Many leaders admit that it’s really tough not to jump in and solve problems, give direction, or rescue when coaching. Sometimes leaders care so much about the people on their team that they want to protect them (i.e., keep them from making so-called ‘bad’ decisions). Other times, leaders get stuck in their own perspective and forget that it’s okay for someone to do something differently than they would. As a coach, it is important to let your coachee (client or direct report) solve problems on their own, own their decisions, and learn from any mis-steps.
The importance of letting others take responsibility for their own decisions and outcomes is a hot topic in the Coaching and Developing Others course that I teach in the University of Guelph’s MA (Leadership) Program. While discussing this topic with my online coaching class, one of my students, Linda, shared a personal story about how she has learned over the years to take a coaching approach with her adult children. When her daughter (Sarah), a leader in a manufacturing company, asked her for advice recently, she noted that:
“I was acutely aware NOT to “parent” Sarah, even though, as her mom, I wanted to protect her from any possible negative consequences. Sarah is my third offspring; my other two have started careers, ended careers, reinvented themselves, loved employers, hated employers and through all that, I learned to coach and NOT own ‘their’ business. I listen, love them, soothe them and stay tough. I let them OWN their decisions and the outcomes.”
When coaching, the key is utilizing an ‘Ask’ versus ‘Tell’ approach. Draw on open-ended questions to support the coaching conversation and allow your coachee to think things through on their own. Here are some examples:
1: What’s the real challenge for you here?
2: What outcome do you want to see?
3: What steps have you taken so far to achieve that?
4: What would happen if you stand still?
5: What has been successful in the past?
6: What didn’t work in the past?
7: What would you like to do differently next time?
8: What are the options as you see them?
9: What obstacles might occur?
10: What action would you like to take first?
11: What role do you want me to play in holding you accountable?
I have been working with my Business Coach in the last few months to help gain clarity around what I want to achieve in 2019. Having a plan with clear objectives, monthly actions, an accountability strategy (monthly update meetings with my coach), and milestones, helps me to feel focused and to stay on track.
If you are a team leader, one of your responsibilities is to ensure that your team members are set up for success. Many teams fail to execute on business strategy due to a lack of goal clarity, lack of individual accountability for results, and inability of team members to work well and collaborate together.
Are your team members clear about the what, why, and how of their performance goals? Do you know who is poised for success in 2019 and who isn't?
When you meet with each team member this month for your regular coaching session, it may be a good time to find out if they are clear about their goals (and the purpose), and if they need support to ensure success.
The five pillars of our Character Culture framework can act as a good reminder for the important elements required to build and sustain the trust needed to bring out the best in each person on your team:
Create Clarity: Walk through each person's individual project responsibilities and goals - find out if they are clear about the purpose and the results expected for the short and long-term. If not, create the clarity needed by building a clear plan together.
Commit to Accountability: In a workplace focused on collaborative goals, we all need to share responsibility in the issue of accountability. Ensure each person on your team acknowledges and commits to accountability for their individual commitments, goals, and behaviours.
Coach for Performance: Make consistent time to coach and support people on your team so that they are set up for success -- listen and find out what they need to help them carry out their role and deliver on promises.
Cultivate Collegiality: A collegial workplace supports people in working to their potential, so it is important to establish and maintain a climate that promotes inclusion. When meeting with each team member, look for signs that they feel a sense of belonging to the team. If not, ask open-ended questions to help them open up to you so you can problem solve any issues together.
Collaborate for Results: Business results are not achieved by one person - provide the structure and conditions to promote everyone working collaboratively to improve the organization and achieve goals. Ask each person who they are working with across the team / the organization to support them with their individual goals.
Finally, make sure you also talk to your coach and clarify what success will look like for you this year!
At the Centre for Character Leadership we are passionate about building cultures where business results are achieved within a trusting and collaborative environment.
My first book in the La Maison du Parc series, Building a Character Culture, provides foundational guidelines for how to build trust and results in the workplace -- and also tells a story with real life / business scenarios to illustrate how to do it.
