This is an interview with three coaches that specialize in leadership. They generously offered to answer some questions about leadership and leadership coaching for Leadership501. The coaches are:
- Wilson Ramirez – www.leadershipwisdom.com
- Carl Robinson – www.leadershipconsulting.com
- Barry Zweibel – www.ggci.com
Read on for their insights into leadership.
What is the most common mistake you see made by leaders?
The most common mistake is the assumption that people ‘have to’ follow the leader. This becomes the key differentiator between management and leadership: a leader is followed because people ‘want to’. Most leaders, unfortunately, forget this and act more often than not as managers.
Not sufficiently attending to building relationships at work. Technical competence is overrated.
Just one?! How about three?!
- With respect to ‘delegation and maximizing their leadership impact’ – Doing work that they’re capable of doing, rather than working on what only they are capable of doing. Too many leaders do their staff’s work instead of their own and then are left wondering why there are so many unanticipated problems and last-minute deadlines that keep cropping up. Job One of a leader is to keep a constant watch on the horizon, not to keep busy.
- With respect to ‘consensus-building and collaboration’ – Thinking that the real work happens during meetings, rather than before, and to a much lesser degree, after, them. To paraphrase Walt Disney, if you can get them to agree before they disagree, they’ll never disagree.
- With respect to ‘doing a good job’ – Trying to avoid risk-taking, rather than learning to how anticipate and mitigate the risks inherent in forwarding any new idea. As a leader, it’s not about playing it safe, it’s about making a difference.
What is the most important tip you can give for developing leadership skills?
The first and arguably the most important step in the leadership development journey is self-awareness. Without a proper knowledge of ourselves, it is difficult to properly lead other people. Leadership requires a fine awareness of what other people are feeling, and the use of our own personality and abilities to lead them with/through/in-spite-of their feelings. Without knowing ourselves first, it is hard to know other people.
You must develop your interpersonal intelligence skills. You have to learn how to influence people to make change. Simply giving people orders does not work. You might get compliance at the expense of buy-in and commitment.
Time is the ultimate scarce resource for an executive, so the ability to eliminate procrastination is an essential competency. Yet, many executives are still uncomfortable with talking to direct reports about performance issues. So they procrastinate (under the guise of being too busy to deal with that right now, of course) and as a direct result, time passes, problems fester, and things slide downhill. The most important tip I can give for developing leadership skills, then, is to learn how to be ready, willing, and able, to have those difficult conversations, when needed. That’s one of the reasons why I created an e-book called, “Employee Performance Discussions” which provides respectful, but powerful and compelling language and phrasings to help make those difficult conversations imminently less so.
What book would you recommend to someone taking on new leadership responsibilities?
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, by John C. Maxwell, is just a jewel. It is so packed with wisdom, that I go back to it quite often.
The Extraordinary Leader by John Zenger and Joseph Folkman
- Six Thinking Hats, Edward De Bono – better meetings
- Moments of Truth, Jan Carlzon – better choices
- Managers as Mentors, Chip Bell – better philosophy
- Executive Intelligence, Justin Menkes – better results
- The Art of Framing, Fairhurst & Saar – better communicating
- Leadership and Self-Deception, Arbinger Institute – better be careful
Which leader has had the biggest personal influence on your life?
Although countless authors, speakers and leaders have had an impact in my life, the biggest influence would have to be Jesus. As a student and teacher of leadership, I find that the lessons he taught, his love, compassion and the consistent behavior displayed throughout his life are perfect material for a case-study on the topic, but also applicable at a personal level as a role model to follow.
My high school Human Anatomy and Physiology teacher. He taught me to break rules and to be creative.
For me, I think it was John Madden back when he was head coach of the Oakland Raiders, from 1968 to 1978. I really respect how he took all the misfits from the league – galoots who had just couldn’t play nice with anyone – gave them a home, insisted they be themselves, and with owner Al Davis, challenged them to Just Win, Baby! Together, they won 17 straight games (across two seasons), won themselves a Super Bowl, never had a losing season, got Madden voted AFL Coach of the Year, gave him the best winning percentage of any coach in NFL history with over 100 wins, and a permanent seat in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
My Lessons Learned from it all?
