For Best Results, Switch Gears

Approximate Reading Time: 1 minute 18 seconds

“I used to think that running an organization was equivalent to conducting a symphony orchestra. But I don’t think that’s quite it; it’s more like jazz. There is way more improvisation.” ~ W.Bennis

A key component of leadership includes developing one’s interpersonal and communication skills. This is an area where I believe we can always learn more and become more masterful. These are the skills that build strong relationships and set the groundwork for an environment of openness, collaboration and trust.

From a coaching perspective, these skills create the environment for the coaching conversation to occur and be most effective. Whether this is a five minute crossing paths in the hall coaching conversation or a more formal meeting, it is important that we can “switch gears” for best results.

Since the focus of this conversation is on asking questions, listening and supporting others to generate their own solutions, here are some shifts leaders need to make for success in these interactions:

1. Intention: The first step is to shift our attention away from our own tasks, problems, things that need to get done and focus our attention entirely on the employee and their needs and objectives. The ability to shift gears and focus solely on the coachee’s goals, challenges, answers or their highest path of development and become fully present to this person is step one. (not necessarily easy!)

2. Language: As our intention shifts and clarifies, the language or words we use also shift. Our tone is non-judgmental or neutral. Our focus is on listening. Our words are used economically and with outmost respect for our employee so they can hear them.

3. Relationship: it is over time and through our declared and demonstrated intention combined with the right language that this 3rd cornerstone of a “choice” relationship shows up. The result is a richer, deeper and more rewarding relationship for both manager and employee.

When these 3 elements are in place: trust is possible. Trust supports the realization of a “coachable moment” when an individual is open to taking in new information or realizing a shift in perspective in his/her knowledge and learning.

Consistency of intention is what builds the trust and foundation for an organization committed to creating a culture of coaching and learning.  Mentally “switching gears” from your agenda to your people’s goals/needs or challenges is the first step to being more present in all your conversations.

Shameless Self-Promotion:

Coaching is a wise investment for your people. In one study at Booz Allen Hamilton, executive coaching returned $7.90 for every $1 the firm spent on coaching. 

What is really driving the boom in coaching is this: as we move from 30 miles an hour to 70 to 120 to 180….as we go from driving straight down the road to making right turns and left turns to abandoning cars and getting motorcycles…the whole game changes and alot of people are trying to keep up and learn how not to fall. 

John Kotter, Professor of Leadership, Harvard Business School