Coach Your Chapters Leaders for Success

What’s the best way to end the year? With a great virtual idea swap to prep for a new year, of course! On December 15, we chatted about coaching our chapter leaders for success in ‘22. Listen to the full swap and read the quick recap for insights into our conversation.


What we’ve learned: These past two years – and even prior – we really ramped up resources, technology, education opportunities; we did anything we could to invest in our chapters. But we also missed an important ingredient. Volunteers often come to us with the expectation that we will give them the answers and resources they need at that moment, but unless we go to the next level and teach them how to use the resources effectively, they will continue to struggle. As the old proverb goes …

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

What can we do to better support our volunteers? What if we approached our volunteers with a coaching mindset thus helping them discover their strengths/weaknesses and find their own paths using the resources we provide. In the process, we may also find that the resources we thought were needed may not be what is truly needed.

So where do we go next? It begins with adopting a coaching mindset (which we explored in depth with Laurie Reuben, Cheshire Consulting – read the post here and check out these links for tip sheets). Moving towards a coaching mindset starts by being able to listen at a level, preferably Level 2, where we can determine what’s really going on and how we can help them navigate through the issue. At the core is understanding the three listening levels, where we sit on the spectrum and how to ask the right questions.

Levels of Listening and how to determine your level of listening:

1) internal listening – listening to your inner voice aka listen to speak. Ask yourself are you comparing the speaker’s thoughts to your own experiences? Are you focused on getting the facts? Only asking questions that you wonder about?

2) focused listening – listening intently to the other person aka listen to hear Ask yourself are you exploring the speaker’s thoughts and motivations? Connecting the speaker’s emotions to their thoughts?

3) global listening – listening to others in the context of their entire surrounding aka listen to understand. Ask yourself are you picking up their emotions and what their body language is saying? Are you sensing what’s not being said?

Asking the right questions can challenge the volunteer to find their own answers: We tend to be focused on fact-finding which in its own right, is not a bad choice, but doesn’t necessarily help. What we want is to ask questions that will make the volunteer pause, i.e., they will need to take a few minutes to truly think about how to answer. Power questions, as they are called, should start with “what” or “how” and be open-ended (can’t be answered with a simple fact). A good power question …

  • is short: What would help? What’s missing?
  • is open ended: What’s your perspective? (open) instead of Do you agree? (closed)
  • challenges current assumptions: What skills/expertise do you need on the board? Does it have to be that way? How might this not be true?
  • stimulates reflective thinking: What did you learn from event that you didn’t know before? How can you use the knowledge gained from this experience in the future? Are there other interpretations of this?
  • focuses on the future rather than the past: What do you need to move forward?
  • uses “why” carefully: ask What led you to those conclusions? vs Why did you think that?

Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask: “what would happen if you did nothing?” After all, this simple question can lead to a far more important question: “what’s really going to make a difference?”

Be sure to listen into the full conversation for more on listening skills and power questions (yes, we came up with a few to share so don’t miss that part!).

Want more resources? Check out Power Questions or this HBR article The Surprising Power of Questions.

What power questions can you come up with?

And coming up in the new year … Chapter Benchmarking Unwrapped. A 3-part virtual workshop on January 25, 26 & 27 1 – 2:30 pm EST each day. Registration opening soon!

p.s. Stay tuned for more webinars on how use the coaching mindset to help your volunteers achieve their goals with coaching guru Laura Reuben!

*This webinar is part of our ongoing series with Billhighway.