Mindfulness and awareness– Furthermore, mindfulness can help us develop a higher level of awareness about ourselves and others, leading to healthier and more productive ways of working.

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 Diana Poulsen.

Diana Poulsen is an HR & Organizational Development Consultant, Leadership Coach, and the Founder of Elate Projects ( www.elate.dk ), a company dedicated to bringing balance to organizations and supporting conscious leadership. Diana’s corporate experience in service-based companies, combined with her seven years of coaching and mentoring individuals and groups, has given her a unique perspective on leadership. However, she attributes her transformations as the primary contributor to her growth as a person and a leader.

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 believe that growth is not something that happens in just one moment but rather a continuous process. I have always been focused on growth and development. I have experienced many changes in my life, both internally and externally, as I have evolved as a person and a leader. Through this process, I have gained greater awareness, compassion, trust in my vision, strategic understanding, and the ability to guide and direct others through any challenge. These experiences have helped shape me into the leader I am today.

But if I could emphasize one thing, it would be believing in something greater than myself. It has given me a sense of purpose and direction and has helped me stay grounded and focused on the bigger picture. Whether it’s a personal goal or a team objective, firmly believing in something beyond myself has motivated me to embrace the challenges and stay committed to the path.

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?

What a beautiful saying. I want to add that knowing yourself as a leader is also important.

I believe that leadership starts from personal leadership; if we don’t know ourselves, our wounds, our stories, and our limitations as much as our strengths, our gifts, and our purpose, how can we lead others? If we are not compassionate towards ourselves, how can we be compassionate towards others?

Knowing the way is as important as knowing ourselves; once we know ourselves, we can not only show the way but also invite others to become an active part of the way, and this is where collaboration comes forward.

As a leader, I prioritize personal leadership and 360-degree awareness of myself, allowing me to have a quick overview of any situation, problem, people involvement, and team dynamics, and this enables me to know the way that includes all stakeholders and resources, walk the way and show it to others.

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

Even labels usually depend on the context; I will try to generalize here. A leader as a manager is primarily focused on tasks and processes and sees employees as resources that need to be allocated in a specific way to meet company goals. This type of leader typically has a top-down approach to management.

On the other hand, a leader as a coach takes a more holistic approach to working with team members. They focus on understanding each team member’s unique personality traits and motivations and work to make each member feel like an essential part of the bigger picture. The focus is on collaboration and teamwork which comes in balance with achieving specific tasks or goals.

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 should possess diverse skills and competencies to become exceptional coaches. But first and foremost, they need to know themselves. Knowing themselves means they need to understand their emotional wounds, limiting childhood stories, emotional triggers, true and false personality traits, true motivation, nervous system capacity, imbalanced states, and deepest fears. Leaders can gain a more comprehensive perspective on team management by becoming aware of their patterns and developing emotional intelligence.

Additionally, maintaining a clear vision and trusting their inner wisdom allows them to balance organizational goals with employee motivation. At the same time, the ability to inspire teamwork helps to establish a collaborative and successful team.

In my opinion, essential skills and competencies include the following:

  • a willingness to get uncomfortable with one’s own stories, wounds, and emotions,
  • emotional intelligence,
  • a holistic overview,
  • knowing a higher purpose and vision,
  • mindful listening,
  • openness and adaptability,
  • clarity of the mind,
  • compassion and understanding,
  • an ability to unite tangible and intangible parts within oneself, people, and organization,
  • an ability to motivate each team member,
  • an ability to balance organizational needs and employee motivation.

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?

Inspiring leaders to invest in upskilling and reskilling is about emphasizing such efforts’ benefits and positive outcomes. Rather than mandating these actions, it’s important to highlight how these skills will enhance their leadership abilities and bring value to their teams and organizations.

By framing these opportunities as a way to improve their skills and competencies, leaders are more likely to be receptive and motivated to invest in their development. Personalized coaching and support can help leaders feel empowered to take the necessary steps to upskill and reskill. Ultimately, it’s about creating a culture that values growth and development and inspiring leaders to see the value in investing in themselves and their teams.

In my experience coaching and consulting leaders, I’ve found that it’s much easier and faster to bring about positive change if they truly understand the benefits of transformation.

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?”

When I coach a leader to do their best work, I use the inner union model, which I developed after years of coaching and mentoring. I start by aligning their inner vision and values. Then we explore old emotional wounds and stories, build relationships with one’s passive and active sides, and begin cultivating compassion for ourselves and others.

After the initial internal work, the same model and understanding can be applied to each individual, team, and organization. By focusing on the most imbalanced parts of a group or organization and making it whole, we can create a culture of resilience better equipped to handle fast-paced environments, global changes, and market fluctuations.

Top 5 Ways That Leaders and Managers Can Be Effective Coaches

  1. Take radical responsibility for your personal growth.

Taking radical responsibility for your personal growth is a transformative journey requiring much commitment and self-reflection. Examining your mental constructs, emotional inner world, physical reactions, nervous system balance, and spiritual influences can be challenging, but the benefits are immeasurable.

