Are great leaders born or made? The debate has raged on for ages but there’s one thing we can all agree on: a little guidance never hurt anyone.
I recently gathered with a group of people from across a number industries and stages of their career at General Assembly’s LA campus to learn about coaching skills for managers. Led by The Leader’s Foundry CEO Davidson Young, the two-hour hands-on workshop unfolded into a number of eye-opening observations about how to foster more meaningful interactions, both as a manager and as an individual. Here’s the skinny on the learnings I’ve applied since:
Guide, Don’t Provide
We’re all guilty of coming down with “busy syndrome,” so when someone approaches us with a problem our instinct is to toss them an answer without taking our eyes off the computer screen. But taking the time to ask your colleague questions that guide them to a solution is incredibly valuable for both parties. After all, it doesn’t behoove anyone’s growth to have answers handed to them – just ask the kid in your high school math class you let copy your homework. Take a beat and see if you can provide guidance, even if only for two minutes. Don’t feel obligated to coach someone through an Excel formatting issue, but use your judgment.
Read Between the Lines
Non-verbal cues are arguably more important than verbal ones. As you’re walking someone through a challenge or delegating an assignment, pay close attention to what they’re NOT saying. Was there a slight hesitation, a shifting of the eyes, a nuanced tone to their voice, or just a gut feeling? See something, say something! No one benefits if negative feelings are glossed over, or if excitement about a project goes unrecognized. Addressing feelings stirring beneath the surface may unearth new information that helps you grow as a leader, and may even be news to your counterpart.
Trust the Process
Davidson focused on the TGROW model: Topic, Goal, Reality, Options, Will. I’m a big fan of processes when it comes to documents, projects, and campaigns, but have somehow never applied it to managing employees. As we coached each other through personal and professional issues in our breakout groups, my classmates and I were astounded at some of the realizations we came to simply by defining exactly what we hoped to solve, and walking each other through each step from there. Things got so real that we were joking we needed to stand in a circle and hold hands singing Kumbayah at the end of the workshop. Don’t you want to feel that way in the workplace, too?
Coach. Yo. Self.
Following the TGROW model when working through your own challenges can be integral to your value as a leader as well. Those of us who’ve been in any semblance of a managerial role can attest to the fact that effective leadership requires a heavy dose of introspection and self-awareness. We’re often faced with tough decisions that only we can answer and that can be terrifying. Rather than allowing your brain to run a mile a minute when faced with a daunting decision, this process can help you untangle complicated webs of problems by allowing you to focus.