Set Clear Expectations and Goals: Clear expectations and goals provide a roadmap for success. As a coach, it’s important to communicate expectations clearly and collaboratively set goals with team members. In one instance, I had a team member who was unsure about their role and responsibilities. I engaged in a coaching conversation to clarify expectations, align goals with their strengths, and discuss the necessary resources and support. This clarity empowered the team member to perform their best work and achieve their goals effectively.

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 Harvard Certified Performance Coach Desiree’ Stapleton.

Desiree’ Stapleton is the Harvard Certified, 2x ’30 Under 30’ Honoree and Forbes ‘Next 1000’ Nominated Performance Coach, Author, CEO, and Creator of Goal Accomplishment Made Easy and the Self-Help App. She teaches women goal-setting and how to overcome obstacles and lead a life of fulfillment, while also providing tools and resources to ensure that they can get and stay on track with hitting their goals.

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?

Certainly! A defining moment that shaped me as a leader occurred during my journey of resilience and personal growth. As I faced numerous challenges and setbacks, there came a point where I had to make a critical decision: either succumb to the difficulties or rise above them and embrace my role as a leader in my own life.

It was during this pivotal moment that I fully embraced the principles that I teach in Goal Accomplishment Made Easy and understood the importance of setting goals, taking action, and persevering through adversity. I realized that I had the power to create the life I envisioned and to inspire others along the way.

This defining moment propelled me to step into my leadership role with confidence and conviction. I became determined to not only achieve my own goals but to empower and uplift others, particularly women who were facing similar challenges.

Through my brand, personal brand, and the development of The Self-Help App, I dedicated myself to teaching resilience, providing tools for personal growth, and guiding individuals to achieve their goals. I recognized that leadership was not just about accomplishing my own aspirations but also about making a positive impact on the lives of others.

This defining moment solidified my commitment to lead by example, to share my experiences openly, and to create a platform where individuals could find inspiration, guidance, and the resources needed to overcome their own obstacles. It allowed me to connect with others on a deeper level and foster a sense of community and support.

From that moment onward, I have embraced the role of a leader in my own life and within the lives of those I aim to serve. This defining moment has shaped my approach to leadership, instilling in me the values of resilience, empathy, and the unwavering belief in the human capacity to overcome challenges and achieve greatness.

As I continue on my journey, I am grateful for this defining moment as it has not only shaped me as a leader but has also provided me with the opportunity to make a meaningful and lasting impact on the lives of others.

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?

As a leader, I strive to embody John C. Maxwell’s quote by knowing the way, going the way, and showing the way to those I lead. Through my story and the principles of Goal Accomplishment Made Easy, I have experienced firsthand the transformative power of setting goals, taking action, and persisting through challenges. This knowledge has become the foundation of my leadership approach.

Firstly, I know the way by having a clear vision and understanding of the steps required to achieve success. I have cultivated a deep understanding of resilience, personal growth, and goal accomplishment through my own journey. This knowledge allows me to guide others, providing them with a roadmap and the necessary tools to navigate their own challenges.

Secondly, I go the way by taking action and leading by example. I don’t simply preach about resilience and goal accomplishment; I actively demonstrate these principles in my own life. By continuing to pursue my dreams, overcome obstacles, and make a positive impact, I show others that it is possible to overcome adversity and achieve greatness.

Lastly, I show the way by being a source of inspiration, guidance, and support for those I lead. I share my story openly, providing a relatable example of resilience and personal growth. I offer practical strategies and resources through Goal Accomplishment Made Easy, The Self-Help App, and my personal brand to empower individuals to embark on their own journeys of growth and achievement.

By embodying this quote, I create an environment where others feel motivated, supported, and empowered to pursue their goals and overcome challenges. I encourage them to tap into their inner strength, take calculated risks, and persist in the face of adversity. Through my leadership, I strive to show others that they have the ability to shape their own destinies and make a meaningful impact in their lives and the lives of others.

In summary, I embody John C. Maxwell’s quote by knowing the way through my knowledge and understanding of resilience and goal accomplishment, going the way through my own actions and example, and showing the way by inspiring and guiding others to embrace their own journeys of growth and achievement.

