Becoming a Servant Coach

Business customer care and support concept.

Who was the worst manager you’ve worked for in your career? Imagine their face in your mind for a moment. Now, think of a problem you are currently facing and go ask that manager for their support. As you play this scenario out in your mind, what happens next? Maybe one of these sounds familiar…

I couldn’t find him/her, they are never available (not physically present).

They didn’t listen to me (didn’t actually hear what I said).

They interrupted me or were clearly distracted (not emotionally present).

They offered ideas I had already tried to do (were not helpful at all).

They explained how they would solve the problem (but I didn’t see how that would work for me).

They helped me brainstorm, but provided no additional resources/support (set me up for failure).

What do all of these possible responses have in common? They are rooted in a mindset of self-centeredness. This is a common mistake that many managers make. With power and authority, they fall into the trap of being egocentric. Among other things, this manifests as lousy coaching, which ultimately leads to lost potential, disengagement, and mediocre performance results.

In my previous article, I offered that after a decade of training over 3000 managers in primarily Fortune 500 organizations, I’ve come to believe that the two most critical skills a manager must master are: 1) delivering feedback in a way that inspires learning and 2) coaching people to solve their own challenges. I then provided a model for how managers can learn to become a Feedback Warrior and overcome obstacles to providing critical feedback. In the final article of this series, I’ll reason that the key to better coaching is overcoming a mindset of self-centeredness. In short…

Managers Must Develop a Servant’s Heart 

When in a position of power, managers often feel overly self-important. After all, you earned that title! You worked hard for that promotion and the organization validated your high degree of competence with increased levels of responsibility. Why wouldn’t you (as a manager) coach others from a mindset of expertise?

Managers must learn to override this strong instinct, and develop a Servant’s Heart if they want to be effective coaches. So, what does it mean to be a servant? By definition, a servant is a devoted and helpful follower or supporter. While a servant has needs just like everyone else, they choose to put their personal needs aside in order to take care of others first. Some famous servant leaders throughout history include Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, etc. All of these extraordinary leaders made great personal sacrifices for the benefit of their followers. They also all embodied values like empathy, humility, curiosity, compassion, and stewardship.

Servant Coach with Logo

While serving others before self may not come naturally for many, we all have the capacity to choose our behavior. This is especially relevant for the modern-day manager. If we choose to develop a Servant’s Heart, we can’t help but to coach others to their full potential and inspire superior results.

Let’s take a look at the Servant’s values and how they help us to coach others effectively:

1.    Empathy – Have you ever had the pleasure of being served by a professional waiter at a high-end restaurant? You may recall feeling like you were “very important” and well cared for. That waiter understood your specific needs and desires. They were attuned to your emotions and exactly how they could exceed your expectations. A good waiter is a master empathizer!

Likewise, empathy is an essential ingredient to being a good coach. Frequently, managers want to immediately move to problem-solving, without accounting for the impact of emotions. The irony being that, when you truly feel what others are feeling, you often redefine the problem altogether! A Servant Coach learns how to get present, listen deeply, and use emotions as key data.

2.    Humility – Jesus Christ is considered one of the best examples of a Servant Leader, and His washing of His disciples’ feet in John 13:1-17 is perhaps the most iconic lesson concerning humility. While already revered as their Lord and Master, Jesus magnifies His influence even further by going against the attitudes of time and offering that He came “not to be served, but to serve.” He then (literally) gets His hands dirty, and does the work traditionally done by servants in washing His disciples’ feet.  

Managers, today, will benefit from demonstrating more humility in their coaching conversations. It’s all about identity. If you see yourself as “an expert,” you will be more of an advisor in your coaching conversations. Instead, show up as a facilitator and remind yourself that your coachee is full of unlimited potential. Be humble, resist the urge to “show what you know,” and tap into your coachee’s creativity.

Albert

3.    Curiosity – So how then do we avoid the managerial tendency to immediately give advice? Simple…be deliberately curious. A Servant Coach understands that the best way to serve others in a coaching conversation is by unlocking answers through smart and powerful questions. If you have been deeply listening to your coachee, and empathized with their situation, you can use this data to inform your questions.

Example: It seems like your recent interactions with customers have been really frustrating for you. I get it…all they seem to care about is the end-result, and they don’t want to hear about how your team’s overtime hours are really burning them out.

What is one small thing customers could do to make things slightly less frustrating for you and your team? or When we are frustrated, we tend to not be at our best. What approaches have you tried thus far to resolve the situation, and how did that go?

