Blog Categories: Leading Positively
Posted on April 1, 2019
Managers who effectively harness their coaching skills reap multiple benefits. Their employees are more committed, willing to put in greater effort and are less likely to leave.
Most managers have had some training in coaching people for high performance. Ten years ago, 73% of managers received some form of training, according to BlessingWhite, a global leadership-development firm. But the firm’s 2015 report reveals that employees who receive regular feedback through coaching conversations are in the minority.
Why Don’t More Managers Coach?
Managers usually cite lack of time as the main excuse for failing to coach employees, but the real reasons may be different, note John H. Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett in The Extraordinary Coach: How the Best Leaders Help Others Grow (McGraw-Hill Education, 2010).
Three common barriers stand in the way:
- Misconceptions of what coaching is
- A desire to avoid difficult conversations
- No clear game plan for initiating and framing coaching conversations
Despite good intentions, the manager-fixer creates numerous problems:
- Quick fixes don’t teach people to think for themselves.
- When work is challenging, employees will look to their managers for an easy fix.
- Managers who fix problems encourage dependency, thereby creating additional work for themselves.
Let’s address the reasons why managers fail to coach.
- Misconceptions of What Coaching Is
Coaching isn’t instructing, mentoring, counseling, cheerleading, therapy or directing, although there are some similarities. Coaching skills include:
- Clarifying an interaction’s outcome and agreeing to a conversation’s goal
- Listening to what is—and isn’t—said
- Asking non-leading questions to expand awareness
- Exploring possibilities, consequences, actions and decisions
- Eliciting a desired future state
- Establishing goals and expectations, including stretch goals
- Providing support
- Following up on progress
- Setting accountability agreements
- A Desire to Avoid Difficult Conversations
Coaching conversations require time and energy, but they’re the only way to gain trust, honesty and transparency. If you’re unwilling to invest the required time and effort, coaching will inevitably fail.
- No Game Plan for Coaching Conversations
Many coaching models exist, but the best are short, simple and easy to employ. With a solid framework, you can achieve results in as little as 10 minutes.
One of the original coaching frameworks is the GROW model, created by Graham Alexander, Alan Fine and Sir John Whitmore:
|G||Goal||The Goal is where the client wants to be. It must be clearly defined so people know when they’ve achieved it.|
|R||Reality||The Current Reality is where the client is now. What are the issues and challenges? How far away is Goal achievement?|
|O||Obstacles||What Obstacles are stopping the client from reaching the Goal?|
|Options||Once Obstacles are identified, the client finds Options to deal with them and make progress.|
|W||Way Forward||The Options are converted into the Way Forward—action steps that map the way to reach the Goal.|
FUEL Coaching Conversations
Zenger and Stinnett suggest using the FUEL model in The Extraordinary Coach:
- F = Frame the Conversation. Set the context by agreeing on the discussion’s purpose, process and desired outcomes.
- U = Understand the Current State. Explore the current state from the coachee’s point of view. Expand the coachee’s awareness of the situation to determine the real coaching issue.
- E = Explore the Desired State. Articulate your vision of success in this scenario. Explore multiple alternative paths before prioritizing methods of achieving this vision.
- L = Lay Out a Success Plan. Identify the specific, time-bounded action steps to be taken to achieve the desired results. Determine milestones for follow-up and accountability.
Face the Coaching FACTS
While people enjoy receiving their managers’ support, they also want to be challenged, note John Blakey and Ian Day in Challenging Coaching: Going Beyond Traditional Coaching to Face the FACTS (Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2012).
Blakey and Day developed the FACTS coaching model from frontline observations:
- F = Feedback: How can coaches provide challenging feedback that informs and inspires? How can we ensure that praise and recognition are balanced with honest feedback on mistakes?
- A = Accountability: How does a coach hold people accountable for commitments without blame or shame? How can accountability be extended from personal commitments to alignment with the values, strategy and ethos of the wider organization?
- C = Courageous Goals: How does a coach move beyond incremental goal-setting models to those that engage the right-brain attributes of courage, excitement, inspiration and transformation?
