Leader as Coach

Leaders need good leadership coaches, but can also act as coaches for their team. Doing so can improve organizational performance, engagement, culture, and morale. What key techniques should you employ to act as an effective coach? Listen in as Bill and Ralph discuss.



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*Note: The following text is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors


Bill Berthel: Welcome to the Get Emergent podcast. Our podcast is focused on individual, team and organizational development and performance. We focus on topics such as leadership, human development, raising consciousness, and awareness. We aim to provide creative concepts, new ideas, and pragmatic tips and practices for leaders in all walks of life.

I’m Bill Berthel.

Ralph Simone: And I’m Ralph Simone. And today we’re gonna be talking about leader as coach and I hope that doesn’t put us out of business, but what do we mean by this idea of leader as coach Bill?

Bill Berthel: I love that challenge of putting us out of business. I think that’s actually part of our mission is that if we were no longer needed, right, the leadership in every organization, would be reaching their potential.

Let, let’s talk about this coaching modality, right? What, what coaching is to begin with. Leaders who coach really aren’t too different we think than athletic coaches. They’re capable and regularly practice highly directive and highly supportive leadership behaviors. We gotta talk about what that looks like, Ralph, and I know you’ve got a lot to contribute to today’s conversation, right?

Directive behaviors, directive behaviors.

Ralph Simone: I think people are hesitant just because of the word to tell people what’s needed, why it’s important to the organization, and when it’s needed by. You use the example of a sports coach. Those things are all very clear and in some cases how to do it. In some cases, our role is to instruct people. And I was kinda laughing when we first started because I remember when I first added coaching to my business 20 years ago. You know, my father wanted to know what sport, right, exactly. But it is the sport of corporate performance and, and I think that while there are some differences, if we really looked at the leaders coach model from the world of sports, I think both our performance and our consciousness would increase significantly.

Would you agree?

Bill Berthel: No, I love it. I love it. You know, I think when clarity, when structure, maybe fundamentals and direction is needed, a good leader, coach doesn’t hesitate and they know just the right amount to dial in the right amount of direction. Right? Too much. And you’re that micromanager. I think that’s some of the hesitation.

We don’t wanna micromanage, we don’t wanna over control. Too little, you’re causing unnecessary ambiguity and confusion.

Ralph Simone: We wanna find the sweet spot. Yeah. And I think we find the sweet spot through experimentation, but what you can’t do is not do it. Now, we talked about directive, but you used another word leader as coach, supportive, and And what do we mean by supportive behavior?

Bill Berthel: Yeah, so supportive behavior. So a 87% of American workforce is moderately to highly capable, meaning their skills, their knowledge, their abilities are proficient or better, however, their commitment to the tasks at hand are moderately to highly variable, and this shouldn’t be a surprise to the vast majority of our listeners, actually, Ralph, us too.

We’re not immune to this. 87% of us are on a commitment variability, meaning it can be up and down. That variability and commitment is caused by many, many things, personal and professional challenges, mental and physical health, family and coworkers. Matter of fact, new data coming from Forbes just published by Forbes Magazine last month suggests that for almost 70% of the people, their manager has more impact on their mental health than their therapist or their doctor, and it’s equal to the impact of their partner.

So if you’re a leader, your impact on people’s commitment is significant, is really significant.

Ralph Simone: Well, that changes the willingness of a lot of people wanting to be leaders because it’s a really important job and I was thinking about this variable commitment, right? I mean, I’m more engaged, I’m more committed if I am interested in it. Absolutely. I know the running joke in our firm is that I don’t do anything that I’m not interested in . And I, my reply is, what’s wrong with that? And because I think part of it is I’m, the stuff I do, I’m extremely engaged in. Yes. And I think, and I think that my, my commitment is higher, but I think what we’re saying is leader as coach has to recognize this mix of competence and commit and use these directive and supportive behaviors to get the most out of those that he or she leads.

Bill Berthel: Absolutely. So leader as coach on that supportive side, right? First you’re available. Right? And working remotely is not an excuse for not being available. I’m sorry if, I think if I’ve had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that I’d be an incredibly rich man.

