Passion — Bring forward your emotional intelligence along with your intellectual intelligence.

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 Greg Niederlander.

Greg Niederlander is a fitness and wellness industry insider with more than 30 years of experience who understands how improved human performance translates into improved business performance. With a master’s degree in exercise science and a number of coaching certifications, he is a personal performance specialist who is dedicated to empowering individuals and companies to be well and function optimally.

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?

At one point in my career, my positions (director roles in product and program development) were eliminated from two different companies due to corporate buyouts in less than four years. Both times, the situation was handled in a very dehumanizing manner, which inspired me to become a human-driven corporate leadership coach and to put my intent toward leadership coaching.

I’m a big “be part of the solution” guy. I thought that if I could put myself out there as a leadership coach, I could guide other leaders to handle situations like these in a more humanistic manner.

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?

The most effective leaders lead from the back, empowering team members to take ownership and lead from the front.

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

A manager has a tendency to just jump right to the front of the line and immediately direct, whereas a coach-leader brings forth coaching skills that embody listening and guiding well prior to “directing.

Direction without the proper amount of information doesn’t provide the greatest or best solution. Cutting corners and going straight to directing is dictatorial, and I don’t think a leader wants to be a dictator. If you go straight there and you’re not listening to the other person and trying to collectively look at solutions, that engagement is compromised and the impact of the direction will be less impactful.

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?

Coaches must be well versed in self leadership, team leadership and business leadership skills, which are not all the same thing. Self-leadership skills require competency in the areas of coaching that develop self-awareness of thinking, feeling and acting skills. Team-leadership skills focus on following, guiding and directing. And where it all comes together to drive business performance is with business-leadership coaching, which entails leadership engagement, performance and outcome.

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 try to inspire leaders by pointing out that too many organizations and companies still operate from assumptions about human potential and individual performance that are outdated and unexamined. I make the point that you can “catch more flies” through people-centered leadership that creates the conditions for a humanistic culture, which leads to a thriving organization supported by a positive team member experience.

Those who are falling short put their intent, energy and time into trying to get the most out of their employees or team members — they’re focusing on the “doing” part. In a general sense, my approach comes down to the belief that treating people more like human beings than human doers will provide them an opportunity to bring their best selves forward. Treating people as human doers results in hitting a ceiling. If you engage the human, you bring their potential forward and get more from them, all while they’re happier doing it.

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?”

Inspiring team members to “elevate to great” within the workplace requires people of passion and dedication and leadership that is enthusiastic about their work or cause. Leaders must be a constant source of inspiration and motivation toward a required action or cause.

Leaders and managers need to effectively coach team members in the following 5 areas:

Decisiveness — Be prepared

Clarity — Engage your brain before putting your mouth in gear

Courage — Have your voice

Passion — Bring forward your emotional intelligence along with your intellectual intelligence

Humility — Demonstrate humanness

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?

Team members from all generations share that workplace satisfaction largely hinges on having a sense of purpose and value with an opportunity for growth. It is important for leadership to stress to team members that this is a two-way street. It is not only the company’s responsibility to provide these to its team members, but also the team member’s responsibility to bring forth their purpose, value, and growth in a manner that best serves the company. Finally, regardless of your generation, we must be a cohesive and collaborative team, with a unified focus on people, purpose and performance.

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?

Step 1: Don’t just listen, fully engage and reaffirm to others that they are truly heard.

It’s important to make people feel like they matter from a humanistic perspective, which includes heart and emotion. Convey a sense that, “You matter. What you have to say is important and engaging.” This isn’t from an intellectual level, but from an emotional one. It creates an emotional tether. Most people, throughout the day, don’t have that experience, whether at work, at home or in their community. Most people are just half listening, and it inhibits engagement and connection.

Step 2: Purpose with passion.

Avoid simply thinking it and then acting it. Instead, think it, then feel it before acting. This feel factor is important when engaging a third party in a manner in which what you’re speaking about is bigger than you and them. It has a higher level of purpose, and it has to do with feeling the wellbeing of the company. This creates an emotional connection to the bigger purpose. It’s about putting intentional feeling behind the action. When people can not just think it but feel it, the outcome of the action is more productive.

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

Leadership: We’re all leaders.

Culture: Leadership influences culture.

Connection: Connect to that which is going to create positive outcomes.

Surrender: Let go of what is not going to create positive outcomes.

Transformation: Embracing the newness.

Resilience: Staying the course over time.

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

I love this Theodore Roosevelt quote: “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

In other words, care for the person before you care for what they can do. Care for the person first and then consider what they’re capable of doing second. Meet them where they’re at, shoulder-to-shoulder. The care is the humanism.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!