Do you know any colleagues who were unprepared for the
management roles they are now in? They were formerly superstars who excelled in
their expertise as a sole contributor, but now they’re looking stressed and
worn down. You might even be hearing
some grumbling from their team.
There’s a name for this colleague: the Accidental Manager.
Most accidental managers in the
workforce are promoted because they’re really good at what they did in their
former role. The paradox comes from the assumption
that if they were good there, they’ll be good here. Close to 60%
of frontline managers never received training for their new role.
That faulty thinking sets new managers up for the very real risk of failure: a
study by CareerBuilder
found that 50% of managers are ineffective.
I’m not suggesting all new managers will be ineffective. But it’s a rare individual with the natural aptitude and personality to hit the ground running, guiding and leading others successfully from day one. Most employees with exemplary technical and functional skills and knowledge may not have the soft skills to motivate, inspire and develop others.
So how can companies ensure the
accidental leader becomes successful as a manager? And who’s responsible for
their success in leading others?
That’s no surprise given that a 2016 Training Benchmarking Study,
found 58% of organizations spent more than $1,000 per learner on training for
senior leadership—compared to just 39 percent for high-potentials and 32
percent for mid-level management. This means the majority of professional
development funding is not spent on
the majority of managers – new and mid-level.
That makes me wonder if senior leadership simply don’t understand the need to spend money upfront on preparing and developing great habits and people-leading skills in newer managers? That organizations incur significant financial and culture costs as a result of ineffective leaders? That they’ll likely spend far more downstream when those same managers are let go or the turnover in their teams increases?
New managers themselves are accountable
to learn what it is to lead others effectively. It’s incumbent the manager be
open to learning and realize that what got them into their last job, likely
won’t guarantee success as a manager.
Being a people leader requires
continuous development of one’s own self- awareness. This includes the ability
to understand how others experience them. It means being flexible and adapting
to the needs of others – shifting from “me” to “us”. This includes the ability to inspire and
really develop the potential of their direct reports and teams.
The question we should ask is: If you were (or are) a senior leader, why would you risk placing your high-potential, high producing sole contributor into a manager’s role without appropriate professional development and training?
And if you were (or are) that
high-potential sole contributor, would you really want to be an accidental
manager? Or would you advocate for support and training to ensure your success?
Being an accidental manager can be lonely and overwhelming. It
can breed low self-confidence. It can tarnish a reputation. And, ultimately the
blame for failing to succeed will publicly fall to the manager him or herself.
With low unemployment rates in most places, retaining top talent is a hot issue on almost every manager or business owner’s mind. The reasons are many but it’s not to be blamed solely on the Millenials and their desire to job hop. That’s why it’s critical companies focus on what really matters to their employees.
It’s no surprise the room was packed.
We didn’t need to tell the audience that theirs is an industry of young and
part-time employees. Or that traditionally in North America many hospitality
roles are viewed as a “job” versus “career”.
We did need to help them understand that having strong leaders creates greater employee engagement. This results in greater staff retention. And this is why Managers who are great leaders are the key to retaining employees.
What’s the number one thing employees say their Manager could give them to improve engagement? If you guess money, flexibility and autonomy, you’d be wrong. While these do collectively contribute to decreasing employee turnover, the answer is feedback.
Done well, feedback can open the door to a
two-way conversation, especially if it’s meaningful, specific and done in real
We offer up 3 simple, yet effective “soft skill” strategies Managers can put into practice right away.
Adopt the Platinum Rule – treat others the way they prefer.
We’ve been conditioned
to treat others the way we want to be treated. But often, this is the exact
opposite to the way the other person prefers. The onus is on the manager to
learn to “read” others and adapt their communication style to one that can be
heard and received comfortably by their employee.
If, for example, you’re a Manager with a more introverted personality, giving feedback to a more extroverted employee means being more animated and giving them time to share back their response and input in the moment.
feedback to a more introverted employee requires speaking calmly, respecting
their need for privacy, and giving them time to reflect without demanding a
response from them in that moment.
