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Executive Corner – The Shift From Boss to Coach

Michael Clegg | 06/28/2023

Transitioning from a boss to a coach is a transformative journey that benefits not only you as the leader, but also your whole team. To make this transformation, you need to be willing to shift your mindset, changing everything that you’ve previously learned about being a “boss”, and embrace new approaches. Moving away from a directive style of leadership to a coaching mindset fosters a culture of empowerment, growth, and collaboration. By letting go of the need for control and embracing a coaching mindset, you can create an environment where your employees are empowered to take ownership of their work, develop their skills, and contribute to the overall success of the team.  

Here are some important considerations to keep in mind during this transition. 

The Initial Shift 

Shifting from a boss mentality to a coaching mindset is crucial for effective leadership transformation. As a boss, the focus is often on giving orders and expecting compliance. However, as a coach, the emphasis shifts towards empowering and developing team members. This transition involves recognizing that the success of the team is intricately linked to the growth and well-being of everyone. Leaders must see themselves as facilitators and supporters of their team’s professional and personal development. 

Adopting a coaching mindset involves understanding the strengths and potential of each team member and providing them with opportunities to excel. It requires a genuine belief in their abilities and a commitment to fostering their growth. By adopting this mindset, leaders create an environment that encourages collaboration, creativity, and accountability. They become enablers of success, rather than sole decision-makers. 

Delegate Properly 

Delegating is something that all bosses have to learn to be good at. We can’t be in multiple places at once and we certainly can’t do it all! When it comes to delegation, you need to delegate effectively to maximize the success of your team and organization. 

Keep in mind, though, bosses delegate taskscoaches delegate authority. Task delegation has probably proven to be somewhat effective in your company, but there are just as many “cons” are there are “pros” with this method: 

  • Pro: Work is distributed among team members, making the workload more manageable for you 
  • Con: Decision-making authority still remains with you, the delegator, meaning that your team may not feel fully empowered or accountable and projects may get delayed while the team awaits your approval on decisions.  
  • Pro: Delegation provides opportunities for team members to enhance their skills and gain experience by working on specific tasks. 
  • Con: Task delegation can limit the ability of team members to adapt and respond to changing circumstances without needing to “hold your hand” and get your approval at each step. 
  • Pro: Delegating tasks enables you to focus on higher-level responsibilities and strategic decision-making, freeing up your time for more critical activities. 
  • Con: You may feel compelled to closely monitor and control the projects and execution of these tasks, risking micromanagement, since the task manager can’t make the decisions without you.  

The pros of task management are nice, but the common denominator in task delegation seems to be the hold up of two things: time and authority. The cost of task delegation versus authority delegation is the risk of holding up projects due to the possibility of your team needing to consult you at each step.  

So, on the flipside, here’s what delegating authority looks like:  

  • Pro: Delegating authority empowers your team members to take responsibility and take ownership of their work 
  • Con: There may be some mistakes made and those decisions may not always align with your preferences. 
  • Pro: Those who you delegate to can respond more effectively to changing circumstances and move projects along without having to wait for your approval on addressing those changes. 
  • Pro: Delegating authority provides opportunities for leadership development skills among your team members, specifically homing in on their decision-making capabilities and understanding of the organization as a whole. 

As far as getting your team members to that point of feeling confident in their decision-making and authoritative position, you have to dedicate your time and effort into training your selected team members efficiently. This is where the coaching aspect comes in. As a boss delegating tasks, you’d probably send an email that would sound similar to this:  

Good morning,  

I need you to do the following this week: 

  • Coordinate the quarterly staff sales meeting sometime this week 
  • Create a new onboarding procedure document 
  • Run the weekly report on our cash flow in 

All the best, 

(your name) 

Now, here’s what an email would look like if you were delegating authority: 

Good morning,  

Let’s set up some time to get together and talk about a few things I’d like to put you in charge of. I trust in your skills, and I’d like you to feel empowered and confident while taking the reins on projects. Let me know when a good date and time would be to meet. 

