3 Coaching Mistakes Managers Make

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How do you motivate people to bring their best effort to the workplace every day? Most managers will say it’s all about shaping behavior through strong incentives and rewarding positive outcomes, while also establishing appropriate consequences for poor performance. No doubt, a well-designed performance management system is imperative. Yet, talented people need more than carrots and sticks to reach their full potential. According to New York Times Bestselling Author, Dan Pink, smart professionals require three things; autonomy, mastery, and purpose to be intrinsically motivated in their jobs (1). This is why the critical skill of coaching separates a good manager from a top manager in today’s workplace.

Managers who are skilled coaches help their people to grow and develop beyond their current capacity, execute self-directed plans, and bring their unique gifts to the world in a purposeful way. Conversely, mangers who do not coach well set their reports up for stagnation, mediocrity, and disengagement. Many managers, today, understand this, and are genuinely interested in becoming a better coach. As such, I’ve made coaching skills development a top priority in my leadership programs for years. After nearly a decade of training thousands of people, I’ve noticed a few common coaching mistakes many managers make that I’d like to share with you.

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1.    Trying to Solve the Problem – Bar none, this is the single biggest mistake most managers make when coaching their people. It makes perfect sense. A report comes to you with a workplace challenge, and aren’t you supposed to provide them with solutions? Not if you’re coaching them! The best managers will resist the strong urge to provide solutions straightaway and instead ask smart and powerful questions that unlock learning. Then, as ideas emerge in conversation, the report is more intrinsically motivated to act on them because they are their own. Why do we as managers find this so difficult to do? It’s about identity. You are likely defining your value as a manager as a fixer, a doer, an expert in your craft. Instead, try shifting your identity to one of a facilitator. Your true value is in your curiosity, and in your belief that your reports are more creative and insightful than they (or you) might possibly imagine.

I offer you subscribe to the 80/20 rule to stay on track as a coach. A good coaching conversation is 80% your report talking, and 20% you asking smart questions that create momentum. If you pause and notice that this ratio is out of whack, it’s likely because you are trying too hard to personally solve the problem. Step back and regain perspective on where your true value lies.

Banded2.    Ignoring Emotions – Most coaching conversations have a strong human component to them. Perhaps a report is having a problem influencing a decision-maker, challenged by a co-worker’s personality, or uncertain of what the next stages of their career might be. Yet, many managers distance themselves from the messy emotional stuff and immediately move to generating options for a technical solution. Human challenges require us to exercise a little humanity first. Your report is experiencing emotions as a result of these challenges, so meet them where they are and help them to feel heard first.

Use reflexive listening techniques like, “What I am hearing is that…” and “It sounds to me like this is a (frustrating, disappointing, overwhelming, etc.) experience for you.” In helping them to hear their own voice, and then naming/validating their emotions, you are demonstrating presence and emotional intelligence. You are also creating the conditions for success. Whereas before, emotions may have clouded their vision for available options. In leading with your humanity first, you’ve helped them to process these emotions and move on to rational problem solving on their own.

Hook3.    Taking the Bait – Many managers, especially those new to coaching, are so eager to help that they accidentally “collude” with their report on their problem they face. They are doing all the right things like deep listening, exercising empathy, and helping their report to hear themselves. Yet, in doing so, they are only seeing the challenge through their report’s eyes, and losing objectivity. Great coaching is often about holding multiple perspectives simultaneously, and helping your report to see alternatives.

You may need to be provocative and ask your report, “How did you contribute to this mess?” We often believe our problems exist outside of us rather than within us, and this is one of my favorite questions to help a coachee see the impact of their own behavior. Or, maybe, you pretend to bring the other party “into the room” and ask “if John were here right now, what might he say?” As a general rule, begin with strong empathy, yet remember there are (at least) three sides to every coaching conversation; 1) your report’s story, 2) the other side’s story, and 3) the truth. Great managers help their reports to see more of the truth, so they can choose more influential actions.

