<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=578904872258570&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

Coach Training – A Pathway for Unlocking the Practice of Inclusive Leadership

AUTHOR: Matthew Frazier
DATE: 27 March 2024

When someone says the word inclusion, depending on who is saying it and who they’re saying it to and who else is in the room when it is said, it can trigger different interpretations. Yet, through all the possible meanings of the word inclusion, one of the definitions starts off describing it as the “act or practice of including.” This may not seem dazzling or particularly inspiring on its face, but it represents a pivotal reframing of how I show up as a leader because of my solution-focused coach training.  That step-change occurred when I realized how to practice tapping into different aspects of my humanity and lived experience, which in turn allowed me to relate to others more inclusively. That journey-altering insight did not come immediately but through a sequence of events during my coach training that inspired me to practice inclusion in my leadership role and immediately see the benefits of using this as my new leadership standard.

Before my coach training, I regarded inclusion as an outward behavior to benefit someone or something else.  That paradigm persisted, for some time, during coach training because I saw how the gift of crafting and asking powerful questions supports the act or practice of inclusion. A coaching question can shift feelings, insights, possibilities, motivations, and actions in an instant.  In that same moment, a coach invites the coachee to acknowledge those shifts, feel deeply, and embrace listening to a clearer and more authentic side of their being.  This awareness-evoking practice created an experience that felt like I’ve finally cracked the code on how to be more inclusive as a leader to others.

Staying in coach position relates to this being a style of leadership versus a tool that comes and goes based on the situation at hand. As I am forming this habit of inclusive leadership by remaining in coach position, I’ve noticed several benefits. This new frame pushes me to root out my own fear to act and any fear that may exist within the team by leveraging curiosity to take the first step. I believe this is the first principle a leader should take to practice inclusion. Driving out fear becomes normalized as inclusive questioning.  The intention serves as the most effective socialization tool to prompt discussion and create a self-sustaining atmosphere of psychological safety.  I know my inclusive leadership is effective when I and others can express ourselves freely and excitedly engage in solution-finding. The inclusive nature of coach position allows me to engender trust among more people, suspend judgement, and articulate a vision for progress that becomes clearer, attainable, and personalized.

Seeing breakthroughs in my leadership of others has been validating after coach training. Nevertheless, challenges still occur that even the best of leaders must address.  The two that stand out for me are time pressures and collaborators with different world views.  Regarding time pressure, a sense of urgency can block creativity, paralyze progress, and produce a suboptimal solution in the moment.  Likewise, working with collaborators with different world views can keep teams spinning out of control when there is no clear alignment on the right choice to make.  It is in these situations as a leader that it creates a reflective moment.  In such a moment is where I expanded my practice of inclusion by coaching myself.  That was the groundbreaking action that I didn’t plan for but have come to value most from coach training.

I practiced asking myself questions when difficult situations arose. I became a coach and coachee all in one.  I wrote down answers to curious questions I had about the issue(s) at hand and found that these answers uncovered more parts of me as a leader.  As I took a step back and surveyed what was on the computer screen or notebook paper, I noticed that different thoughts and perspectives occurred because I was more intentional about invoking personas that formed me as a leader.  Giving myself permission to allow parts of me like the strategist, risk taker, collaborator, advisor, mentor, etc. to take first position and speak opened a world of possibility because I stopped suppressing those voices.  The identities underneath brought a feeling of abundance and resourcefulness and quite frankly joy to navigate the uncertainty ahead of me. As a result, my mindset around time pressure and differing perspectives became invigorating because I now had a trusted way to address both the emotions I was feeling and actions I needed to take to neutralize both.

This brief look into how coach training impacted my leadership style leads me to the following conclusions:

  1. Inclusive behavior is a coachable skill to increase leadership effectiveness globally.
  2. Inclusion as a habit starts with asking powerful questions and acknowledging multi-layered identities within oneself and others.
  3. Inclusive leadership’s benefits are observable and redeemable.
  4. Fear cannot exist within you or within your team when this leadership habit is active.

If this is not your current leadership habit, you should ask, “What is it costing me to lead without inclusion?”  The best way to find out is to awaken the many leadership identities you possess inside with curious and challenging questions. Once you’ve done that for yourself, approach others in the same way with confidence and respect to build rapport and invite them to express every part of themselves.  After this happens, reflect on what you notice about yourself and your colleagues and decide whether you can still afford to lead without inclusion.