Coaching Skills Leaders Can Use to Inspire Team Creativity and Growth

coaching skills can be used to inspire veterinary teams and help them grow
Oct 30, 2020 at 5:56 pm
Kristina Guldbrand

Suzie, a veterinary hospital manager, steps onto the floor Monday morning holding a fresh cup of coffee. Scanning the room, she sees each department rounding on the appointments scheduled. The surgery team has a busy day, and one of the members has called out sick. Becky, a seasoned technician, sees Suzie walking by and asks for her to instruct the team on how to proceed with the day. 

Suzie wants to be helpful, but she’s frustrated because the team should already know how to handle this situation—it has happened frequently during COVID. Suzie recognizes that swooping in and solving the problem is the quickest solution, but that won’t help her team learn how to take care of these common situations on their own. Wanting the team to feel supported, Suzie starts to rattle off instructions on how to move forward, but then starts to wonder what the team will do if she ever takes time off.

It’s easy for leaders to fall into the habit of being the main problem solver—they’re often valued because of this skill. But, if a leader doesn’t inspire others to problem solve and grow, their team will stay stagnant. 

Here are a few coaching techniques that can inspire creative problem solving and growth in your team. 

#1: Create a relationship agreement with your staff

Leaders often expect themselves to be the rock—to be able to handle any amount of workload, and fix issues as they arise. This isn’t always realistic, and sometimes it’s unachievable. An example of this is when a leader expects that they can make their team get along. The leader realistically cannot be responsible for another person’s actions. Instead, they can set clear expectations, and identify what is their responsibility and what is the team’s responsibility. 

Coaches set up an agreement when starting a new relationship with a coachee. This agreement helps identify the expectations that both parties have for each other. Leaders can use a coaching agreement to establish a partnership with their team, and evaluate if the expectations that both parties have for each other are helpful, unhelpful, or need to be changed. 

If you don’t know where to start, you can ask yourself some of the following questions: 

  • How do I view my relationship with my team?
  • What are my expectations for my team? (When answering this question, try to be detailed. If you aren’t sure where to start, answer the question, and ask yourself “What else?”) 
  • What is my responsibility to the team?
  • What would I like my relationship with my team to look like? 
  • What is needed to achieve that type of relationship?

#2: Let them be the problem solvers 

Many leaders take pride in the fact that others come to them for advice. This is a sign of trust, and is an important part of any relationship. However, when leaders are quick to provide answers, it can cause the team to become reliant on them to solve even the simplest problems.

One of the most important parts of a coaching relationship is that the coach must identify the relationship as a partnership. The coach is there for accountability and to ask questions to help the coachee realize their own potential.

Leaders can use the approach of viewing their relationship with their team as a partnership. Instead of quickly jumping in, solving the problem, and giving direction, try to:

  • Ask questions to understand how your staff would have handled the situation.
  • Ask what they need to feel confident in making a decision if the leader isn’t available.
  • Ask what is holding them back from proposing a solution from the beginning.
  • Understand what other resources would be helpful.  

leader helping someone succeed

#3: Get flexible 

Sometimes leaders have a clear idea of how the problem should be solved and what the results look like. Being in control feels comfortable, but it takes away the ability for teams to grow and be creative with problem solving. 

Coaches are trained to ask questions to unveil answers and solutions that the coachee already knows. The coach doesn’t try to know the answer or problem solve for the coachee. For the coach to inspire and support the coachee, they have to be flexible and stay present in the conversation. 

As a leader, sometimes there are situations when a specific outcome is needed. But, staying flexible can help inspire your team to think critically about how to achieve that goal with you. 

To start the process, try to:

  • Be clear about the goal and why it’s important.
  • Ask questions to uncover how the team would like to handle the situation.
  • Re-direct the question back to the team member if they ask what you think. 
  • Give support or ask additional questions to reach a solution both parties are comfortable with.
  • Ask for details on how the team would like to carry out the solution.
  • Create accountability and check-in points to ensure everyone is seeing the desired results, and re-evaluate the process if necessary. 

A benefits of a coaching approach to leadership is that the team is supported in solving their own problems, which allows room for growth and creativity in the workplace. With a partnership and an empowering approach, there are no limits to what a team can achieve.

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Kristina Guldbrand grew up in Austin, Texas, and graduated from Colorado State University with a bachelor's degree in biology with a concentration in neuroanatomy and physiology. She worked as a certified veterinary technician for 12 years before becoming an account manager for Veterinary System Services (VSS). In her role as a manager, she helped veterinary hospitals with their staffing needs and discovered her love of leadership and well-being. Since starting work with VSS, she has received training through the International Coaching Federation and leads workshops, provides leadership and well-being coaching, and facilitates team-building for practices. She continues to expand her knowledge on perfectionism, neuroleadership, adult learning techniques, communication, and organizational psychology to provide up-to-date and effective techniques to her clients.

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