Remote relationships present some unique challenge. However, connecting through technology for work is roughly equivalent to connecting in person. The research shows if we’re intentional about utilizing the tech to connect, right, and after being available and making those connections leaders support by asking essential questions that are empowering and open, what a great way to be supportive.

Ralph Simone: I think this is something that we all can get better at. And I just heard when working with a client yesterday, she was quizzing her CEO as to what she needed to get better at, and he said asking questions that lead to insight in understanding. I love that. So if you think about that from an athletic coach or a corporate coach, a leader, when we ask those questions, right, somebody gets insights, a different way of doing it, a more effective way of doing it, and they understand why, so they connect the dots. Now you’ve got engagement. Now you’ve got commitment. And then the focus can be on constant improvement.

Bill Berthel: Love that. Love that. Supportive behavior also looks like. Well, I think it’s what the obvious might be and support is we create as coaches, as leaders, we create that caring connection.

We personalize and humanize the relationship, appropriately of course, but we don’t have to have a best friend at work, but we demonstrate genuine sense of care and connection. I was coaching a young leader recently, and this exact topic came up, you know, one of our conversations and he asked me, so like, what if I really don’t care, he wasn’t being mean, but he would say he wanted to be authentic, he wanted to be genuine, and I asked him how he might start thinking about a caring practice.

What type of connection would he be interested in, right? And that, that reframing question right? Turn what might look impossible to possible. Sure. He found himself resisting at first. Right. This isn’t a Goldilocks kinda story, but leaning into the idea, he intentionally started creating, connecting conversations by asking how his employees’ hobbies were developing, how their kids were doing and school or dance.

How their spouse was enjoying their new vehicle, you know, stuff that he could connect to. And he said, he came back and said, this is really making a difference in my leadership and when we get to talk about work, it’s a natural flow into that, and there’s more engagement. People are leaning in instead of being a little apprehensive.

Ralph Simone: Well, I think, you know, brilliant way of walking through it and you know, just starting with, well, what does he care about or what do we care about individuals. But this artificial separation, you know, we do work with some athletic coaches and they, they’re looking to develop the whole person, their players, not just as leaders on the court or on the field of play, but if they’re in college, also in the classroom, and also in the community.

So I think the other thing that leader, coach, we look at someone holistically. Yes. You know, we look at you know, people, you know, I think Plato said, and I’ll paraphrase this, we come into this world whole, but we need others to complete us . And I think when you have that paradigm as a leader, or as a teammate, you see how the interdependence and you see the importance.

So first of all, we, we are affirming and we appreciate the wholeness that people bring. And by their, our interactions with them, we actually help them to become more complete. And I think to me, that’s leader as coach, we become catalysts for people stepping into their full potential.

Bill Berthel: I love that. Leaders who take that active interest in developing others are leader coaches.

Not every leader has either had access to the coach’s clipboard or best practices or relevant context to practice in. And not every leader has had a good coach, and we hope this podcast assists leaders in this direction. I’d be remiss if I didn’t suggest hiring a leadership coach, right? You can learn a lot by hiring a leadership coach and and emulate some of those behaviors and activities that your coach does with you that you get to see that modeled and experience that yourself.

Ralph Simone: And I think, you know, we need to always come back to it is about improving performance, improving awareness, improving morale and culture. We, we have this improvement mindset and we use holding the space for people, asking open-ended, empowering questions and offering a perspective because we all have blind spots.

And just like a coach will, you know, we’re, we’re in March Madness right now as we do this podcast. A coach is gonna call a player off to the side, put their arm around them, you know, let ’em know something they need to change real time in the game. It’s that, we don’t always see ourselves cleanly.

And so when someone can offer us that perspective, which helps us perform at a higher level, everybody benefits.

Bill Berthel: Love that. So directive and supportive behaviors are essential. Being able to provide some perspective is really helpful. Learning to ask open and empowering questions. Again, essential as the leader as coach, good coaches ask as much or more than they tell perhaps.