The good news is that most managers tend to overcome these three coaching mistakes rather quickly. All it takes is a little training and deliberate practice. If you are interested in helping your managers to become better coaches, contact me directly at dspungin@leadergrowthgroup.com to learn about our management development programs.

BookDavid 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 Amazon Bestselling book, “Growing Leaders: 20 Articles to Challenge, Inspire, and Amplify Your Leadership” by clicking here.

(1) Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

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Self-Management Through Reappraisals

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Video Description: Leaders understand reactivity causes them to lose influence. Here are five reappraisal strategies you can use to increase perspective and make better choices when facing adversity.

Reappraisals Slide

Time Investment: Less than 4 minutes.

Click on the below link to start the video!

 

Example_15David understands how effective leadership generates success. A U.S. Army combat veteran with corporate leadership experience, 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 new 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 of this content is prohibited without authorized consent of the author.

Expanding Your “Choice Gap”

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One of my goals in 2018 is to create a YouTube channel that provides quick, informative, and inspiring leadership lessons. Please enjoy this first episode of The Leader Growth Group Video Blog.

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Video Description: Leaders understand reactivity causes them to lose influence. By acknowledging their inner dialogue and emotions, the best leaders create space for more mindful and effective actions.

Time Investment: Less than 4 minutes.

Click on the below link to start the video:

 

Example_15David understands how effective leadership generates success. A U.S. Army combat veteran with corporate leadership experience, he is the Founder & Principal Consultant of TheLeader Growth Group, a firm dedicated to creating self-aware leaders who inspire more engaged and productive workplaces. Get a copy of his new 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 of this content is prohibited without authorized consent of the author.

Setting the Stage for Your Leadership Success

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It’s a new year, it’s a new you! For many of us, January is our customary transition time. A period of lofty aspirations and making positive changes. You may be saying to yourself, “This is the year I will finally lose that 10 pounds, spend more time with the family, or (insert your own reliably missed goal here).” That’s right…we tend to start out strong with our goals, but lose momentum as the reality of life sets in. Nowhere is this more apparent than at your local gym. Right about now, the place is fully packed with hopeful and motivated people. Yet, give it about three weeks….the place will be a ghost town as the difficulty of consistent self-discipline slowly sets in. While setbacks in personal fitness aspirations are normal, and, relatively harmless, there are some goals you can’t afford to miss. Namely, your leadership goals.

With leadership comes tremendous responsibility. Others are counting on you to be your highest-best-self as a leader—everyday. They need you to bring your strengths, mitigate your challenges, and embrace continuous learning. You can’t give it your best in January and, then, just take a few months off. As a leader, you are always on a stage. Always performing. Always being evaluated. If you expect your people to deliver rock star results this year, you need to be the example. As such, the best leaders have a plan to continuously grow themselves.

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So, do you have your leadership goals for the year already established? If not, where should you start? Here are a few thoughts to help spur some ideas.

Thumbs Up and Down1.Inventory Historic Feedback – Reflect back on last year. What consistent feedback did you hear? What strengths did others value? Any weaknesses that are impeding your success? Try to list two to three answers to each of these questions. If this takes you more than 5 minutes to complete, I offer that your most important leadership goal for the coming year may need to be diligently and consistently collecting feedback on your leadership performance.

Vision on Mountain2. Imagine Team/Organizational Success –Take a moment and envision you’ve just fast- forwarded to December. It was an amazingly successful year and you are proud of your team and organizational performance! See the results in your mind’s eye. What are your clients, teammates, and reports saying about the year? Now, who would you need to become as a leader for this to be a reality? How would you personally need to change?

Trends Compass3. Note Environmental Trends – Perhaps you are already a high-performing leader and want to take your game to the next level. Look at how the world is evolving and seek opportunities to evolve with it. Here is a list of seven of the top leadership skills for 2020. For a more in-depth look at what’s ahead, the Center for Creative Leadership published this excellent white paper on future trends in leader development. My personal take on imperative leadership skills for the future include: ability to lead change in an environment of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA); emphasis on facilitative coaching skills as a manager; and internalizing a “service-before-self” mentality rooted in curiosity and humility.

