"A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves."
"Leadership is getting results through others."
For me, these two quotations pretty much sum up great leadership. Both focus on getting the task done and both mention other people. A leader is only a leader because of other people after all.
Amazing things happen when organisations take these two premises to heart and train their leaders to think and operate according to them, all the way up from supervisor to senior leader. Basically the organisation takes off and flies.
Why is this? Because if the first premise is true then the other people are being so inspired, appreciated, encouraged, developed and nourished by their inclusive working environment, (the organisation culture) that success is the inevitable outcome. It is automatic for the business and for its employees.
Leadership drives culture and culture drives performance.
If the second of these two premises is true and leadership is getting results through others, then for the leader to enable their team to achieve optimum results it behoves them to understand what each individual in the team, no matter how diverse, needs in order to contribute their very best. And this means developing a genuine interest in and focus upon other people.
So the only way a company can create this nurturing kind of culture is for all of its leaders to be skilled in: inspiring, appreciating, encouraging, developing, and nourishing all members of their teams, especially when their team is diverse. And the only way to reliably achieve this is through some form of training - either in a workshop or through leadership coaching.
Even those leaders who quite naturally and authentically operate in this way can grow further. Actually, a leader who doesn’t think they can grow or doesn’t want to is probably not one of the greats - or even the goods!
Over the years, through both my own observations as a management trainer, as a coach and through clients’ experiences, leaders can sometimes feel ‘all management-work-shopped-out’ and with symptoms of management-model overload due to the number of training courses they are expected to attend. They may not feel that everything in the workshop is totally relevant to them and tune out much of the time. So consequently they often do not come away with any noticeable (to themselves or others) attitude or behavioural change. It is one of the downsides of training. Thinking and behavioural change happen as the result of the creation of new habits and it takes ninety days for a newly adopted behaviour to become a habit.
Coaching can be seen as a form of one-to-one training - but is broader, personalised, more effective and of course, relatively more expensive than training.
So when a leader experiences individualised coaching over a period of a few months they have time to explore, ask questions, discover, experiment with, accept and learn all about the new concept, so it is far more likely to become a habit. And of course, every single aspect of the programme is relevant to the coachee. They are the sole focus of the intervention and are paying 100% attention.
In many ways, what actually unfolds during leadership coaching sessions is fairly similar to
life coaching but the focus is on how the leader’s mindset and skill-set impacts their workplace performance and thus the organisation culture.
One senior leader from the UK Ministry of Defence commented:
"In my coaching sessions with Annette I expected to identify a few behavioural ploys to improve my relationship with the team and ended up deep in my core values."
Another approach to creating the kind of culture we’re talking about is to train managers and leaders in basic coaching skills so that they can interact with their teams in a people-centered way and develop more understanding of each individual. And, as we’ve already discussed, the better a leader understands their people the better the results for everyone.
I have been working at a senior leadership level with a wide variety of organisations for nearly twenty-five years and continue to be excited by helping companies to become better places for their employees to work in and thus improve their business.
If we change the heart of business we can change the world.
For details of the coaching skills training courses for leaders and managers that I offer, please visit the Training Courses page or Contact me for training plans.