciation and confidence.

  • Respect silence. Active listening may require you or the person you are coaching to be still and silent as you process what is being said or are preparing how to respond. Often during breakthrough moments, there is a profound silence. Allow it to be.

  • Listen for repetitive statements. What are the stories they repeat over and over again? Are there themes -- both positive and negative -- that recur in their speaking? Repetitions like this can be clues to where their strengths and weaknesses lie.

  • Listen to what they're saying beyond the words and call it out in the open. If you're wrong, they'll tell you. Take the risk. Ask if they're open to hearing your point of view when you have an opinion to express. Give them the choice to say no -- or to prepare themselves mentally to try on someone else's point of view.


  • Respect the environment. Set up your sessions with each other in a time and place where you will not be interrupted.

  • Establish ground rules that you need to observe with each other in order to support this relationship. Begin with an agreement about confidentiality.

  • Be sure to check-in with each other. At each session, coaches should begin with a brief check-in about their state of well-being. This helps to ensure that each person is able to be fully present.

  • Explore your vision and possible end results. In your first session or sessions, each partner can set their visions and goals for the coaching. It is a good idea to do a self-assessment about the strengths, challenges and habits that are likely to help or hinder them in reaching their goals.

Useful Tips

  • Be careful not to commiserate -- if a person is stuck in a complaint, you can always use an enlightening question such as: "What's missing, that if it were present, would improve your well-being?"

  • Be witness to emotion. If the person you are coaching cries, laughs, or otherwise expresses emotion, encourage them to continue. Chances are they'll think more clearly when the emotions have had a chance to run their course. Stay as relaxed as possible -- you don't even need to "comfort" them. Just be their witness and stay present.

  • Don’t get hooked. Stay aware of moments when it is tempting to be pulled into the drama and emotions present at any time. This allows you to be more open to new, creative possibilities and to avoid repeating mistakes.

  • Be flexible. Since coaching is a creative process, you will not always be able to stick to an “agenda.” Follow whatever path seems to be most productive in leading you toward your end goals.

  • Be authentic. Always speak your truth, even if it means revealing your own shortcomings, weaknesses and being vulnerable. You don’t need to have all the answers or right ideas.

  • Evaluate. At the end of each session, each person should evaluate how it went without feeling the need to fix anything. Simply listen. Then consider the direction for the next session.

Here’s an Experiment

Find someone in your organization that needs development. Commit to 1 90-minute session per month between now and April 1st, 2022 (That’s 6 sessions)

Begin by setting a vision* with them for their professional development. Then follow the advice above, be willing to learn it as you go.

*If you struggle to set a vision, then determine what growth needs to happen so they are a shoe in for the next logical promotion.

On April 1st, 2022, evaluate how it went, are they ready for that promotion? What growth do you both see?

You are invited to connect with me along the way if you need any support.

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