Also, don’t entirely discount your expertise. Instead, use your expertise to ask a question rather than offer a solution. There are all sorts of coaching question lists out there, and I invite you to keep a few good questions already in your back pocket. However, when a Servant Coach is at his or her best, insightful questions “emerge” from both paying attention to your gut and leveraging your personal experiences.

4.    Compassion – Compassion can be defined as empathy in action. While empathizing in a coaching conversation is helpful, a Servant Coach will not stop there. Once your coachee identifies the next steps towards solving their problem, look for opportunities to support beyond the coaching conversation. Ask, “What resources can I provide to help this person?” or “What obstacles can I remove that will get this person closer to their goal?” Then they commit to making these things happen.

In today’s busy workplaces, it’s too easy for a manager to have a good coaching conversation, then immediately go back to tending to their personal needs. They leave their coachee to fend for themselves, missing the opportunity to expedite their success. Remember that being a Servant Coach is an investment. In showing compassion and taking supportive action, you can’t help but to make others more successful. Your team will then start bending over backwards to return the favor.

Tom Peters

5.    Stewardship – Finally, a Servant Coach thinks ahead and patiently helps people to meet their full potential over time. They balance coaching immediate needs with considering future possibilities and growth opportunities. This is important because Servant Leadership does not mean that you give people exactly what they want, it means giving people what they need. Sometimes that means a little “tough love” may be necessary to encourage stretching outside one’s comfort zones and building new capacities.

Servant Coach will also hold people accountable for what they say they want to do. Especially if the coachee is stretching themselves in a way that makes them uncomfortable. This requires time and energy on your part as a manager. Without systematic process for follow-up, you’ll likely let them off the hook. It’s about stewardship. Great leaders create more leaders. Be the catalyst that ensures the next generation of leaders is well-prepared.

My hope in sharing this article is that more managers will develop a Servant’s Heart and coach more people to their full potential.

If you found this article interesting, I invite you to check out LGG’s Feedback Warrior Servant Coach training offering by clicking here.

1553381674

*All Rights Reserved. Reproduction, publication, and all other use of any and all this content is prohibited without the authorized consent of the author.

Advertisements

Becoming a Feedback Warrior

dreamstime_xl_58875375.jpg

In my last post, I reasoned that people are not getting enough performance feedback in the workplace today. Although research consistently demonstrates that feedback is a fundamental human need and we desire more of it (even the constructive kind), managers are simply not giving enough of it. This is resulting in a loss of human potential, disengagement, and mediocre results. So what’s the solution?

Managers Must Learn to Embrace Their Warrior Spirit.

Sure, I could start this article with five steps for managers to deliver better feedback. You might read through them and nod your head in approval. You may even say to yourself, “I am going to try to do point number three more often.” Yet, the reality is that you probably wouldn’t make any real changes. Our default operating systems are hardened through years of personal experiences and unconscious adherence to beliefs/values. We can talk all we want about learning new skills; however, if we don’t change our mindset first, we won’t make any lasting shifts in our behavior.

So then…what does it mean to embrace your Warrior Spirit? Let’s first identify what the warrior represents. Warriors have been a necessary part of all cultures and societies throughout the ages. The purpose of a warrior is to face conflict. A warrior is never eager to fight; however, they realize it is sometimes necessary. The warrior is often revered because they take personal risks on our behalf. They may even sacrifice themselves for a greater purpose. The best warriors embody values like duty, loyalty, courage, respect, and integrity.

The Feedback Warrior 2019

While it’s an ancient archetype, it still lives within us all today. Some of us express our inner warrior more often than others, yet we all can learn to bring forward the warrior spirit when needed. This is especially relevant for the modern-day manager. If we learn to become a Feedback Warrior in the workplace, we can unlock potentials in others and inspire superior results.

Let’s take a look at the warrior’s values and how they serve us when delivering feedback:

1.    Duty – Warriors willfully face obstacles because it is their duty. They welcome responsibility and exhibit the discipline necessary to do their job. Likewise, a manager must own their role fully. It is their duty to provide feedback! Ask yourself this…“If not you, then who?” Where is the feedback going to come from? Do you get feedback from peers? Maybe. How about from your direct reports? Not likely. Most of our feedback comes from our supervisors. If you accept the title, own the responsibility as well and think of it as your unconditional duty to give specific, actionable, and timely feedback.

2.    Loyalty – Warriors declare their allegiance to a purpose bigger than themselves. When I served in the U.S. Military, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution. As did all my fellow servicemen and women. That oath bound us together, and our loyalty to both common purpose and one another was unwavering.

