How can today’s leaders benefit from a coaching mindset and thus impact their performance?

In organizations, leaders set the pace. Studies by Gallup – a US opinion research company – have shown that 70% of the organizational climate comes from the leader’s behavior and that 50% of employees resign because of their boss.
A growing concern for companies is therefore the retention of their employees, as this is a valuable differentiator these days. Retaining talent involves a culture of humanization, which starts with leaders who are committed to generating results by developing people, while at the same time “looking after them”.
In his book “Coaching for Performance” – The Principles and Practice of Coaching and Leadership – Sir John Whitmore hopes that the adoption by leaders of the coaching leadership style – the coach leader – will increasingly become the norm, replacing the traditional directive and controlling management style, which often stifles potential.

What is a Coaching MINDSET?

The coaching mindset is one of the competencies that form part of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) core competency model for the practice of coaching and means that the coach has the responsibility to develop and maintain an open, curious, flexible, and client-focused mental attitude.
According to the ICF, having a coaching mindset means that the coach:

  • Recognizes that clients are responsible for their own choices;
  • Engages in continuous learning and development as a coach;
  • Develops an ongoing reflective practice to improve their coaching practice;
  • Remains aware of and open to the influence of context and culture on oneself and others;
  • Uses self-knowledge and intuition to benefit clients;
  • Develops and maintains the ability to manage their own emotions;
  • Prepares mentally and emotionally for the sessions;
  • Seeks outside help when necessary.

Coaching is a partnership and a space for co-creation between the client and the coach, in which the coach challenges the client to find answers, insights, and discoveries, in a process of empowering the client that will allow them to co-create their desired situation on a personal and/or professional level.

In a coaching process, we work from the current state to the desired state, and we work on objectives to achieve results, in a process that leads the client to greater awareness.

The Coach trusts and believes in the coaching process and methodology he implements, this is his responsibility, and this is his belief.
The client knows about their life, their context, their experiences, the backpack they carry, and their feelings. The client is solely responsible for their own choices or lack of them (decisions, actions, behaviors) and consequently for the results they derive from them. The client is the main actor in their life, their journey, and the reality they co-create.

The coaching agreement between the coach and client stipulates the roles, responsibilities, and rights of each person. It is mentioned that “the client is solely responsible for creating and implementing their own physical, mental and emotional well-being, decisions, choices, actions and results arising from or resulting from the coaching relationship and their interaction with the coach. As such, the client agrees that the coach is not and shall not be liable for any actions or omissions or any direct or indirect results of any services provided by the coach.”

The coach believes that the client already has all the resources within them to achieve the results they want, and if they don’t have them yet, they can always acquire and develop them.

The coach cultivates trust and security with their client, respecting their unique talents, supports the client in various dimensions, and gently invites the client to respond to their input, accepting their response.

The coach maintains presence, responds to the whole person of the client, and to what the client wants to achieve in the sessions, the coach gives the client space. The coach also listens actively, their questions stem from what they learn about the client and their situation, the coach explores the words used by the client, the emotions shown by the client, the energy changes, explores how the client perceives themselves and their situation, and even summarizes what the client has communicated to ensure that this is the client’s understanding. The coach evokes awareness, and finally, the coach facilitates the client’s growth process.

In coaching, we work on the side of the cause, of responsibility. Responsibility is “response + ability” which means “my ability to respond to something.

The coach believes that the client has the ability, the resources, and the potential to co-create their reality. With this belief, the client increases their self-confidence and self-motivation, making room for them to “blossom” and expand. With this mindset, clients make their own powerful choices and find pleasure in their journey and performance.
Having a coaching mindset means that the coach can manage their internal state, to be at their best, completely available to “welcome” their client. This state of high performance emerges from a point of individual centering. When the coach connects and centers, when he is present, he is ready to connect with the other and thus open up a space of infinite and creative possibilities. This is a state that many call the “now nothing state”, the state of inner excellence, or the Coach State.

According to Robert Dilts, Coach State, stands for:

  • C (Centered): I am centered;
  • O (Open): I am open;
  • A (Aware): I am alert and aware;
  • C (Connected): I am connected;
  • H (Holding): I am available to receive. The state of awareness and presence is the difference that makes the difference.

The leader and the coaching mindset – Leader Coach!

