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Coaches as Linchpins

The learner has to take part in that equation and so does the leader of the learner.  As a matter of fact, that leader can have an incredible impact in helping people grow…more than they may know.

The challenge is to provide the leader of the learning with that information so they understand their role.  As learning professionals, we may need to be very direct in telling them that they are actually the linchpin to helping their employees develop.  Too often, the managers believe that it is just up to the employee and if there is little employee development over time, it is the fault of the employee or the training program.

We have an opportunity, really a responsibility, to educate and train managers to be effective coaches.   This may be a role that they have not performed often, and if they have, maybe they have not done it very well. 

Three recommendations:

1.  Language.  Help them see themselves as coaches.  Use the word coach.  Explain what a good coach does and what those behaviors look like.

2.  Accountability.  Put mechanisms in place to help these coaches actually do the work.  A simple action planning document or a “coach’s journal” are helpful tools.

3.  Communication.  Help the coach to understand the importance of communicating their role to employees.  They need to explain to employees what they will be doing, how, when and why.  If a manager just starts coaching an employee without discussing what is happening, the employee may take it as criticism or punishment.

In the 70-20-10 equation where 20% is coaching, that’s a big investment.  It can easily fail.  Learning professionals have a responsibility to make sure it’s a win for employees and the company.

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Do Leaders Whine?

I couldn’t help but notice leadership in action at the Olympic swimming events.  It is everywhere.

In an unusual situation, there was a “false start” that was not the fault of the American who dove in the water first.  There was an issue with the mechanical buzzer that signaled the start.  Breeja Larson jumped off the platform into the pool and the other swimmers did not.  She hopped out of the water and they fixed the issue.

The race began again and Larson finished sixth while another American got a medal.  The interview with both of them was amazing.  Larson acknowledged the false start, her disappointment and the honor of the race.  She spent most of her camera-time expressing genuine excitement for her swimming partner.

Graciousness + Sincerity = Leadership.

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Effective Leaders Can Raise Company Valuation

In a new report from Deloitte, The Leadership Premium, analysts said the quality of leadership affected company valuations awarded, on average, a premium of 15.7% for particularly effective leadership.

The report indicates that analysts looked for three core components when assessing an organization’s leadership strength:  strategic clarity, successful execution and a culture of innovation.

Strategy, execution and innovation don’t just happen….leaders are behind those things.  Organizations cannot leave leadership development to chance.  It needs to be cultivated and developed with intential effort.

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Save a Life or Follow the Rules?

A young man serving as a lifeguard in Florida made a decision the other day.  He saved a life…and in the process he lost his job.

The rules told him not to let his eyes wander beyond the waters he was charged with watching.  When he heard screams just slightly beyond his assigned area, he jumped to action, ran into the water and saved a person who was drowning.

The lifeguard company fired him for not following the rules.  The company also asked other lifeguards what they would have done and when they responded “save a life,” they too were fired.

Rules exist for a variety of reasons.  In this case, following the rules would have cost somebody their life.  The story being told now is one about people being fired for saving a life.  The company could be telling a story about how one of their employees made a leadership decision that changed the life of one person.

The lifeguard and other coworkers were fired.  They will surely be hired quickly by a different company looking for decision makers, action oriented people and leaders.

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Leadership (or lack of) Costs Money

I recently called a company to get a replacement for a $20 guitar cable I bought a part of a larger kit two years ago.  The company is a distributor and told me that I needed to contact the supplier since it was more than 45 days since the purchase, but still within the three year warranty period.  I called the supplier and was told they no longer supply to the company/distributor…the relationship ended a few months ago.  Hmmm, why did the company/distributor not know that to begin with.

I contacted the company/distributor again and they gave me a different number to call to what they thought was the new supplier.  I called and reached the same supplier.  I’m frustrated and the company/distributor continues to spend their money on phone services and support personnel services that take me nowhere.

I call the company/distributor again and they ask me for the serial number of the product.  I don’t have it and have to call back again.  They tell me their internal warranty team will evaluate and email me.  They email (surprisingly) within hours and I’m excited to get resolution.  They indicate they are not certain the cable is under warranty and I have two options.  I can purchase a new cable…they even provide me a link to make the purchase from them (how thoughtful) or, I can submit an on-line ticket for them to evaluate further.  They indicate that process will take several days and there is no guarantee that it will be resolved to my liking.  They say, the decision is “up to me.”  Really?

Leadership.  You can obviously spot the lack of leadership and costs to this madness.  They did not know that their supplier was no longer their supplier.  They try to encourage me to purchase again.  They hire somebody to write several automated emails and a custom email.  They staff phones, pay for office space, hire managers, provide training, etc.  Spot the dollar signs?

In the end, these “lack of leadership” paths add up and cost them money….way more than the $20 item that really only cost them $14….which they could have mailed to me on their own when I first called.  What kind of a story would I be telling if that had happened?  Instead, a lack of leadership (decision making, common sense, judgement, ownership) cost them much more than the $14.

Employees need to be empowered, engaged and trusted.  They need to be taught, mentored and coached on how to make good leadership decisions instead of just following scripts and procedures.

I called and got a “manager” on the phone.  After burning up 10 minutes of his time explaining, he burned up another 15 minutes completing on-line documentation to justify sending me the replacement.  Calculate it all….the $14 item cost them hundreds.  And, unfortunately, they’ll likely make this leadership mistake again today.

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Horizontal Leadership

We spend much of our time in the vertical.  You have a boss and a team you work with every day.  However, you likely do other things with other people…outside of your workgroup, department or team.  You serve on cross-functional teams.  You are on projects.

My contention is that, depending on what you do and your role, you may actually spend a ton of time outside of your vertical.  The horizontal is where it’s at!  And, that may be where you are learning about leadership and showing yours.

In the horizontal, we have to meet deadlines, provide input and ask questions.  We may be working with people we don’t work with as much and therefore don’t know as well.  All of your leadership skills are on the line….assessing people, adjusting communication styles, negotiating, eye contact, influencing and more.

Realize that in the vertical, you have many opportunities to use your leadership skills to the fullest.  And, you should.

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Lead More

Too many people think that leadership is about the doing.  Yes, there is some doing.  Leadership also involves thinking, planning, projecting, strategizing.

Depends on what your role is and how you see your role.

Do Less, Lead More.  Begin today.


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