One Key Role of a Leader Is to Coach
Leaders must coach their teams. It’s their team, who else is supposed to do it? The team’s performance is a consequence of their conversations. There are key conversations that generate the team and its teamwork. The leader’s job is to make sure that these key conversations happen and happen well. – BOB DUNHAM
It is a myth that only professional coaches do coaching. One of the key roles of leaders and managers is to coach their team members and co-workers – they must ‘carry’ them to a different place of seeing the same situation, or to a new commitment.
What do extraordinary leaders and managers really do? Observe carefully and you will notice that they spend most of their time having conversations. If their conversations are effective, the leader/manager is considered competent. If it’s otherwise, they are declared incompetent.
The question, then, is, ‘What makes a leadership conversation effective?’
This book uses the term COACH (Care, Observe, Act, Commit, Hold Space) as a powerful acronym. If managers want to be successful, mastering these conversational domains is not discretionary. It is imperative for success in today’s corporate world – a world that is soon going to be (if not already being) ruled by the millennials.
As humans, we are beings who have a future. We have a future we want, and futures that we don’t want. We have emotional responses to these futures, and the foundation of these emotional responses is ‘care’. We care about our future, having positive outcomes, and not having negative outcomes.
But care is not just a desire or preference. It connects to the depths of what resonates for us in life. It is the foundation of value, satisfaction and meaning.
What may be the key domains of your cares or concerns? (For example: family, organization, health, personal development, social organization that you work for or volunteer, etc.)
Are you taking care of each of your cares? For each care, assess whether you are satisfied in how you are taking care of each care.
Where you are not fully satisfied, speculate on what may be the missing promises, and what actions can you take to take better care.
Have conversations with your co-workers on what their cares are. Get connected to their motivations to come to work, to do the project, to be a part of your team, the organization, and so forth.
Are you supporting your co-workers in taking care of their professional cares? Understand from them what you could do to support them in taking care of their cares. If there are areas you cannot support them, be honest with them. This is the beginning of a relationship where individuals can be open with each other, and build trust.
Keep the question ‘For the sake of what’ alive for everything that you do. Ask yourself this question several times in a day, and see if you come with an answer that works for you. This question is meant to test if the activity that you are doing is action inside of your cares, or meaningless tasks?
Journal your thoughts, reflections and what is opening up for you when you do the above practices. Make new commitments to yourself, inside of your cares.
The world you see is a function of the observer you are. How you see your world determines your future, your possibilities and your actions.
This is one of the most important claims of this book. As a leader, if you understand and embody this claim, you will begin to lead your life, your team or your organization in a whole new manner and generate results that were previously unavailable to you.
Allocate a time daily and observe the observer that you are. Identify situations in your day where you could bring forth a different observer in you.
Think of someone you know whom you noticed in a state of excitement and enthusiasm: How did you know that that person was in this mood? What did you ‘see’? Now think of the same person in the mood of dejection and resignation: How did you know that that person was in this mood? What did you ‘see’?
Also, take a moment to think of when you are in a mood that de-energizes you – how does the body feel when you are in such a mood. Also, think of when you are in a mood that energizes you – how does the body feel when you are in such a mood?
Observe the emotions and the body language of your co-workers. The physical self they show up in speaks a lot about the mood they live in, and the results they generate. The practice of observing your mood and your body, and that of others, will help you, as a leader, get a sense of the world your co-workers live in.
When was the last time you generated an extraordinary result in your professional or personal life? Was it because you took ‘more action’ or because you shifted the observer you were, or maybe both? Get your present to the times you shifted the observer you were, and your actions shifted – and hence your results shifted.
List assessments that you have about your co-workers, important people in your life, and any other key entities. Recognize that these are just your assessments and not the truth. The question you must ask yourself: Does it serve you to observe these people in the manner you do? If it does, great, and if it does not, give yourself the choice to reconstruct your assessments. Get your present to what opens up for you now.
Observe assessments that you automatically create when events take place. Notice that you are creating your world. Additionally, observe that despite the event being the same, others may create a completely different world (even if others create the same assessments as you – does not mean that these assessments are facts – it only means these are shared assessments). Give yourself the choice to create assessments that work for you, those that are aligned with your cares.
Get into the practice of living in the moment. Very often, we are either living in the future, or in the past. To get the best results, we need to be present in the moment. One way to do so is to practise centering.
