Coach the Inner Game: Leading with the Right Stuff

In my work as a coach, I find that the stuff of character is the most difficult, yet most significant, aspect of leadership development. Coupled with robust assessments and feedback surveys, professional leadership coaching is the most effective way to approach leadership development. Even the most conservative estimates show a five to seven times return on investment from leadership coaching (Price Waterhouse, ICF study).

Coaching success depends on the relationship between leader and coach. The coaching relationship must provide a secure environment to explore character strengths and beliefs.

Whether applied to sports or work, the inner game is where we begin to understand ourselves and make key changes. The concept is neither new nor particularly revolutionary, but it is based on a profound concept: focusing attention without judgment.

When you learn to observe behavior (your own and others’) without criticism, you’ll start to see where change is possible. Removing judgment facilitates change.

The Coach as Nonjudgmental Partner

Communication skills, like listening and observing, are automatic and unconscious. Everyone basically knows how to communicate. Yet, in my experience, we don’t always listen and observe well without judgment—a requirement for achieving desirable outcomes from conversations.

Inexperienced leaders have ineffective conversations all the time. When people don’t respond to their directives as delivered, they’re repeated louder or with different words. The outcome is resistance.

I find that few people enjoy being told what to do, especially when the person in charge comes across as critical or judgmental. If you use your authority as a leader without this awareness, you could be perceived as controlling and dictatorial. It doesn’t matter how well intentioned you may be.

What’s your opinion or experience with this? Have you worked with a dictatorial boss? Or experienced a coach who was nonjudgmental? I’d love to hear from you; you can reach me here and on LinkedIn.