Managers, today, need to think similarly when working with their teams. A loyal manager thinks of his or her direct reports like a brother or sister. They should feel an allegiance to support them, even giving difficult feedback if necessary, because they genuinely care about them and their success.

warrior pose

3.    Courage – Conflict is scary because we are uncertain of the potential outcome. Nevertheless, warriors do not shy away from it. They realize that avoidance of conflict often exacerbates the problem and postpones the inevitable. Warriors, instead, train themselves to handle conflict quickly and efficiently.

This does not mean that the warrior does not feel fear. A warrior understands that courage is taking action despite fear. The same applies to managers, today, when delivering feedback. We don’t know how it will be received and the other person may have a strong emotional reaction. However, we have to work with this person, and we don’t want it to jeopardize our relationship. What if we don’t have our facts straight? We may even be perceived as being sexist or racist!

There are many reasons we feel anxiety about giving feedback. A Feedback Warrior will find the courage within themselves to maintain focus on the task and deliver the feedback despite their emotional energy telling them to do otherwise.

4.    Respect – If you visit a traditional Japanese Karate Dojo, you will immediately notice the emphasis placed on respect. Not just respect for the authority (Sensei), but for the art’s lineage, the customs, and for one another as Karateka practitioners. This is to instill a respect for the powerful gift you are receiving in training. With power comes responsibility. Students learn that karate is for self-defense purposes and to use proportional force against a threat. In short, you learn to respect your opponent.

The same goes for managers today. A Feedback Warrior will seek to create feedback conversations that feel dignified and respectful. They deliver constructive feedback in a private setting, never in front of peers where they might cause undue embarrassment. They, also, will invest in countless instances of providing positive feedback beforehand, to create a strong relationship of mutual respect.

Think of your own experiences…we tend to be more open to constructive feedback when it comes from individuals we admire and respect. Feedback Warriors earn their authority to provide others with constructive criticism.

Integrity GNS Quote

5.    Integrity – A warrior always strives to act honorably and understands that having personal integrity is one of the highest measures of one’s honor. Webster defines integrity as 1) firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values, and 2) the quality or state of being complete or undivided. A Feedback Warrior embodies both aspects of the definition when having feedback conversations.

First, integrity is speaking honestly and fairly. Communicate with absolute candor, while also acknowledging that this feedback is your own perception/understanding/ reaction. A Feedback Warrior recognizes that feedback is as much about the giver as it is the receiver. We all have our own lens and biases, which impact our effectiveness at evaluating others’ competency. However, in speaking to your personal truth, you can help to limit defensiveness. For example:

Instead of: “You are not answering my emails in a timely manner. I need you to be more responsive.”

Try: “I’ve noticed that it took several days to get back to me on this important email. When I don’t hear from you in a timely manner, it makes me feel as if we are not on the same page and we may inadvertently mix up our messaging to the client. I realize that we all can get overwhelmed with email sometimes, yet, can we agree to be more responsive in the future?”

Second, integrity is being undivided in your communication. A Feedback Warrior does not “beat around the bush” or “sugarcoat” things. Often, managers will offer a “feedback sandwich,” to help alleviate their own anxiety. This is giving a compliment, then some constructive feedback, and then ending it with another compliment. This can confuse people as to what’s really important in this conversation and what they need to focus on.

My hope in sharing this article is that more managers will embrace their inner warrior and provide more feedback to their team. Yet, higher levels of performance don’t come from simply providing feedback. In my next article, I will share how managers should develop a Servant’s Heart in order to coach next level learning. I invite you to hit the “follow” button so you can receive future blog posts.

PS. Are you personally getting enough feedback to learn and grow as a professional? If you are a busy executive…probably not! Check out my powerful 360 Feedback Review process by clicking here.

Example_22

David understands how effective leadership generates success. A U.S. Army combat veteran and consultant to thousands of Fortune 500 managers, he is the Founder & Principal Consultant of The Leader Growth Group, a firm dedicated to creating self-aware leaders who inspire more engaged and productive workplaces. Get a copy of his book, “Growing Leaders: 20 Articles to Challenge, Inspire, and Amplify Your Leadership” by clicking here.

*All Rights Reserved. Reproduction, publication, and all other use of any and all this content is prohibited without the authorized consent of the author.

Can I Give You Some Feedback on Your Feedback?

Scared Guy

Hi there,

I know we don’t know each other very well, but do you mind if I give you some feedback?

Well, I don’t know how to put this. It’s never easy to talk about. Uhm, I’ll just cut to the chase…

You suck at giving feedback.  

Look, it’s not just you. Most managers are pretty terrible at it. Still, you can do better and you should work on it.