But when people are stuck, right, when people that we’re coaching are stuck, leader coaches reframe, reframing is asking questions that make the seemingly impossible more possible, or at least approachable. And Ralph, I know you’ve got some really great reframing techniques. What are some of your favorites?

What has been effective in in your coaching?

Ralph Simone: Well, and , this is a question that I use in coaching of my clients as well as my kids. And how could we make this situation worse? Yes. And, and you know, one of the things you’re we’re intending to do with reframing is shifting the energy. And creating an opening for people to look at something from a different lens.

And if you know how to make something worse, we can also conclude that you can make it better. But usually when I ask that question, people laugh. or they go, what the, you know, and taken advantage. So immediately you get a shift in energy and consciousness. It was interesting when you were talking about, you know we can connect remotely, but if people feel they can’t, then I got a simple solution.

Get yourself physically into the space, right? Absolutely. Yeah. What could you do differently, or what is another way of looking at that is a good reframing question. There’s one I’ve asked recently, right? What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? Love that. So when you take failure off the table, you actually get people to consider the actions. So there’s a lot of ways, right? We wanna help people uncover the blocks that are keeping them from taking a step.

Bill Berthel: It’s really about putting a different frame on it. That term reframing actually comes from visual arts, where we take a slightly different perspective on roughly the same image.

We’re not changing the whole context or the topic. We’re not trying to change the subject. We’re just taking a slightly different angle so we can see it through a different lens, get a different frame around it to see what might be around a blind spot, what might be around a particular hangup that we have.

And I love the two kind of, I think of almost, almost as extremes, like, right, what if you couldn’t fail? What if you know success was guaranteed? And the first one you shared. How can you make it worse? Like what?

Ralph Simone: Yeah. How can you muck it up more? Because I mean, you’re already in this deep yogurt, let’s make it worse because it’s, you see no alternative.

Right? Because oftentimes when you do that, they start to say, wait a minute, there’s gotta be a way. Right. Which is the opening that we’re looking for. And I think leader as coach, sees beyond the illusion of the person’s current perception. Yes. And offers up possibilities. Sometimes reframing is I’ll actually physically have somebody move.

Nice. Yeah. Yeah. Let’s just take a look at this from over here. Yes. And just that shift, right? That frame, that movement causes them to look at it slightly differently. And again, it might not be a breakthrough, but it’s the beginning of a breakthrough. Right? All breakthroughs are break withs. A reframing question creates the opportunity to have a, a break with a limiting current thought. Beautiful, beautiful. And that’s what’s really powerful.

Bill Berthel: You know, leaders as coaches are really aiming at action. They’re interested in results or achievement and it’s not simply a conversation. It’s a conversation towards some actionable item or some commitment, and the coach plays a role in accountability in that we create the environment for accountability to that new action, that new call to action.

Ralph Simone: Yeah, I think this idea of performance, right? The intention of moving people closer to what they’re aiming at, absolutely. We wanna help them pay attention or focus on things that will help them get there.

And we want to heighten their awareness of what might be getting in the way and how they’re getting distracted. But we’re still all about performance. You know, we wanna move the ball forward. And I think the other thing, leaders as coach, I really do think more leaders should take a chapter out of sports coaches.

The feedback is frequent. Yes. it’s positive, it’s constructive. We’re not kicking the can, you know, down the road. We’re not waiting till the end of the year to give corrective feedback, you know, because our intention is to be helpful, and the sooner someone knows something good and or less than optimal, they’re now at a choice point.

And that’s what we want to get people to, is the choice point around actions that will move them closer to their intended outcome.

Bill Berthel: Love it. We started this podcast with, you know, jokingly, well, maybe this could put us out of business and not to turn this into a commercial, but we do train leaders to be coaches.

We provide opportunities for individuals, leaders, to understand the proven emergent coaching methodology, coaching way if you will, where they receive personalized and unique coaching experience themselves. They learn the fundamentals of coaching, put it into actual practice, and get feedback from master Emergent coaches.