- T = Tension: When is tension constructive? How can coaches practice creating and holding tension without risking burnout in key performers? How can the tension in a conversation be calibrated and dynamically adjusted to ensure peak performance? When does tension go too far and damage the underlying relationships?
- S = Systems Thinking: How can a coach stay sensitive to “big-picture” issues like ethics, diversity and the environment without losing focus on bottom-line results? What can be learned from the world of systems thinking that enables the coach to be a positive agent of change for the wider organization?
Managers who avoid coaching often struggle with starting a coaching conversation. In the absence of deep, hour-long coaching sessions, you can use key questions to realize change and growth.
Michael Bungay Stanier shares seven core questions to open coaching conversations in The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever (Box of Crayons Press, 2016):
- What’s on your mind?
- What else?
- What’s the real challenge here for you?
- What do you want?
- How can I help?
- If you’re saying “yes” to this, to what are you saying “no”?
- What was most useful for you?
Posted on February 19, 2019
Like all maturing adults, leaders progress through sequential developmental levels. At the higher stages, they become more successful. With increased effectiveness, there’s a 38% probability of seeing higher business performance, according to one study.
The increasingly complex and chaotic marketplace poses an urgent need to grow better leaders. Leaders remain confused, however, about how to strengthen their competencies.
Rather than focusing on training, skills and knowledge, developmental-stage theory involves expanding one’s “forms of mind,” defined by leadership coach Jennifer Garvey Berger as our changing capacity to cope with complexity, multiple perspectives and abstraction.
Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams, authors of Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results (Wiley, 2015), applied developmental-stage theory to create the Leadership Circle Profile, a 360°assessment tool that measures leaders’ developmental stages.
Similarly, William B. Joiner and Stephen A. Josephs use developmental-stages as the foundation for Leadership Agility 360°, their 360° assessment tool, in Leadership Agility: Five Levels of Mastery for Anticipating and Initiating Change (Jossey-Bass 2007).
By identifying stages of progressive development, we can use behavioral action plans and coaching to expand a leader’s forms of mind and modify behavior.
Foundations of Developmental Theory
Developmental theories have been around for decades, based on 50 years of psychological research into how adults mature. The basics are summarized here:
- Just as children improve their cognitive capacities with age, so do adults.
- Adults, however, develop according to needs and opportunities, not because of age.
- Some adults can function only at lower levels of development. A small percentage attains higher levels of awareness, wisdom and compassion.
- As leaders progress through developmental levels, they expand their mental and emotional capacities and become increasingly skilled at handling complexity.
- Each stage describes a form of mind: a way of thinking about responsibility, conflicts, perspective and assumptions (about self, others and the world).
- Leaders may operate partially at one stage and occasionally at the next, but return to old habits before transitioning.
- Transitioning requires changing one’s previous assumptions to expand consciousness.
5 Levels of Leadership
The following table explains how four leadership experts define levels of leadership behaviors and mindsets. Unfortunately, there is no uniform agreement on vocabulary, which has created a confusing array of names and definitions.
(Please note: The rows of stages aren’t equal; that is, while there may be some similarities, the stages are not defined as equivalent to others across the rows.)
Using a broad brush, we can summarize the various stages of leadership development as follows:
- Level 1: Leaders who operate at the first stage of development are focused on their own need to excel, which explains why it’s referred to as an Egocentric, Opportunist or Expert stage. These leaders are acutely aware of what they need to do to succeed and how they must be perceived by others. Leadership at Level 1 therefore tends to be autocratic and controlling. Growth requires one to become aware of, and interested in, other people’s needs and to reach out co-relationally. This is a normal developmental stage for young adults, but ineffective for leaders (although 5% appear to operate at this stage).
- Level 2: Leaders’ abilities to simultaneously respond to their personal needs and those of others is the hallmark of Stage 2, referred to as the Socialized or Reactive mindset by some, and the Diplomat or Achiever stage by others. At this stage, a leader plays by the organization’s rules and expectations and builds alliances, but with a focus on how to best get ahead. One’s emphasis is on the outer game to gain meaning, self-worth and security. At this stage, identity is defined from the outside-in and requires external validation in one of three ways: relationship strength, intellect or results. Leaders fall into three categories at Level 2: Complying, Protecting or Controlling (reflecting overdependence on heart, head or will). Most leaders (nearly 75%, as with most adults) operate at this level.