Ask and Listen – instead of tell and sell
Whether it’s a formal performance review or “in the moment” feedback, good feedback starts with a question. Not just a “How are you doing?” Rather, an intentional question that opens the exchange toward an issue or process. “How about you walk me through the project timeline to get a sense of progress and challenges?” is an example of a Manager finding out more information from their employee without putting them on the defensive. It empowers the employee to share what they know rather than potentially shutting the conversation down before it begins.
ask questions can guide the employee to a new awareness or solution and keeps
the story focused on them. Your listening acknowledges their importance.
Even if the
feedback is negative, starting with a question gives the employee a chance to
provide their perspective first. “I’m curious what you think about your work on
XXX project?” can open up a dialogue where the Manager can gage the employee’s
position or perspective. This creates
the space for the Manager to ask further questions or provide specific
Say Thank You
You and I have
both heard this many times before. But
in the fast pace of work and the pressure to achieve results, there’s a high
risk we don’t actually acknowledge others effectively.
feedback and recognition, it should be genuine, heartfelt and specific. Showing
appreciation as soon after you’ve noticed it will have the biggest impact on
the employee. Doing it publicly or privately is best tailored to the
personality of the employee. Some of us simply don’t respond well to a public
showing of affirmation.
There is one
small caveat to this: constantly saying thank you has the reverse effect by
being disingenuous. The rule of thumb? Do it when you really mean it!
turnover is always going to be an issue for most companies. So the goal should
be on increasing employee engagement to decrease the number of employees
walking out the door.
We’ve offered up 3 simple strategies your Managers can begin doing. Add to this ongoing leadership development for those Managers and the result will be much higher staff retention. Doing this will also improve your company brand as a place that puts a high value on an engaged and positive culture.
We’ve offered up 3 simple strategies your Managers can begin doing. Add to this ongoing leadership development for those Managers and the result will be much higher staff retention. Doing this will also improve your company brand as a place that puts a high value on an engaged and positive culture.
Janet and I are on a mission to help organizations develop their Managers to be great leaders. Whether it’s one Manager or many, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll talk with you about options to improve your engagement, retention and bottom line!
I’ve been working with a number of women clients who’ve achieved considerable success in their careers. Most want to take control of their career. Yet, these women are still thinking and behaving with a mindset similar to the one I had in the 90’s and early 2000’s.
It’s the “I can’t” attitude.
Let me explain.
Prospects for women, especially in business and the workplace are still far from being on par with men. Yes we’ve made significant gains in the past 100 years. But it hasn’t been a consistent upward trajectory. It’s been more like moments of truth along the way.
Arguably the most impactful “moment” occurred in the late 60’s early 70’s highlighted by 50,000 women marching in New York City demanding legal abortion, universal childcare, and equal pay. While these demands haven’t been met in most parts of the Western World, awareness and tireless activism by many has resulted in greater parity. But not full equality.
We’re nearing the 2020’s and once again we’re in a “moment”. #MeToo has risen to directly take on sexual harassment in the workplace. This is busting open the glass ceiling for a better view of women in power, or rather of not enough women in power, and the slippery path it takes to get there.
I don’t subscribe to the “us versus them” approach to change. Instead, the time has come for women to exercise our rights and ambitions.
What if we shift our narrative from I can’t to I can? We can start by individually doing 3 simple actions relating to the most common complaints or mindsets I hear from clients:
Let go of “if I just work harder” as your measure for success
Create your tribe
Ask for what you want
As a leader in a large organization I took great pride in knowing I was a high producer. When stress kicked in I latched on to the idea that if I just worked harder I would be more successful and more likely to get promoted?
I was wrong. Working that hard eventually wore me down. Long hours aren’t the elixir for success and happiness. Buying into the “if I just work harder” is counter productive.