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

In my perspective, a leader as a manager and a leader as a coach have distinct but complementary roles in guiding and empowering their team members. While both roles involve leadership, their approaches and focuses differ.

A leader as a manager typically emphasizes organizational goals, processes, and outcomes. They are responsible for setting objectives, allocating resources, and ensuring the efficient execution of tasks. They provide guidance, monitor performance, and make decisions that align with the overall goals of the organization. A manager focuses on driving productivity, managing workflows, and maintaining accountability within the team.

On the other hand, a leader as a coach places a greater emphasis on individual growth, development, and unlocking potential. They take on a more personalized and supportive approach, focusing on the unique strengths, talents, and aspirations of each team member. A coach provides guidance, feedback, and resources to help individuals enhance their skills, overcome challenges, and achieve their full potential. They foster a supportive and empowering environment that encourages personal growth and continuous improvement.

To illustrate the differences between these leadership roles, let me share a story from my own journey. As I developed Goal Accomplishment Made Easy, I found myself taking on both managerial and coaching roles.

As a manager, I had to ensure that the various components of my business, such as operations, finances, and logistics, were running smoothly. I set clear goals, established processes, and monitored performance to ensure that tasks were completed efficiently and effectively. I provided feedback, addressed any issues that arose, and made decisions that aligned with the overall vision and objectives of my organization.

Simultaneously, I embraced the role of a coach in my interactions with my team. I recognized that each team member had unique strengths, talents, and aspirations. I took the time to understand their individual goals and worked with them to create personalized plans for growth and development. I provided support, encouragement, and resources to help them overcome challenges and reach their full potential. Through coaching conversations, I empowered my team members to take ownership of their development, pursue their passions, and continuously improve their skills.

While both managerial and coaching roles are essential in leadership, they serve different purposes. A leader as a manager ensures the effective functioning of the team and the achievement of organizational goals. A leader as a coach focuses on individual growth, empowerment, and unlocking potential. By understanding and embracing these differences, leaders can create a balanced and holistic approach that maximizes the potential of both the team and the individuals within it.

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?

In today’s dynamic and evolving workplace, leaders must possess certain skills and competencies to be effective coaches and support the growth and development of their team members. Here are some essential skills and competencies that leaders should have to be better coaches:

1. Active Listening: Effective coaches are skilled listeners. They actively engage in conversations, give their full attention to the speaker, and seek to understand the perspective and experiences of their team members. Active listening helps coaches gain insights, build rapport, and demonstrate empathy, which are crucial for providing meaningful support and guidance.

2. Empathy and Emotional Intelligence: Coaches need to understand and connect with their team members on an emotional level. Empathy allows leaders to put themselves in their team members’ shoes, understand their feelings, and respond with sensitivity. Emotional intelligence helps coaches navigate interpersonal dynamics, manage conflicts, and cultivate a positive and inclusive work environment.

3. Powerful Questioning: Skillful coaches know how to ask thought-provoking questions that inspire reflection, self-awareness, and growth. Through powerful questioning, leaders can encourage deeper thinking, challenge assumptions, and help team members discover their own solutions. Open-ended and exploratory questions promote self-reflection and facilitate learning.

4. Feedback and Performance Coaching: Leaders who excel as coaches provide timely and constructive feedback to their team members. They offer specific and actionable insights that highlight strengths and areas for improvement. Performance coaching involves setting clear expectations, providing ongoing guidance, and supporting individuals in achieving their goals. Effective coaches balance praise and recognition with constructive feedback to foster continuous growth.

5. Mentoring and Development: Leaders who serve as coaches prioritize the growth and development of their team members. They act as mentors, providing guidance, sharing their expertise, and facilitating learning opportunities. Coaches invest in the professional development of their team members, identifying their strengths and areas for growth, and offering resources and support to help them reach their full potential.

To illustrate the importance of these skills and competencies, let’s refer back to my story and Goal Accomplishment Made Easy. As I faced challenges and pursued my dreams, it was crucial for me to have a leader who embodied these coaching skills. An effective coach would have actively listened to my experiences, empathized with my struggles, and asked powerful questions that helped me gain clarity and overcome obstacles. They would have provided feedback and guidance to support my growth, acting as a mentor and advocate for my success.

