Understand that people are not broken and don’t need fixing.

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 Jean Radeztsky.

Jean has worked with small startup companies to fortune 50 organizations, both in the public and private sector. She has held strategic Human Resources and Organization Development roles for such organizations as Best Buy, The Sheraton Hotel Corporation, Knott’s Camp Snoopy in the Mall of America, Lifetouch National School Studios, Allianz Life Insurance Company and Medica to name a few. In addition, Jean formerly served as Board Chair for The Firefly Sisterhood and past Human Resources Committee Chair for the Brain Injury Alliance of Minnesota.

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 don’t think there was one defining moment, rather many observations of bad leadership that made me hope that I would not lead/manage in that particular way. However; a moment that I still talk about almost 20 years later was a time when I was mad, angry and just needed to vent. I went into my manager’s office and said “I’m so angry (I don’t remember about what) and I need to vent” He sat back in his chair and said “I want to give you my full attention. I’m in the middle of something right now, can you come back in 15 minutes?” I did. When I came back, he turned off his computer, put his phone on DND, cleared his desk and listened, truly listened. When I was done, he asked if I felt better and if I was ready for feedback. I told him I wasn’t at that point, and he said, “okay, let me know when you are and we’ll talk further”

I left that meeting feeling heard, cared for and thought, wow, he’s a really good leader. I’ve carried this experience into my own leadership style and my clients have appreciated it and some have incorporated it into their style.

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’m not sure that I agree with “knows the way”, rather someone who will go on the journey along with their team. A leader may know the desired outcome, and may not be 100% sure how to get there. However, a true leader does take the lead to go into the uncharted territory and learn along with their team. I am on the same journey with each of my clients. If they “win” I win, if they have a setback, I have a setback. We celebrate the wins together and learn and move forward for the setbacks.

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

If a “manager” has a team of people, they become a leader by the nature of the role. This doesn’t mean a good or bad leader, rather they are the person in charge and their team follows their example. Say, if a manager is a taskmaster, micro manager, his/her team members will follow that lead and become very task and deadline oriented, that stifles creativity and innovation.

Leader as a coach encourages creativity and innovation. This leader explains the Why and What of a particular project and lets the team members determine the How. However, this leader is also involved with ensuring the team is on track with the project, available for question and guidance/suggestions — the go along on the journey with the team. If the team is off track, the leader helps get them back on track.

I’m working with a leader right now, who is a tactical, process driven person by nature, we are working for him to be more of a visionary leader, more strategic. He’s come a long way, but, in our last coaching meeting, he admitted that he fell back into his old habits. He was meeting with this team, and he got into the details of problem solving. He realized this and asked his team for a quick time out. He came back, apologized and said he wants these meetings to be strategic and he got into the details. He then redirected the meeting to strategy.

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?

For coaching to work, the leader HAS to believe and want coaching. If it’s forced, it won’t work.

The leader needs to be humble, have self-awareness, have an idea of what they want to accomplish, however, rarely does the desired outcome remain the same as we get into the coaching.

Listening skills — listening without judgment, and listening to listen not listening to respond. There are often times as a coach the answer is clear to me, but my client hasn’t gotten there yet. A good coach will listen, ask questions and be patient for the client (coachee) to find their own solution.

Coaching is hard, it names behaviors that get in the way, the Coach has to be open to healthy tension in the coaching relationship.

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?

Not everyone is coachable. Before I take on a client, I have a conversation with them about why they might/might not want coaching. Those that don’t want it, I ask about why? What is their impression of coaching?

Some people have had bad experiences with coaching, others don’t understand what coaching is. There are a number of reasons why people may not want coaching, it’s my job to find out why. It’s not my job to convince people to be coached, rather help them understand

I’m coaching an Executive Team right now. The CFO will be retiring in the next couple of years and simply doesn’t see the point. My conversation with her was that there is a new President, and newly named Executive Team members and it’s the desire of the President that the whole Executive Team grows together. While she still doesn’t see the point, she did agree to begin the process (via assessment) and then we’ll discuss further.

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 people work towards their values and/or strengths, they will do their best work. Marcus Buckingham in this book, “Now Discover Your Strengths” says something like “I’m not good at algebra, I don’t like algebra, please don’t give me a job where I have to do algebra.” (I personally resonate with this).

I use the Hogan Assessments in my Executive Coaching. One of the assessments measures Motives & Values (among other things) When people are working with and/or using their values, they are working in their “Bright Side Personality” when those Motives & Values are challenged, they work in their “Dark Side Personality” But, not everyone has the same motives & values and if we only focus on ours, conflict can arise.

For example — one value that is measured in the Hogan Assessment is Tradition — valuing the history of the organization, the hierarchy, the rules/policies. I was working with a General Manager of a Country Club, who wasn’t getting along with the Board. The Board is made up of members. This General Manager had very low Tradition on his Hogan Assessment. We talked about this at length. This country club is known as one the first Country Clubs in Los Angeles that was open to Jewish members. The game of golf is based on Tradition, their website was focused on the history and tradition of the Country Club, yet this General Manager did not value Tradition. This was very eye-opening to this General Manager and we worked to help him listen and understand the value of tradition that the Board desired. While he may not ever value Tradition, he now takes a different approach to change, and uses the Club’s history with his messaging.

The Top 5 Ways that Leaders and Manager can be effective coaches:

  1. Listen to hear, not to respond.
  2. Ask compelling questions.
  3. Understand that people are not broken and don’t need fixing.
  4. Collaborate on development.
  5. Understand where your coachee is coming from.

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?

A multigenerational workforce is not new. There have always been layers of generations in the workforce. The actual “coaching” of the varied generations doesn’t change — if people want to be developed, they want to be developed. A good coach will realize this and not categorize people by their generation, rather as individuals.

How the “coaching” is delivered is what has changed. COVID has taught us that using technology and meeting virtual works. However, I’m working with people who want to meet face-to-face. While others are only virtual. AI and the meta-verse will soon be part of our world. If we want to be effective, we need to stay on top of technology and meet our clients where they are at.

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?

  1. Listen to hear, not to speak and/or respond.
  2. It’s not your job to solve the problem, answer the question — rather listen, ask compelling questions and help the coachee find their answer.

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

Creating healthy tension — what will hold people and teams back is “groupthink” We need to respectfully disagree, add our point of view, discuss and come up with a win-win.

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

“Clear is Kind, Unclear is Unkind” Brene Brown

Just this week, I had visitors, one who happens to work in Employee Relations. She was working with an employee & manager. The employee was given the option to leave the company (due to poor performance) and take a small severance, or to be put on the Performance Plan.

The employee decided to stay — the manager was asked to put together a performance plan. When s/he did I asked “what does good look like at the end?” Neither my visitors or the manager had an answer. I then asked, how can this employee be successful if s/he doesn’t even know what’s expected? I also asked what the employee thinks s/he can do, and what help s/he may need to be successful. Again, neither had a response — needless to say, they went back to the beginning and developed a collaborative plan, with clear and achievable expectations.

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?

My LinkedIn Account https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeanradeztsky/ and my company LinkedIn Avail Coaching & Consulting.

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