This month I have enjoyed working with a team of lawyers developing their leadership styles.  The concept they wanted to learn is based on the premise that the more styles of leadership you can competently deliver with your team members, the more varied situations your team can handle.  Or the opposite way round – if you only have one style of leadership then you have less ability to support your team in various situations.  If the only tool you have is a hammer – then everything becomes a nail type of approach.

The lawyers were practised and highly fluent at ‘telling’ others what to do and all the different nuances of telling.  As lawyers it’s their job to be the experts and offer clients solutions, based on the law and its interpretations.  However when it came to their own team members and a more supportive and coaching style there was far less practice and experience in the room.

Peter Bluckett talks about coaching principles and his number one is:

‘From tell to ask’

This basic premise of ‘asking’ colleagues questions is so they can develop ideas and solutions in their own minds that they own.  Sadly this is counter cultural to many managers.  The problem with the ‘tell’ style is that you have to keep ‘telling’ as the team members stop thinking for themselves, why do they need to?  Their manager solves all their problems!

The lawyers being bright individuals quickly understood the concept and were happy to practise question techniques and move onto practising coaching skills.  What surprised me was when we ended the session and I asked the team to practise their new coaching skills over the next month and report back.  They were clear they wouldn’t have the opportunity to coach at work in that time scale.  Peter Bluckett’s final coaching principle is:

‘From coaching as a tool, to coaching as a mind-set.’

Bluckett continues to explain; ‘Coaching opportunities occur every day and we miss many of them.  One of the reasons for this is that coaching is often equated to a coaching ‘session’.  I want to challenge you to notice coaching opportunities beyond the formal arrangements.  These are short conversations in the corridor, in the car travelling to a meeting or over a cup of coffee.  These may last 20 min or 2 min.  Coaching is a mind-set’.

So having explained the coaching mind-set to the lawyers I look forward to hearing how they got on in any form of coaching discussion – becoming more aware and fluent in their leadership styles