In Hive’s recent State of the Workplace Report, they note that women produce 10% more work than men. What’s more, they’re given 55% of all work, compared to 45% assigned to men.
The real question is, “working harder at what?” How meaningful is that additional work? When assigned a task, women ought to consider whether the task is promotable or non-promotable (beneficial to the organization, but doesn’t contribute to career advancement). If there’s a pattern of being asked to take on non-promotable tasks, it’s time to say no and rethink your measure of success.
The second shift comes by consciously surrounding yourself with and holding up other women leaders. Whether they’re in your own company or industry, so much can be gained from sharing ideas, talking through challenges and celebrating successes.
I’ve heard clients complain they simply don’t have access to critical business information – the kind shared on the golf course. Little desire or time to spend on male preferred social activities results in less opportunities to build relationships that lead to inside information and connections that can give them an edge.
There’s lots of ways to build your tribe. Start by hosting a breakfast or lunch with the intention of inviting women to support women. Organizations like Lean In offer local circle groups where women talk openly about their ambitions and encourage each other to take on new challenges. Join an established network like WXN or industry-focused networks like WNET or WIA.
Finally, and perhaps the most important shift you can make is to ASK. This sounds really simple. But according to several studies, women are less likely to negotiate their salary and benefits.
Knowing it’s your responsibility to understand what you can ask for, and asserting yourself is key to negotiation.
Companies expect you’ll negotiate your salary and benefits. Depending on your position and industry, here are some additional benefits to ask for:
Health benefits and wellness program
Flexibility in work schedule and location
Tuition reimbursement and professional dues
Conference attendance at the organization’s expense
Your job title
Your reporting relationships
One-time signing bonus
An executive coach to support on-boarding
The more you’re prepared to negotiate, the more likely you’ll be confident in asking for what you believe you’re worth when the time comes. Think of it this way, you’ll be doing the right thing for you and creating a better culture for all women.
Let’s use the current “moment” to confidently step forward and take action to match what we believe, need, want and deserve. The moment of “we can” is here.
I recently had the privilege of hosting Day 1of the Women’s Executive Network’s 2018 Wisdom Mentoring Program. Given carte blanche to develop a full leadership day, my intention was to provoke the attendees to realize how their leadership and hidden powers are critical in light of 3 massive and key shifts changing our world.
The attendees were women holding senior or executive positions in primarily male-dominated industries. Think oil and gas, manufacturing and international consulting firms.
These smart and outspoken leaders patiently indulged me in painting the picture of what’s underpinning the confluence of change happening now and expected to accelerate over the next 2-5 years. The impact will be not only on our work, but also on businesses’ ability to adapt and, how we as a society choose to respond.
I’m talking about Industry 4.0, the inter-generational workplace and #TimesUp.
If you don’t know much or even heard about these 3 key shifts, it’s time to get on board. Industry 4.0 alone will change the world in ways we can’t even imagine. Think big data, artificial intelligence or self-driving cars. It’s the bridging of physical industrial assets and digital technologies in so-called cyber-physical systems. It’s already here; humans just aren’t ready for it.
We’ve been talking about the inter-generational workplace for over ten years. Now we have Generation Zs filling positions. Millennials expect flexibility, diversity and ethical business practices. Generation Z expects the same and more: mainly, a self-actualized workplace culture. The Gen Z employee wants regular feedback, access to all levels of the company and to feel personally valued. This means power not situated top/down; rather, power that flows down, up and across.
#TimesUp is the third significant phenomenon. For centuries women have been relegated to subservient positions. It’s taken women of the Hollywood machine to break the silence of behavior both men and women have always known exists. #TimesUp is the recognition that women will not tolerate inequality and harassment in any industry. This will have huge impacts on ways we communicate and who sits in the C-Suite offices.
With these key shifts on the table, I proposed it’s time for women leaders, to bring out their “hidden powers”.
