Leader as Coach

we desperately need Leaders who can Coach

Recently I read one of the best articles in some time on Leadership and Coaching, written by Herminia Ibarra and Anne Scoular for the #HBR – The Leader as Coach .

Over the weeks ahead, I will dissect the article into sections and provide personal insights to the themes and contents of the article. I hope this will only enhance the original work as I believe that in these confused, uncertain and turbulent times, we desperately need Leaders; and we need Leaders who can Coach.

The Leader as Coach begins…..

Once upon a time, most people began successful careers by developing expertise in a technical, functional, or professional domain. Doing your job well meant having the right answers. If you could prove yourself that way, you’d rise up the ladder and eventually move into people management—at which point you had to ensure that your subordinates had those same answers.
As a manager, you knew what needed to be done, you taught others how to do it, and you evaluated their performance. Command and control was the name of the game, and your goal was to direct and develop employees who understood how the business worked and were able to reproduce its previous successes.
Not today. Rapid, constant, and disruptive change is now the norm, and what succeeded in the past is no longer a guide to what will succeed in the future. Twenty-first-century managers simply don’t (and can’t!) have all the right answers. To cope with this new reality, companies are moving away from traditional command-and-control practices and toward something very different: a model in which managers give support and guidance rather than instructions, and employees learn how to adapt to constantly changing environments in ways that unleash fresh energy, innovation, and commitment.
The role of the manager, in short, is becoming that of a coach………no longer can managers simply command and control. Nor will they succeed by rewarding team members mainly for executing flawlessly on things they already know how to do. Instead, with full institutional support, they need to reinvent themselves as coaches whose job it is to draw energy, creativity, and learning out of the people with whom they work………..

I am currently working as “Coach in Residence” for an ASX 100 technology company in Brisbane Australia. It is by any measure, a success story.

My task, as identified by the CEO and his Senior Leadership team (SLT), is to improve their performance as the group leading the company into the future, despite the position of the company. Obviously, there are some definitions around what does “improve”, “performance” and “future” mean. But for the purposes of this article, the SLT did not believe that they were working collaboratively.

As a consequence, this lack of teamwork impacted the capacity to efficiently & effectively harness their collective abilities to drive change within the business, in order to be ‘ahead of the curve’ in the market.
In our current state, we might think more appropriately of ‘flattening the curve’.

So their timeline horizons were very short, driven by achieving numbers for the company around revenue, profit, new business and converting existing business to new platforms.

Now there is a quantifiable change within the SLT about collaboration and teamwork.
They have written their own Credo, not an organisational Credo.

As Coach, I have been holding them to account to this Credo, both individually and collectively.

While the uptake has been slow, based on the personal scorecards that each have recorded week by week, the most recent offsite saw all team members reaffirm this step as an important measure for them to maintain. The more that they deliver on their Credo, the better placed they will be to Coach their respective teams on what higher performance expectations are, and whether it is being delivered.

Not everyone in this SLT will be great Coaches. But what they are doing is becoming more aware of the power of coaching, and the longer term (future) benefits it can unlock for the organisation.