Vital Leadership skills for the New Era

Coaching and mentoring, the key leadership skills for now and the future

Successful leaders now are more coaches and mentors than business whizzes or domain experts. Surveys and research are showing that the top leadership skills for the future are the abilities to coach, support their employees and to foster teamwork. Are you prepared?

Coaching and mentoring your team fosters trust, motivation, innovation and increased producitivty.

The past year has graphically shown us that sudden disruptive change can happen without warning. What worked in the past is not going to resolve the issues of the present and future. The previously familiar command and control style of leadership is ineffective in managing the challenges we face now. Harvard Business review’s article by Herminia Ibarra & Anne Scoular illustrated how successful leaders today coach and mentor their teams to achieve optimal results.

Yet most leaders overestimate their abilities in developing and motivating their teams. In research by Joe Folkman & Jack Zenger published in HBR, the majority of 2,761 leaders studied overestimated their coaching and mentoring skills. 24 percent were significantly off the mark on how effective they were in fostering their employees’ abilities to achieving their best, individually and as a team.

Yelling and reprimanding employees, especially in a meeting, is a poor way of coaching and motivating others.

My first corporate boss after college yelled constantly instead of speaking in normal tones. He shouted at everyone he worked with, in person and on the phone. He didn’t listen and barked out orders whenever he needed anything. Yet he thought he was a great leader, telling (shouting at) anyone around that he’s the best trainer of new executive trainees, including for yours truly. No one dared to contradict him — for fear of more screaming. It’s a wonder that he lasted as long as he did even back then when the hard knocks way of developing employees was more accepted.

Today when talent can be accessed globally to work remotely, leaders have to establish a culture that fosters engagement, growth and collaboration to attract the best.

The competition for quality workers is strong and they have great flexibility in their choice for employment. A high development environment is attractive and good for the employees and also fosters productivity, innovation, morale, recruitment and retention for the company.

In 2020, Gallup research showed that organizations with a coaching and talent development centered culture have employees who are motivated by more than a paycheck. They are aligned with the company’s goals and know that their own personal career goals are intertwined with the success of the organization. These workers are more engaged, productive, innovative and stay longer at the company.

How do you develop the skills to become a better leader in today’s abrupt and constantly unsettling environment? A manager’s role now is to support, guide and encourage employees to learn and adapt to continuously changing environments so that fresh energy, innovation, and commitment become the norm. The boss is not anymore the person who knows the most or has the most experience. The successful leader is the one who can manage and lead the team with vision, integrity and understanding. A coach/mentor who can bring out the best in the team, facilitate collaboration and guide progress towards the organization’s mission and goals.

Leading a team remotely requires different skills. A manager has to coach and mentor to bring out the best in each person.

Here are four points to help up level your leadership skills for now and the future:

1. Clarify your organization’s mission and goals and explain how they align with the work each person is doing. When employees understand the alignment between their goals and the company’s, they will know how to approach the changing circumstances appropriately with the resources available. Equally important, they will feel that they are working in tandem with the company’s mission and are actively committed to achieving it.

2. Connect with each direct report to establish their personal goals and benchmarks and maintain regularly scheduled follow up sessions. At each meeting, ask open ended questions, truly listen and respond honestly with the intention to foster personal and professional development. Conclude each meeting with actionable and measurable items to be discussed during the next session.

3. Treat each person as you would like to be treated. Guide them in fulfilling their goals even when their ideas seem grandiose. With active communication and support, your employee will either find a way to achieve their goals or learn to modify them so that they can be attained. Your job as a mentor/coach is to help them explore and grow. You gain new perspectives, and the organization is energized from the possibilities that you may not have considered. All parties learn and grow from the interactions.

4. The coaching sessions will also reveal case(s) where the employee’s goals and talents are not suited to your division/organization. Help them transition to another division or company. By doing so you open their position(s) to a more suitable person and also strengthen the reputation that you and the organization genuinely care about the employees’ wellbeing. Morale will increase, retention and recruitment will be enhanced.

As you can tell the benefits of being a coach/mentor for your employees has multiple benefits. The old saying, “it not personal, it is only business” can be retired for good. Welcome to a more humane world.

What happened to my first boss who yelled all the time? He was let go less than a year after I was promoted. The last I heard he moved back to New York and was doing similar work in a small company there. I wonder if it would have been a different story if he had a good coach and mentor. As for me, I learned from him how not to be. I learned the value of coaching and mentoring and how everyone and the organization gain when we collaborate, support each other and work towards the same goals. Thank you, S.C., my “anti-mentor”.

Marilyn Tam, global speaker, best selling author (The Happiness Choice), business leader and humanitarian. Formerly the CEO of Aveda, President Reebok, VP Nike

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