Give your team the tools that they need to succeed. Sometimes, even as a leader, you don’t know every single tool or trick in the book to help your employees. Oftentimes though, they know!
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 of interviewing Emily Fata.
Emily is the Group Account Director at Statement Strategies Ltd.
She is a marketing strategist, PR consultant, project manager and copywriter. Emily specializes in targeted marketing and grassroots promotions for technology, entertainment and lifestyle clients across the globe. Currently, she sits on the board of directors of Women in Animation Vancouver, where she leads a PR and social media management mentorship program. She also sits on the Board of Directors for the Algonquin Arts Council as their Marketing and Communications Lead.
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?
Thanks so much for having me again! It’s a pleasure to chat with you.
I’d have to say that the most defining moment, where I truly realized I was in a leadership role, was when I was forced to lead. Not just give advice or review the work of my colleagues, but to actually shape and guide them to being better — better at their jobs, better at being efficient, better at problem-solving and better at having fun doing what they do.
There was a moment when I had to sit down with an employee and help them to figure out where the gaps were and to help them improve at their job. It was during that meeting that I found myself thinking, “Oh wow, I actually have a responsibility to help people grow in their careers, and they are keen on listening to what I have to say.”
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 team leader, you can’t be above jumping in to do some of the grunt work yourself. Whether it’s walking your employees through how to do something on a video call to see how it’s done, hopping in and helping team members get tasks done that they are over-burdened with (don’t forget that things often pile up and that there are only so many hours in the day!), or even something as simple as checking in regularly to ask, “How are things going? Do you need help with anything? Is there anything stressing you out today that I can help alleviate?”
I actually learned this from my boss and leader, mentor, and — most importantly — my friend, Matthew Celestial, who is Statement Strategies’ Executive Director.
How do you define the differences between a leader as a manager and a leader as a coach?
A leader as a manager can be overbearing, micro-managing and mostly concerned about results over anything else — including the well-being of their employees. There is often little to no guidance, yet lofty expectations of the results that they want their team to produce. Unfortunately, I’ve worked with folks like this in the past, and it’s extremely difficult to understand what you are to accomplish and how you’ll best be able to do so.
While I firmly believe that everyone should take self-initiative and be willing to learn and grow in their job, the refusal or lack of regard to set someone up for success can be detrimental. There’s only so much a person can do without training or guidance, after all!
That said, by contrast, a leader as a coach is someone who guides their team to success and sets them up to win, rather than to struggle and, quite potentially, fail. These people check in with their team, offer constructive criticism and treat everyone with respect while simultaneously building them up to perform at their best.
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?
Patience with yourself and your team is a big factor. As well, a willingness to learn how to improve, taking constructive criticism from your colleagues and making a genuine effort to be a better coach. Without the desire to be better and lead, you’re not even allowing yourself to be a better leader. Plus, a lack of desire means you’re not really interested in being a better leader, and that will be evident in your coaching style (and thus, to the team that works with you).
Lack of initiative on your part will often result in a lack of initiative on the part of your team. Oftentimes, we feed off of one another; however, as a leader, it’s our job to set the tone and be an example of how we want everyone to act, and typically, the rest will follow suit.
That said, talking with other people who lead a team, as well as taking courses online or in-person, can be a huge help in finding your management style and helping your team perform at their optimal capabilities.
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?
When people invest in upskilling and reskilling, they’re rewarded for it in all kinds of ways. I find that making people aware of the benefits of doing so encourages them to actively work towards improving themselves within their current position.
There’s the self-satisfaction, of knowing that you’re producing work that you can be proud of and are more than happy to attribute your name to. With that comes the ability to have heightened confidence in your abilities and the development of translatable skills that will apply across your job to different tasks that you will now be able to complete with more accuracy and efficiency.
As well, focusing on upskilling and reskilling enables you to expand your portfolio and résumé, making you a more valuable and indispensable team member within the organization that you work for. Having a broader set of skills and the confidence and effectiveness that comes with it allows you to have more to use to your benefit when it comes to negotiating an increase to your salary. Not to mention increasing your chances for growth within the company (and perhaps even outside of the company, if you so choose), to offer opportunities to build your career even further.
It really is a win-win for both you an employee and your employer, alike.
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 Leaders and Managers Can Be Effective Coaches?”
While someone has to want to do their best and produce their best work, as an effective leader, you have the capability — and the responsibility — to set them up for success and hype them up to their peak performance. Some ways I personally do this include:
- Determine what your team members’ long-term goals are. Getting clear on what your team’s expectations are for the future can help you determine how they can best flourish within their current role; it also helps you figure out how to help them grow as an employee and reach their goals, so that they can grow within the company and, in turn, help the company thrive.
Once you are aware of their goals, use this knowledge to create the best course of action to get them from Point A to Point B, improving the way they complete tasks within their current role while setting them up for success to do even more in a potential future role. Always keep in mind the mentality of growth while building a group of people who are loyal to the company, as well as you as a leader.
2. Ask your team what they need to do their job to the best of their abilities. While being on the metaphorical frontlines of the position enables you as a leader to have a generally good idea of what is needed to execute a job well, the fact remains that everyone is different.
Sit down and talk to your team about what they need to best perform their tasks. It might be spending a little more time on one project over another, as opposed to equal time allocated across the board. Perhaps it’s working more as a group on certain tasks and individually on other assignments. Maybe it’s working an extra couple of hours Monday through Thursday to have Fridays off.
Of course, different adjustments can be made to different roles and not one specific ‘solution’ will work for every person (nor for every job description). Assess what is doable and what would be beneficial together with each individual team member, and then go from there.
