Relationships Make Better Leaders
Over the past three years, several thriving leaders have hired me as their executive coach. Each is a high functioning individual who is a leader in his industry. Each has far more business experience than I, and yet we have been able to forge strong and successful coaching relationships.
What I’ve learned as I’ve interacted with these leaders is that while they have already accomplished so much, the 80/20 rule still applies. Eighty percent of the challenges in organizations are people-related. If that’s true, then something is missing for leaders that could make them so more effective. As I’ve thought back over the past three years, several themes have emerged.
What keeps leaders from inviting others into their inner sanctum? So many simply do not have people in their lives who are not intimidated by them and who can be, or will be honest and objective.
Once engaged with an executive coach, these same leaders consistently state how valuable it is to set aside the time to talk with someone who can be objective. Some of the comments I’ve heard repeatedly are “I wasn’t thinking very clearly when we started, and you’ve helped me see a different perspective.” And, “It was incredibly valuable to be able to hear myself saying what I did. I’ve not voiced these thoughts before.” “You’re the only person who knows what I’ve been thinking. It’s been helpful to take the time to talk about it.”
Even though it takes time, this type of conversation is time well spent—to focus on deepening the organization’s culture, or think about resource deployment, or determine what actions will be most effective, or to strategize about challenging work relationships.
Whatever the coaching conversation covers, it is usually a “just in time” discussion with immediate application and relevance. And, when leaders in turn have this kind of conversation with their people, value and care are communicated.
Executive coaches have skills and insight to help leaders look within for answers and to come up with their own solutions. This is very different from counseling or consulting. When leaders experience a strong coaching relationship, they see the value of collaborative, meaningful conversations, and they can apply this with their leadership teams.
I dare you to try it…as a start, try listening for three to five minutes during which you are totally focused on what the other person is saying. Be aware of when you are thinking about your inbox or calls that you must return. Be aware of when you want to jump in and solve the problem. Instead, just listen. Fully present. Fully intent on the speaker. Listening to learn.
Listening is a gift you give to others. It communicates value and care. As your coach listens to you, you will be asked questions to clarify or to draw out more information that will move you forward. As you share, your coach listens past the words to what’s under the words that may not be spoken and that may unlock the answer that’s being sought.
Focus Leading to Intentional Action
I use a coaching model called “C-FAR” for this process. The first step in “C-FAR” is to Connect. Connecting involves developing the basis for a coaching relationship, establishing confidentiality, trust and a safe place to share openly and honestly. Once the connection is established, it’s time to Focus. As the leader is encouraged to focus, specific and targeted questions are asked to assist the leader in articulating the heart of the matter. Most leaders come with a general focus, which becomes more clearly defined through the coaching process. As the focus becomes more specific, it’s time to look at Action.
Action is a critical
part of “C-FAR.” Without action, it isn’t coaching.
Yet action isn’t always about doing something. Sometimes action
is a thinking activity. Sometimes it’s a gathering of information
before the action is determined. Intentional action is the goal, with
the risks, consequences and benefits thoroughly explored.
Not all leaders are ready to work with an executive coach. Based on my experience with leaders, many have said that the most valuable aspects of working with an executive coach is having someone who can listen objectively, offer a different perspective, challenge their thinking or assumptions and be thoroughly present with them. They appreciate the commitment to confidentiality and the focus on action.
Is that something that might be valuable for you? If so, consider an executive coach for your own development as well as a way to learn new relationship behaviors to bring to your leadership team.
As a trainer and coach, Linda Miller believes that successful businesses are supported by strong internal dynamics. Since her introduction to coaching in 1995, Linda has focused on its launch and expansion within numerous organizations, Currently, Linda serves as Director of Coaching Services with The Ken Blanchard Companies.
Questions to Ask an Executive Coach
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