A manager is tasked with making sure things get done, boxes are checked and teams are prepared.
A leader does more.
Leaders see a vision for their organization and their people. Leaders work to make those around them better and to develop the potential within their employees.
It’s not hard to decide which type of person you’d rather be. It can, though, be difficult to figure out how to adjust and evolve to be the leader your organization and your team needs.
And, when you focus on being a leader who motivates, coaches and inspires, it’s not just good for your team. It’s good for business. Companies who invest in developing leaders report 42 percent better operational efficiency, 36 percent higher productivity, 90 percent less rework and 77 percent lower turnover.
What Makes A Leader An Effective Coach?
An effective coach has a full range of knowledge and skills that they use to improve their employees. Leaders who are great coaches will have a strong grasp of emotional intelligence and a superior ability to connect with others.
An effective leader and coach:
- Listens and understands the essence of their employee/client.
- Is genuine and consistent in their approach.
- Is passionate about helping others grow.
- Focuses solely on the employee/client during the coaching conversation.
- Seeks to understand and distill insights about the employee.
- Highlights challenges and opportunities.
- Holds the employee accountable.
- Holds a mirror up to the employee for self-reflection.
- Is a truth-teller.
- Communicates with clarity.
- Encourages the employee without sugar-coating.
- Should have their own coach and practice self-improvement.
What Skills Should You Focus On To Become A Transformative Leader?
To improve others’ capacity for leadership and success, you first need to work on yourself.
Focus your energies on developing soft skills, the ways you communicate, connect, listen and build trust with others. According to research by Harvard University and the Carnegie Foundation, 85 percent of job success comes from having well-developed people skills and soft skills far more than technical knowledge alone.
These soft skills, which I typically call emotional intelligence, can help you begin your transformation from manager to leader.
1. Listen Closely.
Listening is the first place to start when seeking to influence someone. If you really listen, you will learn what to say (or not say) next.
A good listener doesn’t pre-judge or allow bias to influence the way they hear their conversational partner. And, effective listeners seek to “understand first, then to be understood.”
When you’re listening, be very active and intentional. Pay attention to more than the words being said. Include body language, tone of voice and attitude as part of your listening/awareness.
When you take time to truly listen, you’ll know when to build up and encourage your employee and when to challenge their point of view or push them to do more.
2. Be Humble.
As a leader, it can be tempting to pretend you know everything. No one does, though, and your employees are well aware of your fallibility.
Humility can include:
- Asking your employees for help.
- Requesting feedback on your communication skills and performance.
- Acknowledging your weaknesses and avoiding defensiveness when they’re noticed.
Your employees want to provide insight and help you as much as you want and need to help them. When you choose to display humility, others around you will be more willing to open up about their challenges, fears and hopes.
This vulnerability between team members creates the kind of relationship where coaching becomes most effective because all the artifice and posturing is stripped down and out of the way.
3. Be Genuine.
Being a leader doesn’t mean you have to be a cookie cutter, Stepford Wife of a manager.
Genuine leaders are honest about their flaws, their experiences and their challenges. If something frustrates you, you don’t have to hold it in. If something excites you, you don’t have to apologize for your passion.
Don’t be someone else’s ideal version of a leader. Be your own. The DISC assessment is one of my favorite tools for evaluating and understanding your own leadership style, so you can communicate with your team members and colleagues in a way that’s real and effective for you.
And, don’t think your employees are fooled by inauthentic leadership. They can see through you if you’re not being real, and the only thing you’ll accomplish is decreased engagement and connection from them.
4. Be Patient.
Growth takes time. Let your people know this and give them the space to grow.
You can’t expect your team members to acquire new skills overnight. You’re still working to improve yourself; why should they be any different?
Work on one or two skills at a time and recognize and celebrate improvement when you see it. Give them the resources they need to learn and grow and keep them accountable for that growth.
- Send them to training workshops.
- Offer online, at-your-own-pace leadership development programs.
- Provide them with leadership-development focused content (TED Talks offer great life skills training in addition to business-focused content).
- Read more leadership-focused content yourself and then ask them questions or host a book/article club.
5. Ask Questions.
Going full circle back to the idea of listening closely, sometimes you need to make sure you’re listening to the right things. Ask questions with genuine curiosity and concern. Avoid rhetorical questions or questions designed to prove someone wrong.
The goal of coaching questions is to open up curiosity and explore new opportunities and ways of thinking. Some good discussion starters can include:
- What would need to change for you to feel more confident about [insert situation or concern]?
- What is one thing you can change that would make a difference in this situation?
- What is not serving you now that you can let go of?
- Who is one person you can seek support from now?
- How can you look at this situation differently?
- What have you done so far?
- Now that you know this, what will you do differently next time?
- What should you stop doing? Start doing? Continue doing?
- What skills would you like to develop?
- What do you think would make you more valuable to our organization?
Questions should be focused on helping the employee see themselves and their situations more clearly and objectively. Questions that help the employee remove emotion from thinking will encourage better and clearer decision-making.
What Should I Do If My Company Won’t Pay For Leadership Development Training for Me?
You’re working to be a better leader so you can contribute more powerfully to your organization, and so you can invest in the success of others. If your organization isn’t willing to pay for necessary training, it can be really frustrating and discouraging.
If you’re in this boat, however, you’re not alone. Only 5 percent of companies have created plans to invest in leadership development at all levels within their organizations.
Just because someone else is not paying for it, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook when it comes to developing your leadership strengths and skills. It’s a nice perk (and a smart move for them) when your company invests in your development, but that does not release your responsibility to invest in yourself.
How can you take responsibility for your own leadership development efforts?
- Read. Read books. Read articles. Read blog posts. Read as much as you can from thought leaders, so you can gain perspective and knowledge.
- Seek Counsel. Talk with a mentor or colleague. Work with a coach of your own. Asking for counsel signifies strength and awareness, not weakness.
- Network With Others On Their Leadership Journey. Finding someone who is in the same boat with you can give you a sounding board and an accountability partner. Just be careful that your conversations stay productive and don’t veer solely into venting and complaining.
- Participate in Continuing Education. Take a course on the basics of coaching or performance management.
As you work toward becoming a better leader and coach for your employee, don’t be surprised if you start getting noticed by others in your organization as well.
Companies will always need leaders who can motivate, inspire and be agents of change. Your work in coaching and developing your employees may just lead to opportunities for additional career development for yourself.