This week we are going to delve into a topic I am extremely passionate about, and that is delegating thinking to others! In my last blog, we looked at the 3C ‘s to your success being Capability, Confidence and Capacity. I believe if you get these right and in balance, you are setting yourself up for the best chance to lead yourself and others successfully.

Recently I was running a “Leader as Coach” program to senior leaders equipping them with deep coaching skill and insight to take back and implement in their organisation.

One of the participants asked me for my definition of coaching to which I responded: “It’s like delegating thinking”. Until this point with over 20 years exposure to coaching, both as a coach and being coached, I had never really looked at it like this, but it made total sense as the words left my mouth. Empowering others to think for themselves and come up with their own solutions is simply delegating thinking. So how do we do this you may ask? The first step is to start to ask and not tell or in other words, coach and make coaching as simple as an everyday conversation.

Recent International Coaching Federation studies have found that organisations that have a solid coaching program in place can enjoy:

  • 70% improvement in overall work performance
  • 51% increase in team effectiveness
  • 80% increase in self-confidence
  • 73% had improved relationships at work
  • 72% had improvement in their communication skills
  • 67% had improved work-life balance

In my early twenties, when working in a large global corporation, I was coached, not that I was as aware of it back then. As I moved into more senior roles, I was taught the art of coaching, and over the years, I grew this muscle exponentially and mastered it as a professional coach. To this day I have a coach and mentor myself, how could I not, and I coach and mentor hundreds of executives and leaders every year as well as train leaders to coach their teams at a high level. With all the exposure I have had working with many leaders, the most successful ones are seen as a coaching resource. The more you coach, the more people will back peddle away from asking you for solutions as they know you will only question them to come up with the answer themselves.

When leading a team or organisation, I see the leader as the conductor of an orchestra. They guide and ensure the instruments hit their notes and harmonise. To be truly leading you to need to be the conductor because if you’re playing an instrument which is guiding the orchestra?

What I have learnt, without giving you a lesson on how to coach are the below 5 insights that you can instil right now to empower others to think for themselves:

Let go of needing to add value

By letting go of being the all-knowing leader you instil empowerment in others to think for themselves, grow their skillset and guess what…develop futures leaders.

Think about what you are controlling or holding onto that you can delegate to someone else. We tend to hold on to the things we like without even realising they could be delegated. Maybe the next meeting you could get someone else to chair and organise?

Create the ‘space' for others to be empowered

I don’t believe you can empower others directly. What I do believe is you can create the space for people to feel empowered and create ownership themselves. Whatever you do, make sure people have the space and choice of how they will achieve tasks. Give them the “what” but not the “how” and stand back and let them go! Check-in where and when needed but ask them what that would look like.

Ask don’t tell

How easy is it to provide the answer when individuals approach you? Take a step back and ask them what solutions they have thought of. Many will say “they don’t know” but don’t buy into this as people are wired to respond to you the way they always have. They usually aren’t stuck but instead are being lazy as they are used to you thinking for them at certain times. Be strong on this and get them to go away and come back with possible solutions and then go from there. This is called “coaching on the fly” and is simply an informal conversation that can happen face to face, over the phone and even by email—a great way to start to build your coaching muscle.

Maximise Team Strengths

Mary isn’t great at reporting, but Dean is strong in this, so how about getting Dean to do the reporting and have Mary assist him? This is a great way for peers to learn from each other and get stuff done without coming to you. I am a huge believer in building a strength-based team by identifying and then leveraging strengths and the things that energise each other. A bit like instruments in an orchestra, it takes all types to play a harmonised tune.

Cut through Communication

People won’t buy-in or change if there is nothing in it for them. Communication is all about the response that you get. You need to build rapport as rapport equates to influence. In all the work I have done on this over the last 12 years on understanding others and building rapport, you need to have conversations that count, that are clear and are with intent. Be a bit like the other person. If he or she loves the detail, then be more detailed in your conversation.

If they are a big picture, then ensure you match this. Don’t change who you are but amplify your energy and approach 20% to match and fast track rapport. Having a cut through conversation gets the other person to be more open and honest, and trust and respect are built. This will assist in the other person understanding why they need to do what they do and creates ownership and accountability.

I’d love to hear how you create the space for others to think for themselves and what the payoff is for you, them and the organisation!