Whatever you decide to focus on as a leader this year, I have one final word of advice…don’t go at it alone! Lean into your support system and seek out mentorship, coaching, and skills training opportunities. If you are interested in executive coaching, check out my Executive Edge Program. If you or your team are interested in becoming a VUCA Proof© leader, check out my VUCA Proof© White Paper and VUCA Proof© Executive Workshop. Great luck in the year ahead, set the stage and lead well!

Example_15(David understands how effective leadership generates success. A U.S. Army combat veteran with corporate leadership experience, he is the Founder & Principal Consultant of TheLeader Growth Group, a firm dedicated to creating self-aware leaders who inspire more engaged and productive workplaces. Get a copy of his new book, “Growing Leaders: 20 Articles to Challenge, Inspire, and Amplify Your Leadership” by clicking here.

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Finding Your Leadership Fit in a VUCA World

Years ago, I was working in a small ad-hoc group of peers on a project. We were tasked with collaborating to brainstorm ideas and present them to an approval authority. Gathering in a small windowless room for our first session, things quickly got painful. We were floundering, paralyzed by a lack of direction and process! There was uncertainty and ambiguity around who was in charge as we attempted to tackle a complex problem. Then, I mistakenly added volatility to the already fragile situation by attempting to lead the group. Understand, I was mostly a “heroic style” leader at the time, and having successfully led teams my whole life, felt it was my duty to sweep in and save this gaggle from itself!

The challenge was…this was predominantly a group of women, of various ethnicities and backgrounds very different from my own, and more importantly, many of whom were far more competent than me on the topic. Within minutes of my attempt to “provide leadership,” it dawned on me—this group is not interested in me leading it! More notably, I was not the right person to lead this group to begin with. To be absolutely clear. That’s not to say that a white man can’t or shouldn’t lead diverse groups of women, (or vice versa)! Only that, there were several others who were more qualified and passionate about the topic. Others who had invested in key relationships and who had far greater influence based on this group’s dynamics. In stepping aside and becoming a role player, I became more effective, and helped the group to be more effective as it eventually sorted out how we would work together.

This experience was insightful and liberating. We are taught that leadership is good…We should be doing more of it! Yet, not every situation is a good fit for you to lead. There are situations where you are uniquely more qualified to lead more so than others. Key to your success, especially in a world of Volatility, Uncertainty, Ambiguity, and Complexity (VUCA), is to identify your leadership skills which align with your environment. So, how does one understand where they could, and should provide leadership in the world?

In my previous articles on the VUCA Proof© leader, I offered that leaders exist to extinguish the status quo, envision a superior outcome, and align actions towards producing new results. To be effective towards this purpose in a VUCA world, leaders must overcome their learned tendency to display heroic leadership, and instead focus on being more passionatebold, and mindful. Once you’ve built a strong foundation in these behaviors at the individual level, you can apply them at the team and organizational level. That’s because these behaviors intersect with one another to form three critical practices for effective leadership in a VUCA environment: Alignment, Activation, and Attunement.

Thus, critical to understanding your leadership fitis being more mindful and passionate as a leader. Yet, being different is pointless if we don’t do things differently as well. We must merry up our thoughts and our actions. Specifically, there are three key activities you can do to practice Aligned leadership.

The process of alignment starts with assessing the environment around you for real and perceived gaps in performance/results. This will require you to pick your head up from the day-to-day grind and do some strategic reflection. What problems gain and hold your attention? Our VUCA world changes often, where can you anticipate future challenges? Where does change need to happen? Just brainstorm at this point and get all your ideas out on the table.

Next, determine where you are the best fit to provide leadership. Narrow down your potential ideas to those that really fire you up. When things get tough, and they always do in our VUCA world, where will you be a source of boundless energy for others to feed off of? Now, why are you the right person to be of service to others? Passion alone is not enough; what skills, experience, and insight do you bring to the table? Competency is the price of admission to be a leader. How will you prove you are worthy to lead and why should followers trust you?

