Years ago when I owned and operated a bakery just a few blocks from my home, I was overwhelmed with the responsibilities that come with running a business and managing a staff of 8 bakers and customer service staff. I was a mom of two young kids with a husband who had his own business to run. The word “busy” doesn’t begin to describe my situation and how I felt at the time. 

(Yes, that’s me putting the finishing touches on a summer berry fruit tart)

In my baking days, my production value was consistently 1.5x of everyone else. I knew how to rev up the engine and work in high gear day after day. I was creative, talented, and I had won awards for my chocolate arts. 

But doing all that doesn’t necessarily translate into being a good manager or team leader. I had to let go of the mindset “I’m the best and no one can do it as well as me”. I was holding myself back from developing my business to the level where I could take off my apron and identify more closely with my briefcase. 

I was micro-managing the production floor which stifled creativity and innovation and I over-committed, sometimes working 60+ hours a week. I was drained of precious energy that I could better spend with my kids. 

Burnout was just around the corner. So, I decided to engineer my world differently. 

My experience as an athlete reminded me that the coach is calling the plays, not playing in the game. 

I hired for talent and creativity–check. Now, it was time to pass the reins of production to my team.  

But, all kinds of questions remained. 

Will they be able to keep up the standard I had set that our clients had come to expect? 

Who’ll bake the bread on weekends and holidays?

Could I let go of my identity as a star pastry chef and lean into the business person? 

Turns out my bread baker was better than me, my service staff enjoyed retail and the customers were charmed with the changes. 

Trusting and empowering my team toward their strengths resulted in increased production, better service and new ideas that enticed customers in the front door. 

I got to be the business person I had dreamed about since I was 10 years old. Plus, I had weekends and holidays off with my family and friends––finally! 

Here’s how I empowered my team to greatness using the 6 pillars of a coach approach to leadership.

1) Develop a Coaching Mindset

The 4 principles of a coaching mindset:

  1. Coach acknowledges that each person is responsible for their own choices and outcomes and that people have the resources to within them to find the right solution. 
  2. Coach is self-aware and leads by example by engaging in ongoing personal and professional growth that includes mental, emotional, physical and spiritual growth. 
  3. Coach is a curious, open-minded, growth-oriented and future-focused. 
  4. Coach is fully present and willing to be “in the moment” with the coachee and is okay with not knowing all the answers.   

Powerful Question: What is one thing you can do as a leader to enhance your coaching mindset? 

2) Co-create Individual and Team Agreements

A leader acts in partnership with the individual, team and stakeholders to design and implement agreements and results that are:

  • Collaborative 
  • Clear
  • Relevant 
  • Specific  
  • Measurable 

Powerful Question: How can we consider the needs and desired outcomes of all parties involved? 

3) Promote a Culture of Trust and Safety

In today’s demanding world of business, it is essential for people to feel motivated and engaged. 

  • Create a supportive and collaborative coaching environment 
  • Set all assumptions, labels and judgements aside 
  • Show empathy, compassion and vulnerability
  • Maintain confidentiality 
  • See people from their perspective
  • Provide meaningful feedback 

Powerful Question: What one step can you take to build a safe and trusting environment at work? 

4) Clear Communication

Have you ever been in conversation with someone and felt like they weren’t listening? Active listening is an essential element of coaching that puts the focus and attention completely on the coachee. Listen and look for the deeper meaning behind the words: 

  • Emotional display
  • Facial expression
  • Body language 
  • Tone of voice
  • Behaviour 

Powerful Question: If you searched behind the words spoken, what deeper meaning might you find? 

5) Create Awareness and Insight

In any coaching session, awareness and insight foster next-level learning. Hallmarks for creating awareness during a coaching session include: 

  • Powerful questions 
  • Storytelling
  • Metaphor
  • Silence 

Powerful Question: What insight will you take away from this coaching session?

6) Cultivate Growth

To cultivate growth, we take the knowledge, awareness and insight gained during the coaching session and turn it into action aligned with stated goals and back it with accountability. 

  • Cultivate space for self-direction and reflection 
  • Highlight and acknowledge any changes in behaviour and outlook
  • Celebrate success––big or small!

Powerful Question: What are you willing to celebrate today?