The working environment has changed over the last twenty years and still continues to do so. What was an acceptable and appropriate leadership style ten years ago is outdated today on both an organisational and an employee level. The time is long gone where leaders could tell their staff what to do, make all the decisions for them, and micro-manage how and when people perform their tasks.
Companies have recognised that innovative, out-of-the-box thinking will make them survive as well as outperform their competitors, and changing the working culture from a stoic authoritarian to a more transparent, fair and dynamic style is certainly a positive and supportive step for their employees. Further flattening the organisational hierarchy structure allows for information to flow faster, freely and more accurately; thereby implementing effective employee engagement and well-being strategies that support and encourage people to be creative in solving today’s working challenges.
Employees are responding positively, albeit sometimes hesitantly, to the change of having permission to actively contribute to finding solutions. Their voices have been stifled for so long that there is doubt and uncertainty if this is for real. Managers play a crucial role in encouraging innovative thinking, employee participation and active voicing of ideas through their leadership styles.
If managers want to remain relevant and be promoted, adopting a coaching mind-set will be of tremendous value to their career and their team’s performance. This will be seen when they encourage employees to think for themselves, make their own decisions and be accountable for their actions. Of course, things won’t always go according to plan, and that is where managers have to shift from a “tell and fix-it” mind-set to a coaching mind-set. A coaching mind-set is built on the foundation of inquiry, listening, questioning and trusting. Let’s explore each one in more depth.
Inquiry: To gather all the facts and establish what happened and what didn’t, without jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. Equally to not judge the person or situation. Remaining neutral, open-minded and detached are learned behaviours that take time to master. Think of it as being a detective who has to find all the facts in a “murder” mystery. The obvious person isn’t necessarily always the murder. During your investigation, you make lots of enquiries, and people will tell you what you need and want to hear. You must be able to see the bigger picture and not be roped into the story.
Listening: To hear and learn something new, which differs from listening to have a fact confirmed. When you listen for what is not being said, you have to focus and tune into the other person’s communication wave length, acutely focusing on their body language, tone of voice, use of words, facial expressions and, hand gestures. In the same process observing yourself and understanding your listening intent, periodically checking in that you remain open-minded, curious and non-judgemental.
Questioning: If the inquiry and listening steps have been done well, the third step may come a lot easier. But a question doesn’t always equal a question. The art to questioning is to formulate your questions in such a way that they get information and an understanding of the person’s thought process. Being curious without blame or accusation is the ideal balance. Reframing from posing closed questions that can be answered with either a yes or no doesn’t help us to get a better understanding of why a person did what they did. The question and listening phase is a gentle dance that continues until an inspiring solution or a new idea forms.
Trusting: The final stage is trusting that through the manager’s enquiry, listening and guided questioning, the employee has established where in their thought process or behaviour they have gone off course, and have identified how to deal with the problem at hand. This will allow the employee to discover their shortcoming as well as how to correct it, and is intrinsically motivating for the employee. In addition, it encourages them to deepen their thinking and find solutions to current working challenges.
Coaching is a very powerful tool that managers can learn and master so that they can drive employee commitment, accountability and job satisfaction. External coach training schools provide excellent in-depth training; however. these may be more appropriate for individuals wishing to pursue a permanent coaching career. There are also many well-written books which cover this topic.
You could also get in touch with us – we are well-equipped to train and instil a coaching mind-set for your managers and your company.
I am an avid reader and a firm believer in the power of personal development. Reading expands my mind by creating new thoughts, perspectives and ideas. I always give my clients a gentle nudge to read a certain book or article that may help them with their situation. It obviously will come as no surprise to you that I always have a book with me throughout the day.
As 2016 ended, I reflected on the books that had the deepest impact on my thinking and world view. The five books that I came up with vary in genre from personal development to leadership and organisational change. Perhaps there is something in my top five book list that will inspire you?
Deep Change by Robert Quinn
This book will appeal to you if are ready to engage in a real transformation change on a soul level. Change in this context is not the quick-fix linear process, but change that requires time, courage, curiosity, motivation and persistence. Quinn’s reflective questions at the end of each chapter will awaken your mind so much so that you’ll think about them for days after you’ve read them to discover an answer. The book begins with personal change and then transposes that into leadership and organisational change. After reading it you will no longer be averse to change, but will welcome it and even actively encourage it as you grow and develop the most during this period of personal reinvention. It’s not a quick read as you are going to need time to chew the cud.
Switch on Your Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf
The book explains the functioning of your brain in layman’s terms. It goes into things like what optimises the brain and what limits it. Leaf combines neuroscientific research with scriptures from the Bible. The best part of the book is that it will remind you that as human beings we have the potential to maximise our brain capacity and function at our optimum so that we can lead a healthier life with improved quality thinking, faster decision-making and more happiness. We are our mind and not our brain and seldom do we view our lives along those lines. Our thoughts, emotions, actions and decisions originate with the way we consciously store, reflect and process our thinking. At the end, Leaf gives a 21-day brain detox plan which is practical and simple to apply, and won’t take more than 15 minutes a day.
The Awakened Company by Catherine Bell
A book that tips the traditional business model on its head and calls for organisations to raise the bar in terms of community well-being. It urges companies to wake up from their deep sleep where they focus too much on profitability for the shareholders as opposed to honouring the employees as the most important part of the company. The concept of this book is “People over profits”, and without the people a company will remain an empty shell. The emphasis is on bringing the three concepts of energising, sustaining and regenerating into balance which can be translated into combining intellectual with emotional and intuitive intelligence. This book is revolutionary in its corporate thinking and an inspirational read for leaders who have the desire to lead virtuous, positive organisations.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
The most practical and challenging book to read about becoming more productive and attaining your goals through applying a systematic discipline of discernment. The sub-title “The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” summarises it perfectly – learning to focus on getting the right things done. This raises the question: what is that the right thing? The book opens the perspective of what is essential and what isn’t in our lives. We are often on autopilot which wastes energy and resources in the trivial abyss. It busts the myth that multitasking and overworking are much valued, sought-after competencies that make you super productive, efficient and effective. This book is certainly not complete after one read as the practical tools require practice and discipline. Essentialism becomes a companion in which you will continuously re-read, re-think and re-apply concepts repeatedly.
The Positive Organization by Robert Quinn
An inspirational organisational book worth a read for leaders who believe in the equal power of possibilities versus constraints. It’s about understanding that an organisation is a living organism of social networks, culture, purpose and movement, operating in a structured profit and production framework. Quinn speaks about being a fluent bilingual leader who can see, feel and manage potential and opportunities equally to limitation and constraints. He says that this is a much needed 21st century leadership skill. Through the mind-set of failing, the leader can acquire more complex thinking abilities while being sensitive to the people and the culture. The book is filled with powerful examples, case studies and self-reflective questions.