How to coach a leader

employee engagement

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how to coach a leader
Bruce Mayhew

Bruce Mayhew is an executive coach with Bruce Mayhew Consulting. He’s also a trainer and speaker. We speak to Bruce about the finer points of coaching a leader, how to coach a leader, and what to expect.

In part two, he looks at how to be the best leader you can possibly be. Here’s a tip! Treat employees like individuals!

Defining leadership

Coaching a leader sounds fairly straightforward, but a key part of it must depend on the definition and understanding of leadership. Is this something you clarify at the start with clients and, next, what is your definition of leadership?

Yes – This is a great place to start when working on leadership development. Too often people have an idea that a leader is a boss. They have to be all knowing, all seeing and all powerful . . . which is (in my belief), a legacy idea from the 1900s.

But today, studies show 65-80 per cent of leadership is soft skills, being able to intrinsically motivate and support people to do THEIR best as a collaborative team Or at least all running toward the same goal/vision and demonstrating/reinforcing the same corporate values.

Aspects of leadership

What are the key aspects of a good leader? 

Some of the important aspects of a great leader are:

  • They build a strategy to meet the company needs today and tomorrow. Focus on results/sets Priorities
  • They focus on values and vision.
  • They promote cooperation/collaboration
  • They are innovative/open to change, improvement
  • They are accountable for the decisions they make.
  • They are ready to be a role model for others. Strong yet Humble.
  • They help their individuals and their team (and themselves grow). Leadership is a constant learning experience.
  • They are prepared to do difficult work and have difficult conversations. They know they/their decisions won’t always be popular.
  • They build relationships with their team/company/community/partners.
  • They are trustworthy – they keep the trust of the people they work for and who work for them.

Bruce Mayhew’s goals for coaching leaders

What do you aim to achieve when you coach leaders?

Given my list in Q2, it is unlikely (near impossible) that a leader can demonstrate all of these . . . and that should be OK. The trick is to know:

  • What you are good at
  • What you enjoy
  • What you are great at
  • What you are lousy at
  • What you don’t enjoy doing… at all

Knowing this enables the people I work with to be OK with who they are and to make the most of what they do. This also allows people to not only NOT beat themselves up on what they are not great at or don’t enjoy doing . . . it allows them to focus on what they are good at/great at and do enjoy doing.

How to coach a leader

This is a big question which might be hard to answer in a few paragraphs, but what is your starting point with most clients, and how do you go about coaching them?

The beginning is all about conversation. It’s about building trust between us. It’s about being able to share great information and to also be able to share difficult information / have difficult conversations.

Most people know what they are good at and where their challenges are. They don’t need a lot of expensive 360s or other analysis. And if they are at the leadership level they have years of performance reviews where people have told them what they are good at and especially where they need improvement. So, we usually start there.

From there, we start looking at their personal and professional goals. Wants and needs in the next year to three years? What does their family need if they have one or are starting one? What does their career need if they are starting a new chapter or want to start something new?

A coach helps them clarify what is important to them and to help them make decisions and track the progress of those decisions moving forward.

How to coach a leader and the roadblocks along the way

What are the roadblocks to coaching? For example, does a client require a good degree of adaptability or flexibility? And what kinds of leaders will find the greatest success from coaching sessions?

  1. A trusting relationship with their coach
  2. A knowledge that something does have to change. This is especially true if the coaching is suggested by their employer
  3. A commitment to the process – that doing the same thing they are doing now is not going to give them the results they want. They are at the centre of the situation. They are responsible for the outcome – I am a guide to help them see the path they are looking for and to help them avoid the cliff.

Measuring coaching progress

Is it possible to measure coaching progress and a client’s success?

Actually yes – but I don’t. This gets back to 360s and other self-assessment tools like SuccessFinder (both of which are great) when implemented by organizations that know how.

I find measurement can get into the way… unless it is a straightforward goal like, “I am close . . . but I want to make sure I’m a VP in 2 years.”

I like to think of coaching as more organic because coaching can often start with one goal and quickly uncover many more – sometimes more important – sometimes more foundational goals.

How to coach a leader, by Bruce Mayhew

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