Amazing people, Releasing their potential

Monthly Archives: August 2015

Harvard Business Review: 4 Reasons Managers Should Spend More Time on Coaching

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By Joseph R. Weintraub and James M. Hunt

MAY 29, 2015


There are managers who coach and managers who don’t. Leaders in the latter category are not necessarily bad managers, but they are neglecting an effective tool to develop talent. We’ve been researching managers who coach and what distinguishes them. What has stood out in our interviews with hundreds of managers who do coach their direct reports is their mindset: They believe in the value of coaching, and they think about their role as a manager in a way that makes coaching a natural part of their managerial toolkit. These are not professional coaches. They are line and staff leaders who manage a group of individuals, and they are busy, hard-working people. So why do they so readily give coaching an important place in their schedule? Here are four reasons:

They see coaching as an essential tool for achieving business goals. They are not coaching their people because they are nice — they see personal involvement in the development of talent as an essential activity for business success. Most managers will tell you that they don’t have the time to coach. However, time isn’t a problem if you think coaching is a “must have” rather than a “nice to have.” Whether it’s because they are competing for talent, operating in a highly turbulent market place, trying to retain their budding leaders, or aiming to grow their solid players, they believe that they simply haveto take the time to coach.

There are two assumptions behind this belief. First, that extremely talented people are hard to find and recruit. If you are known as a manager who will help those people thrive, they will gravitate to you. Second, that an organization cannot be successful on the backs of the extremely talented alone. You need solid players just as you need stars, and they will need a manager’s help to build skills and deal with the changing realities of their marketplace.

They enjoy helping people develop. These managers are not unlike artists who look at material and imagine that something better, more interesting, and more valuable could emerge. They assume that the people who work for them don’t necessarily show up ready to do the job, but that they will need to learn and grow to fulfill their role and adapt to changing circumstances. Coaching managers see this as an essential part of their job. They believe that those with the highest potential, who can often contribute the most to a business, will need their help to realize their often-lofty ambitions. As one manager told us recently, “Isn’t helping others to be more successful one of the key roles of a manager?”

The manager must adapt his or her style to the needs and style of each particular individual. This of course takes a good deal of work on the part of the manager, but again, this is perceived as being part of the job, not a special favor.

They are curious. Coaching managers ask a lot of questions. They are genuinely interested in finding out more about how things are going, what kinds of problems people are running into, where the gaps and opportunities are, and what needs to be done better. Typically, they don’t need to be taught how to ask questions because it’s a natural strength. This curiosity facilitates the coaching dialogue, the give-and-take between coach and learner in which the learner freely shares his or her perceptions, doubts, mistakes, and successes so that they together reflect on what’s happening.

They are interested in establishing connections. As one coaching manager stated, “That is why someone would listen to me, because they believe that for that time, I really am trying to put myself in their shoes.” This empathy allows the coaching manager to build an understanding of what each employee needs and appropriately adjust his or her style. Some employees might come to coaching with a “Give it to me straight, I can take it” attitude. Others need time to think and come to their own conclusions. A trusting, connected relationship helps managers better gauge which approach to take. And coaching managers don’t put too much stock in the hierarchy. As a coaching manager recently told us, “We all have a job to do, we’re all important, and we can all be replaced. Ultimately, no one is above anyone else. We just need to work together to see what we can accomplish.”

Achieving this mindset is doable. It comes down to whether the business case is sufficiently compelling to motivate a manager to develop a coaching mindset. Managers need to ask themselves a few questions: Does your organization (or group or team) have the talent it needs to compete? If not, why not? Have you done a poor job hiring, or are people not performing up to their potential? It’s really either one or the other. If the latter is true, it’s your job to help get them to where they need to be.

For managers who want to start coaching, one of the first steps is to find someone who isa good coach in your organization and ask her or him to tell you about it. What do they do? Ask why they coach. Listen and learn.

Second, understand that before you start coaching, you need to develop a culture of trust and a solid relationship with the people you will be coaching. In spite of your good intentions, all the techniques in the world will make little difference if those you are trying to coach don’t feel connected to you in some way. The relationship you develop is more important than the all of the best coaching methods that are available.

Third, learn some of the basic principles of managerial coaching that will help you develop your own expertise as a coach. One of the core lessons for managers is that coaching isn’t always about telling people the answer. Rather, it is more about having a conversation and asking good, open-ended questions that allow the people you are coaching to reflect on what they are doing and how they can do things differently in the future to improve performance.

Finally, the mindset should be focused on the people you are coaching. Always remember the main principle: coaching is about them, not about you.

Who’s Right Who’s Wrong?

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In virtually every human society, ‘he hit me first’ or ‘he started it’ provides an acceptablerationale for what comes next. It’s thought that a punch thrown second is legally and morallydifferent than a punch thrown first. The problem with the principle of even-numberedness is thatpeople count differently. People think of their own actions as the consequences of what camebefore. They think of other people’s actions as the causes of what came later, and that theirreasons and pains are more palpable, more obvious and real, than that of others.

These are positions and ideas we all “wind up” playing out. When we “are” right, it appears to usto be the truth. For us to be right it is an equal truth that someone else is wrong, it’s not a matterof accuracy, it’s a matter of who we believe ourselves to be. We can’t be happy, vital, and lovingwhile we’re being right, making someone wrong, or justifying our positions, one displaces theother. The “rightness” of our positions also precludes us from being open to seeing other pointsof view.

We have a choice about our actions. When we choose to change the way we wound up “being”,we move to a place of freedom, a place where we can be free from stress and live the lives wewish for. Our points of view and positions can then move from fixed to malleable, from closed toopen, where each person can be listened to and appreciate you have listened.  We get to act inaccordance we the sort of person we want to be rather than the person we ended up.


Leadership – Making something happen that wasn’t going to happen anyway.

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Leadership is not something bestowed upon the privileged few. Leadership is open to all. So, what is it that stops us? First we must look at our view of ourselves as a leader. Not to let that voice in your head that tells you that ‘you aren’t up to it” and bully you in to a small life, not even to try. On top of that, what is your opinion of a good leader? How do you measure up? All these internal conversations keep you fixed and restricted from achieving your dreams. It stops from making a difference and having the feelings of self-fulfillment.

So what is leadership? Leadership is about making a stand for how we want things to be, a vision that inspires us to go beyond what we think we and others can do. Plus, the ability to enroll others in to your vision of how thing could be and for them to make it their own. It is something each of us can bring to anything with which we’re involved or is important to us. It may be in our work, our families, our communities, our nations. Leaders are ordinary men and women who dare to be related to a possibility bigger than themselves. They attract and enroll people to the world that’s opened up by their vision and their commitment.

To assume that leaders just started out as extraordinary people is to overlook what it took along the way. The majority of the time, leaders face being thwarted or think they may be inadequate for the task. Taking a stand for a future when it’s only a possibility is a purely existential act and exists only in language, when we say it will be. If we say something is impossible then that is how we relate to it. If we say it is possible then your brain has to work out how to do it.

The reality, conditions, and circumstances of the future do not exist as “facts.” They exist only as a product of our conversations, making language and communication the most important and fundamental access to fulfilling what matters, what’s important, what’s possible.

To lead is to have a vision of how you want things to be. To create something new and not to settle for recreating what has already happened, especially if it isn’t working.

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