By developing these skills and competencies, leaders can create a coaching culture within their organizations that fosters continuous learning, empowers individuals, and drives high performance. The ability to coach effectively is an essential leadership skill in today’s fast-paced and complex work environment, enabling leaders to unleash the potential of their teams and achieve collective success.

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?

As a Harvard Certified Business Strategist and expert in strategy execution through Goal Accomplishment Made Easy, I understand the importance of inspiring leaders to invest in upskilling and reskilling their teams rather than mandating it. Here’s how I approach this:

1. Building Awareness: I believe in creating awareness among leaders about the benefits and value of upskilling and reskilling. By sharing research, success stories, and case studies, I highlight the positive impact that investing in employee development can have on individual growth, team performance, and organizational success. This helps leaders understand the importance of inspiring their teams to embrace continuous learning and adapt to new challenges.

2. Communicating the Vision: I emphasize the long-term vision and goals of the organization, aligning them with the need for upskilling and reskilling. By illustrating how these initiatives contribute to the company’s strategic objectives, leaders can see the direct link between investing in their teams’ development and achieving business outcomes. This helps create buy-in and a shared understanding of the importance of continuous learning.

3. Leading by Example: As a leader, I believe in leading by example. I demonstrate my commitment to personal growth and development by continuously upskilling myself and sharing my own learning journey. By modeling the behavior I want to see in others, I inspire leaders to prioritize their own growth and serve as role models for their teams. This creates a culture of learning and encourages others to invest in their own upskilling and reskilling efforts.

4. Providing Resources and Support: I understand that investing in upskilling and reskilling requires resources and support. I provide leaders with access to a range of resources, such as training programs, online courses, mentoring opportunities, and coaching sessions. By offering these resources, I make it easier for leaders to inspire their teams to engage in continuous learning. Additionally, I provide guidance and support to help leaders identify the specific skills and competencies needed within their teams and create customized development plans.

5. Fostering a Growth Mindset: I promote a growth mindset within organizations, encouraging leaders to view upskilling and reskilling as opportunities for growth rather than as burdensome tasks. By framing these initiatives as pathways to personal and professional development, leaders can inspire their teams to embrace learning, take ownership of their growth, and see challenges as stepping stones to success.

By inspiring leaders in these ways, I encourage them to approach upskilling and reskilling as a positive and empowering journey, rather than something that is mandated or forced upon their teams. This approach fosters enthusiasm, engagement, and a genuine desire for continuous learning and improvement. Ultimately, it helps create a culture where investing in upskilling and reskilling is seen as a valuable investment in both individual and organizational success.

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?”

As a performance coach, I understand the importance of coaching to drive peak performance in the current context. Here are my top five ways that leaders and managers can be effective coaches:

1. Establish Trust and Rapport: Building trust is essential for effective coaching. Leaders need to create a safe and supportive environment where individuals feel comfortable sharing their challenges and aspirations. One way to establish trust is through active listening. I recall a situation where a team member was struggling with a project of ours. Instead of immediately providing solutions, I actively listened to their concerns, acknowledged their feelings, and showed genuine empathy. By fostering trust and rapport, the team member felt more open to discussing their challenges and collaborating on finding solutions.

2. Set Clear Expectations and Goals: Clear expectations and goals provide a roadmap for success. As a coach, it’s important to communicate expectations clearly and collaboratively set goals with team members. In one instance, I had a team member who was unsure about their role and responsibilities. I engaged in a coaching conversation to clarify expectations, align goals with their strengths, and discuss the necessary resources and support. This clarity empowered the team member to perform their best work and achieve their goals effectively.

3. Provide Continuous Feedback and Support: Regular feedback is crucial for growth and improvement. Effective coaches provide constructive feedback to help individuals identify strengths, areas for improvement, and growth opportunities. I remember a situation where a team member struggled with public speaking. Through regular feedback and targeted support, including suggested public speaking workshops and coaching sessions from me, I helped them build confidence and develop their communication skills. The continuous feedback and support created a positive learning environment and led to remarkable improvement in their performance.