Finally, it’s time to take action and take a stand in the world. Getting noticed in a VUCA world can be difficult and you need to find a way to rise above the noise/distractions. Yet, as Loa Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” You need to attract a small core following and then build momentum. Perhaps you start by making a formal request to a Sr. Manager (a potential ally) to take on a new initiative for your organization. Or maybe, you volunteer to take on a more active role in your community. Whatever you goal, you need to secure a credible platform from which to exude influence.

Assessing, Fitting, and Committing are the activities that ensure we are practicing Aligned leadership. In my next few articles, I will address how we can practice both Activated and Attuned leadership as well, all of which are essential to moving away from a heroic leadership style, and towards a more effective VUCA Proof© style.

Would you like to learn more? You can download my whitepaper here. Interested in training your executive team to adopt a more VUCA Proof© leadership style? Download the VUCA Proof© 1-day Executive Workshop Brochure here.

Example_15.png(David understands how effective leadership generates success. A U.S. Army combat veteran with corporate leadership experience, 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 new book, “Growing Leaders: 20 Articles to Challenge, Inspire, and Amplify Your Leadership” by clicking here.

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3 Keys to Getting Yourself Promoted

Ambition. Some of us have more of it than others. For those highly motivated individuals out there, working hard to get themselves promoted, I offer a few (perhaps less than intuitive) thoughts that will increase your opportunity for advancement.

1.    To get yourself promoted, get your boss promoted.

fastest way to promotion is to clear your path to the next level in the organizational hierarchy. When your boss gets promoted, there is an already established and immediate organizational need. Naturally, when you have been a key part of your boss’s success, it makes sense that you will be identified as the “heir apparent” for the vacated position. Yet, most of us are too worried about our own immediate lanes of responsibility to look at the bigger picture. Pick your head up. Think bigger. How is your boss’s boss defining success? When you understand the priorities two levels up, you can exercise initiative without your boss’s direct guidance. This frees your boss up to focus their energy on creative and strategic initiatives that might garner them greater visibility, increasing their promotion potential—which increases your promotion potential.

2.    Make yourself redundant. 

Huh, won’t that get me fired, rather than promoted? This goes against our own thoughtson self-preservation! For many, the story goes something like this. If I train, coach, and mentor high potential members of my team in everything I know, they will one day take my place and I’ll be without a job. This is backwards thinking. Organizational succession is a dance of resource allocation. You want decision makers to be comfortable with replacing you. When they see the next generation of talent ready to step up, and they feel you are ready to do the same, it becomes a far easier decision to make. Thus, invest in your reports, promote their successes, and create “superstars” that will seamlessly take the reins when you are asked to take on bigger endeavors.

3.    Communicate your desires.

This seems so obvious. Yet, so many people go through their career paths waiting for others to open doors for them. Their default storyline is, as long as I do good work, others will definitely notice, and they will take care of me when promotion opportunities arise. Do you know where you want to be a year from now? How about 5 years from now? Are you communicating those thoughts to others? If not, you are doing yourself a disservice. When you have deliberate and focused career development conversations with powerful decision-makers well in advance, you are planting a seed. People will start looking at you differently, evaluating you against your intentions, and perhaps coaching you as well.

(David understands how effective leadership generates success. A U.S. Army combat veteran with corporate leadership experience, 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.)

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Mindful Leadership in a VUCA World

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In my last article on the VUCA Proof© leader, I made the case that leaders exist to extinguish the status quo, envision a superior outcome, and align actions towards producing new results. To be effective towards this purpose, leaders must be extraordinarily bold, rising above the distractions of Volatility, Uncertainty, Ambiguity, and Complexity (VUCA) to inspire others. Yet, embracing boldness as a leader is only part of the equation, as a strength overdone becomes a weakness.

Perhaps, you have met an “overly bold” leader. Someone whose vision was so far ahead of the rest of the team, they had a hard time gaining buy-in during execution. Or maybe, they challenged others so intensely to attain their vision, they burned out even their most ardent supporters (or themselves) along the way. For boldness to be effective, it needs a counterweight. Mindfulness is the Yin to the Yang of boldness.