By doing this work, you can gain a newfound clarity of mind, emotional awareness, and the ability to perform at your best for the long term. This deep self-awareness can also help you find your higher purpose and motivation and give you the skills to coach, motivate, and inspire others without control or pressure.

When grounded in your personal growth, you can more effectively guide others toward success with compassion and empathy.

So, I invite leaders to embrace the radical responsibility of self-growth, even when it may be challenging. The rewards are worth it, and you will emerge as a more confident and compassionate leader, coach, or manager.

It’s not uncommon for past experiences to shape our behavior and beliefs, which can significantly impact our personal growth and development. For example, someone who may have felt undervalued as a child may have developed a pattern of attaching their self-worth to external achievements, leading them to work with an unregulated nervous system and push themselves too hard out of fear of not being good enough.

This pattern can also manifest in their leadership style, which tends to control and command out of fear of facing old childhood wounds and vulnerability. However, by doing the inner work to recognize and understand their inner child, they can allow their nervous system to be more at ease and feel more relaxed and confident in themselves.

This newfound self-awareness can lead to a more compassionate leadership style that invites everyone to be true to themselves and contribute to the company’s goals in their best skills and abilities. Creating a team culture that values personal growth and development can lead to long-term engagement, motivation, and productivity.

2. Understand Your People.

Understanding yourself is the first step to relating to your team on a deeper level. Knowing their patterns, habits, and motivation can help you coach them effectively.

Personal development tools and systems can help you discover your motivations and fears. I usually work with Enneagram and Human Design personal development system with leaders and teams. The enneagram system is beneficial for team building, as it is easy to understand and help identify individuals who may be better suited for different positions within the company. By understanding your true desires and values, you can help guide your team toward success while ensuring they feel aligned with their work.

For instance, a high achiever may always strive for the best results and achieve goals, but it may take time to realize what they truly want to do. By going through the self-development path, they may discover that their current career path is not for them and may feel unhappy with their work. So, it’s essential to listen and coach them to a different position within the company where they can feel more aligned with their true desires and values.

Let’s consider another scenario where a team member is a perfectionist, always striving to do things correctly. But perfectionism can sometimes hinder compassion towards oneself and others. As a good leader, it’s crucial to coach this individual toward finding the balance between perfect performance and flexible, people-friendly views. Encouraging them to cultivate more compassion towards themselves and others can lead to a more harmonious work environment and, ultimately, better results.

It’s worth considering alternative methods, such as Human Design, to better understand the strengths and preferences of team members. By utilizing such systems, leaders can help promote job satisfaction and productivity by assigning tasks that align with the unique strengths of each team member. For example, an employee who thrives in working in creative cycles can be free to explore innovative ideas while having flexible hours, leading to innovation and new products or services. On the other hand, if this employee is disempowered and forced to work a strict 9–5 schedule, they may become stressed or demotivated. It’s crucial to recognize and utilize the individual strengths of each team member to promote a healthy and productive work environment.

Awareness of each team member’s strengths and preferences can lead to extraordinary results for the team and the company.

3. Motivate by Higher Purpose & Vision.

Motivating employees with a higher purpose and vision is very important in today’s world. More and more people seek meaning and fulfillment in their work beyond financial gain or status.

As a leader, it’s essential to understand the higher purpose of the work being done and find unique and specific ways to motivate each team member based on their personality and motivation. For instance, if your company works on solutions to provide better drinking water for people and promote healthier living, this purpose could be emphasized daily. When motivated by a larger purpose, even the most mundane tasks become meaningful, leading to fewer complaints, less conflict, and a more profound sense of unity within the team.

However, it’s also important to recognize that if an employee works for a company that produces products that go against their values, their motivation will never be there, no matter how good the leader or coach may be.

4. Focus on long-lasting employee engagement and performance.

It’s truly inspiring to think about the impact that is focusing on long-lasting employee engagement and performance can have on our companies and society. While short-term goals can provide a temporary boost in performance, our employees’ long-term engagement and commitment will genuinely make a difference in the success and sustainability of our organizations.

As leaders, we must recognize our team members’ deeper needs and desires beyond financial gain or status. Creating a culture of purpose, support, and friendship can inspire our employees to go above and beyond at their work, leading to higher engagement, productivity, and satisfaction.

Investing time in restructuring teams and finding unique ways to motivate each team member based on their personality can pay off in the long run, leading to a more profound sense of unity and commitment within the team.

One example of focusing on long-lasting employee engagement and performance is providing opportunities for growth and development within the company. This can include offering training programs, mentorship opportunities, and career advancement paths. By investing in the growth and development of employees, they are more likely to feel valued and motivated to perform at their best, leading to increased productivity and overall job satisfaction. Additionally, providing regular feedback and recognition for a well-done job can contribute to long-lasting engagement and performance.

