We’re all pretty fatigued about “learnings from COVID,” but there’s one thing that I saw happening prior, and over the course of the last year, I believe it created a noticeable chasm between those who get leadership and those who don’t. I think that the pandemic, whether it made your team move to work-from-home or not, fleshed out those leaders who don’t grok their role. It is now far easier to spot people who are “going through the motions” without grasping the reasoning behind it.
For example, most managers and execs I talk to nowadays will say that they have regular one-on-ones happening and that they are essential. However, having spoken to hundreds and hundreds of leaders recently, many do it just because they think they should. They don’t come to these meetings prepared. They have no agenda other than reviewing the ongoing work. It’s just like those teams with a “daily standup” where they say what they’re working on but get no real value out of it because no one understands why the practice was introduced.
Hey Siri, what’s “Coaching”?
My clients often have a vague definition of what coaching entails. Coaching is not prioritized as part of a manager’s role. It is not being done at a professional level. For example, many don’t report having “coached” someone in the past two weeks or don’t really have a goal in mind when they practice it.
In The Tech Executive Operating System, I stated that leaders should allocate about 25% of their time to coaching. That big of an investment only makes sense when you realize that your responsibility is to create an amazing team and not merely help them do the work. A good coach can have a profound impact on someone’s career for years to come.
Nevertheless, it is quite rare. Why wouldn’t it be? Managers frequently report that they never got valuable coaching themselves in the past. Therefore, they have no tangible “bar” to aspire to or use as a yardstick. Not being trained or experienced, and having a lot on their plate in general, makes them deprioritize these tasks. After all, if they never experienced good coaching, they likely find it hard to imagine that it will be worthwhile to do.
I wholeheartedly believe that good coaching skills set the best leaders apart. These are those people who function as force-multipliers in their organizations and that propel people forward in their capabilities. It is a prerequisite for growing growth mindsets. If you realize that your leadership team is lacking here, there are a couple of steps that you can take right now to make things better.
First, as part of professionalizing your managers and treating coaching as any other capability that can be mastered, start a leadership forum. Just like many companies tend to have guilds for different parts of their tech stacks, we should be treating the responsibility of leadership with the same seriousness (at the least).
Meeting together to improve, share lessons, have book clubs, and regularly challenge one another is one way to invest in the growth of your managers that will then trickle down to their teams. I love seeing managers role-playing coaching scenarios that they experienced or share issues with their peers. This is one of the quickest wins I like to implement at clients.
Second, create an organizational coaching dial. Not all people are created equal. Every person requires different attention at different points in time. You can use the leadership forums to discuss the various options of interventions you can have on the coaching dial. Some examples I’ve seen include daily checkups, shadowing, weekly one-on-ones, hands-off, and pressure cooker mode. By deciding on your own terms and their meaning, you will provide your leadership team a common language to describe actions and help them envision the different options in their toolbox.
Once equipped with a customized coaching dial, I recommend taking the time to write down the appropriate intervention for each person in the organization and making sure to review it regularly. You’d be surprised how much progress can be gained by merely making your managers conscious of these possibilities and priming them with the right tools and expectations. Let’s make coaching an everyday occurrence for leaders.
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