Tom Brady has won 7 Super Bowls, gone to 15 Pro Bowls, and been the league’s MVP 3 times. He has a coach. In fact, he has about six of them.
We could all benefit from coaching. For the professional athlete, it might be a skills coach, or a sports psychologist. For the executive, manager or department head it comes in the form of an executive coach. These are the people that drive performance in others.
The executive coach, as someone who is often outside the organization, brings the ability to coach without a socially-influenced, partial lens that would be colored by a varied history. In my own journey in executive coaching, there were three things that I discovered immediately about the power of coaching.
- Impartial Assessment. Coaches help to find all the facts and then analyze them.
- Personalized Strategy. Coaches look for the “best” solution and not just “a” solution… for the individual.
- Collaboration. Coaches encourage the use of other’s wisdom.
Having a coach can be a life changing process. Though there are many benefits, these three components are proven to create results that would not have been accomplished singularly. We’re in this together!
It goes without saying that a good leader will have established a positive relationship with many of the people they are leading. This is a necessary step in leading other humans. However, when it comes to problem solving, these relationships can often play a major role in the collection and analysis of facts.
Bias, a very popular word in the midst of a boom of DEI conversations, shows up in every day occurrences. For example, people often tend to believe the first version of a story they hear (anchoring bias). This means that, typically, leaders analyze data in the order they receive it. They do so through the lens of the first version of the story they hear or tell themselves. This is why it is incredibly important to attempt to collect plenty of facts prior to developing a hypothesis.
An example from the business world: Company A begins to lose employees to company B. Company A wants to understand why, and first hears that company B has restructured their pay model. The assumption company A might make is that workers are leaving their company because they can earn more money at the other company. They begin to make decisions based on that information. This assumption may cause company A to focus only on the pay structure at company B and miss out on other details. For example, perhaps the employees that are leaving are largely employees of color. Without that information, company A would not know to inquire about the work company B is doing on their DEI engagement plan. Too often, leaders ask the wrong questions, or don’t ask any questions, and come to the wrong conclusions. Decisions made with insufficient information will lead to ineffective results.
“Decisions made with insufficient information will lead to ineffective results.” – The Value of a Coach, by Maurice McDavidTweet
One incredible way to get more information about a particular problem is to ask those who are closest to it. Talk to multiple people, keeping in mind that ultimately they are just sharing their perspective. In collecting multiple perspectives, it can be helpful in compiling a complete narrative from which an analysis can be made.
A coach can support the process of collecting this information, and help filter it though an impartial lens.
Once sufficient information has been collected, we can begin strategizing. Strategy has to incorporate context specific factors and, whenever possible, benefit all parties. In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey says that one of the habits of highly effective people is that they think win-win. A strategy has not been optimized if a member of the organization has to walk away a ‘loser’. The best solution is not often the easiest or the least expensive, but the one that has the biggest net positive impact on the organization.
The temptation to prematurely settle is heightened when time is short or there is external pressure (time pressure, social pressure, performance pressure, etc.). Take a breath. Commit to taking the time a decision deserves.
It must be noted, however, that this search for the best solution is not permission to freeze. The phrase “paralysis by analysis” describes the tendency for organizations to spend so much time admiring a problem that they never take time to make any actions. It happens all the time.
Be ready to be deliberate, but go as fast as needed. Be ready to think deeply, but not beyond your depth. The best solution is one that is flexible. Lack of flexibility, or cognitive rigidity, can occur when ideas become insular. Company’s and social circles can become echo chambers. Similar ideas, fears, and common sticking points permeate thought-processes and approaches. Here again, a coach can help. Coaches can highlight cognitive rigidity when it appears. They can be emotional, relationship, and communication mentors when the going gets tough and flexibility seems impossible.
When you are bogged down by day-to-day challenges, a coach can help you pick up your head, look around, see clearly, be flexible, and take the next thoughtful step forward.
The value of collective wisdom cannot be overstated.
This idea is exemplified in many cultural norms around the world but perhaps none are more clear than the Zulu mantra of ubuntu. It is a word that is roughly translated as “I am because we are.” The best leaders, executives, and managers are those who understand that their knowledge and experience alone will not be sufficient to maximize outcomes. Collective wisdom can make a world of difference.
So be sure to ask questions, study, and surround yourself with good people. Engage humbly in conversations with people who have different experience and perspectives; it will help you grow. Look far and wide – wisdom does not come only from those who have experience in the exact field in which you work. Someone who has leadership experience can speak to leaders regardless of the industry in which they have led. A range of experiences, especially from other industries, can be incredibly valuable.
“The value of collective wisdom cannot be overstated…. ubuntu: I am because we are… the best leaders, executives, and managers understand this. Collective wisdom can make a world of difference.” – Maurice McDavidTweet
This will be an exercise in empathy and perspective taking, which can be hard. Others have the ability to give a different perspective on the same problem. Looking at a problem from a different perspective may assist in producing a more creative, effective solution.
Those closest to a situation may struggle to see it clearly because of their investment in one part or another. By bringing in an outside voice, one that is not tied to things having to be done in a particular way, there is a greater likelihood of finding success.
So whether you are the business equivalent of Tom Brady, or you’re a rookie trying to make the roster, keep learning. Read, listen to podcasts, call a friend. And if you have the means, find yourself a coach. Together, we can work through your goals and challenges, then co-create an implementation plan. Life, work, and relationships can be positively impacted through the process of coaching. Whenever you’re ready, feel free to REACH OUT.