I’m talking about the characteristics we have in spades but don’t necessarily bring to our work. The women attendees dug in and came up with lists of values, behaviors and ways of being they don’t show up with at work.
I was met with complaints of, “my male colleagues speak over me in meetings”, “I’m called aggressive if I stand up for myself”, “it’s so hard being the only female at the board table”.
I don’t doubt the challenges these women face. What I’m suggesting is to change how we, as women, show up. We may work in male defined structures, but if we consider the 3 key shifts in front of us, we have compelling reasons to change the book on leadership.
We’re moving into a time of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA). Businesses will embrace agility, speed of change will be the norm and innovation and failure will be paramount. Employees will need to feel they matter and their work has meaning.
Four themes emerged through the hidden powers discussion:
Now, I’m not suggesting men don’t have these same qualities – they do!
We’ve created narratives over the years that reinforce gender stereotypes; the real explanation for any sex differences that exist in the workplace is context.
With 3 massive shifts in our midst, it’s time to let go of ancient directive management behaviors and bureaucratic structures where few hold the power. It’s critical to replace them with values and behaviors that support, not disenfranchise, people.
Since the 1990’s Daniel Goleman and others have been proselytizing Emotional Intelligence. That we need leaders with self-awareness, empathy and self-regulation has taken hold, and yet, it’s not enough.
For women in leadership positions, stepping up and promoting their hidden powers will generate learning for both genders. This can influence a shift in context, thinking and behavior from gender bias and stereotyping to one of inclusion and equality.
As we embark on the agile corporate landscape, we’ll need an antidote to the lightening speed, innovate/fail/adapt/change processes of cross-functional teams. We’ll need teams supported by senior leaders who are not only empathetic, but vulnerable, support failures and successes, understand and support inclusivity and create climates of resilience.
We may be heading into a future of artificial intelligence and robots, but as the women of the Wisdom Mentoring Program discovered, it’ll take very human actions and qualities to support people into this new era.
In one moment, I knew I’d eroded her trust in me. Recently I had one of those days where I should’ve just stayed at home. The kind of day where I felt overwhelmed caring for family members and too many deliverables in the hopper. Instead of paying attention, I ventured out and met a friend and colleague. She shared a decision and plans she’s making. My stress meter kicked in and I made unsupportive comments. I could feel the trust slip away.
We’ve all done it. No excuses.
It’s stressful days like this that the option of hiding under the covers isn’t possible. The question becomes, what could I have done better? And, what have I learned from this.
Stress and Trust are two very different concepts. And yet, put together the result can be devastating.
Let’s talk first about stress. We all have our own triggers and reactions to it. Yet we can learn to understand what it means for us, and the best way to go about our day without impacting others.
For me it’s spreading myself too thin, especially in caring for others. What is your trigger? Not enough sleep? Taking on too much?
Understanding our reaction to stress is equally important. I don’t focus and am distracted. This means I don’t practice active listening. I let my own narrative rule my head instead of paying attention to what others are saying and experiencing. And like my scenario above, I can blurt out instead of filtering my reaction.
How do you react when you’re stressed?
Unlike stress, trust is a delicate thing. Once we have it, we must tenderly nurture its presence. Philosophers have hotly debated the meaning of trust, but tend to agree that trust is a kind of reliance: to trust someone is to rely on them in a certain kind of way. We create trusting relationships that lean on the social construct of expectation.
My friend expected me to support her decision and be excited about her prospects. Her expectation represents her trust in me.
Trust is earned. But trust can just as easily slip away – often when we’re overwhelmed. This intersection of trust and stress requires that we be deeply in tune to what another expects of us and to show up wholeheartedly to maintain their trust.
And when we don’t? There is only one viable path forward.
I contacted my friend and shared how sorry I was for my reaction. There were no excuses. I acknowledged her reaction in the moment. I shared how sorry I was to be insensitive and to not provide the reaction she was expecting.
