Be future-focused. Coaching focuses on one’s potential. Though there are times you may need to take corrective action, the goal is to improve the future, not worry about the past. Leaders can also help individuals see from different perspectives so they understand the downstream and enterprise impact of their decisions. Coachees make better decisions when they see clearly their situation, options, and the resulting consequences of their choice.

The number one leadership initiative in any organization today is improved coaching. Coaching empowers employees, empowerment drives engagement, and engagement drives performance. At its core, coaching is about transformation. Leading distributed teams requires transforming how we coach and changing our play calls and playbooks to get things done. As a part of our interview series called “Moving From Command & Control to Coaching & Collaboration; How Leaders and Managers Can Become Better Coaches,” we had the pleasure to interview Andrea Joy Wenburg.

As CEO and founder of the consulting firm Voice of Influence®, Andrea Joy Wenburg, M.A., works with leaders, helping them optimize their talent resources for organizational effectiveness and market impact. She serves her clients with executive coaching, consulting, and retreats and creates talent development programs. She is the author of UNFROZEN: Stop Holding Back and Release the Real You and host of the Voice of Influence®️ podcast, featuring interviews with 250+ leaders and experts. Andrea lives with her husband and two teenage kids in Nebraska.


Thank you for joining us to explore a critical inflection point in how we define leadership. Our readers would like to get to know you better. What was a defining moment that shaped who you are as a leader?

I have a fire in my belly for helping leaders take good intentions and turn them into strategic, intentional action that supports organizational health and company success.

When I was 10–14 my parents were deeply involved in our local church and the regional government of our denomination. At one point things got really hard. All I knew at the time was that a prominent leader had done something wrong, but because that leader was so well-loved, most people didn’t want to believe it or worked to downplay the seriousness of the infraction. I watched from the outside as my parents stood by those reporting the wrong-doing, not able to share all of the details with their own community. My parents sacrificed a lot, including friendships with long histories, and having to disconnect from our own church home to stand up for what they believed was right.

My parents weren’t business owners or high-powered executives. They were volunteers with small-town jobs, but they believed they could make a difference and that meant they had a responsibility to do so. They didn’t see leaders as all-knowing heroes or organizations as institutions that need to be preserved at the cost of the humans in them. Rather, they believed they should have a Voice of Influence® with leaders and they felt called to support them and challenge them to do what’s right.

I recall overhearing one difficult conversation where dear friends asked my parents what example they were setting for their kids if they left the church and all of the responsibilities we each held. Looking back, I’m confident that their example set their daughters on a course toward working with the Department of Defense, nonprofits, mid-market, and Fortune 500 companies to support them as learning organizations that optimize talent and function with healthy influence.

John C. Maxwell is credited with saying, “A leader is someone who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” How do you embody that quote as a leader?

One of the core tenets of Voice of Influence is that personal agency is required to achieve true engagement. If a person believes that they can make a difference in their work environment, the likelihood of them taking initiative, and being a Voice of Influence in and on behalf of the organization is exponentially greater than if they feel like their hands are tied and their voice is muffled.

I am the CEO of an organization of experts, serving clients who have their own subject matter expertise. If I neglect to operate in alignment with what we know and teach about agency, human connection, etc., my team will let me know! I hold a deep respect for our entire team and the expertise they bring to the table, and I have the same regard for our clients.

How do you define the differences between a leader as a manager and a leader as a coach?

Leadership in business requires developing the people who work with you and bringing them together to create a high-quality product or service. The leader as a coach is a champion for the development of their team members and the leader as a manager sets clear expectations and accountability. Leaders of the future simply must do both so direct reports grow, contribute, and realize their impact.

We started our conversation by noting that improved coaching is the number one leadership initiative in any organization today. What are some essential skills and competencies that leaders must have now to be better coaches?

We all want to feel like what we do and say matters. One skill that’s often neglected is the ability to ascribe meaning to contributions. The leader that excels in highlighting the impact of what people say and do will develop trust and inspire engagement in their team. The more workers experience that their voices actually do make a difference in their work, the more they will be willing to take initiative, speak up when something is wrong, provide constructive critique, and share out-of-the-box ideas.

Another skill leaders need for effective coaching is the ability to encourage people to use their voice while simultaneously accepting the limits of their own roles and responsibilities. Coaching that helps others agree to the terms of how to work together and yet still learn to influence positive change are more likely to hire and retain top talent, while growing a sophisticated, innovative culture. They can do this by helping others increase their personal credibility, provide opportunities for them to use their voices in constructive ways, and effectively acknowledge their contributions.