All the best,  

(your name) 

Do you see the difference?  

The most important thing about delegating authority is to set clear expectations and boundaries. You want to empower your team and ensure they are set up for success when taking control of tasks and projects. You need to coach them on making decisions that closely align with what you would do or say. Not only does this give you more time and mind space to take care of all the other things on your plate, but it serves as so much more. Investing your time into your employees strengthens your working relationship with them, adds value to your team members from the knowledge and skills you teach them, and sets you up for future succession planning overall.

You are shifting the power into your team member’s hands. 

Communicate Effectively to Build Relationships 

Leaders should create a safe, open space where individuals feel comfortable expressing themselves. When interacting with your team, make sure to be fully present and engaged when team members share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas. This includes being attentive to verbal and nonverbal cues, such as body language and tone. The goal is to listen to understand, not listen just to respond.

By showing genuine interest in your team members’ aspirations, challenges, and professional development, you, as a leader, foster trust and rapport, thus creating a supportive environment where individuals feel valued and motivated to contribute their best. Regular conversations, one-on-one meetings, and ongoing feedback are essential components of this relationship-building process. 

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A large part of this is making sure you are responding with your body language! According to The Mehrabian formula, 55% of the overall impact in face-to-face communication is through body language and other nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions, gestures, and posture. Nonverbal signals often convey emotions, attitudes, and intentions more strongly than words alone and following up at 38% is the tone you use when communicating. It is extremely important to pay attention to how you are delivering your messages and not just the content of the message itself. Mehrabian didn’t intend his formula to be applied across all communication. Yet despite his own caveats as to the limitations of his findings, there are several studies that show the key part that non-verbal communication plays. Most show it accounts for over 80% of the formula. 

Challenge your team by asking powerful questions and encouraging critical thinking. 

A key aspect of the coaching approach is to encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills among team members. Rather than providing immediate answers or solutions, leaders should pose open-ended and thought-provoking questions. These questions stimulate reflection, challenge assumptions, and inspire individuals to explore various perspectives. 

By asking powerful questions, leaders empower team members to think independently and take ownership of their work. This approach cultivates a culture of innovation and continuous improvement. It also enables individuals to develop their problem-solving skills and find creative solutions to challenges. Leaders should guide these discussions, facilitate the exploration of ideas, and provide support when needed. This approach not only enhances the team’s problem-solving abilities but also fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility among team members. 

Provide ongoing feedback and opportunity for growth.  

Shifting from criticism to constructive feedback is essential when transitioning from a boss to a coach. Constructive feedback focuses on specific behaviors or actions, highlighting both strengths and areas for improvement. Leaders should frame feedback as an opportunity for growth rather than a personal attack, emphasizing the development of skills and competencies. 

Providing constructive feedback requires clear communication, fairness, and a growth-oriented mindset. It is important to be specific, offering examples and suggestions for improvement. Leaders should also provide ongoing support and resources to help individuals address areas of improvement effectively. Be mindful of your tone and body language when delivering this feedback so that it doesn’t come across too harsh or “judge-y”. 

Additionally, it is important to provide opportunities for your team members to grow, whether that’s within their role or outside of their role. This can involve providing training programs, mentoring relationships, or challenging assignments that stretch their capabilities. Nurturing the professional development of your team members demonstrates your commitment to fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement, leading your team to success. 

Be a Coach

Transitioning from a boss to a coach requires a shift in mindset and the willingness to embrace new approaches. By adopting a coaching mindset, leaders create a culture of empowerment, growth, and collaboration within their teams. Effective communication, active listening, and asking powerful questions build strong relationships and encourage critical thinking. Providing constructive feedback and creating growth opportunities contribute to a learning-oriented environment. Embracing the role of a coach benefits both the leader and the team, unlocking their potential for improved performance and a thriving work environment. 


Coach Management vs Boss

Mehrabians Communication Model 

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