3 Foundations of Coaching Leaders

In my years of coaching, I’ve observed that extraordinary leaders are fueled by conviction, courage and passion. They hold deep convictions about helping others to improve and have mastered the skills and disciplines needed to help others reach peak levels of performance.

Such leaders recognize that to achieve the extraordinary, they must embrace the idea of becoming a coaching leader — to do so means having the courage to risk entering the uncomfortable.

Exceptional leaders are also driven by great passion. They’re willing to spend a few hours helping an employee write out his own eulogy as an exercise in self-assessment, challenging him to answer questions such as, “Who do you want to become?”

Convictions Are Non-Negotiable for Coaching Leaders

For coaching leaders, everything they do flows out of a deep conviction that people are worth developing. They see their job as an opportunity, and maybe even a responsibility, to help others discover and fully experience what is possible for them.

Do you have this conviction? I’m not asking merely if it sounds like a great idea, or if you value the concept. A conviction goes deeper than a mere value (even a “core value”). A conviction is non-negotiable. You may commit to a value, but you’ll sacrifice for a conviction. When problems arise, you may ponder the cost of a value, but you’ll ante up for a conviction no matter what the cost.

Do you believe that you have something of significant value to offer your key team members? That because of your choice to become a coaching leader, your teammates will grow both professionally and personally? That you really try to walk your talk and are qualified to coach others in a proactive and holistic way?

If you don’t believe these things, then I doubt whether many people will feel inspired to follow your leadership. Few will work hard to make your professional dreams come true. But if you do, then you and your teammates can experience exciting new heights.

The Octane of Courage

Early in my sales career, I gauged the caliber of a prospect I was calling by how I felt. If I felt too relaxed and not at all nervous, I knew I was calling the wrong prospect. Why? Chances were, the person represented only a small opportunity.

On the other hand, I knew I had enjoyed a good day when I finished my meetings with sweaty palms. That meant I had placed myself in situations definitely out of my comfort zone — and probably had been calling on prospects who represented much larger opportunities.

That same kind of gauge works well for leaders who choose to coach their people in life. Such coaching requires that we stretch beyond our comfort zone, and that takes real courage. Why? Some of these conversations will make your palms sweat. Some will take a long time, and you must make sure you have the time and the courage to go there.

You don’t need to have all the answers, of course, but you do have to be willing to work through the situation, to follow up, to confront behaviors that do not line up with stated convictions, and to encourage at all times.

The fact is, helping people to succeed after 5 p.m. is risky.

This is where many begin to hear ugly voices: “You can’t help him! You are blowing it here in your own life, you hypocrite. You’re not living up to your own standard, so who are you to ask him to do it?” I recognize those voices; I have heard them all in the past twenty years.

When your palms begin to sweat, you have two options.

The first is to sneak back to the comfortable, to return to what’s easy — namely, your skills or knowledge. The second option is to dive in and to risk helping. Sure, it may feel deeply uncomfortable for you. Certainly, there’s a chance that your own actions will come into question. But is that a bad thing?

With leadership comes responsibility. Our team members will allow us to be a part of who they are only to the extent that we have earned their trust and respect. The level of character, care and discipline they see in us will determine the level of coaching they will invite and accept from us.

Sold Out and Passionate

I had the good fortune of knowing two leaders of a national mortgage-banking firm headquartered in Colorado. For these leaders, helping their employees to perform at peak levels from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. wasn’t enough. They set out to build a coaching culture and created a company of a few hundred teammates who are sold out and passionate about what they do.

These coaching leaders offer life planning to every employee and have committed to walking every member of their team through the process personally. They do this fully realizing that helping teammates grow in areas outside of work can be both risky and messy.

They spend time with each employee to explore important topics such as, “What do you want to experience in your life? What are the three to five things you need to do so that you can accumulate net worth in all areas of your life?”

It’s not just a one-time conversation. These leaders follow up from time to time to see how the teammate is doing, understanding that as the employer, they have a direct impact on the teammate’s professional and financial well-being.

Do you see how unique this is? How countercultural? Most businesses don’t generally do this — yet it’s precisely how this company has built an incredibly attractive culture. Year after year, this company gets very high scores on employee satisfaction surveys. They’re surrounded by high-energy, balanced professionals who work and live at masterful levels.

During my relationship with this company, I’ve had the honor of speaking at four of their leadership retreats, and I saw the changes for myself. This group of coaching leaders wants to help their team members succeed in all of life, including after 5 p.m.

What Keeps You Going as a Leader?

Convictions. Courage. Passion. Do these things fuel you as a leader?

Are you on a path to creating a team or organization that is life-changing for every team member? If not, I invite you to start by exploring your personal and professional convictions. Especially if you desire to create a culture that positively impacts those around you.

Our Life Plan Guide is the perfect place to start. In fact, it’s where we start with all of our clients — helping identify your core purpose and plan and effectively unlocking the natural leadership talents that rest inside you.


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