Success doesn’t happen in a straight line. Neither does growth, achievement, progress, wealth, happiness, or any other of the things people often work their entire lives for. Instead, these things often come with a series of forward steps along with a number of setbacks, challenges, and derailments. None of the leaders who I’ve worked with who feel like they have truly achieved any of these things would ever suggest that they got there without a series of both failures and breakthroughs.
A few weeks ago, one of my kids started bugging me while I was trying to get some work done. That’s not really what happened, but at the time, in my self-focused state, that was my mindset. I was in the middle of something that I considered important, although now, I can’t seem to remember what it was. Make no mistake though; I’m certain it was critical. She wanted me to watch this video. I’m sure many of you have seen it by now. It was the story of an autistic basketball manager who got to suit up and play in the team’s last game of the season and in his four minutes on the court he scored 20 points, sinking his last three pointer at the buzzer to send the crowd into a complete frenzy. If you haven’t seen it, take the two minutes and 45 seconds it takes to watch it. You will be glad you did.
I recently read a study concluding that business results are 21 percent higher among organizations whose senior leaders ‘very frequently’ make an effort to coach others. The study, conducted by Berzin and Associates, also found that organizations that effectively prepare managers to coach are 130 percent more likely to realize stronger business results versus. those that don’t. If better results are linked to effective and frequent coaching within an organization, and there are volumes of research that support this, even without this latest study, why is it that many businesses don’t make better coaching a priority? Well, I have a few theories.
There is a scenario that happens fairly often in my work with business leaders. I will ask them to tell me about the past, where their business has been, what has happened recently and what their current challenges are. They can usually talk for quite a while explaining the past and even longer as they talk about their current situation and the issues they are facing at the moment. I get incredible detail about the people and problems that are keeping them from achieving success. Then I ask them about their future. What often comes out of that part of the conversation is undefined and ambiguous. It is a series of vague aspirations. Leaders who follow this pattern spend most of their time thinking about their past and their present but my question may have triggered the first focused thought about the future in quite some time.
I spent a good part of a recent weekend crawling around under my house. I was finally getting around to running the speaker wire for a surround sound system that, candidly, I had been putting off for several years. Now for me that meant about 8 hours of lying on my back or crawling on my stomach in the dirt under my house as I drilled holes and dragged wires and a flashlight from one point to another. Parts of the process were pretty miserable. When I finally got all the components hooked up and working, though, nothing ever sounded so sweet . I don't know if the hard work and effort that I put in made the sound any better or not, but it sure seemed that way. It made me think about the hard work that my clients do to lead more effectively, change the culture, improve the way they coach, and how much satisfaction they enjoy when they start to see consistent behavior changes and improved employee engagement in their business.
When I work with clients one of the things that they are always looking for more of is employee engagement. For many, it is the holy grail of productivity, innovation, and efficiency. When people are engaged at all levels of the business, problems get solved faster, accountability is rampant, and senior business leaders can focus on the future. It comes as no surprise that research from Gallup and other performance management companies clearly demonstrates that organizations with more engaged employees are more profitable than their competitors. Simply put, he or she with the most engaged team wins.
I have worked with many people in management roles who use the phrase “I told them" when describing their interactions with their team. Some managers believe that as long as they tell their people what to do or how to act they have fulfilled their obligation as a leader. Nothing could be further from the truth. Leaders are not just responsible for delivering a message, they are also accountable for the results that the message causes, or doesn't.
Every now and then I like to take a quote that I come across and look at what it really means in our lives, our businesses, and our quest to be more effective leaders. Quotes can be valuable tools for us as we work to think about things differently or see them from a different point of view. I came across this one from Thomas Jefferson recently and thought it would make for a good discussion. "If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done."
I recently read a study done by the Corporate Executive Board that found nearly half of executive teams lack information they need to manage effectively because employees withhold vital input out of fear the information will reflect poorly on them. The study went on to state that only 19% of companies always received the information they needed to make decisions even if it was negative but those companies who did create a culture with open communication had over 3 times the rate of return over a ten year period than other companies. Thats worth working toward.
I was facilitating a leadership workshop recently and afterwards, one of the participants came up to me and said, “I’ve been handling leadership in my business a lot like I handle my golf game. I stand over the ball, set up for my swing, and wonder where it’s gonna go.” He went on to say that his bet was that the really good golfers didn’t just wonder where their ball was headed and that really good leaders probably didn’t wonder where their business was headed either. He was right; he was also in a pretty big group. Many of the leaders that I work with live their businesses rather than leading them.