It allows leaders to practice in their real life environment. It allows them to work on organizationally relevant practices, problems, challenges, and improvements?

Ralph Simone: Well, I love the word practice. It came up a couple of times to get good at anything that requires consistent practice, you know, so before they sign up for our course and our process, which enables them to practice and really become a proficient leader as coach, what suggestions might we give them in the interim?

What are some things that as a leader, I can do immediately that will help me be more effective as a coach for my people.

Bill Berthel: At the heart of coaching is really creating first that safe space where people can openly share, where they can really talk about what might be either challenging them or what they’re not quite getting right, or where they’re stuck or hung up on something.

So first, it’s really about creating that space, and then from there it’s deep listening. , it’s listening first before any type of response, even before asking questions. It’s a really deep sense of listening, acknowledging and validating what you’re hearing, what you’re listening to, so that individual feels that connection in an authentic, genuine way.

From there, we get to ask questions. Open and empowering, right? Open questions are typically difficult to answer, yes or no, right? They’re not those closed questions. I, we can answer any question. I think yes or no, but they’re difficult to answer. Yes or no. They’re open, they’re inviting, they’re full of discovery, and they’re empowering.

They’re about what that individual might do, could do, would think of next, and then listen again.

Ralph Simone: Yeah. Which makes me think of one thing that everybody could do immediately after this podcast is work on becoming genuinely more curious. Love it. Because I think that genuine curiosity with some training around what and how questions leads to more effective questioning when you are coaching an individual.

Bill Berthel: Yeah, absolutely. So every opportunity is not a coaching opportunity. If you’re in a situation where it is a quick answer is needed. There’s an important urgent thing to solve in that moment. It’s not necessarily a coaching opportunity. We’re not suggesting a silver bullet in coaching, but where are those missed opportunities to connect deeper through curiosity, listening and asking those open, empowering questions.


Ralph Simone: Bill, I think when, when you open, I think sharing information in a directive way could be considered a form of coaching. So it’s not absolutely the same as the asking and the deep listening, but it is actually saying, here’s what we need to do and why and when it’s needed by going back to the directive behavior.

And so in some instances, situationally, that may be the correct solution.

Bill Berthel: I love it. So leader coaches get to engage their team at a deeper, higher level. They increase retention and higher levels of engagement happen, right? Talent are some of the most important elements, I hate to say assets of an organization, but leader coaches are some of the most attractive leaders.

They’re a leadership force that people really want to work with and follow, and it’s a. Interesting talent, attractant, you know, so a, a lot of organizations are challenged today either retaining or attracting talent. You know, leaders as coaches become just absolutely, if I can use the positive version of viral in a community, they become viral in that good way.

People want to work with leaders that coach.

Ralph Simone: Just a story I thought about, and it might sound a little self promotional, but I remember our managing partner, Cathy Gaynor, she told me early on when she started working for me and, and she started working really just to get appointments, business development appointments.

She goes, I, I was almost shocked when you asked me, well, what do you think? Yeah. For what ideas do you have? And, I go, what do you mean? She goes, I never was asked that where I used to. In, in my mind, I couldn’t, it doesn’t make sense not to ask that because she brings a different perspective. She had an energy about her that I, I knew she had some ideas.

And I was almost floored when she said that she, and she said it recently, she said, I was surprised when you asked me What? What do you think? Well, why wouldn’t you as a leader wanna know what your people think? Because it’s probably different from you and I, I like to be very pragmatic about this. I want different perspectives so we can get a better answer.

Yeah, we have different perspectives, so I got people who are enjoying what they’re doing and feel valued and part of the team, and I think not only is it the right thing to do, I think it’s a very pragmatic thing to do, to be leader as coach in strengthening performance engagement culture and morale.

Bill Berthel: Ralph, beautiful example.

Good stuff, Ralph. Good stuff. And you can listen right here to a new podcast two times every month where we bring you contemporary leadership topics and ideas, balanced with better practices you can apply to your leadership.

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