For some time now, we’ve seen many organisations encouraging their managers to learn the art of coaching as a key approach in their suite of management tools. I’ve witnessed first hand many situations where the ‘manager as coach’ approach has helped lift members of a team, or even whole teams and positively enhanced the performance of the managers themselves.
But is a ‘manager as coach’ style enough to lift a team and provide longer-term sustainable performance? I’m not so sure. I think that the ‘manager as coach’ strategy stops short of helping a team reach the heights of performance that are possible, simply because coaching remains a conditional approach that is driven by immediate outcomes. Coaching is task oriented and the main focus is on tangible issues such as giving effective feedback, thinking strategically or how to provide better customer service. For this reason, coaching has a shorter-term focus with the emphasis being on how to perform more effectively today. An effective manager understands when to use coaching for good impact, and we could say that coaching is a situational tool; just as the ability to have courageous conversations or use the right tools at the right time are situational decisions.
The key to helping your team enhance their performance is to move beyond the conditional aspects of your relationship and adopt more of a mentoring style.
In my own experience as both a leader and a team member, I know that the times I have seen sustained peak performance are the times when relationships move beyond the conditional ‘something for something’ stage and towards a level of professional intimacy. And in these uncertain times when teams are remote, and it's hard to know how your team members are 'really' doing, the ability to take a mentoring approach could be a constructive leadership approach that acts as a life saver for those team members who are struggling but don't feel comfortable to explicitly share their feelings.
Mentoring & Coaching: Take Care of the Long & Short Game
Mentoring in itself is about relationships and quite unconditional. This is a big shift for those managers who are attached to more traditional leadership styles, as it tends to offer up a level of vulnerability that puts the manager on the same level as their people. Managers who understand this provide a level of safety in their team that makes it ok for their employees to share issues that may be affecting their professional and personal performance; which may lead to some coaching, training or something else to help address the gap. The reality is that a mentoring approach relies on sharing who you are and not just what you know. A leader who is able to integrate mentoring into their style will likely learn that the root of many performance issues lies in self-esteem, work/life balance or other personal issues that don’t lie that far beneath the surface. This raises the question; how often has coaching or training been incorrectly used to deal with issues that may simply have needed an ear or required a simple word of acknowledgement for them at least start to be addressed? And right now, when things seem unclear, and for some unsafe, a mentoring approach be just what's needed in tandem with more situational or directive management.
When used together, both mentoring and coaching combine to be a holistic leadership approach that provide a focus on both the long and short term. An example of this is shown below with a situation that is becoming increasingly common – career development:
1. The mentoring leader is able to learn what the employee really wants to do, and where they see themselves in five or ten years.
(long term focus)
2. The manager as coach is able to help them address any gaps required to help them on their way; or if those possibilities aren't available in the organisation, (short term focus)
3. The mentoring manager will put them in touch with someone in their network who can give them more information on how to achieve their career goals. (long & short term focus)
As simple as it may appear, by being genuinely interested in what motivates your people you have established a level of trust, especially if you’ve been prepared to share what motivates you as well. Having the conversation around your differences in motivations can build levels of trust and engagement in a short space of time that could otherwise take months or years to build.
Integrating a mentoring style doesn’t require extra time in your day as a manager, nor does it mean you have to give up other styles or tools. It just means that you are able to use them more strategically and for greater impact. It also requires that you take the opportunities to build relationships with your people and seek to understand who they really are.
Out of all of this though, it’s possible that the hardest thing will be for you to have the courage to make the first step and offer up a little bit about who you really are!
Author: David Morley
David is a developer of global-minded and engaging leaders, teams and organisations.
When is a global organisation really global? Is it when there is a good representation of offices around the world? Or when a good financial year is the result of some good joint efforts between countries and regions? Perhaps when we have a healthy expat program, and lots of global project teams? Or is it when we have consistent training programs being delivered in all regions of the business? The answer lies partly in the above; but is that enough? I think the examples listed above are all components and even outputs of a healthy global organisation; but a truly global organisation, I believe, is one that clearly understands and articulates from the board down, that they are a global organisation.