We’re all familiar with the adage, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” How are you inspiring — rather than mandating — leaders to invest in upskilling and reskilling?

It’s not just that people need to be coaxed into complying with a leadership coaching initiative, for real engagement, they have to opt into the program themselves. We see a higher level of participant engagement in trainings when people choose or apply for the opportunity to participate than if they feel compelled or required to do it.

So the goal isn’t to entice leaders to upskill their team, the goal is to help leaders see the options and their logical consequences clearly so they can make the choice for themselves. When they decide that upskilling will ultimately help improve performance, make their own jobs easier, and make other people more fulfilled, they will be more likely to embrace coaching. If they don’t, it’s possible that they are simply overwhelmed and their own supervisor or executive team needs to help them create the personal capacity to provide the coaching their team needs.

It is vitally important that we acknowledge that we can’t make someone change. Different choices have different natural consequences that you may need to enforce, but it’s ultimately the other person’s choice. Leaders can help by laying out the potential paths they could take, and the likely results of those paths. You can be clear about what path you hope they take and why you think it would be best, but it’s their choice.

Let’s get more specific. How do you coach someone to do their best work? How can leaders coach for peak performance in our current context? What are your “Top 5 Ways That Leaders and Managers Can Be Effective Coaches?”

  1. Decide how you want to show up for your team. In our leadership development and manager training programs participants ask the hard questions and define their vision for leadership. In a recent cohort, one supervisor started the program off saying that she saw herself as a caretaker of her team, but 9 months later, she had a vision, a leadership philosophy, and a plan to help others grow. Deciding how you want to show up for your team takes reflection and growing pains but once leaders do this hard work, they end up with a strong core to operate and grow from as their vision continues to adapt and mature.
  2. Get good at being honest with yourself and receiving constructive feedback from others. Learning organizations need leaders who are always learning, but how can you do that if you are in denial about what you need to learn? Being realistic about your strengths and weaknesses, and your successes and failures is vital to talent development. You and your team won’t be able to get to where you want to go if you aren’t honest with yourself about where you are. There’s no need to judge yourself or each other, just accept the truth and build from there.
  3. Be future-focused. Coaching focuses on one’s potential. Though there are times you may need to take corrective action, the goal is to improve the future, not worry about the past. Leaders can also help individuals see from different perspectives so they understand the downstream and enterprise impact of their decisions. Coachees make better decisions when they see clearly their situation, options, and the resulting consequences of their choice.
  4. Conduct frequent, quick check-ins. Don’t wait for the annual review to dump a list of concerns on a direct report. Checking in on a frequent basis with a small set of questions will help you get a pulse on their wellbeing, questions, and needs. It is much easier and less dramatic to address concerns when they are small, before they’ve created a ripple impact downstream. Regular intentional conversations will reduce stress, anxiety, frustration, and confusion for you and your team. One simple conversation starter is to ask “On a scale of 1–5, how is your capacity? Your understanding of expectations? Your satisfaction in your job right now?” Ask them to tell you more about their answers and where they need support. When people know you are for them, you respect them, and you’re there to support them, they’ll be much more interested in ways you want to challenge them.
  5. Be clear about roles, responsibilities, expectations, and deadlines. There is a difference between being “bossy” and being clear. While people don’t want to live under command and control conditions, they do want to know what’s expected of them, if they’re meeting those expectations and what they can do to be more successful. These are four of the most commonly under-communicated aspects of management that we see. Too often leaders neglect to state the obvious, which may not be so apparent to everyone else.

We’re leading and coaching in increasingly diverse organizations. And one aspect of workforce diversity on the rise is generational diversity. What advice would you offer about how to effectively coach a multi-generational workforce? And how do you activate the collective potential of a multi-generational workforce?

Regardless of generation, coaching needs to reinforce the dignity of coachees.

Voice of Influence conducts and compiles research to understand the personal and professional needs of the different generations in the workforce so we can help companies navigate the exodus of Baby Boomers and the integration of Gen Z in their organizations. The potential loss of institutional knowledge of the older generation and underutilization of the tech native younger generation is unsettling.

What we’re finding is that misunderstanding and miscommunication are two of the biggest culprits that cause the untimely waste of wisdom and perspective that each generation brings to the table, right when we need it most. It’s easy to make accusations and place blame on groups of people we perceive to be holding us back or so high-maintenance that we don’t want to deal with them.