- Be curious about people rather than being in judgment of them
- Don’t be afraid of creativity and counter-intuitive thinking
- People love, but also need, to do Important Work – so let them
- Respecting someone for who they already are, builds regard, rapport, and the ability to create some incredible magic
Who can benefit from leadership coaching?
Anyone, really. Just like any athlete would benefit from a coach, any individual that desires to perform, obtain guidance or move to the next level (whatever that is) can benefit from a coach. I would particularly recommend coaching to people that feel stuck in their lives or careers, or those taking on an overwhelming challenge.
Going back to the most important tip for leadership development described earlier, the most important value a coach brings is the ability to ask good, hard, deep and thought-provoking questions that facilitate self-awareness — and to serve as an implementation monitor to ensure those lessons we discover are properly acted upon.
Any executive who wants to stretch and grow and is willing to be open, honest and work hard.
The type of people who can benefit the most from leadership coaching are the ones who, notwithstanding the fruits of their labors, know they can still do better, want to do better still, and are willing to do the necessary legwork to make it so. They tend to be smart, capable, informed, creative, and caring. But whether they’re an up-and-coming star, a proverbial executive’s executive, or someone in between, they know that what brought them success in the past will likely be insufficient in sustaining their success in the future. So they’ve made it a personal and professional priority to continue to learn and grow and develop and stretch and question and consider and understand as much as they can. Regardless of circumstances or contexts, they want to be at their Absolute Best as often, and as consistently, as possible. Why? Because it’s at that level that the magic happens most regularly.
Describe how your coaching sessions works.
Our focus is in understanding the innate and natural abilities of our clients. We spend a huge amount of time understanding their personality, their wants, needs and desires. We use thorough assessments to obtain metrics on different areas of their personality, and follow a clear methodology of discovery. We found that this discovery alone brings unprecedented value to our clients. Knowing their individual strengths and areas for improvement, we focus on the future and what they want to accomplish. We challenge them on specifics and help them think how their strengths could help in a given situation. We help our clients strategize about how to do the best they can with their natural abilities, and whether and how to acquire new skills to balance out and achieve greater levels of performance. We do not motivate our clients: the motivation comes from within.
Refer to my website for greater details but … In a nut shell:
- Action Plan
- Practice more.
You have to do a proper assessment. Find out what your strengths and developmental needs are which usually entails conducting some type of multi-rater (360) feedback survey plus a personality assessment by a consulting psychologist (the only folks really trained to do assessment well). Then we develop a plan of action and concentrate on the 2 – 3 key things the candidate needs to learn. Then we find real-time – in the their business opportunities to practice the new skills. As we do this we ask for feedback so that we can determine if we are making progress and make any necessary adjustments/refinements. Change does not happen over night and takes ongoing practice. We keep at it until the candidate has incorporated the new skills.
They can expect to have me be very direct, pragmatic and supportive. I act as their advocate and cheerleader while keeping them focused on their goals.
Here’s a simple diagram of the process, courtesy of an article published by the American Society of Training and Development.
The idea is that the executive shows up for the coaching call (I work mostly 1-on-1, via telephone) with whatever issues s/he is grappling with and we dig in. My job is to listen – to what’s said, to how it’s said…and to what’s not being said – and then help create a clarity and confidence around moving forward. These conversations are completely confidential and solely for the executive’s benefit. As a result, the things that need to be talked about can be talked about – without fear, judgment, or restriction of content. Tempo-wise, these 50-to-55 minute, weekly/biweekly, coaching conversations tend to be crisp, focused, engaging, and highly-interactive, each one fully-customized to issues at hand.
What is the first step someone should take if they are interested in your coaching services?
Get in touch with us. Visit our website for more information on our programs. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at (416) 284-1799. We would be pleased to discuss whether and how we can be of help for your specific situation.