May 19, 2019

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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D is for “The Devil’s in the Details”

“The Devil’s in the Details.”  I am sure you have heard this expression in the past, and while there are a few arguments over the origin of the phrase, at the end of the day, this expression refers to the fact that excellence is a virtue and that overlooking details may…hmmm…”let the devil loose” causing more problems later on down the road.

Some examples:

1. Not reading the fine print on contracts or when enrolling in a phone plan

2. Not proofreading a document before you send it to your boss…I am the queen of typos, but typos can make or break an impression

3. Skimming the text before a big test, and the text you skimmed…guess what…it was worth 30 points as a bonus!  Ouch!

In leadership, it is so critical to be both a visionary and a detail oriented person.  After working with over 1200 people in a leadership coaching role, it is very rare to find a leader who is both.  I usually attract big thinkers…visionaries who see big futures and big pictures.  I a big picture thinker, so of course I am going to attract this.  My detail orientation is a bit on the slim side, and I do work on this.  I will immerse myself in a detail oriented project for days just to develop stick-ability to the process.  And…with the big picture people I work with, they tell me that they struggle with the details.  They want to jump from A to Z and “change the future/change the world.”  To be focused on the details stops them from reaching that big vision as quickly as possible…I totally get that!

So, if you are a big picture thinker, what do you do?  The first thing is this…give yourself a break.  It is okay that you are a big picture visionary and may not be the most detail oriented person.  This is why we have assistants and partners who LOVE working on details and who enjoy playing the devil’s advocate.  But…there are a few practices you can implement on a daily basis to help improve your attention to details:

1. Start your day out with a routine. My routine is to get up each morning at the same time, make my bed, quickly declutter my office, drink a cup of coffee and then go on a 2-3 mile run.  I do this most mornings (or I go to the gym as opposed to the run.)  It will take about six weeks to get into a routine like this, but it does help start your day off with a solid routine that sets a detail-oriented  tone for your day.

2. Stop living on e-mail. Trust me…this one will get you every time.  I recommend checking e-mail two times per day.  This one habit has helped me so much.  I check e-mail around 9:30 in the morning and then again around 4:00 in the afternoon.  If I am working on a client with a project, and I know we are in an e-mail conversation, I will jump back online to address that.  But…as far as going through and checking through all of my e-mail, this is two times a day.  It becomes quite easy to get both distracted and feel accomplished by spending all day on e-mail.

3. Start blogging. Yep…this one has truly helped me.  Just in this one post, my blog template has popped up about 13 typos (they are underlined in red.)  This reminds me that while I do believe blogging is a stream of consciousness process and while typos are somewhat forgiven, I do need to be mindful of the people out there who are driven crazy by typos and grammatical errors.  And…they will e-mail you and tell you when you have typos on your blog.  I wonder if they get paid to do this, and if so, who pays them?  It is not uncommon to get several e-mails from the same person about my typos, so I just wonder if this is their job for the internet?  Maybe one of you out there can answer this curious question for me.

4. Consider the consequences of “skipping steps.” You may consider skipping a step, because you don’t believe it has anything to do with your outcome.  Think again…sit down with someone who is detail oriented, and let them play devil’s advocate for you.  Ask them what the consequences will be if you skip that one step.  Talk through the process A to Z, and ask them if you are missing anything or leaving anything out.

5. Take on one new project that demands attention to detail. As an example, if you have ever caulked, sanded and painted a wall, it does require details…if you want the finished product to look sharp.  Or…if you have never learned how to use an Excel spread sheet, take this on for one month, and write out a detailed project plan for one aspect of your business.  Just working with a spreadsheet can be tedious, but it will help you develop patience and an attention to details.

6.  Take the DiSC Assessment. The DiSC will show you where you fall on detail orientation, and your assessment results will give you several suggestions on how to use your assets to pull your shortcomings up.

7. Hire an assistant or find a partner who IS detail oriented to give your work a second glance. My husband, Mike, is a very high C on the DiSC.  He is a perfectionist pattern on the DiSC, and he combs through my more important work to pull out anything that does not make sense, points out typos and helps me to make sure things flow.  We are not all meant to have every strength in the book, so just know that there are people out there who thrive on paying attention to details.  So, get them on your team.

8. Keep a list, keep a calendar and stay as organized as possible. When I finally learned that technology could help me stay focused on details, my life became so much easier and less stressful, because my productivity improved and I had more free time to do what I want to do in life.  I now use Gmail and an i-phone and I can access my calendar and contacts at any time of day.  I write down everything on my Gmail calendar.  I don’t like paper, but some people do.  The goal here is to find a record keeping system that works for you and use it every day.  If I don’t keep things organized, my detail orientation is a wreck.  So…keep life simple by keeping your details in an organized system…I don’t care if it is a wall of sticky notes or a huge whiteboard…anything that works for you.

If you are a leader who would like more information on how to improve your attention to details, please contact me today for a complimentary consultation.  I am happy to see how I might be able to help you improve your skills (and we all have skills to improve!).