Circl’s Approach to Leadership and Management Skills Development

March 25, 2021

Who’s the worst manager you’ve ever had?

Did the answer spring into your head? I’m sure the reasons why did, too. They bossed you around and told you what to do. They didn’t listen, they weren’t fair, they thought they were always right and it was their way or no way at all. Sound about right?

Well, hopefully they’re no longer your manager. If you’ve managed to escape their wrath and you yourself are now a manager, I hope for your team’s sake that you’re doing a better job! But management is far from easy - so what makes a truly exceptional manager and/or leader?

Aside from being a decent human being, at Circl, we believe that a large part of being an effective leader or manager involves adopting what we call ‘the coach approach to leadership.’

Read on to find out what the coach approach is, and how your company can harness the power of coaching to have a huge impact on not just your organisation, but on young people’s lives through Circl’s online leadership & coaching course.

Coaching vs mentoring

Coaching and mentoring are often used interchangeably. But although there is certainly crossover between the two, there are some important distinctions to make.

Mentoring is typically advice-driven, and relies on the mentor having more experience in a given field than their mentee. For example, a recent law graduate may have a mentor who is an experienced lawyer who guides them on how to enter the legal profession. This kind of relationship offers a lot of insider information that the law graduate would otherwise have no way of knowing. In essence, a mentoring relationship involves the mentor teaching or advising the mentee over an extended period of time.

Mentoring relationships are certainly of value in a number of situations - but when it comes to day to day management and leadership, an overreliance on the mentoring approach can cause a number of issues.

It starts with the fact that most people get promoted into a management role because they are good at their job. They have experience, they’ve seen it all before, and they know the right answers. As a result, when a member of their team has an issue, their manager defaults to telling them what to do. The team becomes too reliant on the manager - stifling creativity and slowing the development of their team.

The Coach Approach

Here’s where the coach approach comes in.

Coaching is about empowerment, accountability and helping people find their own solutions. A widely accepted definition of coaching comes from Sir John Whitmore in his book Coaching for Performance:

‘Coaching is unlocking people’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.’  

A coach does not necessarily need to have any experience in a given field to work with their coachee. For example, a coach without experience in the finance sector could still be an effective coach for a CEO of a global bank.

This is because coaching is question-driven as opposed to advice-driven. The coachee outlines what they want to discuss, and the coach asks questions, listens and provides observation and challenge. This unlocks the potential of their coachee and empowers them to set and achieve their own goals. 

Teaching coaching skills in real-life situations

The beauty of coaching is that it’s very accessible and anyone can pick up the basics. The essential theory is very easy to digest, and it is also easy to apply in real life situations.

Not every employee at every business needs to be a certified executive coach to reap the benefits. In fact, this is far from the truth. Employees simply need to be equipped with an understanding of coaching, its role in effective leadership and a few essential skills for becoming better leaders:

  • The ability to ask powerful questions that will enable them to help their coaches to identify not just facts and current problems, but also solutions and possibilities
  • The ability to actively listen, hold silence and understand the true meaning behind the words that are being said
  • The ability to provide observation and challenge to help raise their coachees’ awareness

Equipping employees with these skills enables them to begin adopting the coach approach to leadership, and contribute to a thriving coaching culture within an organisation. Instead of jumping in with the right answer and defaulting to a command and control style of leadership, managers can coach their team to solutions and goals.

However, instilling this approach across a full organisation is much easier said than done.

Although the core theory of coaching is very simple, it is much more challenging to build the skill and practice it in day-to-day working life. For many, the mentoring or command and control style is deeply ingrained in how they manage, and it can be difficult to break free. It can also be difficult to teach coaching skills in traditional learning environments.

Social purpose: coaching underrepresented young adults

This is where Circl’s unique approach comes in.

On our programme, we teach professionals the core concepts of coaching in the coach approach to leadership. But it’s not just professionals who can take advantage of our programme. We also teach talented but underrepresented young adults – our Future Leaders. In the true spirit of coaching and empowerment, they go through the programme as equals. They learn at the same time, they practice together and they get the same qualification at the end.

Our mission is to build a world where anyone, regardless of their background, can learn to lead. Coaching plays an integral part in this.

For a lot of the Future Leaders on our programme, they either have minimal exposure to the professional world or they’re used to being mentored and advised on what to do. Many of the professionals are affected by the latter, too. Coaching allows us to break down these barriers and get professionals and Future Leaders to take on different roles they’re not used to.

On the Circl programme, professionals coach the Future Leaders, and the Future Leaders coach the professionals. This is what’s great about coaching – anyone can do it and anyone can benefit from it.

The Benefits For Future Leaders

Our approach leads to a huge increase in confidence in our Future Leaders, as coaching enables them to see their own potential. 18 year olds learn how to coach professionals with years of experience through problems they’re facing in their real life. It’s powerful for everyone involved.

Unfortunately, society places a lot of barriers in the way for young people from underrepresented backgrounds. They’re less likely to get top grades at school, and they’re less likely to go to university. If they do, they’re more likely to drop out due to experiencing impostor syndrome. They’re also less likely to get on to a top graduate scheme or work their way up to being a Director or Senior Leader.

We want to change this. The world needs leaders who represent everyone, and we believe coaching is the catalyst to empower people to overcome these barriers and make it happen. 

Online Leadership Courses

There’s a plethora of online leadership courses available online, and they usually follow the same, dated format. Read an ebook, click through some e-learning, watch an old video, complete a quiz and get a certificate.

With many online leadership courses, you can earn a certification without speaking to a single person. But we believe you can’t learn the skills of leadership without actually working with people.

Our programme consists of 6 live interactive 90-minute group workshops/webinars, which are all led by a certified executive coach. In between these sessions there is a short e-learning module. We match each professional with a Future Leader, and these pairs independently arrange a 60 minute zoom call to work through guided activities and coach each other on their real life challenges.

It’s a real online programme, with real people that has a real impact. 

View the Impact Report