Be open-minded. Everyone is different and thinks differently. There are many ways to get to the solution. As a leader and manager, you need to guide your team to the final outcome. As a leader, you have to make sure work gets done and projects get completed. Yes, it’s important to set high standards, but be open-minded about how you accomplish the task.

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 Felipe Zambrano.

Felipe Zambrano has over 14 years of experience in helping companies become more efficient. He’s worked from Fortune 500 companies to startups and works with senior management to drive change in their organizations through management, mindset, and leadership growth.

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’ve always been drawn to learning about history and following the path of great leaders that have changed the world. As a result, I love reading biographies, for example, Nelson Mandela, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln.

All these great men learned to listen first before expressing or communicating their vision. They wanted to understand first. From Nelson Mandela’s father, who in his tribe let everyone else speak first as he spoke last, to Abraham Lincoln bringing into his cabinet people that were of opposing views. This taught me that you learn more by listening, rather than expressing your opinion.

I think in this day and age everyone wants to have their say, to speak up, and to be heard. I think listening and learning to stay quiet and wait for the right moment have helped me grow as a leader. I’ve learned to understand and try to learn about people’s issues first. Even if I’m the person that makes the final decision on things, it makes a big difference in having everyone speak their voice and opinion.

It’s difficult to be patient and hold my tongue, but it has greatly improved my effectiveness as a leader.

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 live that quote every day. It’s about practicing what you preach. You have to have faith, courage, belief, and perseverance. That sentence is so strong, it resonates in different ways. In the first section, I see myself doing research, understanding, going to seminars, and learning. Knowledge is power.

“Going the way” is definitely critical. How can someone do what you want them to do if you’re not able to step up and lead by example? This is something I live by. I wouldn’t put anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.

“Shows the way” I think is the rewarding part of being a leader. Helping others grow and develop, to help them in their own struggles, to overcome their own mountains. This is one of the most fulfilling parts of being a leader. It fills me to pay it forward, and be the person I wish I had wanted to have when I was in their shoes.

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

A leader as a manager I think has to have their professional hat on. I think that the main goal of a leader is how do you get the work done, but also to help develop your team to grow and be more successful.

Being a leader as a coach is very different. In this case, you must support your client accomplish the goals that they set out for themselves., It’s important to hear more of what they have to say. How I personally coach is I listen to my client, understand where they are coming from, and provide suggestions and alternatives for them to try in order to improve. This can be in their personal or professional life. I believe this is broader than leadership 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?

I think that it’s extremely important to listen. Learn to read and understand your employees. Learn to know what motivates them, and what are their biggest challenges, and then tailor your communication and leadership strategy to them.

Another skill is to be open-minded. Be open to trying different alternatives to get to the end goal. In the end, it’s important to have employees be on board, and this is critical for execution.

I’ve learned that asking questions is essential. It’s not about finding holes in the suggestions your team has shared, but rather helping them overcome potential roadblocks. As a leader help them see the way. I believe it was Brian Holiday, I’m not so sure who said, “Be more like Yoda, and less like Superman”. In the end, you want to empower them to succeed.

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 I constantly focus on growing and improving my own skills, I’ve learned that it’s good to tell stories, or show others. It’s easier when you show someone what can be done, or how you’ve overcome a similar issue that they are facing, and that sparks the idea to change or to want to improve.

As a famous book by Marshall Goldsmith goes “What got you here won’t get you there”, and Jeff Bezos said, “Don’t look at what’s in front of you, think of what’s around the corner”.

I’ve learned to show stories of success and inspiration to help others overcome. When we compare ourselves to great men in history, we change our belief of what we can and can’t do. I often share the story of how Walt Disney failed numerous times before becoming successful, and how Jeff Bezos used to take his own books in his van to the post office. We all start somewhere, but we need to keep growing.

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?”

  1. Put it on paper. Set clear goals, by when they need to be completed, and what steps you need to make to complete the goal. You need accountability. This is critical because if goals aren’t written down the deadline is ambiguous. I recommend my clients use applications where they can set deadlines for themselves. I use Todoist because it’s synced across my computer and my mobile. Here is. Where I track everything, I need to do, as well as when others need to provide deliverables for me to move forward.
  2. Remove interruptions and distractions. Studies show that our attention span now sadly is less than that of a goldfish. You have to be focused to work and accomplish those deliverables or goals. Distraction is the biggest detractor to productivity. Put your phone on silent, or just allocate time. Earl Nightingale tells of a story where a salesman went to see a farmer on a farm and the phone rang. It rang multiple times, and then the salesman said “Aren’t you going to answer?” and the farmer stated, “The phone is there for when I choose to answer, not the other way around”. Set expectations for your team on what’s important.
  3. Be open-minded. Everyone is different and thinks differently. There are many ways to get to the solution. As a leader and manager, you need to guide your team to the final outcome. As a leader, you have to make sure work gets done and projects get completed. Yes, it’s important to set high standards, but be open-minded about how you accomplish the task.

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 think first off, that knowledge is power. I think it helps to do research on generations and their work style or general ideas and behaviors. Remember that this is only a starting point. From there it’s important to learn more about the behavior of your multi-generational team.

As a leader or manager, it’s important to communicate the importance of meeting goals and setting quality and deadline expectations to the team. While it is critical to be knowledgeable to understand what makes each generational member “tick”, they must also understand the business deadlines and goals, and how they must work together to succeed and deliver.

I think a critical aspect of multigenerational teams is to understand how each generation communicates and interacts, not only with their own generation but with others, and what is their preferred method of communication and feedback. With that said as a manager or leader in your organization, you should try to include those methods, to make sure that you are communicating effectively with your entire team. You might have to alter your communication methods to be more effective.

Tony Robbins shared a story of how someone can say “I love you”, by yelling and screaming, or in another language. The person receiving the information can be shocked and negatively affected by how the person expressed themselves. This shows why it’s essential to communicate in a way that those who are receiving the information understand it according to how they think and rationalize.

I believe through understanding how each member prefers to communicate and tailoring the communication channels will help managers communicate effectively with their 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?

I think the first step comes from learning. Take courses, watch videos, and read books. Expose yourself to those who are experts in that realm, to learn what you should be looking out for. The second step is to stop and listen. Speak less and learn to listen. By paying attention to others, you are bound to pick up things you hadn’t noticed previously. How do people react in certain situations. Verbal and nonverbal cues.

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

The first word that came to mind was empowering. Empower your team members to challenge themselves to higher and more challenging projects. Help build them up. Another word is “listen”. Listen to your team, speak less, and your team will learn to value you as a leader/manager. The last word is “transparency”. Be open to feedback, and give feedback. Express yourself as a leader. Don’t leave things unsaid. Have those hard conversations, and be ready to receive them as well. This will eliminate “elephants in the room”, and will make the team more productive.

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

My favorite quote is “Live as if it were impossible to fail” by Florence Scovel Shinn. It helps me be bold, overcome, try, and challenge myself. It reminds me of being a child, not being set by boundaries or expectations. Question everything.

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?

I’d love to help anyone on their path to growth and development. They can email me at [email protected].

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