Two-way, reflecting the manager’s opportunity to improve his/her performance by encouraging input from staff and colleagues.
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 Burl Stamp.
Burl Stamp, FACHE, is the president and founder of Stamp & Chase, an HR performance improvement firm that helps organizations improve both staff and customer experiences. Prior to launching his firm almost 20 years ago, Burl was a senior executive in several major health care systems and the CEO of Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Today, his firm works with leaders at all levels of an organization but is particularly focused on the needs of middle managers, who companies depend on to hold things together through thick and thin.
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?
Both luck and hard work contributed to my promotion to a supervisory role very early in my career. I was excited and grateful, but I didn’t really appreciate what it would mean to go from a star individual performer to an effective leader of other people.
I had the good fortune of working with a colleague who was an exceptional leader at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Velinda Block, who was then the chief nursing officer, pulled me aside one day and gave me a wonderful gift: candid insight on my strengths and biggest opportunities as a leader.
“You’re a smart, dedicated, high-performing executive, but I think your team really needs you, and you’re not there for them in a way that will help them be at their best.” It was at that moment almost 30 years ago that I really began to appreciate what it takes to be a great leader. Velinda’s insight and advice continues to influence how we think about our work with leaders, as we strive to help them have their own a-ha moments regarding how they coach and support their teams.
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?
A great leader provides a strong, clear vision for where the team is going. But how a leader interprets Mr. Maxwell’s advice is critical. We’ve seen new leaders put way too much pressure on themselves by believing that they alone have to have all the answers, solve all the problems, and dictate every step of the path to success.
A few years ago, we were working with a new manager who was leading a staff meeting. Employees brought up a process that clearly wasn’t working, but immediately shifted into problem-solving mode with solid suggestions on how they could help improve the situation for everyone. I was thrilled to see their clear sense of accountability, but the manager’s non-verbals clearly communicated that she was upset by the conversation.
At the end of the meeting, I pulled her aside and asked her to share how she was feeling. “Didn’t you hear that?” she snapped. “That was all about me and my failure as their boss. I’m supposed to have the answers and fix all those problems.”
We talked through how her exaggerated sense of sole personal responsibility could actually diminish the team’s opportunity to contribute to success.
Individuals need to have a voice in creating a strong shared vision for their team. “At work, my opinions seem to count,” is one of Gallup’s key indicators of employee engagement in their Q-12 survey. When staff members see their ideas, insights, and contributions reflected in the leader’s vision for the team, it helps them embrace that vision and go the extra mile to achieve success.
How do you define the differences between a leader as a manager and a leader as a coach?
Too often, we see individuals begin to believe that “management” is what weak leaders do. But great leaders are both good managers and effective coaches. The difference is that strong leaders understand that you manage things (like budgets, work schedules, quality reporting, etc.) and lead/coach people. When talented people begin to feel as if they are just another cog in the company machine, their level of engagement drops, often along with their productivity and loyalty to the organization.
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?
At the heart of strong coaching skills are good interpersonal communication skills. The more effectively we connect with and understand other people, the better coach we’ll be.
In our work with leaders and their teams, we’ve developed a model for effective communication that uses the acronym CARE: compose, acknowledge, respond, and evaluate. This model embodies the same skills and practices that differentiate great coaches.
Any interaction or conversation is more satisfying and fruitful when we begin in a composed state of mind, focused solely on the other person and their needs. This is even more important today when technology that was meant to facilitate better communication can actually be horribly distracting. Putting down the phone and closing the laptop helps you be more fully present and ready for a meaningful dialogue.
Hearing and affirming the other person’s thoughts, ideas, feelings, and needs is essential to good communication and coaching. Active listening is the most critical skill in this phase of the C.A.R.E. model.
Effective response to the specific needs of the person you’re coaching relies on the insights you gained by actively listening during the acknowledge phase. Generic advice is never as helpful as targeted counsel that focuses on the issues, skills, and behaviors the employee needs to be successful in the short- and long-term.
Finally, is your communication and coaching working? Is the employee getting what they need to develop both personally and professionally? And are the employee’s skills and behaviors fully contributing to the success of the team and organization overall?
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?
In our work across diverse organizations, we’ve found that many leaders miss opportunities to express gratitude and to reinforce positive contributions through praise. Research has shown that striving for a 5-to-1 ratio of positive vs. negative feedback is ideal. When leaders do see a situation where an employee can or must improve, the conversation should be structured as constructive criticism that helps an individual be more personally and professionally successful.
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?”
Over the past 20 years, Stamp & Chase has developed a comprehensive model that helps managers consistently improve engagement, assess employee performance, and coach for improved results. Using the acronym T.E.A.M., which stands for Teach, Empower, Align and Mentor, this framework is grounded in evidence-based leadership practices that improve overall employee engagement, retention, and success.
