Much research (for example by Daniel Goleman and Lombardo and Eichinger) has been carried out as to why leaders end up seriously underperforming or being fired and it’s rarely down to lack of business acumen or technical expertise.
The reasons leaders become derailed include:
Overused strengths. When a strength is overused it becomes a weakness. Imagine someone who is really driven to perform but is so competitive that he steps on everyone to get where he wants to go.
Over Confidence. When confidence becomes complacency or even arrogance it can cause problems. Great leaders are also great learners. Once the learning stops, leaders, their people and their businesses stop growing and developing. Who can afford to stagnate in this day and age?
Lack of self management. This links back to my previous post about knowing yourself and showing yourself, with skill. While direct reports want to know their leaders on a personal level in order to build trust, they do not feel safe and secure coping with tears or tantrums.
Poor relationship skills. Outstanding leaders don’t become outstanding on their own. They rely on building strong, productive relationships with the people around them.
Not knowing their impact on others. We learn most, not from books or courses but from our bosses. Both good bosses and bad bosses. Great leaders can see themselves through the eyes of those they interact with. They also realise that they are communicating all the time, not just through their words but even more so through their actions. Knowing this helps them chose what they are communicating, consciously and carefully.
My questions to you are:
- Which of these elements is most likely to derail you?
- What can you do to prevent this?
In their book “Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?” Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones point out that in spite of the huge demand for more effective leaders, they remain in short supply.
This is partly due to the fact that organisations across all sectors still encourage people to conform or become inauthentic role players, rather than being clear about who they are and what they stand for. This of course leads to cynical, de-motivated and disengaged followers. Another reason for the lack of good leadership is the limited knowledge across the board about what leadership is and how it can be developed. I have written here before about how leadership is a dynamic relationship that is situational. So, something that works for one leader in one context won’t work for another leader or in another context. Therefore, focusing on the characteristics of leaders or attempting to imitate great leaders just doesn’t work. As Oscar Wilde says, “be yourself everyone else is taken!”
Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones argue that those people who aspire to be effective leaders don’t need to be fully self-aware but they do need to know enough about themselves to recognise their own personal leadership assets and how these can be deployed to best effect.
Leaders need to be able to:
- Show their weaknesses with care
- Tap into their intuition to judge timing and courses of action
- Manage people with “tough empathy”
- Reveal their differences with skill
My questions to you are:
- Which personal weaknesses do you reveal?
- How do you use your intuition?
- How are you different and how can that help you?
If coaching is so effective why don’t managers do more of it?
When I run coaching programmes for managers they often arrive “bought in” to the idea of coaching. These days they don’t need convincing of the benefits, they are increasingly likely to have experienced being coached themselves, having read about it, or having received some training.
However, when it comes to the part in the programme where we consider what is going to get in the way of fully transferring and implementing their coaching skills these are some of the barriers that frequently arise:
- Lack of time
- Fear of seeming contrived e.g. “Oh I can tell you’ve just been on a course”
- Lack of confidence in skills
- Lack of organisational support i.e. organisation rewards results over time spent developing staff
- Feeling expertise/status under threat. Due to asking questions rather than giving answers
- Fear that team members won’t accept coaching
- Lack of opportunity to coach, especially in geographically dispersed teams
Many of the barriers, e.g. lack of time, lack of opportunity, lack of confidence, stem from a belief that coaching is only really coaching when it is formal, structured, diarised and lasts an hour. That just isn’t the case. Every interaction is a coaching opportunity and a chance to develop your skills and confidence.
This approach also deals with the fears about people rejecting the coaching approach or feeling it is “being done to them” as a result of your attendance on a course. You can choose to take a quiet, incremental approach to implementing coaching. For example, setting yourself a target to practice active listening in situations you know you find difficult for one week. You might follow this by focusing on asking effective questions where you would normally issue instructions, for a week. These small action steps taken consciously and consistently would effectively develop and sustain your skills and be unlikely to lead to objections from your team members. Who would object to being listened to well and asked for their thoughts, ideas and suggestions?
So, while other blocks to implementation may be more complex, if you consciously choose to look at each conversation as an opportunity for coaching, keep it front of mind, and recognise that 3 minutes of quality listening can be far more effective than a longer period of on/off listening you will overcome these barriers, and develop and sustain the coaching approach that you already know is such an effective part of your management toolkit.
I would love to hear more about what might be getting in the way of coaching your staff and what strategies you have found that work well for you.