- Level 3: Referred to as the Creative, Self-Authoring, Individualist or Catalyst stage, Level 3 is marked by personal transformation from old assumptions/beliefs and a quest for external validation to a more authentic version of the self. These leaders want to know who they truly are and what they care most about. They’re on a path to becoming visionary leaders, accepting that authenticity carries a risk of disappointing others, potential failures and hazards associated with contradicting accepted norms. Leaders trade their need to be admired for a higher purpose. They don’t feel the need to be the hero and begin to share power. About 20% of leaders operate with a Level 3 mindset.
- Level 4: Called the Integral, Transforming Self, Strategist and Co-Creator stage, Level 4’s hallmark is one’s ability to focus not only on an organizational vision, but the welfare of the larger system in which a company operates. Servant leadership emerges, as one considers more interdependent components and systemic complexities.
- Level 5: Level 5 is referred to as Unitive, Alchemist and Synergist. Other stages of development may be unexplored, as very few leaders grow past the fourth level. To some theorists, Level 5 encompasses a spiritual focus.
As leaders progress from one level to the next, they expand your strengths and abilities. Leaders can grow into the next developmental stage, recognizing there will be a learning curve and inherent challenges.
Leadership development programs must take developmental stages into account if organizations are to grow better leaders.
Posted on January 23, 2019
We have a lot to learn from research–not only living well, longer — but happier. So a group of demographers published papers on those areas in the world where people do just that: Areas where people were up to three times more likely to live to 100 than the average American. And they didn’t just live long — they lived well. Healthier. Happier. Fewer diseases. More energy. Read this concise blog to find out what the researchers did — lessons for living longer from people around the world who lived the longest. Hint: the answer is not in a bottle of supplements or in a cream.
Posted on October 14, 2018
This HBR article written by Michelle Gielan,
Positive Psychology researcher gives a surprising view of Out-Of-Office (OOO) messages. She gives ideas as to how we can use the message to build social connections which, research finds that social connection, which adds meaning and depth to our relationships, is the greatest predictor of long-term levels of happiness, and can be a major contributing factor to our performance at work. She also offers some creative examples beyond the boring OOO that can forge conversational sharing and ways to be offer resources to your clients while letting them know that you are away.
Benjamin Franklin built his character around 13 virtues — and following his weekly plan could change your life
Posted on January 19, 2018
When I start to work with a client, I ask them to define what their values/virtues and strengths are — taking the VIA strengths survey helps to determine them. Then I ask them to rate their top 6 values each day on a scale of 1 -10. This exercise was also practiced by one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin. Read this article on how esteemed Mr. Franklin defined his values and then contemplated each day how he used them. How many years later and we are still talking about Ben? I would say his method of defining his virtues and living them out served him well … and us.
Posted on November 12, 2017
It’s fascinating what causes people to remember certain experiences, activities, and times in their lives. Yet, most of the time we wonder what we did last week that was meaningful or, how fast time is going by and … what is there to show for it? This article describes the research behind what makes certain events memorable and how to create more of them to savor and enjoy the life we have. Here are some hints: tell a employee that you appreciate their work, celebrate getting past a disagreement and remaining friends, mark a memory with a ritual that involves a sensory delight…live your life and look to make more moments of connection and gratitude.
Posted on August 3, 2017
We all know negative thinking when we hear it, the challenge is managing our own negative thoughts even in the face of hearing the “half empty glass” dialogue of others. This article by NYT health editor Jane Brody describes the compelling research of current social scientists whose data suggests that developing positive emotions in oneself promotes healthy bodies, minds and more life satisfaction.
Posted on January 17, 2017
By knowing what our strengths are, we can consciously think of using them when confronted with everyday stress. This simple article offer a free strengths test that was developed by Drs. Martin Seligman and Chris Peterson- serious, respected social scientists who researched all major cultures to find out what strengths were key to being successful in that culture. Take the test and focus on ways to use these strengths everyday in the New Year to manage the challenges you may face.
