One of the primary responsibilities of leadership is to coach the people you lead. We coach to reinforce positive behavior, we coach to motivate, and sometimes we must coach for corrective action.
Most often that coaching is in the form of talking. We advise, we suggest, and hopefully not very often, we tell.
So here’s two pieces of advice for the next time you find yourself in a coaching situation.
First listen to what you’re saying. I’m serious about that…really listen. In fact, record the conversation and when you play it back listen to what YOU said. Listen to the tone of your voice. Were you speaking in positives and possibilities or were you speaking in negatives and consequences?
Were you specific in why you’re coaching or did you leave the person you were coaching wondering what the conversation was really about. If you were coaching for corrective action were you very very specific in what needs to change and when? Were you crystal clear in how that change would be measured? Did you leave doubt about your expectations? Any doubt leaves a gray area. Coaching for corrective action requires that you “paint” your expectations in black and white as much as possible.
It’s important to know that when you allow gray areas while coaching for corrective action you give people a place to hide from responsibility. Shades of gray make for a mighty comfortable place to hide from change as well.
More important than listening to yourself is looking at yourself. As a leader your people will do what you DO far faster than they will do what you SAY. If you’re coaching them towards a better attitude and your attitude sucks then all the words in the world aren’t going to change their attitude.
As their leader YOU are their model for successful behavior. Whether you realize it or not, YOU are leading by example. If your words do not match your actions then your people will have to make a choice.
Do they do what you say or do they do what you do? They may not believe what they hear but they almost always will believe what they see.
They will do what you do!
If you’re going to help your people trust what you say then your actions MUST match your words. If you force them to make a choice between “say” or “do” they will choose do and your chances of truly leading them will go the way of the dodo bird.
In both cases, listening to yourself and looking at yourself, you need to be completely honest. Authentic Leaders do not lie to themselves. Do not cut yourself an ounce of slack, if you think your tone was too negative then fix it. If you find that your actions are not a mirror image of your words then change your actions or change your words.
They MUST match.
Remember, you may hold a leadership position but your journey to Authentic Leadership never stops. You can and should continue to learn and grow, exactly like the people you lead.