Trying to coach a leader without watching them lead
is like coaching an actor without watching them act.
Can you imagine trying to coach Tiger Woods on his golf swing without watching him swing?
How about trying to coach Matt Damon without watching him act?
Or Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber without hearing them sing?
Maybe you’re starting to get my point.
As executive coaches we often miss a critical component on how to coach executives and leaders. We fail to watch them lead. We have great processes and logistics around a coaching engagement like establishing clear coaching agreements, meeting by phone or in person on a regular cadence each month, and providing tools to help leaders make the critical mindset and skillset shifts to be more effective.
But we miss out on watching them “play” the game of leadership.
If we want to truly create meaningful and sustainable change, we have to re-think how we coach leaders and continue to challenge our own assumptions about what coaching is and how we can help our coachees reach new levels of success.
Frankly, it’s hard to be at the top of your coaching game without watching the player play.
The Playing Field
Here are a few places in which you can observe your coachee “playing” the game of leadership.
- During leadership team meetings
- In staff or other meetings
- While prepping for an all-hands or town hall meeting
- During an all-hands or town hall meeting
- Within a quarterly business review
- A briefing to the board
- Prepping for a customer visit
- Observing a customer visit or sales call
- Listening in on a conference call or customer call
- Watch a video of the leader
- Listen to a recorded audio of a 1-1
- Video the coachee during a coaching session
- Read a leader’s newsletter or announcement to the organization
- Attend a social event where the leader is present
- Walk around the office, talk to employees and observe artifacts
- Tour the workplace or manufacturing facility with the leader and watch how people respond to the leader and how the leader responds to others.
Get Clear on What to Watch
If you carefully watch a successful professional athletic coach, they know exactly what to look for when observing their athletes. They have a game plan, and they can immediately tell how well the athlete is performing against that plan.
A leader who is being coached in the workplace should also have a game plan.
One way to do this is to use Coachmetrix to identify (1) the leader’s goals that will result in more effective leadership, and (2) the behaviors the leader needs to embody to successfully achieve those goals. Usually data from an online or verbal 360 process or even a personality style assessment like DiSC can help inform that plan. The combination of goals and behaviors provides the coach the framework of what to observe and to understand whether the leader is in or out of alignment with their game plan as they are playing the game of leadership.
How to apply this to your leadership development programs
Watching the player play is critical to a successful coaching engagement.
It helps you coach the coachee from a real perspective – beyond their own anecdotal self perspective.
It helps you show the coachee what he or she can’t see for herself.
And, it helps you add more value during your coaching engagement.
So what’s your take? How do you watch your players play?
In our next post, we’ll introduce a few tools to help you observe the leaders more effectively.