Visit our website to learn more or to order one of my books.
Contact me if you would like some coaching around how to support your team members in achieving their performance goals or coaching for your own success.
Is this season of multiple holidays a stressful or positive time in your workplace?
For many it can be stressful because people are afraid of saying the wrong thing to co-workers or team members from different cultures or religious backgrounds. Or doing the wrong thing in terms of celebrations in the office.
Many of us have the intention of being inclusive, but end up treading carefully and doing nothing. We think about changing the way we celebrate diversity at this time of year, but often get stuck in fear mode – rather than turning our thoughts/feelings into positive action.
At the Centre for Character Leadership, we talk a great deal about intention, which is about being clear (rather than vague) about what the real issues are. It’s a wonderful time of year to intentionally honour diversity and find ways to celebrate our similarities and differences – here are some tips:
1: Be inclusive: Most people are looking for reasons to celebrate -- ensure they feel comfortable/included. But don’t just change the title from ‘Christmas party’ to ‘holiday party’. Make this season of holidays a time to share cultural celebrations through stories, decorations, and foods. If you have a work party, make sure decorations and food from all cultures are represented.
2: Don’t make assumptions – find out: Do you know enough about what is celebrated, and how, by each one of your team members, especially those who come from different cultures or religious backgrounds? Find out! Being educated will take the fear away.
3: Open up a conversation about values: Ask team members about what is important to them during this season of multiple holidays. During regular one-on-ones, or during a full team meeting, ask: What is important to you as we go through this season of holidays? This simple question will help you understand the values of team members around this specific issue.
4: Do something real to show you care: Whether you learn traditional greetings and correct pronunciation for different holidays, decorate the office in a way that respects diversity, or make time at meetings to talk about different cultural observances, take some kind of action to show you really care.
5: Stay up-to-date: Ensure you are up-to-date on your organization’s mandates or best practices regarding cultural diversity, whether it is about holiday cards, accommodating diverse foods, gift giving, days off, etc.
At the Centre for Character Leadership we are passionate about helping leaders communicate effectively and with intention. And we are interested in learning how your organization has already taken an intentional approach to this season of holidays. Send me an email and let me know!
It seems unbelievable that workplaces today are still dealing with the age-old topic of jealousy, despite efforts to be inclusive. Recent Tallest Poppy research, which focused on women, found that more than 40% of 1,500 survey respondents witnessed co-workers being attacked or 'cut down'. Behaviours by perpetrators (equally split between women and men) included dismissals of achievement, cyber-bullying, taking credit for others' work, leaving out or ignoring successful coworkers, or downplaying achievements.
If you Google 'Tallest Poppy' syndrome, you'll find it comes from ancient legends with symbolism related to 'cutting down' people who were challenging to the success of others. Some of these metaphors include: in the days of Aristotle, leveling a corn-field by plucking off the ears that stood out above the rest; in the 7th century BC, rulers pre-empting challenges to their rule by 'cutting off all of the best and tallest ears of wheat'; and in the 1700s, 'striking off the heads of tall poppies' to stop their growth.
In the workplace, the tall poppy syndrome is the desire to pull down or down-play a high-performing, successful colleague. It could be that this scenario is closer to home than you think. There may be signs that your organization has a culture where the 'tall poppies' are afraid of coming across as 'smarter' than their bosses, feel bullied by peers, or are disengaged because they are not given opportunities to excel. Reflect for a moment on the culture of your workplace and ask yourself:
1: Does the culture feel collaborative or competitive?
2: Are 'stand-out' employees recognized or are their achievements downplayed?
3: Do employees speak positively about their co-workers or does 'water cooler' talk revolve around criticizing and cutting down others?
4: Do high-potential employees see a path for their careers or have high performers (the ones who are hard to replace) exited your organization because they weren't given opportunities to flourish and grow?
