Coaching has been defined as a method of directing, instructing and training in order to develop specific skills or achieve an objective or goal. Coaching is a process that invites awareness, sources understanding, empowers creative thinking, focuses on action and self-responsibility. What coaching is not about is providing information, showing the way, counselling or mentoring, or assigning responsibility. A strong leader knows the difference between the two and is able to coach and lead their team successfully.

There are two core rules of coaching. The first is that you must have a fundamental belief that people can achieve whatever they believe is achievable. The second is that you must continually raise that level of belief. With those two rules in mind, there are three fundamental skills involved in being a successful coach. These fundamentals include asking questions – as a coach you should be facilitating questions and stimulating thinking in the individual(s) that you are coaching. Active listening is another core skill – as a coach you are responsible for focusing and connecting with the person you are coaching. Finally, a strong coach is someone who is motivating action – challenging, encouraging and confirming what the person you’re coaching is capable of.

These three fundamentals require there to be a high level of trust between the leader and the employees being coached. Without trust, it is difficult to develop a coaching relationship and to find success. As a leader, some of the ways you can build trusting relationships include: suspending your agenda, stopping and listening – especially when other people’s emotions enter the conversation, conveying empathy for the challenges that your employees are facing, asking how well you have understood their views and feelings, and finally following through and doing what you say you will do.

Socratic Questioning


People who think critically, consistently attempt to live rationally, reasonably, and empathically. They are keenly aware of the inherently flawed nature of human thinking when left unchecked. So they strive to diminish the power of their egocentric and socio-centric tendencies.

They use the intellectual tools that critical thinking offers which enable them to analyze, assess, and improve thinking.  Critical thinkers realize that no matter how skilled they are as thinkers, they can always improve their reasoning abilities.

It is, therefore, unsurprising that critical thinkers make use of critical thinking process of Socratic questioning.  The overall purpose of Socratic questioning is to challenge accuracy and completeness of thinking in a way that acts to move people towards their ultimate goal.

Socratic questioning involves six types of questions. They are:

  1. Questions for clarification:
  • Why do you say that?
  • How does this relate to our discussion?
  • Can you give me an example?
  1. Questions that probe assumptions:
  • What could we assume instead?
  • How can you verify or disapprove that assumption?
  • What would happen if…?
  1. Questions that probe reasons and evidence:
  • What would be an example?
  • What do you think causes this and why?
  • Do you think ‘that’ is responsible for ‘this’?
  1. Questions about viewpoints and perspectives:
  • What would be an alternative?
  • Why is…… the best?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses?
  • Why do you think your team member disagrees?
  1. Questions that probe implications and consequences:
  • Then what would happen?
  • What are the consequences of that assumption?
  • What are you implying?
  • How does…affect…?
  1. Questions about the question:
  • What was the point of asking this question?
  • Why do you think I asked this question?
  • What does…mean?

Leadership Styles


While the way in which an individual approaches leadership can vary greatly from person to person, there are 4 more styles of leadership: authoritarian, country club/socialite, laissez-faire, and team leader.

Authoritarian leaders have a high focus on tasks and a low focus on relationships. They are very strong on schedules and expect people to do what they are told without question. When something goes wrong an authoritarian leader tends to focus on who is to blame rather than on exactly what is wrong and how to prevent it from happening again. They are often intolerant of what they see as dissent and so it is difficult for their subordinates to contribute or develop.

The Country Club leader predominantly uses reward power to maintain discipline and to encourage the team to accomplish its goal. They are almost incapable of employing the more punitive coercive and legitimate powers. This inability results from fear that using such power could jeopardize relationships with the other team members.

The Laissez-faire leader has a low task and low relationship focus style of leadership. They will often employ a “delegate and disappear” management style. They are not committed to either task accomplishment or maintenance; they essentially allow their team to do whatever it wishes and prefer to detach themselves from the team process by allowing the team to suffer from a series of power struggles.

