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Here at the-Coaching Blog-run by Gerard O’Donovan, our aim is to constantly bring value to those seeking to improve their lives. Therefore we have a policy of publishing articles and materials by guest authors whom we value and appreciate. Today’s guest author is Kim Sawyer (USA).
I am an executive and enterprise coach. I do what I do with executives, business people and their organisations as an external service provider coming in to help them raise their game. In the programs I deliver, I do this in part by coaching the leaders. But coaching is not just something for a professional coach to do with an executive. Coaching is one of the most powerful – and sorely underutilised – tools of leadership. The other thing I do, with much greater positive impact on my clients’ success, is to get their leaders to coach their people – in structured, ongoing formal coaching sessions. This is the key to having a “coaching culture”.
Let’s talk first about coaching as a leadership competency, because coaching is a key component of true leadership. And what, at the very root, is “true leader”?
A true leader is someone who has followers. Period. End of definition. Every other characteristic, skill and behaviour we attribute to leadership either stems from or supports this one fact.
That may seem ridiculously obvious at first glance, but it implies an entire framework of thinking and activities – a paradigm I call Leadership by Attraction.
Most of the models of leadership or management are based upon my efforts to change others and what they do. Whether it’s management by objective, Carrot and a Stick, Persuasion, etc. – all of those things are aimed at changing other people getting them to act differently than they would otherwise choose without my influence. If, as a manager, I use good enough tools or intense enough threats or rich enough rewards, I can certainly get you to move in the direction or act the way I want … but only as long as the stimuli are being applied. What happens as soon as I turn around and go do something else (like lead)? Usually you go back to doing what you wanted to do in the first place. Actually, who is really leading who in a situation like that?
There is nothing wrong with managing. Management is necessary and valuable on lots of levels, but all of the time I spend following you around administering one stimulus or another to keep you “acting right” is time I am not leading. As a leader I need to be facing forward, not back – looking to the future, looking at ways to improve the process, pulling in resources necessary to support its success, surfacing other possibilities, building relationships – that’s what a leader gets paid a premium to do.
In order to have you help me of your own volition to accomplish something I value, I really have only two tools. I cannot change you, but I can change me. I can change who I am and what I do. So the first tool I have is how I show up for you. This requires I do the really hard work – the inner work – on who I am, what I stand for and how I go about things in all parts of my life. (The pivotal factor here is integrity.)
The other tool is the way I treat you. Do I build and maintain a relationship with you that establishes trust, respect, alliance and collaboration – a feeling that all our interactions are aimed at win-wins rather than being stuck in a zero-sum game?
Leader as Coach
All that said, there is a technology, an organised set of tools, to this Leadership by Attraction – to implementing its two primary tools. One of the core processes of this technology is coaching, and it is a very powerful force for sustainable change.
A leader as a coach is somebody who is trying to bring people up, attract and empower them to act in a certain way. (Although this is the gold standard of leadership; at the end of the day, don’t forget that you are still primarily a boss, not a coach.)
“Coaching is the technology of success.” This is my definition. It is about learning and studying, developing and understanding the principles and concepts that are behind people succeeding or not. And coaching involves competency with a set of tools that put this knowledge into action to achieve the desired results. It is a very complex and rich multi-disciplinary field.
As a leader/coach, your job is to help your reports define what they think success is – what they really care about, what’s going to make them excited to come to work every day – and then align that with what success means to your company and to you in your own area of responsibility. Once you have done that, you have set the stage to attract them into a process of self-motivated, self-serving activity that is simultaneously creating value for all parties.
I have heard this state of relationship among a group of people called “productive community” When coaching is accepted and expected in an organisation to be a standard part of the relationship that every manager has with employees, the cornerstone and key catalyst for this shift has been put in place. This is precisely what I do in my Enterprise Coaching Projects, where I am coaching an enterprise to build that “Coaching Culture”.
What Coaching Does
The motive power of coaching is action learning. Bite size learning, situationally relevant, put into practice, reviewed for deeper learning and then reapplied to another situation in a revised and improved version – a feedback growth loop.
Coaching also involves evoking – bringing out of people what’s already there. As a coach/manager, you have to be walking your talk in a way that wins their admiration and desire to aspire in your direction (“Attracts” them to follow you).
The coaching process is also about seeing the highest and best in people, maybe before they see it in themselves. Then challenging them to dig it out, take it for a few test runs and begin to realise it’s true.
What a coach provides
I look at coaching as having three primary pillars. These, in order of importance, are the areas of value that a coach is responsible to bring to the relationship. These are the power tools of the “technology of success”.
Knowledge and Resources:
What and who do your people need to know in order to succeed?
Awareness and Focus:
Where does your coachee need to focus – more and less? Are they getting the awareness of themselves and what’s around them that they need to succeed?
This is about the art of asking questions, about listening fully and openly to their answers. It involves offering thoughtful, challenging and unconditionally constructive feedback. A coach must be willing to tell the truth – to be willing to point out, in a way that leaves ears open to hearing…and applying.
Accountability and Celebration:
Part of coaching is push, part of it is pull. Accountability is the “push” and lies in encouraging actions that take people right up to their limits and stretch just a little bit beyond that – AND providing them the various forms of support they need to get through their fear and be successful. You want to grow their capacity,
The “pull” is celebration. The goal is to create a continuous series of escalating successes. Celebration is a ritual or ceremony about acknowledging and experience the value of something. There is a tremendous amount of motivation available in celebration; and we can harness that by facilitating the employee to celebrate the things they accomplish and do well each step of the way.
We have developed a tool at theWealthSource called “The Technology of Celebration”. It is a practical application of this concept, a methodology. It can be downloaded as a gift from us at our website. The Technology of Celebration
In our work to prepare manager/coaches, we have found it indispensable to create a simple template or structure for the coaching process, from building the overall relationship to the individual coaching meeting right down to a few exercises and interaction guides to insure the effective application of the most basic core coaching competencies. If managers are trained to be familiar with the process and guides and to sharpen to a few focused communication skills, then most anyone with the basic qualifications to be in a management role can succeed at providing reports with the essential experience and benefits of coaching.
I will share these now – just to provide a very high-level overview:
Stages of the Coaching Program:
Steps of the Coaching Meeting
In the end, your job as a manager/leader in the coaching process is to align your employee’s motivation to grow and do things with what your company needs you to accomplish for its success. This is what it means to “Lead by Coaching”.
With over twenty years of diverse business experience; Kim Sawyer have started businesses, led companies, and been involved in almost every aspect of a business enterprise. With expertise in the area of leadership, professional and business effectiveness and entrepreneurship, today he coach and facilitate key business people and teams to create greater wealth for their organizations and themselves.
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