You first need to make sure you have a system to teach. If you ever listen to a press conference, the players always talk about following the coaches’ system. It is the same way in business; as a manager, you must have a document and teachable system.
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 Doogie Levine.
After following the path less taken, Doogie brings over 10 years of management experience from the youth and recreation industry. His unique perspective allows traditional managers to examine their business challenges through the lens of behavior. Doogies’ ability to break down a problem to the root cause allows your business to create lasting solutions. His ultimate goal is to solve your problem the first time and not have to solve it again.
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 identity as a leader began to be shaped when I was a first-time middle manager at a summer camp at 21 years old. I was young, immature, and, honestly, poorly trained for what was expected of me. I had a tough first few weeks with my staff because I believed we could run our unit (150 campers & 30 staff) differently. It didn’t have to be a constant cycle of putting out fires.
So I instilled different standards than what the camp expected. I asked my staff to report to me twice daily on the mundane goings on, in their cabins. I then kept a record of each camper and used it to work with the staff to prepare for what to expect. If we had a kid that would consistently get upset about going swimming, instead of acting surprised when the child got upset and reacting. We put in place specific systems to mitigate or preempt the camper behavior. In reality, I became a structuralist leader who wants to lead from the middle.
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?
Whenever I enter a new experience, I first seek to understand how things are currently done. Then I start seeking to know why it is done that way. This combination allows me to find the right leadership style for the situation, allowing me to adapt to my group’s needs vs. forcing them to adapt to me.
How do you define the differences between a leader as a manager and a leader as a coach?
A manager is an overarching term that encompasses a lot of different behaviors. It can be someone responsible for a specific process or how other people do a task, which requires a particular type of leadership. A leader as a coach is one of those options. A coaching leader is someone who is going to use probing questions and leading questions to guide an employee toward a goal. In addition, they may have to make declarative statements.
A leader as a coach is a subset of a leader as a manager.
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?
To become better at coaching, you first must be okay with imperfection and time. When you choose to coach a person, you have to be okay that they may only get 1% better in 90 days, but after 3,4,5 years, that person will become a star because of exponential growth.
The next step you have to put tools in place. These tools can be in many forms, such as documented in expectations, checklists, scripts, and the like. These are the building blocks for the hard skills you are asking your employees to learn. Then, you have to use them to emulate the standard you expect.
Finally, practice empathy, you have to be able to feel how your employees are progressing. You must understand the outside stressors and do your best to protect them.
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?
I have always had the practice of future setting my employees as a cultural element of employment. In my organization, future setting means meeting regularly, about every three months (depending on engagement), to discuss their long-term professional/life goals. But, again, this is a conversation that has nothing to do with their performance.
For instance, if an employee tells me they have aspirations of starting their own business but don’t know what they want to do. I may take them through a workshop like IKAGI to help them understand their opportunities. Then send them home with homework to research businesses that do what they love. In the next 90 days, we will identify what skills they need to achieve the confidence to start their own business. Then we will spend the remaining skills working on helping them get those skills. Ultimately, I thank you for working so hard for me, and I look forward to partnering with their future business.
Do you know what they do for me? They work extremely hard, gain skills that benefit my business, and recruit others to help grow it. So by focusing entirely on them and their needs, I benefit tremendously.
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?”
I am still determining if I have five ways, which can be highly challenging. If you want to be a great coaching leader.
- You first need to make sure you have a system to teach. If you ever listen to a press conference, the players always talk about following the coaches’ system. It is the same way in business; as a manager, you must have a document and teachable system.
- You need to have an internal emotional check. No matter what people say, business is extremely emotional, and the simplest things can feel very personal. You need to make sure you have a mantra or a process. I like to use the forgiveness framework. For instance, when I was running my second summer camp, I used to have staff come up to me and ask me what are they doing next. This, to me, was a stupid question because I provided them with that information in the form of a schedule. Many managers would scold their employees; however, I instead thought about why they felt they needed to ask; 9 out of 10 times, it was insecurity, so they were looking for reassurance. Therefore, I had to cater my response to them.
- This leads to my third tip coach each employee differently; make sure you cater your leadership style, approach, tools, tactics, etc., to that individual’s personality. Again, this might feel counterintuitive, especially after talking about systems, but if systems are 80%, helping your employees to adapt is the next 10%.
- The following 10% is stepping back and letting your employees fail. This can be hard, but it is much easier to coach someone after they have acknowledged their mistake and taken ownership.
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?
I love the fact that you’re looking at diversity from this perspective. Regarding advice, you need to create different management programs that cater to different types of employees. This means teaching your managers to shift between leadership styles, use multiple techniques, and generally require a higher level of adaptability. To achieve this, you need to do three things:
- Reevaluate what makes a great manager in your organization
- Develop a new employee training program that focuses on adaptability and understanding the importance of finding value
- Delegate higher amounts of authority to your managers so that they can create unique employee experiences.
Now in terms of activating the collective. The discussed steps will encourage people to speak up because they will each feel uniquely valued. The additional pieces will be having the management of all levels become coaches and understand that each of their players (employees) has a correct role. It will be up to them to put their people in the best opportunities to succeed.
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?
Asking questions and pausing are the two best ways to demonstrate emotional intelligence. It is essential to ask a real question based on seeking to understand why something occurred. Not be punitive but to create a resolution.
The reason pausing is so essential is taking the time to think deeply about what information you have and what you will need to move forward. It also provides time to address your emotions and come from a place of logic.
Sometimes it looks like, thank you for sharing, I will need (insert time) to consider what you said. I may have more questions.
These are the two steps I suggest to anyone trying to grow their EQ.
Words matter. And we’re collectively creating a new leadership language right now. What are the most important words for leaders to use now?
Observed, seen, Do I understand correctly? Can you repeat what I just said to me?
I keep inspiring quotes on my desk. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote,” and why does it mean so much to you?
Put yourself out of business before someone else does-Unknown
This quote is excellent, even if you’re on top and the best of the best. There is a reason to keep pushing yourself to be better. The minute you stop getting better, you create an opportunity for yourself to fail.
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?
The best way to stay up on the latest that I’m talking about is by joining my Return on Trust Newsletter on Linkedin or by connecting with me at [email protected]
Thank you for a meaningful conversation. We wish you continued success with your mission.