We are centred when our body, mind and emotions are in a state where we can choose our actions. When we are not in a state to choose our actions, we are ‘off-centre’; and our reactions choose for us.
The act of commitment is a generative act in conversation. It lives in you as an internal state that guides your external actions. It is a declaration you may share with others of a future outcome that you will produce. The act is specific and concrete and requires that you dedicate action, time, focus, and perhaps other resources to the outcome.
Commitment is to own the future you share with others, to own your power to create, to own the actions to produce the future, and to be responsible to yourself and others for the outcome.
Get the present to the promises that you are making in your day-to-day life.
Make a note of the promises that you have not kept or managed in each of the important relationships in your life. For example:
- Your customers
- Your co-workers
- Your peers
- Your line manager
- Your spouse
- Your children
- Your parents
What has been the impact on the 4Rs in your life if you have not managed your promises effectively in the above relationships?
Revoke or renegotiate the unkept promises. Observe the impact on the 4Rs while you are revoking/renegotiating. You will notice in certain cases that despite not having kept your promise there is an upward movement in each of the 4Rs (Respect for self, Reputation, Relationships, Results), just by revoking or renegotiating the promise.
You are a promise. What does this mean to you? Please write down in your journal: ‘What promise are you in each of these relationships?’ Write down your reflections in your journal of what is opening up for you
Eventually, it is actions that give you results. You must ‘get on the court’ and act and enable your co-worker to do the same. There can be any number of excuses that you may give yourself or your co-worker may give you for not taking action, and yet none of them lead to performance.
Remember, it is actions that you take that lead to your performance. History is testimony to the fact that no one has ever won a game by being on the stands. One of the key roles of a leader or a manager is to empower the co-worker to take and coordinate action with others to generate extraordinary results.
Develop a practice to observe, at least once every week (if not every day), and to assess how much of your time was spent in the week taking action (taking care of what you care about) as against meaningless activity (where you were busy, but were not taking care of what you care about).
Observe where effective coordination of action is missing in your team meetings.
- Are effective requests being made?
- Are the promises explicit, and are these promises trustworthy?
- Are commitments revoked and renegotiated when the fulfilment of the promise is at threat?
- Is completion and satisfaction declared?
- What new requests and promises can you make to take care of what you care about?
#5 Hold Space of Conversation
To hold the space of conversation is to take responsibility for orienting yourself in your presence and engagement to create an invitation to conversation where another can engage honestly without fear. It is also taking responsibility to bring possibilities to whatever may show up for the sake of a shared future. It includes a readiness to accept declines and cope with breakdowns or reactions. This is a skill of embodied presence, connection, and producing a resonance in conversation with another.
THE ‘GREAT’ MODEL
In every conversation, in every person-to-person interaction, there are five critical elements that matter to the experience of communication. These five elements are critical not only in coaching conversations, but in conversations of all types. These include questions like:
- How can you share new ideas with people without them feeling that you’re infringing on their space?
- How can you find out what others are thinking about?
- How can you handle your teams better?
- How can you assist in resolving people-to-people concerns within your team?
Sameer calls the abbreviation of these five elements as ‘GREAT’. It is indeed an appropriate acronym, because the experience of interactions when all factors of ‘GREAT’ are present is indeed great. When these five elements are present, you generate ‘great’ relationships, ‘great’ moods in teams and organizations and ‘great’ results.
The acronym GREAT stands for:
- Good feel
- Reality Shared
- Effective Conversations
Each of these elements are related and impact the other elements. Whenever one of them goes up, it sets up the others to go up too. Similarly, when one of these elements goes down, it pulls the others down too. It is unlikely that you can have one of these go up, while the others remain unaffected.
A coaching conversation is a conversation:
- that has a profound impact in the life of those coached (and sometimes even the coach).
- that interrupts the old patterns and opens our eyes to new horizons.
- where we are touched with exciting new possibilities, and gain a greater appreciation of our own potential, or come to a revelation of our own foolishness.
- where we somehow are left bigger than we were before and inspired to greater action.
- wherein the coach is burning with intention to make an impact.
- where the coach is speaking and listening from a total commitment to cause that person’s success.
- where the coach extends people an ‘A’ (you see their greatness), even when they disappoint you or make mistakes.
- where the coach provides the kind of insightful feedback that rips the blinders off.
- where people see new possibilities, and break through barriers showing up in an entirely new way.
- where people walk away feeling inspired, empowered and enabled to act.