Last month, our blog focused on Red-flag behaviours that contribute to a toxic culture. And behaviours such as devaluing the contribution of others was #1 on our list. This may sound 'corny', but to go along with the ancient garden metaphor, building a culture where everyone is valued is about cultivating and ensuring the growth of your entire 'garden', from short marigolds to tall poppies!
No one feels lessened because someone else succeeds;
People provide generous positive feedback and tell others how their work is valued;
Everyone contributes to an enjoyable workplace where they feel safe, engaged, and valued;
Everyone celebrates the progress and success of others; and
People work together to achieve goals.
Would you like help in building a culture where people celebrate others' success rather than cut others down? There are many ways to get started in building a character culture, and the solutions will vary depending on your current culture. For example, if you have had high performers move on to careers in other organizations, a good place to start may be to conduct exit interviews to find out why your 'tall poppies' left.
If you suspect that there is an issue in your organization, contact me and we'll get started in diagnosing the situation and then building an action plan. The end result should be a safe and supportive environment where all employees feel valued and want to build long-term careers.
There are many reasons employees leave their places of employment, but organizations should be highly concerned when employees leave because of poor relationships or a lack of respect. According to a recent study by Randstad, 38% of workers want to leave their jobs due to a toxic work culture or one where they feel they don’t fit in. An even larger group (58%) have left jobs, or are considering leaving, because of negative office politics. And 60% have left jobs, or are considering leaving, because they don't like their direct supervisors.
Signs of a toxic work culture range from dishonesty, to competition amongst employees, to rampant gossip. But if there are any red-flag behaviours from leaders (including senior leaders, managers, directors, and supervisors) – organizations must act quickly. Left unattended, a toxic culture will be harder and harder to shift and will have a direct impact on the bottom line or affect an organization’s ability to deliver on their promises to stakeholders.
A positive work culture starts at the top. Last month, our blog focused on how to create a ‘safe’ culture and reinforced the need for leaders to be role models for respectful behaviour. Here are some examples of behaviours that are red-flags and should be addressed swiftly:
1: Devaluing (or ignoring) the contribution of others
2: Telling others what to do or ordering people around
3: Making others feel stupid or unintelligent
4: Blaming others for mistakes
5: Yelling; being emotionally volatile and unpredictable
6: Complaining about employees
7: Talking about others behind their backs, rather than speaking to people directly
It takes courage and commitment to begin to change a toxic culture, including addressing red-flag behaviours. If you would like help in building a plan to shift your organization’s culture, please reach out to me.
P.S. If you haven’t yet seen it, please have a look at our new video about the Centre for Character Leadership's approach to building a 'character' culture, which encompasses both organizational culture and personal, authentic leadership.
My first 'real' job was a customer service representative for Bell Canada. In that workplace I learned communication fundamentals. The leaders listened without interruption and provided objective feedback (both positive and constructive). As a result, it was a civilized, respectful place to work. The workplace is, in fact, the place where many of us learn "healthy" behaviours and, ideally, they are transferred to other parts of our lives.
Unfortunately, in some workplaces, inappropriate behaviours, such as bullying and rudeness become contagious and spread out in many directions. Trevor Foulk, who researches organizational behavior at the University of Maryland, likens rudeness to the common cold -- it's contagious. "When it comes to incivility, there's often a snowballing effect. The more you see rudeness, the more likely you are to perceive it from others and the more likely you are to be rude yourself to others."
A leadership role carries responsibility for creating 'safe' cultures that are inclusive, civil and respectful. A leader who says nothing about bullying and rudeness, for example, will perpetuate these behaviours and help their spread - creating a toxic culture.
As a coach, I hear from leaders who struggle to know how to stop inappropriate behaviour in their workplaces. My coaching on this issue typically starts with each leader's own behaviour:
1: Practice the art of reflection. Ask yourself if your behaviour is reflective of what you want to see in the workplace.
2: Be a role model for respectful behaviour -- every day.
3: Ask for feedback about your behaviour. Receive it gratefully and graciously.
