Guest blog by Career Coach, Janice Taylor
‘Instead of seeing the rug being pulled from under us, we can learn to dance on a shifting carpet’ – Thomas F. Crum
I thought long and hard about how to approach this topic. Where to start with it – and yes, we can talk about a world filled with Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA) – but why use an acronym when you can paint a picture with a metaphor? Besides, the quote by Crum always makes me smile as I imagine myself hopping and skipping about on my own carpet.
In today’s world, we need people who are both able and enabled to manage change, complexity, and uncertainty. Who wants or needs to work in a place where it feels like everyone is wading through treacle to get stuff done? Because that is the way things have always been done, because it is too risky to try anything new, because there is little positive engagement with senior leadership? Or it is just quicker and easier to direct rather than coach someone through a situation.
So, what are you doing as a leader?
Is it time to ask yourself – whether you are building bridges or building walls? Whether you are growing more leaders or just more followers.
In their article – Why all leaders need to be coaches, HR Grapevine quotes Deloitte:
‘Organisations with senior leaders who coach effectively improve their business results by 21% as compared to those who never coach.’
In – The Leader as Coach – affecting organisational success and growth from a place of curiosity and empathy, the HR DIRECTOR tells us:
‘Leaders that develop coaching skills also see increasingly higher levels of employee engagement, motivation, and efficiency.’
In her article, ‘Why Leaders Should Consider Shifting to a Coaching Leadership style Now More than Ever, Kara Dennison asserts that coaching is not just about professional development. It is also about boosting your employees’ confidence, building strong communication skills, thus improving performance and productivity.
Not an easy thing to do if we consider that all leaders need to achieve a balance between meeting short-term objectives and supporting/developing their people for the long term. It can often seem easier and quicker to tell than to coach and show.
If you intend to grow more leaders and support and develop you employees, regardless, you may need to become a leader who coaches.
It’s about asking the right questions
And the real power behind any coaching lies in the questions asked and the answers that each person sets out to find. Questions are at the heart of coaching and the right ones can uncover how someone thinks as well as what they know. They can lead to greater engagement and allow people to hear themselves think.
Thoughtful, challenging and contextual questions can lead to better answers as people:
- Shift their perspectives
- Stretch and grow in their thinking
- Open and expand possibilities
- Challenge long-held ideas and beliefs
- Reflect to either slow things down or speed things up
- Gain deeper insight into a situation.
Serendipitously, I discovered Amy Brann’s article. ‘The Power of Questions,’ while scrolling through my LinkedIn feed and I was intrigued by the three questions she posed:
- What were the last questions you asked someone?
- What do you usually give more thought or time to, the answers you give or your question? Why?
- When did you last sit down and mind wander through a series of questions, not worrying about the answers but instead getting lost in where the questions could take you?
These questions are an excellent start if you are considering how you can bring more coaching into your leadership style. As I am a bit of a daydreamer, I am rather drawn to suggestion/question three.
There are of course a whole range of coaching programmes, interventions out there for you but whichever you choose, the key is to practice and apply. And because I can’t help myself, I am a coach after all – here are a few questions to consider if you are thinking about becoming a leader who coaches:
Self-awareness and feedback
- How aware are you of your influence and impact on others?
- What style of leadership do you customarily adopt?
- When was the last time you sought out feedback, 360 degree or otherwise?
- Where are your strengths as a leader, how often do they show up?
- What about your weaknesses and blind spots?
Johari’s window is a useful four quadrant model for considering what is out in the open (what is known by you and others) and your blind spots (what is known to others but unknown to you). Because with the best will in the world we don’t always know what we don’t know.
It is also worth thinking about vulnerability and trust, how much of yourself are you keeping hidden.
Your leadership style
- How well are you listening to the people around you?
- Which voices are you listening to? The loudest, the ones most like you? Those telling you what you want to hear?
- How diverse is the lens through which you are looking?
- How much rapport and trust are there within your team?
- How well do you know them – their strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations?
- How much do they know about you?
- How active are you in harnessing the talent within your team?
- What might you be missing?
These questions all lead to accessibility, and trust and from my own experience, two leaders come to mind when I think about this:
The first, walked in as I was being interviewed for my first full-time job – on hearing that I spoke German, he immediately switched languages and asked me a question (just as well I told the truth on my CV). He seemed reasonably satisfied with my answer, and that was the first of many encounters during my time at that organisation. He was regularly on the shop floor, wandering around the offices and it was not unusual for him to stop and chat with whoever he came across, including yours truly.
The second, who even after five years I barely spoke to – was hidden mainly away either in his office or behind the same small group of people. When I queried this with my boss, I was told ‘he’s a bit shy.’ I was not impressed then, and it would not impress me now.
Your leadership values
- What does leadership mean to you?
- What brings out the leader in you? What is your why as a leader?
- Which of your values play the biggest part in your leadership?
- How does a coaching approach fit with your values?
- What sort of environment are you creating?
- Are people surviving or thriving within your organisation?
- What would it take for people to thrive and flourish?
Our values are the things we believe are important in the way we live and work. They run through us like writing through a ‘stick of rock’ and we probably take them for granted until they are under threat and boy, do we then sit up and take notice. They may be so central to the way we live, that almost like ‘breathing’, we probably don’t fully notice them until they are under threat.
- What questions are you asking?
- How many questions are you asking – hourly, daily?
- How are they advancing your understanding of your team and what they are capable of?
- What reactions/response do you get to the questions you ask?
- Are your questions open, expansive or are they shutting people down?
- How are you framing the questions you are asking?
- What type of questions make you most uncomfortable?
Seeing Amy Brann’s article, The Power of Questions, made me think how helpful it would be to review and consider the questions we are already asking. To audit or review the questions we are asking ourselves and the answers and the responses we are getting.
And finally, five quotes that speak to me about leadership and how to be a leader who coaches:
- ‘Whenever you write or say anything at work, be thoughtful, be clear and be human’ – Charlie Corbett
- ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood’ – Stephen Covey, habit five.
- ‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn’ – Benjamin Franklin.
- ‘You can have courage, or you can have comfort, but you can’t have both’ – Brene Brown
- ‘The best listeners – listen between the lines’ – Nina Malkin
Janice Taylor is a Brighton-based Career Coach, with a passion for promoting resilience in others, either through the design and delivery of her courses or through her coaching work with clients. Her business Blue Sky Career Consulting has been in existence since February 2000.
Specialising in career and work issues, Janice works in partnership with her clients to support them through reviewing their career and working life, researching, exploring options, and taking steps towards change with renewed energy and focus.
Janice is passionate about promoting resilience in others. She strongly values the ability of individuals to take ownership of their working lives and careers; with an acute awareness of her resilience, Janice has developed some expertise in helping people to maintain energy and focus during challenging times.