We’ve recently had the pleasure of leading coaching sessions with some of our wonderful clients, and have enjoyed a few discoveries about leadership along the way. We’re thrilled to share what we’ve learned!
Q: When coaching people in leadership roles, what stands out?
Claressa: When I reflect on the people we’ve coached in leadership roles, one thing’s for sure: As leaders, we want to have all the answers. Or we at least feel like we should have all the answers. That, however, simply isn’t a realistic expectation. Each individual leader works from a different level of leadership — from executive leaders to supervisors. The reality is that no matter what level you’re at, you can have questions or situations that require you to “bounce something off” of another person. You may feel like you have all of the tools in the toolbox — and you very well may — but you still need the perspective of another person to help you walk through a particular situation.
“The message a leader is trying to communicate isn’t necessarily what people struggle with; it’s how that message is communicated.”
Martha: Agreed. Leaders need to talk through things… to role play… to hear someone else’s perspective. And you’re right — they may have the “tools in their toolbox,” but the manner in which the tool needs to be implemented isn’t always inherently understood. The message a leader is trying to communicate isn’t necessarily what people struggle with; it’s how that message is communicated. Time after time we’ve experienced very competent, capable leaders who simply want to talk through things. This helps them not only find their words but find the most effective and meaningful words needed when communicating with staff. The result is a leader who is clear and concise, possibly softer in his or her delivery. A sounding board or confidant is a tool that any good leader can use in order to be confident in delivering a well-received message.
Claressa: I believe this also ties back to behavioral traits. It’s especially helpful for a leader to get that outside perspective from someone who has different behavioral preferences than themselves. This can provide insight into the possible outcomes of what a conversation might look and sound like. You know one of my favorite tools is strategic communication, and having someone to act as a sounding board plays right into that. It gives you the option to strategize with someone who has a different perspective and behavioral insight into a given situation.
Martha: That’s a really good point, and one that can be seen in what we do every day. More often than not, the people we’re coaching as leaders are of different behavioral preferences than us. It’s important to be able to look at things from a different perspective. Even the most experienced and capable leaders can use a good coach and confidant. It’s simply a tool that encourages effective communication.
Claressa: It’s similar to a gauge. You’re able to understand on a spectrum where your intended response might land, but following input from the perspective of another individual, you’ll get a more accurate representation of where the actual conversation can land.
“…it’s important to approach those conversations with a spirit of positivity.”
Martha: On another note, once you’ve actually found that person, it’s important to approach those conversations with a spirit of positivity. When we use the word “confidant,” we’re not referring to someone you vent to — someone to blow off steam with. It’s essential to choose somebody who can help you be a better leader, someone to help you make good choices as you interact with your team.
Claressa: Absolutely. In any conversation you have with a staff member, you want to “assume positive intent” from that person — taking a negative approach often yields a negative result.
And what’s our takeaway this time?
Martha: Leaders don’t — and shouldn’t be expected to — have all the answers. Finding a confidant, a fellow leader who can provide fresh perspective and help you find the right words, is an absolute must in the world of leadership. This person is there to help you be objective and assume positive intent as you move into discussions with your staff members.
Claressa: A true leader is someone who can admit to the fact that they do have questions, and can reach out to have those conversations.
Martha: Regardless of where you are in your leadership role, your tenure, or your life, it’s always important to continue learning so that you can continue growing.