4: Encourage employees to offer their point of view and advocate for what they see as right in the workplace.
5: Listen when people offer suggestions or ways to improve the culture. and let them know what will be done with their suggestions.
6: Speak up when you witness disrespectful behaviour. Communicate openly and honestly about what you heard, how you felt, and why it's not okay.
7: Reinforce positive behaviour. Speak up when you witness respectful behaviour -- let others know that it's appreciated and valued.
I am pleased to share with you a new video about the Centre for Creative Leadership's approach to building a 'character' culture, which encompasses both organizational culture and personal, authentic leadership.
If you are interested in a series of coaching sessions for you or your leadership team around how to be a role model for respectful behaviour, please reach out to me.
Terry and I are planning a week in Victoria and Vancouver this summer. We are excited to have precious time with our younger daughter (Cassie, my step-daughter) and attend a wedding. It is the wedding of a friend's son -- we are at that stage of life! Part of our planning, is "how do we deal with emails / work communication while we are away?"
We all deserve to have a vacation that provides us with time for rejuvenation -- when you can go away and truly 'recharge'. In this month leading up to summer vacations, while we are all planning, it's a great time to think about how everyone on the team can work together to ensure success.
Summer vacations can mean disruption in the workplace OR an opportunity to create commitment to support each other in achieving goals. How can you and others avoid being that 'indispensable' person who goes on vacation but is reachable by email every day, just in case?
Some simple tips? Keep the 5 Cs in mind: Create, Commit, Coach, Cultivate, and Collaborate as these are the pillars for creating a character culture.
1: Create Clarity: Take time to meet with your team to create clarity around the purpose, goals, progress, and results expected on projects while you or others are away. As Patrick Lencioni so aptly put it: "clarity is the antidote to anxiety".
2: Commit to Accountability: In a workplace focused on collaborative goals, we all need to share responsibility in the issue of accountability. Determine who on the team will be the 'go-to' person while you or others are away; ensure they are empowered to hold people accountable.
3: Coach for Performance: Make time to coach and support people on your team. Ensure that team members are set up for success -- listen and find out what they need before you or others go away.
4: Cultivate Collegiality: Show that you care about your team and their work effort, especially those who will be expanding their responsibilities during vacation schedules. Perhaps it's a good time for a team lunch where everyone can talk about their vacation plans and get to know each other better.
5: Collaborate for Results: Encourage all team members to put forth their creative ideas on how to make summer vacations a successful time for everyone.
We have our own little plan, and my team is on stand-by to make sure we get the most free time possible. Their efforts will be reciprocated.
Coaching teams and setting them up for success is what I've devoted my career to. Email me if you would like some support to get set up for success this summer.
There is tremendous value in diverse perspectives. We might learn something, have a belief challenged, or have a creative spark ignited, etc. It is to our personal advantage, and for the benefit of our organizations, to expand our perspective in order to progress.
Many of us were told to never discuss religion or politics in a social setting because those topics were ‘uncomfortable’ and could lead to controversy. The implication was that we should only discuss trivial things without potential for disagreement, but were we misled? Can’t civilized people disagree?
While politics and religion may not be the type of topics for discussion in the workplace, my point is that there are many valuable viewpoints / solutions, and yes, they may spark controversy and disagreement. But, understanding and appreciating others’ views opens us up to new perspectives and bigger-picture thinking.
Disagreement can be a good thing – but it requires us to listen openly with empathy! There are many definitions of empathy, but here is the one I like: The ability to understand and appreciate another person's perspective, even when that perspective is different from your own. Some describe empathy as being able to ‘put yourself in another person's shoes’ because it’s about imagining what it would be like to be in that person's situation. But it’s also about understanding the emotional elements involved. Leaders who demonstrate empathy – the ability to take perspective – have a greater ability to relate to people and ideas around them. In the workplace, empathy has been shown to lead to stronger performance and a culture of continuous learning.