Inherent in our model are four key characteristics that make feedback more powerful. Effective coaching needs to be:
- Frequent to capture instances of both positive and problematic behaviors as they occur,
- Aligned with team priorities and goals for improvement,
- Specific to reward positive individual performance and help employees develop the behaviors that lead to success, and
- Two-way, reflecting the manager’s opportunity to improve his/her performance by encouraging input from staff and colleagues.
Following is more detail on the four elements of the TEAM model and the specific leadership practices embodied in each.
Teach — Providing Effective Leadership to the Team as a Whole
Staff look to their manager to establish clear priorities and direction, and then provide focused support for the team to successfully achieve defined goals. As a teacher, the manager offers the expertise and wisdom that shapes the course of the workgroup. Of course, a strong teacher also is a continuous learner, benefiting from the knowledge and contributions of individuals to make the team stronger as a unit. There are three specific leadership best practices in the Teach component of the T.E.A.M. model:
- Providing frequent visibility and support to the team.
- Focused on meaningful conversations with all customer groups to better understand successes and opportunities for improvement.
- Designed to check in on staff, not check up on staff.
- Brief stand-up meeting lasting just 5 minutes.
- Focused on immediate issues and helping staff be most successful today.
- Emphasis on sending staff “on the field” inspired, not discouraged.
Inclusive Team Meetings
- Most effective forum for meaningful dialogue among the team.
- Leaders should strive for a 50/50 ratio of giving vs. receiving information and ideas.
Empower — Getting Staff More Involved in Decision-Making
Central to all contemporary performance improvement methodologies — including LEAN and Six Sigma — is the idea that better solutions emerge when you involve the people who are closest to the work. By coaching staff to be involved in initiatives that make the workplace better, great leaders give employees a voice and help them feel more connected to the success of the team.
Align — Establishing Workgroup Goals to Drive Performance
Most organizations have mastered the art of setting specific, measurable goals at the corporate level. But to influence behaviors and the performance of workgroups and individuals, more specific, tactical goals should be established at the departmental/unit level. Setting, tracking, consistently reporting and then discussing progress against these goals helps the workgroup strengthen a sense of purpose around priority initiatives to improve quality, service, and/or efficiency.
Another way to think about these more specific work team goals is as leading goals to achieve lagging goals. Using a common personal example helps clarify the difference. If your lagging goal is to “lose 10 pounds in three months,” you need a leading goal such as “reduce daily calories to 1,800 and exercise three times a week.”
Mentor — Providing Consistent Feedback to Individual Employees
The real power of the T.E.A.M. framework comes together in the Mentor. Focused on more frequent and meaningful positive feedback (which reinforces desired behaviors) and constructive criticism (which corrects substandard behaviors), three recommended leadership best practices provide a platform for continuous individual and team improvement:
- In-the-moment comments on a job well done or areas for improvement.
- Balanced positive and negative feedback, striving for a 5-to-1 ratio of appreciative vs. constructive comments.
- More structured conversations regarding individual performance, held a minimum of twice per year.
- Focused on both current performance as well as career development.
- Tone: “You are an important member of our team. Working on these things will make you even more successful.”
- Consistent, direct observation of employees in their environment doing their jobs, offering the most powerful opportunities for Daily Coaching and/or Development Dialogues.
- Focuses on the how, not just the what.
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?
Indeed, organizations are increasingly diverse, and that diversity provides real benefits in terms of different and fresh ideas, experiences, and perspectives. It also can cause tension between colleagues who come from different places with different priorities and ideas.
While philosophical differences across age groups are getting more press today, the core tensions created by generational diversity really haven’t changed much. Older people think younger colleagues don’t get it and don’t want to work as hard as they did. And younger employees believe older workers are out of touch with ancient ideas and opinions that no longer apply.
For leaders, one of the biggest mistakes they can make is assuming that all younger workers think one way and older employees think another. In reality, there’s as much difference in opinion and thought within generations as there is across age groups. The foundational principle of seeing each employee as an individual with unique needs, ideas, and opinions serves leaders best and helps them provide the most effective coaching and mentoring for personal development.
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?
At its most basic level, emotional intelligence is about being in touch with your own emotions and the emotions of others. There are two foundational, key steps in being an emotionally intelligent leader: 1) try to view an issue or circumstance through the lens of the other person, focusing on what they are feeling, believing, and experiencing, and 2) reflectively consider your own emotions related to a situation and how they are influencing your communication with others.
Words matter. And we’re collectively creating a new leadership language right now. What are the most important words for leaders to use now?
“What do you think?” are the four most important words for leaders to use with their teams right now. Staff desperately want to be heard. And for star performers, contributing ideas that help the team improve is an important part of their own personal improvement and development.
I keep inspiring quotes on my desk. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote,” and why does it mean so much to you?
Mark Twain said, “Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” In many ways, that sums up what it means to be a great leader and supportive coach. Leaders are at their best when they are helping others be at their best.
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?
- Access our blog, white papers and monthly newsletters at our website: www.stampandchase.com
- Follow or connect with us on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/burlstamp
- Call us at 314–299–9373
Thank you for a meaningful conversation. We wish you continued success with your mission.