The Team leader style of leadership has a high task and a high relationship focus. They lead by a positive example and endeavour to foster a team environment in that all team members can reach their highest potential. Team leaders encourage the team to reach goals as effectively as possible, while also working tirelessly to strengthen the bonds among the various members. They normally form and lead some of the most productive teams.

In reviewing these styles, it is important to note that no one style of leadership is better than another and nor does it fit all situations. You may also not fit neatly into one style, and rather be a blend of 2 or more styles. What is key is learning about the pros and cons of each style, so you that you can adjust and adapt your approach depending on the situation.

Change and Stress


If you look at the generic dictionary definitions of change, e.g., the process of becoming different, change doesn’t sound too scary or seem too complicated, right? But, the reality is that change can be incredibly complicated, and stressful, and full of challenges. Or, change can impose challenges but still create positive emotions and welcome outcomes. Some experts say your perspective on whether change is good or bad is shaped by several factors including your life experiences, your confidence, your personality, and your overall attitude.

It is true that stress related to a perception of change as negative can have significant impact on our health, relationships, thinking, and performance, this validated by research that shows that stress is the number one health threat in the United States (Word Health Organization), with 70-90% of doctor visit being due to stress-related issues (American Stress Institute) and stress being linked to six lead causes of death ( American Psychological Association).

While these risks are real, recent research (Harvard Business Review) is showing that work strain, when managed correctly, can actually have a positive impact on productivity and performance.

Stress is unavoidable. “We live in a world of ongoing worry, change, and uncertainty. You have to get used to it,” says Justin Menkes, an expert in the field of C-suite talent evaluation and the author of Better Under Pressure: How Great Leaders Bring Out the Best in Themselves and Others. “Stress is an inevitable part of work and life, but the effect of stress upon us is far from inevitable,” says Shawn Achor, an expert in positive psychology and the founder of Good Think, Inc. Both Achor and Menkes agree that altering your approach to stress can yield positive effects. “Stress can be good or bad depending on how you use it,” says Achor. In fact, how you manage pressures can distinguish you as a leader and give you a career advantage.

Management vs. Leadership

career-1738216_1920Taking a team from ordinary to extraordinary means understanding and embracing the difference between management and leadership. According to writer and consultant Peter Drucker, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

Manager and leader are two completely different roles, although we often use the terms interchangeably. Managers are facilitators of their team members’ success. They ensure that their people have everything they need to be productive and successful; that they are well trained, happy and have minimal roadblocks in their path; that they are being groomed for the next level; that they are recognized for great performance and coached through their challenges. Managers are individuals who engage in and follow the day-to-day, exhibit supervisory behavior and acts within the established culture of the organization, supporting the status quo.

Conversely, a leader can be anyone on the team who has a particular talent, who is creatively thinking out of the box and has a great idea, who has experience in a certain aspect of the business or project that can prove useful to the manager and the team.  Leaders are individuals who formulate long-term objectives and strategies, they innovate for the entire team or organization, and they are individuals who create visions and meaning for the organization, challenging the status quo at times in order to create a change that is needed.

According to John Kotter, a professor of leadership at Harvard Business school, the distinction between management and is leadership is thus: management involves coping with complexity, whereas leadership is coping with change.

The Key to Successful Leadership? Working with Others.


The link between the essential skill of working with others and the transition to leadership is the key to successful work teams. As a leader, working effectively with others and setting an example is extremely important. Employees need to feel that they have a relationship with their leader, one that is reliable, honest and authentic in order to be successful (Llopis, 2014).

