There’s a growing interest in coaching among business people and professionals in Africa. Not just among near-retirees, looking to mentor and share experience. The vast proportion of people who study to become qualified (typically earning the International Coaching Federation certification) are in early middle age. Just around the time when you realise you have learned enough to master your job, but not enough to make a greater contribution to the organisation that employs you.
These people are either aiming to become internal coaches within their organisations (a formal opportunity sanctioned by leadership and talent management) or to develop their management style by adding coaching competencies. Both are valuable, and should be encouraged by employers. In Africa, as elsewhere on the globe, we are struggling to escape the top-down, controlling management styles that were established in the western world during the Industrial Revolution and the evolutions of the use of mass labour that followed. That’s a heritage of two hundred years we’re trying to shift!
In this endeavour, probably our most useful allies are people who have decided to manage in a coaching style. Adapting formal learning on EQ, collaboration, ideation and execution to fit their own employment situation. Whether in the public sector, business, non-governmental or faith-based organisations. It’s a quiet revolution that is happening under the noses of traditional leaders and their executive teams, and it’s producing bottom-up change that they will soon find hard to ignore.
The coaching approach is always solution focused. In its best form it’s all about encouraging growth in others. Giving colleagues a safe place in which to draw on the resources they already have (experience, skill and networks) to create future outcomes that surprise and delight.
It’s a process that begins with asking good questions and listening to the answers they stimulate. In fact, if you are a manager or leader interested in adding coaching skills to your repertoire, the first you have to master is listening (not hearing – dogs do that!).
Listening on three levels. The first is the level you are used to, where you only hear content. As you process that content, you can’t help judging it. You tend to judge both the speaker and the content based on your own internal thinking. And that tends to limit the scope of the conversation.
Exploring the second level of listening requires demonstrating respect to the speaker. It means you listen according to what is important to them, not you. Invariably it builds a rapport which increases the likelihood of a productive conversation.
We’ll talk about the third level of listening, next week. If you’re still listening!