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The Role Of Coaching In Leadership

Many coaching sessions are training sessions in disguise because the manager uses the time to teach how they would deal with the issue versus explore the situation by coaching until the manager has a 'light bulb' moment

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When I first meet with business leaders, I instruct them to draw a pie chart and allocate the percentage of time they spend supervising, coaching, mentoring and training. The majority default solely to supervision and admit they spend most of their time and energy overseeing the performance of their staff. They erroneously identify their role as directing the efforts of their staff and, unwittingly, create a company that has contracted the dreaded curse of "learned helplessness". This phenomenon occurs when subordinates wait to be told how to perform their duties instead of strategically thinking them through. I unequivocally believe a well-balanced leadership pie chart reflects the following percentages by function: 45% supervision, 35% coaching, 10% mentoring and 10% training.

Let's examine the supervisory element of leadership, a function that entails creating and achieving performance norms for the company as well as individual managers. All company employees should have a clear understanding of the behaviors they are expected to satisfactorily perform and their impact on the financial success of their business.

In order to accomplish this, managers must facilitate a process of clearly identifying the top 10 behaviors that their managers must perform on a weekly/monthly basis. The supervisory function also incorporates ongoing performance evaluation and an analysis of bottom-line results, which should be communicated both on a formal and informal basis.

The next critical element of leadership is the coaching function. Its primary objective is to empower individuals in pivotal positions to the company to better utilize the skills they have already developed and modify behavior that is no longer effective. When in coaching mode, the role of the business owner is to stimulate and enhance expertise in problem-solving and strategic thinking so that rather than waiting to be spoon fed, managers are able to recognize their own ability to strategically tackle any challenge they may face. I have witnessed far too many business owners "fixing" problems during so-called coaching sessions instead of encouraging their managers to find the answer within. Many coaching sessions are training sessions in disguise because the manager uses the time to teach how they would deal with the issue versus explore the situation by coaching until the manager has a "light bulb" moment. All effective coaches listen 70% of the time during a coaching session and ask questions to explore during the other 30%.

The third key function of a leader is mentoring, that is, the development of future talent within the management team. It creates bench strength and thoughtful, strategically-oriented future leaders, a critical need in today's ever-changing business environment. Without mentoring, managers will stagnate and reach a plateau of ineffectiveness. The leader doesn't have to serve as mentor to all; I recommend pairing managers with complementary strengths to facilitate the growth of both.

The last element of leadership is training. It may seem odd to include training in the leadership pie, however, it is the role of the leader to impart knowledge to their managers. They need to either create a continuous learning environment or they may succumb to relying upon outdated information to validate their decisions. Business leaders must be "out in the world" to stay abreast of current strategic thinking that will stimulate their managers to embrace needed change in behavior. Attending association meetings, business conferences, peer learning groups and training sessions delivered by outside consultants are just a few suggestions that will serve this purpose. It's not enough just to attend - the forward-thinking business leaders should communicate any new learning to the management team that might enhance performance or modify outdated thinking.

The starting point for change is awareness. Take a moment and draw a leadership pie, using supervision, coaching, mentoring and training for your current view of your position. Next, with an open mind, reapportion the percentages based on how you feel your management team perceives it. Maybe it's time to ask how the addition of coaching, mentoring and training can make more impactful leaders!

(Bill Bartlett is author of THE SALES COACH'S PLAYBOOK: Breaking The Performance Code (Sandler Training / 2016). Bartlett is an experienced Sandler trainer who plays an important role in Sandler's worldwide organization and is recognized as a business development expert specializing in executive sales training and sales productivity training. He currently heads a Sandler Training center in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, IL.)

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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management human resource management coaching leadership

Bill Bartlett

Bill Bartlett is author of The Sales Coach's Playbook: Breaking The Performance Code (Sandler Training / 2016). Bartlett is an experienced Sandler trainer who plays an important role in Sandler's worldwide organization and is recognized as a business development expert specializing in executive sales training and sales productivity training. He currently heads a Sandler Training center in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, IL

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