How Coaching Supports Others’ Best.
As physicians, we’re called to lead in many ways by team members, patients, and countless others during our careers. We even have to lead ourselves to create effective routines and tackle the many challenges we face on a daily basis. When we lead effectively, we all benefit. That being said, it’s important to consider how we lead in order to get the best of those around us.
As leaders, we want other stakeholders to buy-in, take ownership, and generate their own solutions. And that’s exactly what we do as coaches. Two key coaching skills that improve critical leadership skills are active listening and asking powerful questions. In this article, we will look at how these two key coaching skills improve our ability to lead and get the best out of others.
Active listening means you are listening intently to the speaker and trying to discern the meaning of their words. An active listener will “check-in” periodically with the speaker to confirm they are understanding what is being said. This includes identifying what’s literally being said as well as any implied meanings from the words or non-verbal cues. The ultimate goal of active listening is to avoid misunderstandings and engage who you are leading.
There are five important elements for effective active listening:
- Focus your full attention on the speaker
- Express that you understand of the speaker with verbal and nonverbal communication methods
- Offer relevant feedback like asking questions and summarizing statements for clarification
- Respond in a manner that respects the other speaker
- Avoid passing judgement about what is being said
Active listening makes speakers feel more understood and satisfied with their conversations. How well are you really listening? Do your team members and patients feel heard? Do you ask questions that drive reflection and encourage ideas, or limit opportunities and stifle growth?
Asking Powerful Questions
Powerful questions are open-ended and encourage reflective thought in the receiver. Asking powerful questions invites the other person to reflect, determine a direction, and invest in the outcome. Powerful questions do not have an agenda, although they might challenge the recipient to think about a new direction, action, or perspective they may not have thought of previously. To achieve our purpose as leaders we must understand what drives others and activate that sense of self-efficacy in them by asking powerful questions (1).
Powerful questions should be:
- Open ended
- Free from judgement
In our role as healthcare leaders, we are tasked with getting the most out of those we work with and take care of. Active listening and asking powerful questions are both important leadership skills we can utilize to achieve these goals. It’s important to remember that these skills are not always innate. Most of us have to put in the work to get better at these skills. But working to improve your ability to actively listen and ask powerful questions will have lasting benefits for you, your team, and your patients.
Kee, K., Anderson, K., Dearing, V., Harris, E., Shuster, F. (2010). Results Coaching: The New Essential For School Leaders. Corwin: Thousand Oaks, CA.