My friend responded with her truth and the willingness to talk about how we move forward as friends and colleagues. I am deeply grateful.
What have I learned? Just how delicate trust is. I’m facing my own imperfection in the face of stress. I’m committed to noticing when I’m overwhelmed and to act/react with integrity. And I’m learning that letting trust slip away is never an option.
Early in my career, as women’s wear manager for a fashion importing company, the owner of the company told me he was sure I’d make a great mother and not want to return to work when my baby arrived. I was stunned and speechless. In that moment I felt the power to make my own decision taken from me. I didn’t realize I’d touched the glass ceiling.
I tell this story because it’s one of many I hear from women highlighting how the glass ceiling stays so tightly in place.
The recent spate in the media of women revealing their mistreatment by men in power is another example (#timesup). Yes we’re seeing this primarily in Hollywood and the arts, but make no mistake; it exists in corporate boardrooms across multiple industries.
The glass ceiling, a term coined by Marilyn Loden (author and feminine leadership expert) in 1978, is situated within the historical domain of male-designed and built structures. It’s as abstract as the idea that women have traditionally subscribed: to think and behave as men in order to reach upper corporate echelons.
So how does one shatter the glass ceiling?
It’s a great question with no easy, straightforward answer.
I’ll start by suggesting you think of the glass ceiling as mirrored. Of course, when you look up you see your own reflection. And that’s the point. Before you can shatter that ceiling you have to understand yourself and how you may be contributing to your own hold-back.
By no means am I suggesting we’re responsible for this type of career limitation. Rather, I believe we have influence over both how we respond to systemic traditional practices and how we actively shift those outdated rules.
Start by asking yourself these important questions:
Are you aware of how you show up to others?
What meaning do others see in your actions?
Does your behavior represent your values and ethical stance?
Are you deeply aware that you always have a choice?
Are you decisive or do you seek to please?
Do you go it alone or do you actively collaborate and develop support networks?
Do you continuously work on your leadership practice? Or do you find yourself most often in a reactive state?
Now let’s go deeper by testing how we may be contributing or not contributing to the glass ceiling phenomenon:
Are you supporting other women – peers and subordinates? Or are you competing with them?
Are you accepting the status quo? Or are you curious to develop or promote women-centric approaches within your current professional culture?
If you’re accepting the status quo, what’s holding you back from drawing on your courage?
Are you clear on how you use your power professionally? Is it attached to your ego?
Do you ask the right questions? The kind of questions that create open dialogue without being offensive or defensive?
Do you respectfully challenge the unwritten rules?
And, most important…
Do you ask for what you need?
Answering these questions can reveal how you may be holding yourself back. Knowing this can give you a clear view of cracks in the ceiling.
It’s the cracks you’ll be looking for – the opportunities to slip through. The ones that welcome you as the strong authentic feminine leader you are. It takes courage. And it means taking responsibility to be that woman who doesn’t compromise to fit in. It means taking responsibility to define and embody new cultural rules that in turn create more cracks in the glass.
As women, we’ve come to know that change does not happen quickly. It happens because we make a conscious effort to change the course. I first heard the term “glass ceiling” almost 40 years ago. While it still exists, I believe the tiny shards of glass can be heard falling on the ground.
You’ve finally decided to change your career. It takes all your energy to stay focused until you leave your current position.
While you’re excited with the prospect of moving forward, there’s a good chance you’re also feeling anxious, and a little bad to be leaving (think loyalty) – unless the decision to move on wasn’t yours.
Either way, taking your leave gracefully is paramount. Why? – For many reasons.
Making a clean break with as little emotional baggage as possible is top of the list.
Leaving with the lingering feeling you’ve angered or frustrated a co-worker or employer never feels good. You’re going to need as much positive and focused energy to be successful in your new career.
