There is also a misconception that only a team in trouble needs attention. A team is a living entity that continuously is changing and going through different stages of development. They have different needs at each of those stages. One thing that I see happening is, organizations signing up for team building but then not knowing what they want to achieve. Having fun together is important, but it’s not just about having fun. A team needs to pay attention to its needs. Sometimes they need to be kicking off in a way and developing trust and relationships. Sometimes they need to work through conflict. Conflict resolution is the biggest and most important skill teams and leaders need to develop. I was just chatting yesterday with the CEO of a firm that I was brought in to do some conflict resolution because they were not addressing the conflict themselves and it came to a head. Every organization, every relationship is going to have moments when people don’t see things the same way so they need to build their skills and the ability to stay in a tough conversation.
The third misconception is that we are logical beings or “heads on a stick”. Society and organizations tend to have us check our emotions at the door when in fact becoming emotionally intelligent is the best way for us to connect to us ourselves and connect to others. So it’s not all about logic. Yes, we do have a logical side and it’s important to focus on facts and numbers, but it’s been proven that humans make decisions based on emotion. So, the more conscious we can become about how we do that, the better decisions we can make.
What prevents organizations from getting a leadership coach?
Organizations may hesitate because coaching is not cheap. Really good coaching from somebody with experience and who is well certified is not cheap and so they may hesitate to invest. It’s been proven time and time again that investing in a leadership coach is one of the best ways to get more productivity, more engagement, and more results. When coaching first started in the 1980s or late seventies, it was for remedial purposes. The thought was “ we need to bring somebody in to fix something or fix a person”. Coaching is not about fixing. It’s about accepting what is there and polishing it and bringing out that person’s strengths. That requires seeing them as creative, healthy and whole while helping them get in touch with their inner wisdom.
I help them understand what coaching is today as opposed to what it used to be. Some clients have come to me and said, “I’m scared because I was assigned a coach. What does that mean? Does it mean that I’m on my way out?” I reassure them that no, the company is investing in you because they believe in you and they feel that you working with a coach is going to help the bottom line even more. And I made sure to work with HR or whoever is bringing me in and paying the bill to ensure that that’s how they view coaching as well. Otherwise, I don’t take on an engagement.
It’s difficult when organizations believe that performance management is best done by a coach. I find that what they truly need is for people to learn how to better handle conflict and give and receive feedback more often and more effectively. Some coaches specialize in remedial cases. I do not because I believe performance management is the responsibility of the organization.
Can you share some examples?
Leaders can be afraid of expressing themselves, not feeling fulfilled at work, not being seen and acknowledged. Humans share three basic needs: to feel worthy, to feel loved, and to feel safe. We’re socialized to look outside ourselves these things. I help my clients find those things inside instead.
I recently worked with an executive who had a lot of doubt about his impact and influence. He had the habit we all often do of looking outside for answers. He also frequently looked to his manager for acknowledgment or recognition. What helped him the most was letting go of being attached to that. I helped him get in touch with his inner wisdom and navigate those times when he felt fear and anxiety. It’s a very common emotion. I helped him with mindfulness practices. I helped him learn how to stay in difficult conversations with people. I helped him learn how to trust himself and how to take risks without thinking that it’s going to be the end of the world. I also helped him look at the negative scenarios that he was spinning up, which a lot of us do, and ask himself, how realistic are they? What are the chances that this bad thing will happen? He would often laugh and say, “You know, pretty minor. I don’t think that’ll happen.” This is a person that has succeeded for a very long time in his life in various environments, but he was new to this organization and he was still kind of finding his sea legs which created a lot of fear and anxiety. People often come to me because they are told that they are having a negative impact on others and as a result, others aren’t giving their best work.
Another example is a man that recently contacted me from a very large manufacturing company because he realized that he had more things to learn about how to interact with people to get better results. His communication approach led employees to be afraid of him. People were avoiding him. And it turns out that he was steamrolling people. He had a very high level of power in the organization but his temper was getting in the way of productivity. It turns out that he was seeing people as objects and not seeing them as human beings. And so I helped him realize that that’s how he was seeing people and what the impact was, which opened his eyes and all of a sudden he started changing how he interacted with people. He would show interest in their lives. He would be more patient with them. He would watch his impulse to jump in and fix things. He became more patient and in touch with his compassionate side and was able to show some vulnerability, which is often underneath why people steamroll others because they don’t want to be steamrolled themselves. The HR manager called me after I worked with him and asked what drug are you giving this man? Because he is just a very different person. He is civil. People enjoy working with him now. What’s going on? It was lovely to hear that his practicing new mindsets and behaviors were having a positive impact. This is inspirational for me and why I do what I do.