3. Give your team the tools that they need to succeed. Sometimes, even as a leader, you don’t know every single tool or trick in the book to help your employees. Oftentimes though, they know!
Maybe it’s a company subscription to a program that can help them be more efficient with their work production or time management or maybe it’s sitting down with them to have a training session on how to better use a tool that everyone already has access to. Regardless of what it might be, keeping an open line of communication on how you can all work together to take advantage of the options available is critical to the organization’s growth and success.
4. Work with your team to figure out (and fix) the gaps withholding them from thriving in their current role. While acknowledging and working through holes in your overall workflow, such as helpful online tools or partnering up on particular projects can be very useful, other potential gaps also need to be acknowledged and addressed. Things like time management and task prioritization, skill development, punctuality or even co-workers not holding up to their responsibilities — which, in turn, can affect another employee’s work — can eventually be detrimental to a company’s success and ability to create an upward growth trend.
5. Check-in with your team members to ensure that they are continuing to flourish (and find opportunities to grow them even further). Even when it seems like everything is going well amongst your team and that all tasks are being completed in a timely and efficient manner, that doesn’t mean that you can sit back, kick up your feet and call it a day. It’s so important to check in with your employees to see if they’re missing anything, are struggling with anything in particular or have finished all their tasks and are doing nothing, rather than actively reaching out to you for more assignments to work on.
Creating a space for them to feel comfortable approaching you is an ongoing process, one that can best be encouraged through an open-door policy.
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?
Having worked in multi-generational workforces for years, I have found it to be incredibly important for the varying age groups to recognize that they all have something to contribute and, likewise, all have something to learn from one another. The older generations have skills that only come with having the lived, first-hand experience acquired from years of being in the industry. The younger generation often can help contribute to the growth of incorporating technology into the role and, consequently, being more efficient with time and resources.
Instead of butting heads or feeling like you are too different to work cohesively, stop and hear one another out. You’ll undoubtedly learn something new!
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 so big when it comes to being an effective leader, both for employees as well as for yourself. Strong, trustworthy business relationships, including those with your employees, can be developed amongst team members by leaders with high emotional intelligence. They can also establish cultures that are both positive and productive.
Two things I would suggest are:
- Practicing self-awareness: The ability to identify and comprehend one’s own feelings (being self-aware) is one of the essential elements of emotional intelligence; by introspecting into their own emotional states and being open about their emotions with both themselves and with others, leaders can show a better level of emotional intelligence. Setting aside time to do so, and being receptive to team members’ input, can help with this.
- Showing empathy: Empathy, or the capacity to comprehend and empathize with another person’s feelings, is another crucial component of emotional intelligence. By actively listening to team members and displaying a genuine concern for their well-being, leaders can show a better level of emotional intelligence. When communicating with team members, this can entail being totally present and involved, asking probing questions and demonstrating empathy and support.
Leaders can foster a more positive and collaborative work atmosphere and forge closer bonds with team members by cultivating self-awareness and demonstrating empathy.
Words matter and we’re collectively creating a new leadership language right now. What are the most important words for leaders to use now?
While the context can differ between people, industries, over-arching goals and other factors, there are a few keywords that I like to incorporate into my language when speaking with my team.
- “We”: You’re a team and, regardless of where you fall within the literal or metaphorical assembly line, you’re all responsible for creating a final product that you’re all proud to put your names on. Thus, taking shared responsibility, especially as the group leader, is crucial. We are all responsible and accountable, so try to push the blame off on one particular person as little as possible (it negatively impacts morale).
- “Opportunity”: There are so many opportunities to succeed, grow and improve, and they should be framed as such. Instead of saying, “You did an average or passable job on this project; try to do better next time” or reminding employees that “if you want to move up the ranks within the company, you have to exhibit your value,” present them as opportunities — because that’s what they are! “We have an incredible opportunity to really knock the ball out of the park with this project! What do you think we can do to exceed our client’s/customer’s expectations?” or “You’ve been doing amazing work lately and really have an opportunity to continue growing within the company. I’d love to see how you can continue to bring even more value to our team!”
- “Thank you”: It’s so simple and perhaps even obvious, but thanking your team for their efforts can go such a long way. Showing your gratitude and giving them words of encouragement, including praising them when they truly did a job well done, can give people that morale boost they need to continue producing great results and feel genuinely appreciated and happy in their job and with the company.
I keep inspiring quotes on my desk. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote,” and why does it mean so much to you?
“Awake and unafraid” is a line from my favorite song, “Famous Last Words” by My Chemical Romance and it is hands down my favorite quote.
Generally speaking, not just in the context of leadership (though it can certainly be applied to the topic of leadership, as well), being aware and present in our lives is critical. Being unafraid of what is to come and facing things head-on is even more paramount.
Our readers often like to continue the conversation. What’s the best way for readers to connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering? How can our readers follow you online?
I’d love to continue the conversation with readers! You can find us on our website, www.StatementWorldwide.com, as well as on social media:
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/statementstrategies/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/statementstrategiesltd/
- Twitter (main): https://www.twitter.com/statementltd/
- Twitter (STATE OF MIND by Statement Strategies Ltd.): https://www.twitter.com/statementstrtgz/
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/statement-strategies-ltd/
My personal social media handles can be found here:
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/emulatingemily/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/emilymfata/
- Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/emmichellefata/
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/emfata/
I’m accessible by DM on any of our social sites, as well as via email at: [email protected].
Thank you for a meaningful conversation. We wish you continued success with your mission.