Share your leadership skills by taking the initiative to coach others

published in the Nashville Business Journal

Got more than a few years in a business leadership role? You’d probably make a great coach. Think about it: You have been learning throughout your career, and much of that acquired knowledge could help others. Young folks need coaches, and coaching just feels great. In my five decades in leadership, I’m most proud of the time I spent coaching others. In fact, I count my key career accomplishment the development of others.

Don’t shy away from a pivotal opportunity to apply your leadership skills in a new way. Here are a few ways that you can start to make an impact as a coach.

Ask questions. Start coaching by asking your first student some open-ended questions to gain key insight: What parts of your job do you most like? What do you find most challenging? So that you both get going in the right direction, ask for more detail, dig deep to understand your student and make a list of confidential issues you can help your student work on. 

Share experiences. That means the good and the bad ones. This kind of honesty will help developing leaders learn and grow. Think of every story as an opportunity to teach. A personal success story about how you learned the ropes can motivate a young person to build his or her own path to success. Explanations of your challenges along the way are also a way to connect and help students avoid the same pitfalls.

Keep it real. Not only can you talk about your career and how you moved up the ladder from one position to another, you can also share conflicts you encountered with people. Realism, especially when it comes to business relationships, helps young folks grow. Ambitious young leaders have an almost unquenchable thirst for knowledge about how to get ahead—and your stories of navigating real relationships will help paint a picture for real growth.

Encourage networking. Since networking is so important to growth, explain how you’ve networked and talk about the relationships you’ve developed throughout your career. Include your student at lunch meetings with business people who could become part of his or her own network. Start demonstrating how networking is the path to professional—and personal—growth.

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