True leaders know it’s never about them. Leadership is a gift; you are entrusted with the responsibility of fulfilling the higher purpose of the organization, creating a vision of the world when that higher purpose is finally attained and executing clear strategies to bring the vision to life. Truly great leaders know that to do this in a long-term, sustainable way their number one priority must be the growth and development of their people.
It’s easy when focused on short-term goals, particularly as CEO with expectations of your Board, shareholders and “the street” to be met, to lose sight of this priority. Yet those who take great care to develop their people in a purposeful, thoughtful way will find their short-term goals significantly easier to meet. It’s precisely for this reason, I’m convinced, that many of the CEOs I work with at CEO Connection are so focused on Talent Management right now, even seeking coaches for themselves and their executive teams.
The Coaching Aspect of Leadership
There are a number of ways to help your people grow and develop, including giving them new challenges and opportunities, timely and constructive feedback, formal instruction, mentoring, and coaching them for success. Each of these has its own art, with the art of coaching being often misunderstood. Coaching is not about fixing others’ weaknesses, it is about inspiring them to achieve their full potential and giving them the tools with which to do so.
With this in mind, and inspired by the five brilliantly inspirational and masterful coaches who have invested in my success and are helping me bring one of my personal-life dreams to fruition, (thank you Hayk Arshakian, Ricky Bentzen, Jack Davy, Stephen Knight, and Emilia Poghosyan!), are the top five secrets to great coaching as a leader:
1. It’s all in the positioning.
It’s important as a leader to remember the impact, and thus power, of the words you use. For example, “You need to fix xyz because it’s wrong/bad for all the following reasons” puts the focus and energy on the negative, is mentally and emotionally draining, and won’t be nearly as effective from a coaching perspective as, “Let’s have you try this because of all the reasons this is going to help you succeed and shine.”
As my brilliant business partner reminds me, “Where you focus, the energy will follow.” Put your focus on the behaviors you want to encourage, not the behaviors you want to discourage.
2. Stories make you more relatable and trusted.
It’s human nature when being coached to be concerned that the coach is going to point out all the ways you’re doing something wrong. When coaches share stories about their own experiences of growth and learning, it creates a more positive environment and enables the team member to open up to the coach’s wisdom.
By knowing the coach has been at a similar place in their career and found ways to overcome challenges and create opportunities, a bond is more easily formed. When done with honesty, sincerity and even humor, you become more relatable and trusted as a coach.
3. Encouragement, when genuine, is motivational mana.
This may seem obvious, but it is often overlooked. The simple act of telling someone you believe in them, and in their potential, can change their whole perspective, including how they feel about their work. This is because when you tell someone they are valued and you see their greater potential, you tap into their higher level esteem and self-actualization needs in Maslow’s Hierarchy. This is truly a life force.
4. Goal setting is all about them and not about you.
If coaching is all about inspiring someone to achieve their full potential, then it’s important to understand how they view that potential, what they are personally aiming for, and what they are passionate about. It may not be the same as what you, as the leader and coach, want for them.
If there is a clear disconnect between what the team member wants and what you want as a leader, then that’s an issue that needs to be on the table. The most important thing is for each team member to be fully connected to themself, to their true passion and objectives, so they can honestly tell you where they want you to help take them and what they want you to help them achieve. If you help them connect to this deeper understanding, you will do a much better job of putting them in the right role in the organization and setting them up for success. Their success, of course, leads to your success.
5. Praise is the magic ingredient.
As with encouragement, praise empowers you to tap into the higher levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, fostering confidence and feelings of achievement and the respect of others. What sets praise apart is it’s recognition of all the work that has gone into getting the person to the point they are currently at. It’s about abundant acknowledgment of what they are doing well, and how this has come about through hard work, skill, and dedication.
Praise is a way of saying, “Thank you for all you have done,” which is truly a magical sentence to hear, particularly from those we hold in high esteem. It is an exceptionally strong and richly fertile foundation from which to grow the coach-coachee relationship!
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Being an introvert is truly an advantage in business and leadership if you know how to leverage it, and if you remain true to yourself.
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