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Why a Coaching Mindset Could Be Essential for Leading During Uncertain Times

It’s up to leaders to cultivate the right coaching mindset to lead their teams through this health crisis.

This time of unprecedented change leaves many feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and frustrated. For leaders, however, it’s now mission-critical to dial up support for your team members. Bringing a coaching mindset to the way you lead them will help you actively accompany your people through these extraordinary and uncertain times.

To leverage the power of a coaching mindset, you’ll need to believe people have potential and can grow, trust that others will rise to do their best when stretched, and embrace curiosity rather than jumping in to fix others’ mistakes. That’s not to say there aren’t moments when fixing is important. But now more than ever, a coaching mindset will help you empower your teams and allow them to see things in new ways, creatively adjust to the new normal, and foster meaningful connections.

These factors are all crucial for business success and personal well-being.

Cultivating a Team Mentality Remotely

Trust, safety, and comfort are important for any team — remote or not. And if we really think about it, the focus of coaching is on conversations. With that in mind, the following tips should help get you started:

1. Set the table. If you’ve ever set a holiday table or prepared for an event, you know how much thought goes into setting the scene. That same care should apply when you manage remote teams. You need to set the right conditions to come together with some regularity. Otherwise, it’s nearly impossible to lead successfully.

Establish clear guidelines and expectations, and detail the exact start and end times of your meetings. Co-create with your teams about how you want the meetings to feel and what you want to accomplish. If you have yet to have this discussion about the “how” of virtual working, it’s a real opportunity to use a coaching mindset to take what you’ve learned about what’s working and what could be even better if you shifted things around.

When leading virtually, I prefer the less-is-more approach and keep meetings to 50 minutes or less (unless they come with scheduled breaks). Going this route often requires a little more preparation from all attendees. By creating and sending pre-reads, you’ll leave time for lively discussion. Also, the 50-minute meeting gives everyone a 10-minute gift to reset for the next one.

2. Focus on genuine conversations. A coaching mindset is incredibly valuable when leading remotely. Challenge employees to think differently about problems rather than giving the solution yourself. Connect, stay curious, and engage in dialogue. Get people talking and give them room to reflect, explore, and grow.

Coaches also do more than challenge their teams — they provide support. Although time might feel limited, devote a few minutes of your meetings to discuss something other than work or schedule micro check-in meetings to ensure everyone feels connected to the team as a whole.

3. Prioritize presence. Your presence is always critical, but it’s even more so when you’re working virtually. If you fail to “show up” and are distracted during meetings, your people know it and will model what you are doing. This behavior directly impacts the team’s engagement and productivity.

Take stock of the environment employees must now work in and check in on how their transition to remote work is going. What this looks like is entirely up to you, but I ask questions like these: How can I help? What’s working for you? What can I be doing better? What tools do you need to make this work for you? Are there any resources I should make available to you?

Consider that many employees must now work and home school children. Likewise, nearly everyone is shouldering a psychological burden right now (in fact, nearly a quarter of employees worry about going stir-crazy in the midst of COVID-19). So it’s OK to adapt your expectations with the times. Be flexible with yourself and others, change up meeting times, put a pause on certain projects and start new ones, and learn new skills together.

As we experience a global pause, you have an unmatched opportunity to take a fresh look at what’s next for yourself and others. Adopting a coaching mindset is liberating and allows you to meet the challenges of today while staying open to future possibilities.

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