September 20, 2017

3 Strategies to Make Sure Your Leadership Coaching Really Works

I will be the first to admit that I am not a guru when it comes to leadership coaching, but I have been around the block a few times. I have been coaching since the year 2,000, and through the school of hard knocks and trial and error, I have finally come to the conclusion that there are 3 strategies that I must use if I want the leaders I coach to be successful. Today, I would like to share those three strategies with you.

1. Design your coaching strategy around what the followers want to see change or improve…not necessarily around what the client thinks she needs. Leadership coaching is so very different from life coaching or coaching a solo business owner for this one reason: The leaders you coach have people who are following them, and as a leader, you must be willing to shift your leadership style, communication style or even the way you walk based on what your followers say they most need and want. Below, I will go into detail about the one month needs assessment, and I just want to caution you about this: Simply because a leader calls you and tells you she wants to work on her time management or organizing her office does not mean this is what her followers want to see. The most successful leaders understand their followers needs and desires and they will do anything to get the majority of their followers’ needs met. As a leader, if your client does not care what the followers think, then she is simply not a leader…enough said!

2. Begin your actual coaching only after one solid month of assessment. Assessing a leader in a company is a great deal like a physician trying to diagnose a patient’s illness. A doctor would never walk in and just start writing prescriptions without asking multiple questions of you (and maybe of your family members) to find out what is really going on. During the first month of leadership coaching, I invest my time conducting a very thorough needs assessment which includes the following:

  • An oral 360 degree feedback review. With my approach, I interview at least 12 people who are around the leader. The list of people I interview include direct reports, bosses, peers and even family members. While I am certified to run the online 360 degree assessments with the Center for Creative Leadership, I have found that by asking 12 simple questions of 12 different people, I get much better responses. I not only hear the answers, but I hear the sighs, the laughs, the “ughs” and I can see eyes rolling, deep thinking and smiles or frowns on faces.
  • The DiSC Assessment. Most leadership coaches have their favorite tools to use. Mine is by far the DiSC assessment. The tool has been used for over 30 years by over 40 million users and is one of the most trusted learning assessments in the personal and professional development industry. With the DiSC, you will quickly learn if the leader you are coaching is a strong-willed, bottom line risk taker or a leader who loves to entertain and motivate others. The communication style of your leader is critical to her approach with her followers, and this tool will help you bring out the best in your clients.
  • The Strengths Finder Profile. I truly believe that using a leader’s key strengths to help shore up weaknesses is one of the best ways to approach your clients. It is critical to know upfront what your leader’s strong suits are, and this assessment can help you refine your coaching and hone in on those strengths from the first coaching session to the end of the coaching engagement.
  • A two hour relaxed “get to know you” meeting with your new client. I always invest at least two hours in the early stages of the needs assessment with my new clients to find out what makes them tick and what ticks them off. I want to know about the music they listen to, their favorite foods and colors and a bit about their personal life. This relaxed conversation builds trust and also helps fill in some of the gaps that will more than likely be missing with the formal assessments.

3. Once you have completed the needs assessment, pick one goal ONLY to work with your client on for at least six months. I have observed coaches who pile goals on top of goals on top of more goals and “things to do”. This is a big mistake (in my opinion). I have learned that when coaching a leader, we have to agree to work on the one leadership skill that needs the most work, and work a system so that improvement starts to happen as quickly as possible. Improvement in one area will often help in other areas of leadership, so I just want to encourage you to keep hammering home points around that one critical skill that needs work. Doing a little bit of work on a long list of leadership skills will get your client to move an inch. Working on one goal and seeing a leadership skill turn 180 degrees is much easier for your client to swallow and others will notice improvement quickly if you are really targeting one area that is of greatest concern for the people who are trying to follow the leader.

If you or someone you know is interested in discussing leadership coaching, please feel free to contact me, Bea Fields, at 910-692-6118. I am happy to spend some time discussing your leadership needs.