Whether you’re leaving of your own volition or not, your self-respect deserves to stay intact. Either way, reflecting on what you gave to the position and company will shed light on the value you’ve brought to the company. It’ll also give you the chance to understand what’s best left behind and what’s most important to take with you (hint: a negative outlook should be left and confidence should go with you).
Trust is the second (and as important) reason to be graceful. Your current employer relied on you to bring your professional skills and effort to the company. A graceful exit is your final commitment.
How exactly do you change careers gracefully? The following do’s and don’ts list seems so obvious! Unfortunately, too few career changers get this right:
Prepare a story to explain your career change. Making your leave about you and your future prevents others from creating assumptions.
Give the company your all – no “checking out” in the months preceding your departure. Your current employer is paying you to give 100% so keep your end of the bargain.
Ask for a reference letter from your supervisor at least a week before you leave the company.
Don’t commit to staying in touch if you have no plans to follow through. While it’s true that once we leave a company we may be quickly forgotten, it’s still a commitment you’ll be expected to live up to.
Be thoughtful in your exit interview with your supervisor or HR representative. Giving constructive feedback on the work and company culture is far more productive and gracious than giving negative comments on individuals.
Leave with your work handed off to your successor or team and your desk/office tidy.
Don’t take any documents or company owned materials.
No badmouthing your employer or other staff during and after your exit. Period.
Thank those who’ve most supported you in your current career – managers, colleagues or direct reports.
Wait until you’ve left your job to update your LinkedIn and other social media profiles.
A graceful leave shows others you live by your values. You’ll be able to close this chapter feeling confident, inspired and ready to start anew.
The Internet is rife with advice on how to be self-aware. I’m not here to give you the top 10 ways of how to be self-aware. What I will do is help you understand why it’s the foundation of successful leadership.
Think of this blog as a “back to basics”. If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know how often I refer to developing your self-awareness as the most important thing you can ever do for yourself.
Self-awareness means understanding yourself, as objectively as possible, and leveraging it to create a life that aligns with your natural inclinations – not challenge them.
Back in 1972, Shelley Duval and Robert Wicklund published their landmark theory of self-awareness. They determined a person can focus both on themselves and their surroundings at any given time; they can think about what they’re thinking, doing, and experiencing.
Recent self-awareness research reveals that people use their external surroundings as a comparison of self to external standards.
Recent studies take this a step further in suggesting self-concept isn’t static knowledge garnered once, but rather it’s fluid, complex, and contextual.
In doing research for a training program I’m developing for new and mid -level managers, I combed my shelf of leadership books. While they’re written by the top leadership gurus, it’s Steven Covey who talks about the importance of cultivating self-awareness. He refers to it as the space between stimulus and response – the space where you can pause and make a choice. Covey believes cultivating self-awareness is one of the highest leverage activities we can engage in.
So what does all this mean for leadership? Likely more than you think.
Quite simply, the greater our quest for self-understanding the more we can predict, choose and be flexible in our behaviors and responses.
Let’s say you’re finding yourself overwhelmed and, as a result, short on patience. You know this is a pattern of response when your stress meter rises. Because you know this, you can make choices to manage your behavior. You may decide to take several deep breaths when you feel yourself tensing up. You may choose to take a short walk, or close your office door with a DO NOT DISTURB. This is where your positive self-talk can be critical in pulling you off the ledge of impatience.
Your own self-awareness is also a way of understanding how you show up to others. A client of mine was feeling distressed with her new directive-style boss. This style was in conflict with my client’s collaborative and affiliative approach. I suggested that both my client and her boss have blind spots on how others see them. This lack of self-awareness was contributing to the tension between them.
This knowledge produced an “aha” moment for my client. She admitted greater compassion for her boss and humility for herself. The way was paved for a productive dialogue between them.
As leaders in large organizations, my client’s example is common. In the quest to drive results, make a difference and meet incredible demands on time, leaders tend not to spend enough effort on self-reflection.