What if we saw generational differences as gifts we have to give one another instead of obstacles that need to be overcome? Then we would work to help them accept who they are and how they fit into the organization and grow their personal sense of agency, experiencing that what they do and say matters.

Talent optimization is best analyzed from the perspective of acceptance and agency, as I lay out in our Voice of Influence: Dynamics of Influence Model for organizational effectiveness. Acceptance is recognizing who we are and agreeing to how we work together. It increases as individuals agree to the terms of cooperation by acknowledging individual, team, and organizational identity, clearly stating priorities, and then laying out a plan for execution. Personal agency is the belief that what I do and say matters. It increases as individuals build their credibility, have and take opportunities to share their voice, and are acknowledged for their contributions.

If we want to maximize the potential of a multi-generational workforce, we need to realize what’s at stake and invest in resources that will help bridge the gap in our organizational structures and coaching efforts.

You’re referring to emotional intelligence, in a sense. What are two steps every leader can take to demonstrate a higher level of emotional intelligence?

A leader with high emotional intelligence has mastery over the process of reflecting on emotional reactions and making intentional choices about how they choose to respond. They are good at recognizing these dynamics in others and guiding them to choose their own thoughtful response.

  1. Cultivate curiosity about emotional reactions of your own and reactions of others. Ask questions such as: Why does this bother me so much? Is my strong emotion an indication of how I feel about this specific situation or does it stem from other experiences I’ve had in the past? Does the intensity of my emotion reflect the level of seriousness of the situation?
  2. We recommend managers and coaches provide tools that help improve EQ such as our VOICE Quality tool based on Vision, Offering, Intent, Curiosity, and Empathy. It’s a resource that helps people reflect to make choices about how to express themselves based on inner wisdom instead of immediate emotional reactions. Reflective devices such as this are effective in building and demonstrating growth in emotional intelligence.

Words matter. And we’re collectively creating a new leadership language right now. What are the most important words for leaders to use now?






Essential Human Skills. (instead of soft skills)

I keep inspiring quotes on my desk. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote,” and why does it mean so much to you?

My mom recently passed away. The one quote that embodies what I learned from her is, “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” My tendency was to speak up and try to persuade people to think or do things differently. My mom’s tendency was to lean in and demonstrate love and tender loving care. At some point I realized that both gifts are important and they’re most effective when used together. Creating collaborative learning cultures governed by mutual influence so we can solve global problems is my personal goal and what I strive to help clients achieve, as well.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation. What’s the best way for readers to connect with you and to stay current on what you’re discovering?

You can learn more about me, the Voice of Influence podcast, and our leadership and organization development consulting firm Voice of Influence at Sign up for updates on our research and follow Andrea Joy Wenburg on LinkedIn and Twitter.

In its most healthy form, influence is not something we do to one another. It’s something we share with one another, for sake of the bigger picture. We give and receive in a conversation that makes a difference, just like we toss the ball back and forth when playing catch.

In 2020 the World Economic Forum launched the “Reskilling Revolution” and they are currently accelerating this initiative to reskill one billion workers by 2030. Why? Because the rate of change is accelerating. Learning and development departments at companies that rely on innovative technologies can’t keep up with the reskilling effort because as soon as they create a program to train workers on a new tech skill, it’s obsolete and a new ability is needed.

Our firm, Voice of Influence®, conducted research, including over 250 expert interviews and a cross analysis of the latest statistics, and here’s what we found that every leader needs to know: The ultimate impact of everything that has happened since 2019 is that employees today are unequivocal in their demand for personal agency. They simply will not tolerate their voice not being heard. And so you could think of it this way. Today’s workforce is the Influencer Workforce.

According to the Edelman Special Report, “The Belief-Driven Employee,” 60% of employees surveyed say that employees have more leverage to create change within their organization now than they did before the pandemic. And 75% said that when they have concerns, they will take action to make changes within their organization by working within the system or by taking those concerns public. People are more willing to take risks and use their voice now than they were in the past, so why not work with the wave, rather than fighting against it?

It may be a little messy at times, but the more that people experience that their voice actually does matter at work, the more likely they’ll stay and be willing to take initiative, speak up, provide constructive critique, and share out-of-the-box ideas. So managers need to be adept at coaching and managing the Influencer Workforce.

Thank you for sharing your insights. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.