Here are five tips for listening openly with empathy:
1: Make time and space to connect with people and find out what is meaningful to them. Create the ‘space’ for empathy and listening -- pay attention physically as well as mentally; put away your connected device.
2: Open your mind and your attitude - accept that you are only one person, one perspective. Keep your mind open regarding thoughts, feelings, and motives. If you are a leader -- recognize that you don’t have to know everything -- be open to continuous learning.
3: Truly listen -- don’t share a similar experience that happened to you -- just listen. Consciously put aside your own views and listen with the intent of understanding.
4: Ask open-ended questions to clarify the message and the emotion. When you sincerely acknowledge the emotion as well as the message, it reassures the person that you understand and empathize on two levels.
5: Acknowledge the other person’s reality/perspective -- don’t judge. You don’t have to ‘agree’ with it, but you need to acknowledge it and respond to the key messages. Repeat what you heard, including the emotion behind the words, to test your understanding.
We often used the term ‘civil’ in my work with leaders, and in my books, to highlight the importance of treating others with courtesy and consideration. It’s about being polite and respectful.
But is there a point where being too courteous and too polite gets in the way of being truly honest? Most of us know people who are so polite that you don’t really know if they have a hidden, underlying message or something they are not telling you.
At the Centre for Character Leadership, we believe that it’s important to tell the truth in a kind and civil manner, but also in a way that is inclusive, respectful, and supportive:
1: Convey that you care about the person and the relationship, which is why you want to be honest. Utilize the opportunity to share your honest views, but to also make the relationship even stronger and build trust.
2: Show respect for the other person by being inclusive. Rather than simply ‘telling’ your honest view, open up a two-way discussion and invite the other person to share what they are thinking and feeling. Use questioning to help you understand the other person’s perspective.
3: Offer honest views in a manner that leads to a solution - take the time needed to work with the other person to discuss the issue fully and develop solutions. In this way, honesty will support a learning environment.
Please reach out to me or one of my associates -- Patrick McCann or Michael Chadsey -- to find out more about what we can do to help your organization instill character values and build a character culture.
We provide solutions, tools, and resources to honour your current situation, goals, timelines, and budget.
Be the change you wish to see in the world. When it comes to building a character culture, this wonderful statement by Mahatma Gandhi is a great resolution for leaders. It's about starting, even in small ways, to demonstrate character values.
If one of your resolutions for 2018 is to instill a 'character' culture in your organization to support business success, why not just start now! And yes, it can take time to change organizational culture, and the only starting point is you. You have authentic power. Shift your mindset from one where making change happen seems like a monumental thing to do, to one where you know you can make a difference. Be conscious of your thinking, your words, and your actions -- and be the change you wish to see in your organization.
As a leader, you are in a position to be a role model for others. Over time, you will notice that your 'character' behaviours are trickling down. People will begin speaking differently to each other and will treat others with more respect; they will also be more transparent and honest, and will respect diverse views. Role-modelling, however, is also about being authentic -- ensuring that your words and your actions match your beliefs and core values.
Contact me if you would like to learn more about how we can help your organization or department transform toward a Character Culture. We provide solutions, tools and resources to honour your current situation, goals, timelines and budget.
Kathleen Redmond, MA, MCC
Coaching for Performance -- Online Sessions Starting Soon
Coaching for Performance is an intensive two-month program for individuals who lead teams and want to develop their coaching skills. The program offers a rich resource of learning opportunities and practical tools for immediate application. Spend one hour every two weeks with Kathleen (as your facilitator and coach) and other leaders with whom you can practice your coaching skills. The first session starts Monday, February 12th, 2018 via Skype video call between 12:15 and 1:15 p.m. The program includes practice tools and homework, online practice, three of Kathleen's books, assessments to determine your own coaching strengths and opportunities, and post-session resources. Contact Kathleen Redmond for more information or contact Karen Addison to sign up.
Kathleen Redmond is a certified Executive Coach (International Coaching Federation), corporate trainer, Instructor at the University of Guelph, and author of four workplace books.