4. Foster Learning and Development: Effective coaches prioritize learning and development. They encourage a growth mindset and provide opportunities for skill-building and knowledge acquisition. I have implemented this approach by organizing lunch-and-learn sessions where team members can share their expertise, arranging external training programs, and supporting individuals in pursuing certifications or professional development courses. By fostering a culture of learning, leaders can empower their teams to continually enhance their skills and perform at their best.

5. Celebrate and Recognize Success: Recognizing and celebrating achievements is a powerful way to motivate and inspire individuals. As a coach, it’s important to acknowledge the progress and successes of team members. I recall a situation where a team member successfully completed a challenging project ahead of schedule. In our coaching sessions, I made it a point to acknowledge their dedication, perseverance, and exceptional performance. This recognition not only boosted their confidence but also motivated them to continue delivering their best work.

By implementing these top five ways, leaders and managers can become effective coaches, fostering a culture of peak performance and continuous improvement. Through trust-building, clear expectations, continuous feedback, learning opportunities, and recognition of success, leaders can empower individuals to do their best work and achieve remarkable results.

It’s important to note that coaching is an ongoing process, and leaders should adapt their approach to the unique needs and context of their teams. By embracing coaching as a fundamental leadership practice, leaders can unlock the full potential of their team members, drive peak performance, and contribute to the overall success of the organization.

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?

In today’s diverse organizations, including a multi-generational workforce, effective coaching is essential for activating the collective potential of individuals from different generations. Here is some advice on how to effectively coach a multi-generational workforce and unleash their collective potential:

1. Embrace and Appreciate Generational Differences: Each generation brings unique perspectives, experiences, and strengths to the table. As a coach, it’s important to embrace and appreciate these differences rather than viewing them as barriers. Take the time to understand the values, motivations, and communication styles of each generation. By doing so, you can tailor your coaching approach to resonate with individuals from different generations and build meaningful connections.

2. Foster Intergenerational Collaboration: Encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing among different generations. Create opportunities for mentoring and reverse mentoring, where older and younger employees can learn from each other. For example, you can establish cross-generational project teams or pair individuals from different generations as mentors and mentees. This fosters mutual learning, understanding, and respect, leading to enhanced teamwork and innovation.

3. Customize Coaching Approaches: Recognize that different generations may respond to different coaching styles and preferences. While some individuals may prefer face-to-face interactions and structured guidance, others may value autonomy and prefer a more hands-off approach. As a coach, adapt your coaching style to meet the unique needs and preferences of each individual. This customization enhances their engagement, growth, and overall performance.

4. Bridge the Communication Gap: Effective communication is key to coaching a multi-generational workforce. Generations may have different communication styles, preferences, and technological fluency. Encourage open dialogue and create a safe space for individuals to share their perspectives. Use a variety of communication channels, such as face-to-face meetings, emails, and digital platforms, to accommodate different communication preferences. By bridging the communication gap, you can foster better understanding and collaboration among team members.

5. Foster a Culture of Inclusion and Appreciation: Create a culture that values and appreciates the contributions of all generations. Recognize and celebrate the diverse skills and experiences that each generation brings. Encourage open discussions about generational differences and promote a culture of mutual respect and inclusion. By fostering a culture that values diversity, you create an environment where individuals from all generations feel empowered to contribute their unique strengths, ideas, and perspectives.

By following these strategies, leaders and coaches can effectively navigate and leverage the multi-generational workforce. By embracing generational differences, fostering intergenerational collaboration, customizing coaching approaches, bridging communication gaps, and fostering a culture of inclusion, leaders can activate the collective potential of the multi-generational workforce. This not only enhances team performance and innovation but also creates a positive and engaging work environment for all employees.

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?

Emotional intelligence is indeed crucial for effective leadership. Here are two steps that every leader can take to demonstrate a higher level of emotional intelligence:

1. Enhance Self-Awareness: Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence. Leaders can develop self-awareness by regularly reflecting on their emotions, thoughts, and reactions in different situations. They can ask themselves questions like “How am I feeling right now?” or “What triggered this emotional response?” By understanding their own emotional patterns and triggers, leaders can gain better control over their emotions and responses. They can also seek feedback from trusted colleagues or engage in self-assessment tools to gain deeper insights into their strengths and areas for improvement.