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M Stands for Moving On: 10 Signs It’s Time for a New Leader

When I see a company or team in distress, my question is always “Why is it so hard to tackle the obvious…or as the old cliche goes…”Why is no one talking about the big elephant in the room…the elephant that is so big that we can’t even see the elephant anymore…we are standing in the room and see that the room has become fuzzy…crowded…dingy, but the elephant has gotten so big that it’s shape has disappeared into a big blob of grey??”

My answer is this…the company has become comfortable with mediocrity…things have always done a certain way, so there goes the mindset…into the ditch:

1. Eh…performance is okay…it could be better, but it’s fine.

2. No need to change…it’s too hard, too time consuming and way too costly…let’s just focus on the status quo.

3. We do things around here “this way” and this has worked for decades…our approach is doing a “fine job”.

4.  I don’t like these people on this team or who work for this company anyway…let’s just stay in mediocrity, and maybe they’ll just “go away”.

When I hear this, I ususally start digging a bit deeper…to find that

  • the same people are in the same positions they were 10 years ago
  • the same practices are being implemented that were applied 30 years ago (which are usually practices that came out of the 1950’s and 1960’s)
  • the same things are being measured which are now obsolete…why are you measuring things that no longer matter?
  • the leaders at the top are clueless about what the competition is really doing in the year 2010…things they could be doing to become a world class organization

If you are a leader, and you are reading this article, it is going to take balls to make a change…a change in yourself or a radical move to step up to the plate and admit that  “I cannot change, and it is time to move on.”  There is a 99% chance that you, yourself, will not feel like you need the change…if you are a person who lives in mediocrity, you are probably very comfortable getting up every day and rolling out of bed on the very same way on the same side, drinking coffee out of your same mug, showering with a bar of old soap, putting on the same old clothes, eating the same food for breakfast, backing out your driveway the same way and driving the same old route to work.  The only way you are going to truly know if it is time to move on is to look at your team and people to see if these 10 signs are evident.  And…this might take bringing in someone from the outside to look at your team to see if they will HONESTLY answer these questions.  Most stuck people don’t think they’re stuck…they think the rest of the world is crazy:

THE TEN SIGNS IT’S TIME FOR YOU TO MOVE ON AS A LEADER

1. Your team is bored. They look bored, have scowls on their faces and they drag in the door as if they have a ball and chain wrapped around their ankle.

2. Your team is not only growing and progressing…they are actually getting worse at their jobs. Their talents are actually turning into their biggest weaknesses.

3. Your team has lost their passion. They just don’t have the fire in their eyes…they look flat.

4. Sick leave, tardiness and skipping out on projects early are on the rise. When people love their leader and your company is thriving, they not only show up but they show up on time and they stay late because they love what they are doing.

5. No one is recruiting you OR your team members. Remember the time when you were actively desired by others?  Those days are over.  Remember the time when you were worried that your rock stars would be recruited away?  No need to worry about that one.  No one is looking at them, because you have taken them from rock star to rock-star wannabees.

6. Clients, investors and competitors are gossiping about your lack of leadership.  You may not know it, but your employees do.  It’s a very small world.  With the internet, people are probably blogging about you too.

7. Your superstars are no longer talking about their big plans for a great future career.  They’re becoming stuck in a rut just like you are…you are the leader, and they are following your model of mediocre leadership.

8.  Your superstars are NO LONGER complaining...for a while, they had great ideas on how the company could improve and they may have been complaining a pinch, but they now know that their voice is falling on deaf ears, so why bother.   The saddest part of this is that they know you don’t give a damn.

9.  Your team begins to make uncharacteristically careless errors…you don’t care, so why should they?  But of course, you are probably blaming them and taking NO personal responsibility.

10.  The element of fun is gone...zapped, and of course, people who once came around for the fun and to celebrate success (like big investors) are moving on.  They have no interest in hanging around a leader or a company that is losing, and they are moving on to the winners’ circles.

Okay…I’ve given the bad news, so the solution…get someone into your company, perform a very rigorous 360 degree review process and give your leader 6 months to change or it’s time to bring in new blood.