Coaching: How one LDR Alum is Developing Others

At LDR, we believe that leaders are coaches. We're not talking about the formal coaching through LDR or other coaching experiences, but the coaching we can all do as leaders to help others find their own answers and paths. By asking powerful and pertinent questions through active listening, leaders can help those they work with achieve clarity and focus to accelerate their own learning, performance and progress. 

Emily Gallagher, LDR-Fairfield 2011, is using informal coaching as a  part of her daily practice to develop "New Leaders for New Times"  as a Program Manager at Public Allies. Below, Emily shares more about the importance of coaching and how she uses this leadership practice to grow others.

LDR: What is powerful about coaching?
EG: I think the most powerful aspect of coaching is the recognition that the "coachee" (we have to think of a better term for this) holds all the answers, and as a coach, our job is to help others access their natural wisdom and talent to achieve their goals. It may be cliche, but we're all more powerful than we think we are, and I appreciate that coaching acknowledges this. 
LDR: How is a coaching approach different from directing or training?
EG: Great question, and it can sometimes be blurry in the moment, but they are distinct practices. Directing locates the power to change a situation in an authority figure with the answers already in mind, and training or teaching involves imparting knowledge or skills already mastered, or at least understood by the instructor. Coaching is different; it is a process that relies heavily on knowledge, talent and authority of the recipient, and the listening ability of the coach. In both training and directing, the goals are established by the authority figure, whereas in coaching the person being coached has the authority and sets the goal/ direction; coaching is a very other-focused practice. 

LDR: How do you practice coaching “in the moment”? What is your process?

EG: This happens all the time in my work. When working with a Public Ally/ AmeriCorps member, there are frequently opportunities to do some on-the-spot coaching, whether it's in response to a member's performance, or related to a personal/ professional goal they've set. It requires the right kind of attention and sensitivity to notice those opportunities, a sense of courage or purpose maybe to  approach the person and to engage in a coaching conversation, and then real concentration and active listening skills during the conversation.
LDR: Please share one o
f your coaching success stories.
EG: I was working with a young woman in our program who was used to being a high-achiever, and who had adopted a "success at any cost sort" of mentality when it came to working on a group project. While she was producing excellent results for the team, she was usurping the group's power and alienating her colleagues in the process. I worked with her to first raise her awareness around these issues when she expressed frustration with her group, then we set goals and developed strategies for behavior change that would be more democratic and empowering. There were some difficult conversations during this process, but by the end of the program year she saw the value and importance of group process and maintaining strong professional relationships, and I believe she has carried these lessons with her into her career working for an international non-governmental organization based in New York City.