Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Coaching, THE Leadership Habit



What drives culture?

Leadership. The single most important thing to a company’s success. Whether you have two employees or two hundred thousand.

I’ve worked in companies big and small. From start up to Fortune 10 and in between.

The single biggest predictor of success? Leadership.

What does it mean to be a great leader?

One word.

Coach.

What defines a coaching leadership style?

  1. Coaches see the whole field. Seeing the whole field allows the coach to call the plays (strategy). Subsequently, this empowers the players to carry the ball (execution) down the field. That perspective allows the coach to guide the team around roadblocks, deflecting and handling distractions. It allows the leader to know how to tell the company story and build the strategy. MVP doesn’t go to the coach. It goes to a player. Great leaders lead from behind the scenes.
  2. Coaches provide structure to the game (and practices). Seeing the whole field also enables the leader to bring the team together, clearly defining roles and accountability. Accountability resolves conflicts head on. Structure is provided via regular 1:1s, team meetings and company communications. This structure of up and down the line communication is highly underestimated. Imagine a team running around the field with no clarity on position. What a cluster (literally and figuratively) – imagine a kindergarten soccer game. You’d be surprised how many teams operate this way. No clear swim lanes mean no one is accountable, the team starts finger pointing and no one delegates (which empowers). I call this abdication. It is a culture destroyer.
  3. Coaches ask more questions than tell. Run fast from companies that have leaders that suck the living air out of the room by talking more than listening. Great coaches ask questions, listen, reflect and then deliberately act. They know they don’t have all the answers. They don’t have to be the smartest ones in the room. Great listeners are intimidating. Why? Because you know they are listening to every word. They will act on your articulations. And call you out if you’re sloppy. You choose your words wisely and carefully when you have a good coach.
  4. Coaches spend a lot of time analyzing the plays. Details. There is no other way to run a company than to get into the details of your business. This is your game. You better know the competition, the market and the drivers of your business performance (or under performance). Start with current reports. Ask questions. Lots of them. Up and down the organization. Down in the organization is the most important as this is where you will find some of the easiest, but most often overlooked, answers to business performance issues.
  5. Coaches take hiring the team seriously. Recruiting players to your team makes or breaks the culture and subsequent strategy and execution of your company. It took me seven months to recruit a head of digital marketing. She was worth the wait and the other twenty plus 3 hour long interviews I conducted. Conversely, I’ve hired after two interviews and 90% of the time that ended in delayed productivity after having to fire the new hire. Never hire under duress. Take your time.
  6. Coaches have the hard conversation. When business is down, coaches talk about it and develop a plan with the team. If coaches don’t believe in your plan, they tell you directly and then empower you to come back with a different solution. Coaches give immediate feedback. In the moment. To the point. No sugar coating. Coaches don’t allow or engage in negative talk about anyone on the team. And I mean anyone. One of my best coaches knew there was a personnel issue on the team. It was a style and tenure issue. He cut off negative conversations about this individual. It sent a message. Without a word, his team knew he was handling the situation.
All the above combine to inspire a confident team.

Coaches inspire confidence.

If you’re not coaching, you’re not leading.

I’ve used this leadership definition check list to carefully choose who to collaborate with and where to lead.

It’s led me to hire one of the best teams I’ve had the pleasure of coaching (shout out team CBR!).

It’s helped me navigate my way to strong leaders to learn from that aren’t hiding in the bureaucracy of Fortune 100 companies.

And it pushed me to take the leap into the private equity world where I had one of the best coaches of my career.

Defining leadership guides me to know when I belong to a culture… or not. Specifically, by noting the antonyms of lead: comply, adhere, obey, follow, alienate, antipathy, neglect, overrule, repress.

My two favorite synonyms of coach are mentor and guide.

We need more coaches now more than ever. How are you showing up as a coach in your life?

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