Coaching Leaders: The higher a leader goes, the more coach-like they must become
Raechel Pefanis, BA, MDiv, MSW, RSW
IFC Certified Professional Coach (ACC)
Working with managers will tend toward a number of themes. One is that many, many managers are outfitted and skilled for their trade, but they are not outfitted for leading others. Over and again, managers come to us for coaching with a bias toward helping their teams -labourers, sales people, healthcare professionals- perform more highly advanced technical skills. But, inevitably, coaching will cause these types to turn away from these technical skills and toward becoming coaches themselves. The higher a leader goes, the more coach-like they much become. Why is that?
The people that move upwards in most organizations are those who didn’t get there by being a “dummy.” They got there because they were smart and driven. The leader will find themselves overseeing the best and brightest of the organization, people who don’t need to work where they do, but rather have chosen to. The only exception to this is when organizations are in states of ill health, in which case the best and brightest will be driven out. But in most, the higher a leader goes, the more phenomenally talented the people below them will be. And so, in today’s world, the work is not to get the team smarter, but rather to get those collective smart people working on the right things. And to do that, the leader must coach.
Whether they signed up for it or not, the leader –who thought they were going to be doing quality assurance of technical skills- must change skill sets entirely. Among other things, they must devote themselves to the following things with the same tenacity that they were attending to technical skills with:
· Building teams
· Vision and vision casting
· Managing change and transition
· Creating vibrant culture
· Understanding people and how they grow
In most cases, this whole new skill of leadership capabilities is one that the manager received no formal training in, and unfortunately, a deficit in even just one key leadership competency can be disastrous for a well-intentioned manager. She may be the most technically savvy supply manager going, but if she cannot engender trust, her career will be shadowed from the day she assumes her management role. Because of this, coaching managers often begins with an inventory of the million little frustrations blotting his / her day that they did not sign up for (at least, not on purpose) and re-categorizing them into leadership responses that are must be gotten to. Coaching will attempt to increase awareness, skills and accountability for a solid leadership skill set from the manager, and helping them pivot into becoming a fantastic coach of those that they manager.
Today, the primary stance of any good leader is their coaching abilities first, and their technical skills second. Are you a manager that needs to kick your leadership skills into high gear? Consider getting a coach to do so, before your deep leadership knowledge and skill becomes a liability. As we say in leadership circles, “everyone wins when the leader gets smarter.”