Let’s start with the board. Board Diversity has been a topic for years, both in terms of gender and race; however it makes perfect sense that as an organisation grows and enters into global markets that the role and expectations of the board become a little broader. Perhaps not with respect to the role of the board, but more with how the board can continue to engage, partner and challenge the executive in a global context rather than the boundaries of the local market. One of the benefits, and expectations, of the board is to bring a depth of experience that bolsters the effectiveness of the CEO, their team and of course their strategy. So how can a global strategy be endorsed by a board that doesn’t reflect a depth of experience in doing business beyond borders or with the depth of complexity in which the company plays?
And then there is the CEO and their leadership team. The impact of a misalignment between the board and the executive in a cultural context isn’t always obvious, especially in the heady days of breaking out and tackling new markets. It’s easy in those early days of a start up to write off failures in this context as inexperience and testing the market. But that’s a poor excuse either with or without a board experienced in conducting cross-cultural business. The leadership team, irrespective of whether it's for a start-up or a more established global organisation, has a responsibility to guide the ship through the waters of international business with a measure of experience and consistency. When this is isn’t present, it can start to be seen in poor M&A decisions or by not seeing the cultural risks when moving into new countries, even in the most basic of ways, such as; poor negotiation strategies, or upstream business development that completely misses the mark due to committing cultural faux-pas without realising it, or just playing in the wrong place at the wrong time with no experience available to tap them on the shoulder and point them in the right direction.
Do you have a shared global language?
So far we’ve focused on how the board and the executive engage with the external factors; however this focus also needs to shine inwards, and again, without a true depth of experience in what makes a global organisation tick, some big issues can arise. For example, how is the global strategic plan created and communicated? Is the assumption made that if the plan is created through an Anglo lens and pushed out in the way you’d expect in an Anglo environment, that everyone will embrace it? Anyone who has worked, or led in a multi-national has probably experienced the 'flying under the radar syndrome'; when a new plan or direction pushed out by the HQ country is not embraced or adopted in the way that they would like in the country network. One of the most common mistakes, for example, is the assumption that all Anglo countries will pull in the same direction as they are perceived to be culturally similar. There is some truth to this, but the reality is that when analysed from a national culture perspective, Anglo countries are all identical in that competition and autonomy are culturally important tendencies from the perspective of Prof Geert Hofstede’s 6 D cultural analysis and therefore fall into one of Huib Wursten’s 7 country clusters of ‘Competition’. Knowing this critical piece of information would mean that the creation and roll out of any plan would seek to engage and involve each country and be very explicit in how each country would benefit rather than being laid back and making the assumption “well, they’re like us, they’ll get it!”
Now we are starting to explore the influence of leadership on the way business gets done throughout the organisation. There are many aspects to this, but what we do know through many studies and our own experiences gained from working in global learning functions, consulting to global project teams and coaching expats around the world; there is knowing what you have to do, but being a truly global organisation means that you know how to do it! Just as we highlighted above with the how the board can bring value in mentoring the executive in how to work in a global context, this in turn filters down via the leadership to the teams and individuals charged with actually doing it on a daily basis.
This influence can be seen in how global learning practices are deployed, how expat knowledge is transferred before, throughout and after the assignment, and in how energy and information flows across borders and despite borders. The more transactional and clunky the efforts, the more likely the organisation is still learning how to make sense of being global, and it may also be a direct reflection of the relationship between the board and the leadership in this context. As it gets easier, it could be likened to moving through the stages of competence, to the point of being unconsciously competent; though I’m not sure that this stage is ever fully realised in a global organisation; but perhaps if that’s the goal, the clunkiness and transactional nature of being global can be tolerated a little more as the organisation works hard to get there.
Being a global organisation is one thing. Knowing how to be global is quite another, and I think an undervalued and often misunderstood element of being a truly global organisation.
Of course there are many more strands to this story, and it's not really 'the last word'...but if there is anything that I hope to leave you with, it’s this. Don't start the development of your global strategy at the level of HR, OD or Operations. It needs to start with the Board, the CEO and their leadership group. When it comes to global business success, the relationship between the board and the organisations leadership group can easily be considered a lynch pin relationship. The very nature of that relationship impacts the perspective of the CEO and their team, which in turn influences strategy and the organisational frame of reference with respect to what being global means to them.