2. Practice Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Leaders can demonstrate empathy by actively listening and showing genuine interest in the perspectives and emotions of their team members. They can put themselves in others’ shoes and try to understand their experiences, challenges, and needs. Leaders can create a supportive and inclusive environment by acknowledging and validating others’ emotions, providing emotional support when needed, and offering constructive feedback with empathy. By practicing empathy, leaders foster stronger relationships, enhance team morale, and promote collaboration.

By consistently practicing self-awareness and empathy, leaders can demonstrate a higher level of emotional intelligence. These steps not only contribute to effective leadership but also create a positive and emotionally intelligent organizational culture where individuals feel valued, understood, and supported.

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

In the process of creating a new leadership language, there are several important words that leaders should prioritize in their communication. Here are some of the most important words for leaders to use now:

1. Collaboration: Emphasizing collaboration sends a message that leaders value teamwork and collective effort. By using words like “let’s work together” or “we can achieve this by collaborating,” leaders encourage a sense of unity and cooperation among team members. This promotes a culture of inclusivity and fosters a collaborative mindset within the organization.

2. Empowerment: Leaders should use words that empower their team members, such as “I trust your judgment” or “you have the autonomy to make decisions.” By conveying trust and confidence in their team’s abilities, leaders encourage individual growth and ownership. Empowerment inspires team members to take initiative, be creative, and contribute their best ideas and efforts.

3. Growth: Encouraging a growth mindset is essential for continuous improvement and innovation. Leaders can use words like “learning opportunities,” “personal development,” or “growth potential” to communicate their commitment to ongoing learning and development. This cultivates an environment where individuals are motivated to expand their skills, embrace challenges, and view setbacks as learning experiences.

4. Appreciation: Recognizing and appreciating the contributions of team members is vital for building morale and fostering a positive work environment. Leaders should use words of appreciation such as “thank you,” “well done,” or “great job” to acknowledge the efforts and achievements of individuals and teams. By expressing gratitude, leaders reinforce a culture of recognition and reinforce the value of their team’s contributions.

5. Adaptability: In today’s rapidly changing world, leaders must emphasize adaptability and flexibility. Words like “adapt,” “flexible,” or “nimble” convey the importance of being open to change and willing to embrace new ideas and approaches. This encourages a mindset that is responsive to evolving circumstances and promotes resilience in the face of challenges.

By incorporating these important words into their leadership language, leaders can effectively communicate their values, inspire their teams, and foster a culture of collaboration, empowerment, growth, appreciation, and adaptability.

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

Certainly! One of my favorite life lesson quotes is from Judge Lynn Toler: “If I waited until I had all my ducks in a row, I’d never get across the street. Sometimes you just have to gather up what you’ve got and make a run for it.”

This quote resonates with me on a personal level because it reminds me of the importance of taking action, even when circumstances are not perfect or when I may feel unprepared. It highlights the notion that waiting for the perfect moment or having everything perfectly lined up can often lead to missed opportunities or stagnation.

In my own life, I have often found myself hesitating to pursue certain goals or aspirations because I felt that I needed more time, more resources, or more knowledge. However, I’ve come to realize that waiting for all the ducks to be in a row can be an endless and fruitless pursuit.

This quote has served as a powerful reminder that sometimes, it’s necessary to gather up what I have, even if it’s not ideal, and take a leap of faith. It encourages me to embrace a mindset of adaptability and resilience, understanding that I can learn and course-correct along the way.

By embracing the idea of making a run for it with what I have, I have been able to pursue new opportunities, start ventures, and achieve personal and professional growth. It has taught me that taking action and being willing to embrace the unknown can lead to remarkable experiences and outcomes that I may not have otherwise encountered.

Ultimately, Judge Lynn Toler’s quote has been a source of inspiration, pushing me to step out of my comfort zone and embrace the uncertainties of life. It has taught me that sometimes, the greatest rewards come from taking bold and courageous steps forward, even when all the ducks are not neatly in a row.

When I was at that crossroads 36 months ago and decided not to end my life and to make my life worth living and “go” for every dream I’d ever had, that was the first quote that I saw. And I’ve been running ever since :).

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