Mindfulness

You may think, “Oh no, not another mindfulness article!” For some, the word mindfulness conjures up images of yogis meditating on a pillow, and it’s “too far out there” for them to practically access. So, please allow me to break this down in the most tangible way possible. Mindfulness is about training your attention. For a VUCA Proof© leader, mindfulness is about training your attention to cut through chaos, so you can notice what’s going on and deeply understand the impact of your leadership initiatives. Let’s look at these components in greater detail.

Cutting through chaosIt’s No Longer Optional – In a world of information overload and multitasking, a leader’s attention is their most precious asset. One might think of attention as the currency of leadership, just like in your wallet or purse you have a finite amount of money you have available to spend. How you spend it is largely a function of your values/needs, and how a leader “spends” attention reflects their priorities. Unfortunately, in today’s VUCA world, it’s easy for leaders to spend their attention on distractions. Mindfulness is no longer optional; it is now a critical leader behavior.

Hand in waterGetting Beneath the Surface – With deliberately focused attention, the leader can dig deeper to see and to hear what might go on in their environment. Think of your daily workflow as moving like a fast-paced stream. The water is rushing by, and from the banks, you can see rocks and how they are affecting flow. Now, you take your hand and place it in the water. Immediately, you notice new information. The water is cooler and deeper than you expected. You also notice there is a strong undercurrent down about two feet. Similarly, leaders leverage mindfulness to observe, feel, sense, and think about what’s going on inside them and around them.

connectionsSeeing connections – With fresh information to work with, a mindful leader can practice greater curiosity and empathy. They might notice the VP of Sales sounded a little down on the call today and get curious about how he is holding up after almost three straight weeks of traveling. They may then remember he has a 5-year-old daughter at home, who has likely also been affected. Or a leader might notice their own frustration around why Project X hasn’t made more progress in recent weeks, only to realize they haven’t done a great job communicating expectations for certain milestones. Having connected the dots, the leader now has greater choice as to what leadership actions will increase their influence and produce results.

Yet, like boldness, mindfulness does not just happen to us one day; it’s a behavior that must be practiced and embodied. To be a mindful leader, here are a few things to keep top of mind:

  1. Be Your Own Intervention – VUCA typically has us thinking about past events and anticipating the future. To get oneself in a fully present state requires an intervention! We need to interrupt our thinking and quiet the mind. For many, the best way to do this is through a micro-meditation that focuses one’s attention on your breath and/or our body. Sometimes, a short mantra can help. As an example of all three techniques, here is Deepak Chopra’s “go-to” 3-minute meditation to get focused.
  2. Make Curiosity a Habit – Once you are well practiced at quieting your mind on demand, you will have the space to practice authentic curiosity — questioning your observations in an open, honest, and non-judgmental way. For better introspection, this is a solid list of 13 questions every leader should have on hand and reflect on daily. However, mindfulness is also about what’s going on for others, and great leaders’ check in often with their people to test assumptions. Here is also a great list of 7 questions every leader should keep in their back pocket to better understand the impact of their leadership on others.
  3. Commit to Consistency – 10 minutes a day…at a minimum, that’s what it takes to increase your mindfulness (1). Just like heading to the gym, you must put in the work to build new muscle. Create the conditions for consistency. Perhaps, you start your day with 5 minutes of meditation and then 5 minutes of reflection on “questions of the day” (before looking at your email). A little discipline goes a long way, and over time, it will become easier. Finally, there is great new technology you can use to support a mindfulness practice. If you haven’t yet heard of Headspace, it’s a great app that helps to make meditation and mindfulness a habit.

I invite you to bring more mindfulness to your leadership. In doing so, you’ll be setting yourself up for greater success and moving toward what I call a VUCA Proof© leadership style. Interested in learning more about what it means to be a VUCA Proof© leader? You can download my whitepaper here. Interested in training your executive team to adopt a mindful, more VUCA Proof© leadership style? Simply download the VUCA Proof© 1-day Executive Workshop Brochure here.

(David understands how effective leadership generates success. A U.S. Army combat veteran with corporate leadership experience, 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.)

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