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Senior Leaders Must Be Teachers, Facilitators, and Coaches

Blog #273

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been discussing how I assist senior leaders with transitioning from doing to leading. In order for this process to be successful, they should do the following:

  1. Truly start thinking
  2. Become teachers, facilitators, and coaches
  3. Build communication and trust

Last week’s post focused on thinking. This week, we will talk about the importance of leaders becoming teachers, facilitators, and coaches. In most privately held and smaller companies, the senior leadership team is made up of individuals who have grown with the business. It is not at all uncommon to see people who have been in the trenches, worn many hats, and worked countless hours in the same company. For most of these folks, when times get tough, their default mode is to dig in and work harder. To be clear, I LOVE this attribute; however, I think the area of focus needs to shift some.

I believe that if you run any engine at 100%, eventually it will burn out. Yes, it can run hot for a while, but not forever. This means that key people can become the limiting factor to an organization’s growth. During this time, it is imperative for senior leaders to stop doing and to start teaching. To become a productive senior leader, one must invest a great deal of time learning how to effectively teach, facilitate, and coach.

To begin this transition, a senior leader needs to execute these steps:

  • Go through a document process to define what you can and should delegate to members of your team.
  • Give a clear understanding of where the company is going and the overall objectives.
  • Provide clear expectations. Inform your direct reports of their accountabilities and what success will look like for them. In other words, discuss their contributions to achieving the goals and objectives of the organization.
  • Teach them how you are currently performing these tasks. Ask them to do it and teach you in return. Help them understand the intention of why you do what you do and ask them for ways they can simplify or improve upon it. Empower them to take ownership and possibly find better solutions.
  • Establish clear metrics for your direct report to gauge their success, and so you can begin to trust that what needs to be completed is getting done.
  • Set regular coaching/teaching meetings. These may start with twice a day or as little as twice a week. I would strongly urge you to start with three to four times more frequency than you initially think.
  • Overcommunicate and listen. Embrace a spirit of curiosity by asking lots of questions that help teach others how to solve an issue rather than doing it for them.
  • Let them fail. In some cases, the best learning comes when we fail. They may try something new and come up with a different way of doing something as a result. Or, maybe it fails. If it does, stay calm and support them.
  • Stay positive, even if something goes sideways. Start with a couple of positive comments then address the challenge with the goal of learning what happened and how to avoid it in the future.
  • Create an environment of trust and facilitation. It is important for your direct reports to feel comfortable coming to you with challenges when they are stuck or need a sounding board.
  • Don’t take back the task. If they are struggling, encourage them to keep with it. Remember, you are a choke point. It is critical for you to embrace the art of delegation.
  • Be patient, be consistent, and keep your eye on the long-term prize of scalability.

Direct reports become empowered when this is done well, allowing leaders to transition out of being the choke point in the organization’s growth.

The real challenge is that this sort of thinking is rarely taught; it is not unusual for new leaders to be a bit wobbly when starting out. And many may slip back into what was comfortable – their default modes – by simply doing things themselves. As I work with folks on these specific topics, it is such a wonder to watch the transformation that can happen.

How you are doing when it comes to teaching, facilitating, and coaching? Are you a senior leader who wants to think more on the business by becoming less of a doer? Contact us today to find out how to start this process!

Keep Smiling,