Tackling challenges while coaching Senior Management & Leadership

I recently attended the Discuss Agile conference 2018 and my favorite topics were “Personal Agility” & Coaching skills.

I co-facilitated a talk with JP on “How to tackle challenges while coaching senior management and leadership” and here is a quick recap of what I learnt.

Every time this discussion comes up, it opens a new perspective, but on a fundamental aspect about people – “People are after all, people. It’s important to respect them for who they are and just the way they are“.

We need to give every person the initial benefit of doubt that “Every human being is total and complete the way he/she is”. And since Agility is all about people, It is the very foundation of collaboration.

Here are some points I thought can help aspiring coaches to consider their approach differently.

  • Many a times we approach the person with our own biases, perceptions, assumptions we have built about the person or just heard about from someone. It is extremely important to really “Be Present” in the conversation. Be as open and genuine to seek clarity & understand where one comes from and what their context is.
  • It is important to understand the position, the baggage it carries, the constraints, the responsibilities and what they are really accountable for. Know their leadership styles, their ambitions, the role clarity they possess and most importantly, the integrity of the person you are dealing with as it talks about the willingness to really commit to what they say. Keeping all of this in mind means you are wearing “The Coach’s Eye” with an intent to serve the person genuinely.
  • But wait a minute…. Before you start coaching, do you really know whether that person is looking for coach service? Or is he/she stuck in an issue and just needs to come out of it? Is coaching the same as consulting? It is important to know the difference.
  • JP puts it very interestingly, “Earn the right to coach”. That means if you have failed at a coaching assignment; did not deliver the outcome as a coach, it is definitely not that the other person was not-coach-able. Most often we conclude saying the not-coach-able person was too adamant, not agile, too egoistic..etc. In all fairness, it may simply mean it is time to do a retrospective into “YOU” and taking that time out to question your self – How good a coach am I? What could I have done better to understand the person’s context? Did I really come up with an approach to help and coach? It is time to pause before you take up that next assignment and ask yourself, Am I ready?
  • Most importantly “Practice”. Practice what you learn and keep experimenting. There IS NO perfect solution or a list of things you must do with every situation. You need to cultivate the habit of deep learning and getting the “essence”.

While those were tips you might try, here are 3 things we may avoid

  • Getting sucked into internal politics – when you know your efforts are going towards pleasing people and not really working to add value to the organization. Step out!
  • Tolerating integrity issues – when you know that the person being coached is out of integrity and does not walk the talk, provide feedback. Stop engaging if need be.
  • Getting confused between Coaching & Consulting and working with misplaced priorities/objectives.

Coaches are really “Catalysts” driving positive changes by making the teams respectful and agile, while helping them deliver value to the organization. If you think you are not cut out for it, you must accept it, fail fast, learn and adapt…OR move on. You are probably cut out for something else and it’s ok!

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