As a professional coach and lecturer in leadership competencies, I meet people from all walks of life, and these are the two questions I am asked most often. Usually, the word “coach” conjures the image of a sports coach – an expert who has the knowledge to instruct you on improving your game. A leadership development coach does something very different. A leadership development coach is not the expert on your game – you are. A coach facilitates your designing the process from where you are now to where you want to be.
The Highest Trees Get The Most Wind.
Leadership can often be a lonely position loaded with responsibility, testing your softer skills to the max while you perform the tasks in your official job description. As your coach, I act as your thinking partner above all else. I’m here to be your sounding board in a personal and confidential space where you can explore and develop all the potential already available to you: ultimately to help you commit to action and achieve – even exceed – your goals.
If you are asking the question: Do I Need a Coach? you probably do. Here’s Why.
- Leaders themselves need to be good coaches as a way of life.
“As a senior manager, I am required to do more and more coaching; I need to fill the performance gap by coaching my staff to get insight and find solutions for themselves – I don’t know how to do this.”
Sound familiar? You have a developed sense of self awareness and realise you want to be even more effective leader than you are now. Yes?
- Leaders need softer-than-soft soft skills
In the words of the administrative head of a medical unit, “Before I found a coach, I found human interaction at times extremely gut-wrenching, due to not only my lack of management training but a lack of deep self-awareness and poor interpersonal relationships. Through coaching, I have learned that I need to lead in a way that people feel empowered and not impose my own ideas on them.”
- Leaders Need Nurturing Too
A key time to consider coaching is when you know that you are in a rut.
A client told me that “after eighteen years in the banking industry, I started feeling like I am not growing or gaining any knowledge that will help me transcend and also contribute better to my colleagues in the business.”
Another client describes how, after years of driven success, his health took a nosedive:
“I started falling sick, was diagnosed with high blood pressure and muscle tremors associated with work-related stress. My relationship with my wife was at its lowest. Finding a good coach saved my life, literally – and my marriage! I learned how to ask for help, to be vulnerable without feeling like a total failure. I learned to delegate better, that I did not always have to be the expert – and this took a huge weight off me. I learned to coach others in my team to come up with their own solutions, and transformed the way we interact for the better.”
Great leadership is not about self-aggrandizement, not about ‘me and my ego’ but focuses on positive engagement with people. Great leaders are know how to listen to others in such a way that their team are inspired to come up with bold solutions-focussed thinking. None of these are new concepts but how many executives and senior managers know how to put these fine principles into daily practice?
- Leaders Need to Hone Core Skills:
Listening. Self-reflection. Doing the daily practices.
The ability to listen is a vital skill – and many of us need guided practice to master the art of listening. It becomes more important as you climb the corporate ladder. Most people listen only to give their own opinion – or worse, interrupt. Constructive listening is a rigorous practice – it means specifically creating the time for someone to think aloud in your presence. It means never interrupting. Interruptions inhibit thinking in others and is a behaviour associated with low emotional intelligence. A good leader with a high EQ and focussed practice wants to become expert in the art of listening because of its powerful impact on those they lead.
Should be a daily practice. As a leader it is important to continuously hone self-awareness and identify personal (as opposed to professional and technical) areas of development. People often don’t realise that the real risk of stagnation and professionally limiting blind-spots occur when you stop working on your own personal development.
Doing the practice
Growing yourself as a conscious leader happens over time and by making certain practices daily habits. In practical terms this means:
- Being open to feasible ideas and solutions other your own. This is the real litmus test of listening, because you will never be open to other ideas unless you truly listen.
- Being tuned into your own voice of judgment. Listen to yourself. Be aware of yourself in the moment. Choose better words to convey your sentiments. Use positive language even when giving critical feedback.
- Being five times more appreciative than critical – genuinely appreciative! Appreciation has been proven by neuroscience to generate more intelligent responses in children as well as adults. How often do you give an appreciation to those who you truly value – your partner or children, let alone your team members?
Taking on a coach is not a sign of weakness as a leader in your organisation. It’s a message to everyone who does business with you that you are motivated and invested in not only your own development and success, but also the success of your team and the business. That kind of positive example and enthusiasm is contagious. I invite you to give a reputable coach a try and watch the positive impact it will have in all areas of your life.