A leader will be a better leader the greater their self-awareness about themselves and others, and the greater their commitment to their personal development and that of their team. By leading in a coaching style, the leader unlocks and develops his or her potential and that of the team.
In my opinion, by adopting and adapting the coaching mindset as their guide, leaders position themselves consciously and assertively on their leadership journey:

  • The leader recognizes that they are 100% responsible for their own choices;
  • The leader engages in continuous learning and development as a leader;
  • The leader develops a continuous reflective practice to improve their leadership practice;
  • The leader remains aware of and open to the influence of context and culture on themselves and others;
  • The leader uses self-knowledge and intuition for the benefit of the business, team and clients;
  • The leader develops and maintains the ability to manage their own emotions;
  • The leader prepares themselves mentally and emotionally for their role;
  • The leader seeks external help when necessary.

The leader has every advantage in adopting and developing the coaching mindset, taking responsibility for developing and maintaining a mental attitude that is open, curious, flexible, and focused on the client, the business, and the team. This mindset, in my opinion, is related to the flexible mental attitude discussed by Dr. Carol S. Dweck in her book – Mindset, The Mental Attitude for Success. By having a flexible mental attitude, the leader has a greater chance of success, as they challenge themselves to learn from mistakes, adapt, and persist until they achieve what they want – being on the side of the cause and taking 100% responsibility for what happens.
Having a leader with a fixed or flexible mindset is two completely different realities. The main difference between a flexible and fixed mental attitude lies in the way “failure” is viewed. In the first case, the person challenges themselves to learn from mistakes, to adapt, to persist until they achieve what they want – in other words, they are on the side of the cause (the side of the power to choose, the power to do, the power to manifest) – in the second case, the person feels like a failure, the result is a consequence of fate, in other words, they are on the side of the effect (feeling powerless and a victim).

In the book “Coaching for Performance” – The Principles and Practice of Coaching and Leadership – it is stated that a coaching leadership style is underpinned by ethics and skills that include:

  • partnership and collaboration;
  • belief in potential
  • confidence and security;
  • intention;
  • powerful questions;
  • active listening
  • feedback;
  • learning & development.

By answering the leader’s powerful questions, the employee becomes aware of the various aspects of the task and the actions they need to take. This clarity allows them to anticipate and envision success and thus choose to take responsibility. On the other hand, by listening to the answers, the leader gets to know not only the action plan but also the various aspects that are part of it. As a result, leaders are better informed than they would be if they told the employee what they had to do and, therefore, there is greater alignment between leader and employee. On the other hand, since the dialogue and relationship are not threatening, but rather supportive, there is no behavioral change when the leader is absent.

How does adopting a coaching mindset impact a leader’s performance?


In his book “Coaching for Performance”, Sir John Whitmore presents us with “The Performance Curve”, showing how the culture of an organization impacts the level of performance:

Each stage of the Performance Curve follows the process of individual psychological development:
It starts with a reactive, short-term way of being: “Whatever happens, happens” (Impulsive).
It then progresses to a dependent state of “following the rules”, typified by command and control behaviors such as judgment and blame.
Next comes the Independent stage, which can be high-performing but runs the serious risk of being too individualistic.
The final stage is Interdependence, a collective mindset supported by emotionally intelligent leaders.

This is a useful tool not only for organizations but also for leaders to become aware of where they stand, whether from the perspective of “this is the culture of my organization” or “this is the culture I create as a leader”. With this awareness, leaders can see what they need to do to change and thus improve performance. Each incremental change in mindset towards interdependence leads to better performance.

As the leadership style changes from directive to coaching, the culture of the organization begins to change. Hierarchy gives way to partnership and collaboration, blame gives way to honest feedback and learning. External motivators are replaced by self-motivation, and protective barriers come down as teams are built. Change is no longer feared but welcomed, satisfying the boss becomes pleasing the customer. Secrecy and censorship are replaced by openness and honesty, work pressure becomes challenging work and short-term “fire-fighting” reactions give way to long-term strategic thinking.

In conclusion

Knowing that leadership is a lifelong journey, which is primarily about achieving results through others, adopting and developing the coaching mindset will allow the leader to position themselves assertively, develop conscious and responsible leadership, unlock and develop their potential and that of their team, and deliver high levels of performance.

Returning to the beginning of our conversation, when engagement and retention are important issues for the organization, then the leader-coach approach is the most effective because it allows the expectations, needs, and desires of employees to be aligned with the organization’s mission, by creating a sense of mission and purpose in the employees’ work.

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