Author: David Morley
This is has been updated from an original post in 2016, published on LinkedIn and at www.pontevalle.com
The future of leadership is always being questioned and explored and yet the reality is that successful leaders today, and into the future, will most likely carry the same core qualities as those from years gone by. They will be leaders who have vision, leverage disruption and encourage constructive risk taking. Above all, they will get that the relationships they create with their people will continue to be the beating heart of their success as a leader.
And in the context of the biggest disruptor to business that we've experienced in recent times, Covid-19, I believe that this aspect will come more sharply into focus. It's what I call the Relational Leader. And I believe it will be a non-negotiable.
To put this in context let’s look at leadership through a couple of lenses that matter today, and will increase in importance exponentially over the next couple of years.
Engaging Generations Y and Z
It’s too easy (and lazy) to write off these generations with broad-brush strokes that categorise them as superficial and being the ‘me’ or the ‘I want it and I want it now’ crowd. Yes - I still hear those statements. The reality is that this is a generation connected to values, to each other and to the world as much as the generations that came before it – if not more. It goes without saying then that the most successful leaders will be those who take the time to connect with and genuinely understand what drives them. You can’t discover this unless you build a relationship that is more than chatting about what you did on the weekend or the task at hand. The world is changing and we are well and truly in the Involvement Age. As the name suggests, the people we are leading will increasingly expect to be involved at work. They will want to be:
So the more you understand, and really know the people you are leading, the more you will know how to direct their energy, and engage them in ‘why’ they are working with you. Of course this doesn't just apply to Generations Y and Z, but in many respects these are the generations who are explicitly seeking more than just a job. I know there are plenty of Boomers and Generation X'ers out there who also want that same deeper connection with their job; but unlike with Generations Y & Z, we often need to work harder to tease this out of them, to understand what this means and looks like. With Generations Y & Z you don't need to look too hard to learn what's important to them, and this is ok; but does require a more Relational style of leadership to engage and optimise the energy in the moment.
This is very important in the context of the following point; we can't take for granted that if work is happening in a remote setting that it must be because my team is engaged. And this one applies to all generations!
Engaging in Virtual, Complex & Global Environment
Everyday the world is becoming smaller, and despite the events of the last 6 months, globalisation is not going away. It may happen differently, but it will still be around. We all know first hand of the virtual nature of working; at some point in the last six months all of us have been touched by this - even employees who still had to come to the office or a plant would have had colleagues or managers working remotely. In any of these circumstances, embracing a Relational approach to leadership is a non-negotiable for ensuring genuine engagement. And don't be fooled by the talk that is seeping out saying that teams have never been so engaged!
What I'm really seeing when I drill down in these conversations, is that the teams are more productive than usual...and that is not the same being engaged.
In a recent post I spoke of the necessity for leaders in highly disruptive times to lean on their management skills as much, if not more so, than their leadership skills - which fits with the narrative that our people will be more focused on getting their jobs done, and of course this equals productivity. Hence the confusion. For years we've known that one of the key outcomes of engaging leadership is productivity. But don't confuse survival driven productivity with engaged productivity. Chances are you've had a mix of both over the last six months, and it's important that you start to look beyond the work that is getting done to understand why it's getting done. (...this almost feels a bit like the classic X & Y Theory coming to life!)
What we think we know is that in the future there will continue to be an element of remote working. For leaders this is an ongoing piece of complexity that will bring challenges. That's a fact, and let's face it, there are many leaders who struggle with leading in a traditional co-located environment let alone with a team that is spread out. But through the Relational lens, it doesn't have to be as difficult, and you can bring a style of leadership that engages and motivates in such a way that people feel like they belong – irrespective of where they are located.
So what does this mean for the future of leadership?
Probably the same thing it’s always meant; that we are leading people who at their core desire acknowledgement for who they are, and recognition for what they bring. People who, as Maslow suggested, like to belong. Factors that have never changed; but are about to become just a little more important to the leadership success equation. Perhaps it will become the era of the Relational Leader.
Author: David Morley