Leaders must be coachable. This doesn’t mean be a pushover, but rather that a leader must honestly welcome feedback.

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 Christopher Wright.

Despite the difficulties he faced throughout his youth, Christopher Wright has carried the value of helping others into his career. Now, he is a renowned podcast host, celebrated keynote speaker, successful SaaS public sector sales leader, and mental health advocate. Over the course of his career, Chris has also become a well-respected member of the Business industry, where he serves as a coach and sales leader in the government sales sector.

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?

My defining moment as a leader was growing up in Denver, Colorado, where I was forced by my adverse environment to adapt, survive, and critically think about survival (my parents died from drug overdoses, I broke my neck falling out of a moving vehicle as a kid, and survived the foster care system and abuse). My childhood, eventually, instilled a strong sense of self-worth, responsibility, work ethic, and a strong sense of community. From the very beginning of my sales and leadership career, I had two goals. The first was to understand better how the brain works and what its features tell us about how we make decisions. Researching, studying, and putting that into real life action enabled me to evolve into a coach and a leader with foundational emotional intelligence, earning me both personal and business credibility and respect.

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?

I embody these characteristics by leading by example and working on my own self-discovery, which is a lifelong journey. Knowing the way requires self-reflection and self-awareness; we can’t effectively lead and mentor others unless we know who we are at the core.

I go the way by being consistent, educating myself, practicing what I preach, and being a partner, not a micro-manager, with the people I work alongside. As a leader, is critically important to me that I know what my team and peers are going through, their obstacles, and learn from their success and characteristics — be humble and never stop learning.

I show the way by putting my theories, ideas, and suggestions into real time situations. Nothing inspires people more than seeing an idea come to life and work, especially in a sales culture. It’s very easy for a leader to tell you to generate 15 sales appointments this week. But, it’s more effective if I show the team how it’s done and we celebrate milestones and success together.

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

A manager is someone who believes they know best and delegates and dictates tasks (or KPIs). A coach, by contrast, has a different method of motivating and engaging employees. They listen to their employees’ suggestions, invest in their personal development, lead by example, and share their own experiences which means employees feel valued and more comfortable.

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?

Leaders need to be clear on their role — as a coach or mentor. Coaches need to maintain a fine line between being directive and being supportive, between offering feedback and guiding. Leaders need to balance the desire to look professional with the desire to foster a climate of trust. And leaders must take a broader view of coaching, understanding that it’s not about talking, but about listening.

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?

Leadership development is increasingly crucial to corporate success, especially with the need to be agile in a constantly evolving technical business world. Developing leaders in-house through learning programs, hands-on training, and cross-functional role training peer mentorship is both a way to retain them and build their skills, but also a way to differentiate your company in the marketplace. My current organization, Samsara, does an incredible job of inspiring associates to connect cross-functionally to build new skills.

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?”

Good coaching depends on recognizing what makes our employees tick — their learning styles, their personalities, how they prefer to learn, what they need to feel encouraged or challenged, and when they work best. It also depends on listening and giving them the time and space to do their work. Here are 5 tips I would give:

1) Be coachable:

First, leaders must be coachable. This doesn’t mean be a pushover, but rather that a leader must honestly welcome feedback.

2) When an employee performs poorly, first encourage them. Then give them feedback to help them improve. You can give them feedback whenever you want, but you must give them feedback in a respectful and authentic manner.

3) Provide opportunity for feedback:

Leaders need to provide opportunities for feedback. However, leaders need to be careful about overdoing it, because taking criticism personally will hinder the feedback process.

4) Listen attentively:

Leaders must listen to their employees. If they are busy or distracted, they risk missing important feedback.

5) Praise the good things employees do. Give positive feedback. Make them feel accomplished and appreciated when they achieve goals and milestones

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?

Coach your multi-generational employees respectfully and patiently. Don’t leave anyone out or make them feel stressed. For example, if you’re a leader, be sure to include each person’s input in the outcomes of the team’s decisions. When people feel valued, they are more motivated to do their jobs well.

To effectively coach a multi-generational workforce, managers must understand that each person approaches their jobs differently. They must address the unique expectations of their team members. For example, Baby Boomers are used to working side-by-side with their coworkers. They often seek recognition for their efforts and as a leader, you need to acknowledge and honor that need.

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?

1) Develop greater self-awareness by exploring your own emotions, especially negative feelings.

2) Identify your emotional triggers. For instance, when you feel angry, try to identify what made you feel angry, and make changes in your reactions and behaviors to improve your response to those triggers.

a leader should know how to identify the signs of stress in his or her employees, whether the signs are physical or emotional. Secondly, if an employee feels stressed, the leader should know how to personally support the employee instead of judging him or her.

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

If we’re reflcecting on choise of words to inpsire employees to create and be productive, I consistently use the following:

I am proud of you!

What is your opinion?

Team questions and words:

Are we taking collective action to solve our problems?
Are we holding each other accountable for making progress?
Are we being transparent in our communications?
Are we telling our stories? 🡨 this is the most important question I ask, always. What is the driver? What makes you excited?

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

“Your greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time that falls brings you down.”

— Confucius

Life is a journey that we never stop learning from. This quote is so inspiring to me because it’s a fresh reminder that it is ok to learn, fail, make mistakes, and have bad days — as long as I rise again and keep trying, every day, to become a little bit more of a better person than I was yesterday.

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?

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Thank you for a meaningful conversation. We wish you continued success with your mission.