The more we reflect, the greater our awareness and the greater our ability to show up authentically and respectfully. It opens the space for us to pause and make positive choices on how we’ll show up. This, in turn, engenders trust with those around us.
By now you likely realize how impassioned I am about self-awareness. It truly is the cornerstone of authentic and effective leadership.
I said I wouldn’t give you advice on how to develop your own awareness. I will offer this. There are simple ways to set you on your journey including daily meditation, mindfulness, doing a psychometric assessment or coaching sessions that are scientifically proven to facilitate increases in self-awareness.
“Who do you work with?” is the question I get when people find out I’m an Executive Coach. This makes me laugh because I wonder if they think I’m the executive. Or, to be a client they have to be an executive!
The answer is muddy. Yes I do coach executives in C-Suites. But I also work with business owners, new leaders, senior leaders, professionals such as doctors and high-performers heading upward in their careers and business. And lets put an emphasis on high-performers.
As a coach, I’m not in it to performance manage anyone. That responsibility lies with the employee’s direct manager. From time to time I do however, coach those same managers on their people-managing and communication skills.
I digress. The name Executive Coach has become part of the industry nomenclature distinguishing it from other forms of coaching (life, performance, career, sales, retirement and the list goes on).
Lewis R. Stern, in his article Executive Coaching: A Working Definition, explains the difference between Executive Coaching and other forms of coaching; there’s a dual focus on working one-on-one to develop the executive as a leader while helping that them to achieve business results.
You may be wondering why does an executive even need a coach?
For the seasoned leader, Executive Coaching provides a methodology to slow down, gain awareness and notice the effects of their words and actions. The objective is to make explicit to the coachee that they have choices in their approach rather than simply reacting to events.
And let’s face it, executives and business owners are people like everyone else. They have their doubts, their egos, and their own beliefs or habits that trip them up. I become their thinking and strategy partner because believe it or not, it can be lonely at the top.
With the newer leader heading toward the C-Suite floor, we most commonly work toward letting go of the “expertise” that got them to their new position. The objective is to help them realize they’re now required to lift their head toward a bigger vista. What they view and how they approach their work means shifting to a broader orientation to understand how to influence, who to influence and why this matters.
For successful coaching it’s critical to understand it takes commitment, regular sessions and work in-between. While I’ve got my clients’ backs, executive or not, I’ll challenge the thinking, beliefs or habits that may not be serving them anymore.
How, may you ask am I qualified to work with this clientele? Was I an executive myself? Did I train for this or take an introductory weekend course?
These are exactly the kinds of questions you and any leader must ask when hiring a potential executive coach.
I recently re-read an article in Harvard Bazaar from thirteen years ago, The Wild West of Executive Coaching. The authors described executive coaching as a chaotic frontier largely unexplored, fraught with risk, yet immensely promising. They were drawing attention to the many self-proclaimed coaches with wildly diverse qualifications.
The profession has come a long way since 2004. The International Coaching Federation has become the profession’s governing body. It assesses not only potential coaches, but the executive coach training institutions as well. Since 2007 it has invested in over 8 international coaching studies to demonstrate the highly effective nature of coaching.
Are all executive coaches now certified? Not yet, which is why it’s so important to check credentials.
In my case I was a senior leader in public service, back-filling for my executive boss in her absence. So yes, I’ve sat at the executive table. But more important, I completed a university masters level executive coaching program. I’ve combined experience with the skills and methodology of coaching to provide an optimum experience for my clients.
Whether or not you’re at the top or halfway up the ladder, executive coaching promotes reflection, produces learning, behavioral change and growth. Executive or not, that produces a solid financial return on investment for both the coachee and the business.
Who doesn’t know the importance of trust is in the workplace? Okay, so maybe we don’t all get the significance of it, but that’s a topic for another article. Let’s assume trust is the most critical element of the workplace and, in particular, teams.
