Though business coaching has expanded in recent years, and companies ranging from multinational corporations to small and medium enterprises have taken advantage of the process, myths and misconceptions still linger. One of the most common is that coaching is nothing more than a backhanded way to tell people what to do. This couldn’t be further from the truth. What I want is to help you help yourself run the business as effectively as possible. This starts with managing expectations – not telling you what to do.
Learning to communicate effectively in the workplace is easy. Get yourself a Netflix account and stream The Office season 1 through 6. Now, good communication doesn’t happen overnight; it will take at least several nights to watch every episode. After that, though, you should be fine; you’ll be ready to tackle negotiations and employee relations with aplomb. On second thought, don’t do that. Do the opposite of that. The show does serve a purpose though; it shows us that gaffes do happen; people make faux pas. It’s just not as funny in real life!
Back in the 1970s, George Graen and colleagues developed the leader-member exchange (LMX) theory, which emphasized the importance of “dyadic” relationships between a leader and his/her subordinates rather that the leader’s personal traits, as had traditionally been the focus of academic studies. They found that high-quality, one-on-one relationships, leader to leader, and the “subordinate dyad” led to better performance, lower turnover, job satisfaction, and greater commitment to the organization.
It is said, rightly, the most important aspect of a relationship is communication, and the same of course is true in business. Communicating is crucial, whether creating a clear vision of your company for investors and clients or instructing employees in proper procedure. It can also be one of the more difficult aspects of business; just like in a relationship, it’s not really just what you say that matters – it’s how you say it. You may think it’s a good idea, for instance, to tell your partner, “You look fine,” but as we have all experienced, that probably doesn’t mean the same thing to her (or him) that it does to you.
Is it better to have one-on-one executive training or to opt for a group setting? The answer is a clear, emphatic, definitive “It depends.” Sorry. But consider this: is a personal trainer the best option for losing weight? It would seem like it, wouldn’t it? But why are support groups, like Weight Watchers, so effective? You can see that there are benefits to both a personal coach and a group setting. It is the same with executive training.
Gary Pollice, Professor of Practice at Worchester Polytechnic Institute, recalls when one student noted that, while the class was interesting, it felt more like corporate training than teaching. Pollice realized that this was true. He writes, “[T]raining focuses on the skill; the definitions imply a narrower focus than teaching and possibly a shorter timeframe…” whereas, teaching implies “deeper knowledge and a longer timeframe. We often hear the term “lifelong learning, but I can’t recall ever hearing about lifelong training.” Instead of providing leadership “training,” organizations can benefit by integrating leadership programs that focus on teaching.
If you were to ask your management and human resources teams about the efficacy of your internal leadership development programs, what would they reply? The Global Leadership Forecast 2011 asked just this to thousands of participants from 74 countries. If Canada’s highlights could be summed up in a sentence or two, it might well be, “Meh, it’s ok. Could be better, could be worse.” Hardly a resounding endorsement; in fact, the tepidity of the responses is what is, perhaps, so startling about the results. Where is leadership falling short?