The purpose of leadership is to provide employees with a workplace where they feel safe and which allows them to thrive by providing access to the correct tools and resources. In order to be a successful leader, there are 7 key elements that employees expect from their leaders (Llopis, 2014). They are:

  1. Specificity – employees want leaders who are direct and specific in their communications. Strong leaders ensure that they are direct in their communications, and have strong attention to detail.
  2. Empowerment – Employees want to feel empowered to make choices and decision for themselves, and to learn from their failures. Leaders should be there to provide mentorship and guidance to solve problems and allow employees to develop independence.
  3. Vulnerability – Leaders do no need to know everything and their employees don’t expect them to. What employees want is someone who is open and honest about their shortcomings and displays compassion and understanding.
  4. Honesty – Employees expect that their leaders are always open and up front with them. Leaders need to transparent and trustworthy in order to avoid creating unnecessary disruptions and divisions in the workplace.
  5. Accountability – Leaders need to be accountable both for themselves and for those that they delegate work too. Leaders should be willing to put their reputation on the line to protect those whom they lead and in return employees will want to do the same for their leader.
  6. Respect – A successful leader needs to know the different between respect and recognition. Employees want respected leaders who value their contributions, stick to plans, and take appropriate risks when necessary.
  7. Authenticity – Successful leaders avoid playing games and instead show their true authentic selves to their employees. This authenticity breeds productivity in employees and a positive work environment.

Workplace Education Manitoba is pleased to offer a Transition to Leadership 40-hour Certificate Program from January 12, 2017 to March 16, 2017 (every Thursday from 9-12pm).  If you are interested in attending this 100% funded program, please call 204-272-5044 to register, or go to for more information.

The Future of Workplace Learning


As reported by Forbes magazine, approximately $130 billion was spent globally on corporate training in 2013, up 15% from the previous year.  Workplaces are recognizing the importance of  training to close skills gaps, raise employee satisfaction and ultimately increase productivity.  But with so many options to choose from, how should a business spend its hard-earned training dollars?

The past few years have seen exciting advances in the tools used to deliver quality training, such as mobile technology, gamification or adaptive learning strategies.  However, according to Unboxed Technology, the trend for 2016 is strategy and execution. Companies will focus on:

Alignment with Business Goals

Begin with the end in mind.  -Stephen Covey

Training for the sake of training is not going to achieve desired outcomes in the workplace. Rather, companies are keeping their big-picture objectives in mind to ensure that training leads to observable, measurable results in productivity and engagement.

Rather than jumping on the latest training bandwagon, organizations are trying to better understand their employees’ skills gaps and find real solutions to performance issues. A training program that can drill down and identify workplace needs and offer a targeted solution that will result in positive outcomes will be a huge asset in the world of corporate training.


Great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.  -Steve Jobs

Collaboration across departments may have been overlooked in the past, but businesses are realizing that a company-wide, shared vision is key to achieving long-term workplace objectives.  Training that focuses on teaching people to work together in a collaborative manner increases transparency, efficiency and profitability within the workplace.

Essential Skills Training

Essential Skills are the foundational skills we use to carry out tasks in the workplace, and 9 Essential Skillsthey are the building blocks we need to learn new ones (Source: Workplace Education Manitoba).  In a study that focused on Canada’s hotel industry, Essential Skills training produced an average 25% return on investment, with some companies reporting an ROI of up to 300%.  According to the The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development:

about 13% of workers are under-qualified for their jobs, significantly affecting productivity at your firm. Low literacy and essential skills is a compounding problem because low-skilled adults benefit less from other training that sits atop basic skills—and their skills remain weak or deteriorate over time. “Differences in the average use of reading skills explain around 30% of the variation in labour productivity across countries,” states the OECD study Skills Outlook 2013. In Canada, the opportunity to improve is immense—the number of people with inadequate literacy skills has increased to almost one in two the past decade. (Source: Canadian Business)

The companies who will benefit most from training in the upcoming year are those who are willing to uncover the root cause behind performance gaps, improve Essential Skills, collaborate across departments to reinforce shared goals and objectives, and measure tangible results in performance and productivity.

With 25 years experience, and a strategic focus on embedding assessment and evaluation strategies into workplace Essential Skills training plans, Workplace Education Manitoba is committed to providing cost-effective, skill-building training solutions that will have measurable positive impact to your bottom line. For more information about upcoming certificate training programs please go to