I hope there will be more and more companies that survive and thrive by putting our employees’ well-being and long-term engagement at the forefront of our strategies.

5. Practice awareness, openness, and adaptability.

It’s essential to remain aware and adaptable in today’s fast-paced organizational context. With the constant changes that come with working across borders and merging different cultures and organizations, practicing openness and adaptability is crucial for individual employees and the organization. By staying open to feedback and willing to adapt to the diverse range of human resources, we can continuously develop our coaching abilities and stay ahead of the curve. With awareness, openness, and adaptability, we can confidently navigate any challenge that comes our way.

For instance, I have had the opportunity to consult several rapidly expanding remote teams, organizations, and their leaders. One common issue is motivating team members from a distance, ensuring their productivity, and building trust without micromanaging. In such leadership roles, it is beneficial to possess a high level of awareness and the ability to read between the lines. As we work with teams across borders, our interpersonal skills become even more vital, allowing us to quickly understand and connect with people from different cultures and work environments. Additionally, we must remain open-minded to different perspectives and adapt to an ever-changing landscape to effectively lead and guide our teams.

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?

When coaching a multi-generational workforce, a few key considerations must be remembered. I believe it is still essential to take the time to do the inner work and understand ourselves as leaders. This means examining our own beliefs, biases, and assumptions and working to become more self-aware and mindful in our interactions with others.

Then, we can learn about our team’s specific challenges and themes from there. For example, younger workers may have different expectations around work-life balance and flexibility, while older workers may have concerns about job security and retirement planning. By taking the time to understand these differences, we can develop strategies to address them and create a more cohesive and supportive team environment.

Another essential aspect of coaching a multi-generational workforce is focusing on higher purpose and meaning. Research has shown that workers of all ages are more engaged and motivated when they feel their work has a larger purpose or impact.

As leaders, we can help connect our team members to this sense of purpose by emphasizing the importance of their work and its positive impact on customers, the community, or society.

Of course, building a solid and effective team is not a one-night success. It requires a continuous effort to change beliefs, find inspiration, and learn from each other. Encouraging personal growth projects can be helpful in this regard, as can providing opportunities for cross-generational mentoring and collaboration.

Finally, it’s essential to focus on long-term performance and address challenges as they arise. It also means being open, aware, and adaptable as a leader and willing to learn and grow alongside our team members. Following these principles and strategies can create a more supportive, inclusive, and effective multi-generational workforce.

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?

To demonstrate a higher level of emotional intelligence, there are a few steps that every leader can take.

The first step is to take the time to really get to know yourself. This means examining your own beliefs, biases, and assumptions and working to become more self-aware and mindful in your interactions with others. By doing this inner work, you’ll be better equipped to understand and manage your emotions, a crucial component of emotional intelligence.

The second step is to cultivate emotional awareness and compassion. This means developing tools and methods to approach your emotions healthily and being open, compassionate, and understanding with others. By practicing active listening, asking questions, and showing genuine interest in the experiences and perspectives of others, leaders can build stronger relationships and foster a more supportive and inclusive team environment.

By modeling these behaviors, leaders can encourage their team members to develop their emotional intelligence skills, leading to greater success and fulfillment for everyone involved.

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

I would emphasize these words:

  1. Purpose and vision — I believe having a strong sense of purpose and vision is essential to lead and inspire positive change. This means connecting with something greater than oneself and working towards a higher goal that can guide us through challenges and obstacles.
  2. Compassion. Additionally, cultivating compassion towards ourselves and others can help us relate to and guide our teams in a more balanced way.
  3. Mindfulness and awareness– Furthermore, mindfulness can help us develop a higher level of awareness about ourselves and others, leading to healthier and more productive ways of working.
  4. Balance — Striving for balance in all aspects of company culture, from work-life balance to balancing profit with employee motivation, can create sustainable and prosperous organizations.
  5. Union — Finally, cultivating inner union and organization union is a vital aspect of conscious leadership. By embodying peace and cooperation within ourselves, we can inspire and empower our teams and organizations to work towards a better future for all.

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

“You must be the change you want to see in the world,” by Gandhi. It speaks to the idea that actual change starts with oneself, which I have tried to elaborate on during all interviews. Therefore, all my work, teachings, and coaching models come from personal transformations first.

In a leadership context, this means that if leaders want to see positive changes within their organization or the larger global context, they must first embody those changes themselves. This involves being a role model for others to follow, setting a clear example of how to act, and holding oneself accountable for their actions and decisions. By starting with oneself, a leader can inspire and empower team members to embrace positive change and work towards a shared vision of a better future.

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 find me via my Linkedin profile (https://www.linkedin.com/in/diana-poulsen/) follow me on my company’s (www.elate.dk) or personal website (www.dianapoulsen.com).

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