Posted on January 10, 2017
A Coaching Conversation Checklist for Smart Managers
In spite of wide-spread coach training, many managers aren’t using coaching skills to grow and develop their people. Instead, they see themselves as problem solvers, cutting short conversations with employees by providing solutions, advice, and answers.
Yet managers who coach find that their employees are more committed, willing to put forth greater effort, and less likely to leave.
“Clearly, the benefits of building a coaching culture and increasing the effectiveness of coaching are great. There are both tangible benefits (increased employee engagement and productivity) and intangible benefits (improved culture and finding meaning and purpose in work).” ~ John H. Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett, The Extraordinary Coach: How the Best Leaders Help Others Grow, McGraw-Hill, 2010
The authors suggest using the FUEL model outlined in their book to help create a coaching checklist:
- F = Frame the Conversation. Set the context by agreeing on the discussion’s purpose, process, and desired outcome.
- U = Understand the Current State from the coachee’s point of view, and expand his awareness of the situation.
- E = Explore the Desired State. Help the coachee to articulate a vision of success in this scenario.
- L = Lay Out a Success Plan. Identify specific, time-bound action steps to be taken to achieve the desired results with milestones for follow-up and accountability.
Step 1: Frame the Coaching Conversation
Conversations with employees often turn into project task updates instead of furthering growth and development. A checklist helps set up a coaching dialogue. According to Zenger and Stinnett The Extraordinary Coach, there are three steps that work well for initiating a developmental dialogue.
- Identify the behavior or issue to discuss.
- Determine the purpose or outcomes of the conversation.
- Agree on the process for the conversation.
This sounds almost too simple to bother with, but without it employees aren’t clear about what the issues are and how they can use them to grow and develop.
Step 2: Understanding Leads to Insights
The next step in a coaching conversation is to address the “meat” of the issue. This part can be tricky because of our natural tendency to assume we understand what the issues are. We fill in the blanks and automatically judge—usually prematurely.
Instead, a manager needs to listen well and encourage the coachee to talk. Explore what the real challenge is for her.
- Ask open-ended, non-leading questions
- Act as a mirror, observe, and repeat what you hear and see
- Encourage the coachee to explore what the real issue or challenge is
- Discuss consequences in the event things don’t change
- Assume anything
- Judge, criticize, or categorize
- Ask for too many details or focus on other people
- Offer your perspective or advice right away
- Find an answer for the person
People won’t change until they experience a need to, and if a manager is too helpful, the coachee won’t feel enough motivation.
Step 3: Explore Desired Outcomes
Typically, managers are excellent problem-fixers and advice-givers. They want to jump in at Step 3 and often skip over Steps 1 and 2.
But that is a big trap. Instead of pouncing on the first viable solution, it’s worthwhile to explore alternatives by helping people think things through. Let the coachee do most of the talking to find out what matters most to her. By suggesting at least three alternatives, she will end up with a more effective solution. As the manager, you can negotiate and influence what the measures of success must include.
Step 4: Lay Out a Success Plan
This is the home stretch in a coaching conversation and should not be rushed or skimmed over. Your role now is that of a guide. Together you will develop and agree on an action plan with timelines, enlist support from others, and set milestones for follow-up and accountability.
Why Bother with Coaching Conversations?
Without going into all the statistical ROI studies, let’s look at the benefits of coaching as a managerial style.
- Coaching gives new meaning to work. When people feel that they are engaged in a useful cause and not merely performing menial tasks, they will go beyond minimal requirements.
- Coaching leads to more engaged and committed employees.
- Coaching increases productivity.
- Coaching refocuses people on the most important objectives.
- Coaching leads to a stronger culture, which has a tremendous impact on performance and productivity.
- Coaching strengthens the relationship between supervisor and employee.
- Coaching promotes heightened self-esteem and confidence among employees.
- Coaching encourages resilience and creative problem-solving ability.
- Coaching helps people take responsibility and ownership of both problems and solutions.
Posted on November 20, 2016
An important adult skill to develop: Understanding your own emotions and how they contribute to your thinking. Our best thinking leads to our best actions, producing the connections with others that we desire. This article gives compelling research on how simple acts like smiles, touch and laughter can add great dividends to leading a good life.