Part of a leader’s role is to identify talent and have a strategic plan or vision for the organization, and that includes developing the people. In this episode, Jeffrey Edwards talks about mentoring and coaching as two essential elements of leadership. He shares how leaders can function as mentors and outlines some specific steps to coaching. Are you a leader? Get enlightened with some vital learning on leadership and people development.
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Effective Leadership Through Coaching And Mentoring
Our topic is a topic that’s near and dear to me. I see it as one of those core skill areas that all leaders need to address, but I don’t know somewhat that they recognize it’s part of what they do. The topic is about coaching and mentoring. You may be thinking coaching or I’m a coach, “Does that mean I have to get up and get everyone to feel good about themselves and we sing Kumbaya?” No, coaching has never been about that. Think of this from this perspective that as a leader, part of your role is not only selecting talent or identifying talent or even saying a strategic plan or vision for your organization or your company. What it also includes is developing your people.
As you look at the long-range plan, whether you’re working within an organization or whether you are starting an organization, one of the first questions that you need to at least address is, how do I form the teams around me? Who is going to be the leaders in the organization who are going to take my message or that corporate message forward in a way that’s going to allow for the results to show? If you think of it logically, when you hire someone and you bring them on board, do they necessarily know everything about your business or even about their industry or their area of skill?
They may have some technical and skill expertise that they bring to the table, but where do you want them to go from there? As you look at your organization, you want it to grow and you want it to be successful. With growth comes change and with change comes new learning. With new learning also includes new information. At the same time, all of that requires practice and application. When you learn anything new, think in your own lives what you learned something new, how did you master it? How did you become more proficient at a particular skill?
You likely did it through practice. You were given the opportunity to demonstrate your ability, working on a project, for example. Everyone has that first time for something. Maybe you have never managed a project before and you’re given the opportunity to go out there and lead a team. Put together a project plan, go out there and execute. Who were the people that you reached out to that could provide you with some insight? Whether it’s from their own experience or someone that you work long aside, that can provide you with some tips and some ideas along the way. Someone you can bounce some ideas off of.
That’s where the coaching and mentoring side of leadership comes into play. It’s often the case where over the years, when I’ve gone into organizations or work with different individuals and their companies. The idea of seeing themselves as a coach was somewhat a foreign idea saying, “I don’t see myself as a coach. I don’t see myself coaching people.” Essentially, coaching can be at the same level as teaching except that as a coach, it’s less about telling people what to do and being more a facilitator of thinking. The way that you ask questions, you want to help them understand. How can they learn from their situation? What can they pull out of a certain assignment or certain task that will allow for them to approve upon it next time? Often the case, when it comes to a coaching conversation, it’s about helping your people think and come up with their ideas versus you telling them what to do. When it comes down to it, how many of you like it when someone tells you what to do? What’s the likelihood that you’re going to do it?Coaching conversation is about helping people think and come up with their own ideas versus telling them what to do. Click To Tweet
There’s at least 10% of you out there that said, “Yes,” good for you. If I would fit into the other side, where I would likely be reactive and say, “Maybe not.” When you’re having that conversation with someone, you’re allowing them to come up with their answers and solutions. They get to own the answer and own the solutions too. With that, what’s the likelihood that they’re going to take on the task and take the responsibility to ensure that they’re willing to follow through. You get the idea that it’s more about you being a resource for people. As a leader, we all have that responsibility. It’s part of leadership. I can think of an example, overtime where people as a team leader, people coming up to me and asking me the question, “Jeffrey, can you show me how to.” It could be in terms of teaching or even terms of coaching, “Can you tell me how to do this particular skill?”
It’s one thing to tell someone but to be more specific, getting people to get focused on what is exactly they want to get out of the conversation. The first step when it comes to the coaching side is simply asking simple questions. What’s the purpose of this conversation? What is it that you want me to help you with and in what way? What’s going to be the best way for me to help you? You may have that reaction where people will say, “They just want you to give them the answer.” True enough, in some cases, it might be a simple question of a yes or no answer or maybe clarification on a process or procedure. It’s not so much of a developmental exercise, but it’s more about information sharing.
How often are you having those conversations with your teams versus the other conversations where there’s a certain efficiency when you can give someone the answer? It’s easy. It’s quick. It gets you to move forward on your desk and your responsibilities. When you become that person that everyone goes to for the answer, then how much time are you spending on responding to people? You have that certain mantra, that certain prestige of being the answer person. How effective are you in building leaders within your team when everyone seems to be reliant on you for direction and guidance?
Another way of looking at it is getting people as they think on their own feet. There’s a reason why you hired the people around you or there’s a reason why the people that you have around you on your team are there in your environment. It’s likely because they have the technical skills or the experience that is required to get the job done. You are there to help them even further advance that experience or expand upon that experience in a way that will allow them to even be that much more proficient and also independent too.
There’s a certain ego, the gratification that comes with being the answer person. Although there may be the ego to it, at the same time, what’s the cost to you in regards to your productivity, learning, and responsibilities? Is it something that can get in the way of what you want to accomplish or is it going to be a long-term benefit? When you consider that element, that angle from it, then it may be better to teach people how to fish so they can feed themselves. As a coach and coaching in conversation with your team and with your employees, it’s just that.
It’s how to be a model of reasoning and being a channel to ask questions. Ask them questions to get them thinking on their own and for them to develop their solutions becomes a part of them. Giving them the tools for them to be that much more agile and that much more responsive to future situations where they may be looking for assistance. Oftentimes with coaching, it can fall into mentoring. Mentoring is a whole different ball of answer. When we talk about mentoring, it is about having the knowledge and experience that you can share with others behind you.
Jeff Hoffman, the founder of Priceline.com, I remember him saying that mentorship is about reaching behind you to help someone move forward. It’s like leaning back to grab their hand so they can take two steps forward. As a mentor, the relationship is a little different. That where you are being sought out because of your experience or maybe the contacts that you have and, in that role, you’re there to be a guide. You’re there to help people discover what you feel they could discover but at the same time, you’re also sharing the wisdom of your experience that will help them move forward.
I always like to coin mentoring as it’s the gift of hindsight. It speaks to a proverb that was shared with me years ago that said, “If you want to know the road forward, ask the ones coming back.” Through mentoring, you also have a role as a leader to look at who’s going to be the person that replaces you? Who are the people that you can take under your wing and help them discover the ins and outs of what leadership means? How to manage an organization? How to deal with clients and stakeholders? How to keep an employee base or keeping everyone moving forward and progressing at the same time?
When you consider the elements of leadership, coaching and mentoring, those are two important elements that don’t always speak to people externally, but the everyday conversations and relationships that you can build within your organization. Here’s an opportunity for you to check and see. How often are you having a coaching conversation? How often are you seeing yourself being the answer person versus helping people figure out on their own or for themselves what possible solutions or answers could be? What opportunities do you have to mentor and to look at some of the people who could be part of your succession plan going forward, all questions considered? It all starts with, first of all, recognizing whether as a coach or a mentor, that leadership is about developing people. As long as you keep that at the forefront of every conversation you have, the tools that you use will that much easier to apply. Thank you so much. Until next time, I look forward to seeing you on The Leader’s Chair. Take care.