With huge demands, competition and the pace of technology, the need to collaborate has never been more urgent. Collaboration means coming together formally on a team, structurally defined for the purposes of the organization or, informally (ad hoc) to respond quickly and efficiently to time-sensitive goals.
In both cases, the ability for teams to work effectively hinges on the level of trust the members develop. We know from the work of Patrick Lencioni in his The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, without trust and commitment, results are hard to achieve.
It starts with all team members agreeing and knowing the critical elements of trust. Each must practice fairness, honesty, openness, exceptional listening skills, respect toward others’ expertise, and candor without being competitive or passive. This creates the space for members to be vulnerable, test out ideas, be creative and influence each other toward optimum results.
But what if your team is virtual? You’ve never, if ever, met your teammates in person and you all live in different locations and time zones. How easy would it be to build trust? Is it even possible?
The short answer is: it can be.
Recently working with leaders in a global communications company, I was struck by how highly they spoke of their teams and company culture. They were fully engaged in their work and committed to high quality results. This really surprised me as the majority of them worked virtually with team members thousands of miles away.
However, in another fast-paced global company the employee experience is far from being engaged and connected within the company let alone their teams.
I became curious. Why is it virtual employees in one company thrive while in another they’re stressed, disengaged and looking for the door?
A leader at a global IT firm knows all about success for virtual teams. When asking her if trust is possible for virtual teams, she emphatically answered, “ABSOLUTELY! !”
She cautioned, however, that for companies (large or small) wanting to move from ‘traditional face-to-face’ to a ‘virtual’ work environment, it’s a cultural shift that doesn’t happen overnight. Like any successful change, leadership needs to lead it and provide communication tools necessary to make virtual meetings and collaboration easy and effective.
But it doesn’t end there. The shift actually ignites when the culture of trust transfers from members of small teams to large teams and cross-functional teams they participate within.
These are key leadership behaviors that contribute to building trust in teams:
Essentials for Leaders of Small Teams:
Establish Rapport by scheduling regular (weekly) 1:1’s, assigning work that capitalizes on members’ strengths and providing regular feedback.
Focus intently by listening and actively engaging with your members. Never multi task during 1:1’s or team meetings as it demonstrates you don’t care and that erodes trust.
Set Expectations that your team members show up to meetings prepared, on time, and ready to deliver quality work. Expect participants to activate their computer camera so you can see each other. Making personal connections often is key.
Meet in Person by getting together twice or quarterly a year. It’s the casual as well as formal gatherings that solidify strong relationships.
Essentials for Large Teams:
Build Rapport as above, with the added benefit of the smaller team’s culture and expectations cascading upward as reinforcement.
Span of control for the leader of a large team allows for regular 1:1’s with the next level of leadership to set tone, culture and expectations.
Skip Level 1:1’s several levels below your Direct Reports, scheduled quarterly, establishes relationships at multiple levels. Make sure all team members and employees feel a connection with you and that you care about their success.
Be fully present to focus, actively listen and look to the camera; your team members know when you aren’t and that kills trust.
This is consistent with the findings of Niki Panteli, leader in Information Systems and researcher in trust: it’s the quality and consistency of content and frequency that’s necessary to foster trust in the virtual workplace.
Mutually negotiated and jointly constructed trust relationships are “situated”. As a member of a team, small or large, you too have a responsibility to be part of building the trust:
Collaboratively create team rules – figure out together what’s most important to this team (hint: these may look different from team to team).
Stick to team rules as it aligns with or, despite the culture of the company or leadership behavior.
Hold each other accountable and call out the team when it gets off track.
Embrace each member’s high value and expertise.
Have fun! Work is work, but infusing time together with a lighthearted personal approach can go a long way to reinforcing trust.
Working from home, I’m keenly aware I’m not my own island. As the future of work continues to be more diffused, so does the need for virtual workers like me, and teams and companies that build foundations of trust. Without it, results can never be guaranteed.
I’d love to hear from you. Tell us about your experience working virtually with a team.