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  • Carol Wong

Leaders are Coaches


I first learned about coaching when I was a young consulting manager. At that time, I was fortunate to be allowed to undergo a series of training on The Fifth Discipline (a book by Peter Senge). That was more than two decades ago.


As I am reflecting now what I learned back then, I wish I have sharpened all the disciplines that I have learned from The Fifth Discipline. One of the core skills needed is coaching skills. I discovered that all leaders need to develop coaching skills. Essentially, leaders are coaches.


One of the disciplines of The Fifth Discipline is Mental Models. Mental models are our beliefs and assumptions developed from our respective cultures and background. To become an effective coach, we need to challenge our mental models to embrace a growth mindset. We are always both coaches and learners at the same time.


Leaders play an inspirational role in unlocking the potential of their people. For this purpose, leaders, as coaches, can adopt the Wheel of Learning approach to encourage learning.




One of the core coaching skills is the ability to ask highly effective questions. Inquiry-based conversations will help us suspend judgment and uncover assumptions. Questioning assumptions will surface current mental models of others and help others to see their perspectives better.


Furthermore, effective questioning will help others to discover answers on their own. Probing questions will unleash self creativity and analytical thinking of others, making them go through the ladder of inferences of which will create a lot of new possibilities from different perspectives. In other words, by asking the right questions, leaders will help their people to see different perspectives. The leaders will also be guiding their people through the process of discovering the answers to their problems. Their people will then be able to take action to test if the answers or solutions will address the problems or questions identified.


By adopting such a coaching method, leaders are making their people responsible for the problem-solution finding and building confidence of their people in their capabilities.

Leaders will then evaluate the results of actions taken by having a reflection session. Reflection step is a critical part of the wheel of learning. The reflection session will also help both the leaders and their people identify areas for improvement based on the feedback or the outcome of actions taken. More questions will arise again to evaluate the learnings from the actions taken and to identify new answer possibilities or actions to be considered.


The wheel of learning is an iterative process. Coachees (people) will continuously learn throughout the process of being coached by their leaders. Likewise, leaders adopt the same wheel of learning approach to enhance their coaching and people development skills. After all, leaders are coaches.


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