Ok? Great. Well then…good chat.

Oh yeah, your coaching stinks too, but we can talk about that later.

Ugh. Sound familiar? Most of us have had a few of these conversations with a boss throughout our careers. There is something our manager wants us to get better at, and they awkwardly stumble through giving us feedback on our performance. They are either too direct or too soft. So blunt that they trigger defensiveness in us, or so indirect that they outright confuse us. They lack details and examples. They don’t help us to see a clear path to improvement.

We leave the conversation feeling sad, pissed off, and perplexed. We don’t improve, and our relationship with our manager is often damaged.

The irony is that while this example is horribly executed, at least it’s feedback!

Most of the time, managers just avoid the discomfort of performance feedback altogether. If you are lucky, they might comment on things you are doing well, but you rarely get constructive feedback and coaching. Consider these recent findings:

  • PwC employee study found that nearly 60% of survey respondents reported that they would like feedback on a daily or weekly basis—a number that increased to 72% for employees under the age of 30. Additionally, more than 75% of respondents believed that feedback is valuable, and about 45% of respondents also valued feedback from their peers and clients or customers. Yet, less than 30% said they receive it.
  • Leadership experts Zenger and Folkman’s study of 900 global employees found that 69% of respondents said they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognizedMoreover, 92% of respondents agreed that when managers delivered constructive feedback properly, it was effective at improving performance.
  • Management research firm CEB confirmed that 77% of HR execs believe performance reviews aren’t an accurate representation of employee performance.

That last stat is quite telling. Managers, today, do a lousy job of giving feedback and coaching throughout the year, then performance review time comes around and acts as a forcing function. Yet, even then they “fluff it up,” avoiding the tougher conversations that might unfold by offering an honest assessment.

Or worse, they tell you all the things they should have told you months ago! You get surprised. Your ratings are not as high as you think they should be. Then, any semblance of coaching arrives way too late for you to do anything about it. The toothpaste is already out of the tube…you can’t put it back in, and you’re left with a mess.

Toothpaste2.jpg

This really isn’t all that surprising. A recent study by CareerBuilder.com shows that a massive 58 percent of managers said they didn’t receive any management training.Most managers in the workforce, today, are promoted due to their technical competence, not because they are innately capable of leading others. Making the people around them better requires a distinct set of skills that (typically) must be learned.

This is why after a decade of training managers in primarily Fortune 500 organizations, I’ve come to believe that the two most critical skills a manager must master are: 1) delivering feedback in a way that inspires learning and 2) coaching people to solve their own challenges. When done consistently well, great things happen. Individuals grow. Teams excel. Organizations thrive. Sure, managers need to be well-versed in a myriad of other skills as well. Yet, time and again, I keep reaching the same conclusion. Feedback and coaching is what separates the best from the rest.

Why? Well, the whole point of management is to help maximize organizational resources. People are every manager’s greatest resource. When a person receives timely, transparent, and relevant feedback, and is then coached on how to bring their highest-best-self to their work, they are being fully “maximized.” Not only do they deliver better results, but also they feel more engaged.

Still, easier said than done. It’s personally taken me the better part of my career to figure out how to artfully deliver feedback and coach people to their full potential. This is not exactly intuitive stuff! I want to help managers to expedite that learning curve, and here is the secret as I see it….

Spirit and Service

Okay, stop rolling your eyes. No, really, that’s it! All the skills of excellent feedback and coaching stem from these archetypical underpinnings. How you think determines your actions. When a manager learns to embody these values, his or her actions cannot fail but to inspire.

Women warrior

 

First, we must cultivate our Warrior Spirit and deliver performance feedback by recognizing our duty, finding our courage, and speaking with integrity.

Hands2

Next, we must find our Servant’s Heart to coach others to their full potential. We do this by embracing humility, exercising empathy, and generating possibilities through curiosity.

In the coming months, I’ll be sharing more on how you can learn to bring more of your Warrior Spirit and a Servant’s Heart to your feedback and coaching skills. I invite you to hit the “follow” button so you can receive future blogs.

Example_15David understands how effective leadership generates success. A U.S. Army combat veteran and consultant to thousands of Fortune 500 managers, he is the Founder & Principal Consultant of The Leader Growth Group, a firm dedicated to creating self-aware leaders who inspire more engaged and productive workplaces. Get a copy of his book, “Growing Leaders: 20 Articles to Challenge, Inspire, and Amplify Your Leadership” by clicking here.

*All Rights Reserved. Reproduction, publication, and all other use of any and all this content is prohibited without the authorized consent of the author.