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The Impact of Coaching on Inclusive Leadership for Leaders and Managers

AUTHOR: Chelsea Frank
DATE: 28 March 2024

Are you a leader or manager, constantly seeking new ways to create an inclusive environment for your team? Have you stepped up and stepped out, searching for new methods to enhance your leadership skills and promote inclusivity? Coaching is a great tool and skill set to help you nurture your teams and create a safe space for your members. Coaching is a developmental approach to working and interacting with other people. It can help individuals develop their personal capabilities, interpersonal skills, and capacity to understand and empathize with others. In turn, this can help individuals understand more about their own challenges and make informed choices about their future. It can strengthen their ability to use a range of influencing and leadership styles. Coaching can help individuals feel more empowered to make a difference and improve their own effectiveness.

What is inclusive leadership, and how do we define it in modern workplaces? Inclusive leadership is a leadership style that fosters an environment where everyone's opinions and ideas are valued and respected, regardless of their background or characteristics as described in the Forbes Article - Leadership is about inclusion. Here is how to get it right.

Let's explore the role of coaching in developing inclusive leadership. These two concepts work hand in hand, and when we delve into these themes, we see how coaching can illuminate the path toward inclusive leadership. Through this, the aim is to create a space where everyone feels heard and valued. Teodora Juduc, an Erickson Coach who previously worked as a Software Architect and has been a leader for a few years, shares how coaching transformed her leadership style. She expresses, “The communication has changed a lot, and people started to share things and concerns with me they have never shared before. I noticed their motivation and productivity has increased as well because they knew I was there to listen and support them along the way. I started to express myself rather to impress, so I noticed my team started to follow the same approach.”

Have you ever had a moment where you thought, “How can I handle this better?” Coaching serves as a mirror, showcasing your blind spots and uncovering your strengths. Through powerful questioning and introspection, coaching supports leaders to confront their biases, break down their barriers, and welcome diversity with authenticity and empathy. This aligns well with a recent feature article where Erickson CEO, Louise Hendey, unpacks the topic Creating a Culture of Courage: Louise Hendey Of Erickson Coaching International On How to Create a Culture Where People Feel Safe to be Authentic & Why That Helps the Bottom Line. In this, there was a question: How do you navigate the challenges that come with encouraging authenticity in a diverse workplace, where different backgrounds and perspectives may sometimes lead to conflict? To which she answered, “Empathy. It sounds like a cliché, but practicing empathy, acknowledging perspectives, and deepening our understanding of each other as human beings helps.” This rings true in the coaching space. Coaching cultivates a culture of continuous learning and growth, projecting leaders to a state of consciousness and empathy. Coaching equips leaders with the tools they need to navigate diverse perspectives and create a workplace where everyone feels like they belong and can contribute at their best.  We explore this and similar topics in our Courageous Conversations, where we poke deeply into the minds of leaders and executives. In our most recent episode, we speak to Mimi Nicklin, and we discuss the topic - How to be a better leader. We unpack the role of empathy and various leadership styles in the workplace and the role they play. Listen to it here

We asked our Alumni, How has coaching helped you become a more inclusive leader? Here are our alumni insights: Maika Endo, a Holistic Business Coach, shared “I became a better manager when I stopped trying to 'manage' and started delegating without abdicating. I focused on communication and co-creation with my team members in the times of running the spa business. As I started to step out of the day-to-day operations, I gradually became a coach of the spa manager, leaving her the reins and letting go of the control. I realized that I enjoyed being a coach so much more than a director or manager! Coaching can help us include our team members in crafting and imagining the future of the business and helping them be the change and creator, instead of an executor.”

Greg Dansereau shared his thoughts on the topic in a video in which he says that we need to capitalize on the alignment of all the unique individuals and what they have to offer for the highest good and to the project at hand. He shares insights on how inclusivity means that we have the ability to walk in the work in our unique selves, fully aligned, respected, and recognized. Click here to watch the  full video.

We spoke to Rachel Radway, an Erickson Coach, and she shared her experience on how coaching supports inclusive leadership. She stated:

- Coaching creates space and time for employees/coachees to raise and respond to issues, questions, and concerns in their own way.

- By asking open-ended questions, the leader empowers the coachee to focus on what the latter decides is most important.

- By listening deeply and observing nonverbal communication and energy, the leader might ask questions that open up other avenues for discussion.

- By continuing to ask questions even when the employee/coachee might expect (or hope for!) a specific direction, the leader shows trust in the coachee's judgment and ability, which can help increase engagement.

- When the leader is fully present and asking questions that show that they’re listening and observing, the employee/coachee feels seen/heard/included.

- When the leader uses a coach approach in a group/team setting, they’re modeling helpful behavior for other team members.

She continued to share a story on the impact of coaching through her personal experience: “I had a client who was a nonprofit executive — super-smart with a lot of skills, but not much experience managing either up or down. Through our coaching sessions, she developed a coach approach of her own that has made a huge impact on the way team members are showing up and interacting with each other now. She’s improved the work culture of the office, among other things.” Rachel shares, “I run a hybrid mastermind/group coaching program with women leaders. In her feedback after the last cohort, one member, a communications professional with many years’ experience, commented on how much she learned about different styles of communication — even among a small group of extremely bright, high-achieving women. It’s changed her perspective on some of the patterns and interactions she sees in her workplace and raised her level of patience for things that had frustrated her before.”

We share monthly resources on our resource center where we share exercises and worksheets. Feel free to listen to our Courageous Conversations where we sit down with leaders, executives and CEOs on challenges they may face in leadership and ways they combat it. We hope that these could help you and your team soar and create safe and nurtured working spaces, where team members feel creative and inspired.

Hearing all the insights from our coaches has certainly been inspiring, and we would like to encourage you to do the same. Share your story on how coaching has helped you become a more inclusive leader. We would love to hear from you.