Eliminate your assumptions. The past, while important to remember, can only inform today, but shouldn’t dictate our decisions. Using our questions will help us find new solutions, utilizing the best of all of those around us.

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 Jim Frawley.

Jim Frawley is the Founder and Principal of Bellwether, a company dedicated to helping organizations and people build resiliency, adapt to change and thrive in rapidly shifting contexts. He is the host of the Bellwether Hub podcast and best-selling author of Adapting in Motion: Finding Your Place in the New Economy, a practical guide to responding to multiple levels of macro change.

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 had a clarity moment when writing a chapter of my book on humility. I initially wrote it, telling people how to be humble and how important it was. I then scrapped it — because I didn’t believe it. I realized I didn’t have a productive or healthy view of what humility was — I often mistook it for being passive and deferential. When I re-wrote it, it was more along the lines of how humility is often misinterpreted; how we can’t use the humility excuse to prevent us from taking ownership of what we accomplish and can do. There is a big alignment with a healthy understanding of humility and pairing it with accountability and ownership — and it completely changed my approach.

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 can’t expect someone to do anything that I wouldn’t do. Most recognize that a leader is a person to be emulated; to be an example that others can follow. We can all think of good leaders that serve as examples for us. The question I pose to myself is, “who would pick me as a leader that served as an example for them?”

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

These are relatable but different. I’d define the difference in relation to the leader — life and managing gets easier when you use a coaching philosophy and approach. 99% of the advice or direction we are given we don’t take — but through coaching it then becomes our own idea, and we can take ownership of it. Applying that thinking to how we manage and teach others allows for external accountability and accomplishment.

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?

There are three. First, strategic planning — we have to understand the efficacy of a big picture and have a realistic view on how to accomplish it. This then informs the second competency, which is executive communications. We have to communicate and articulate that vision so others can take the accountability to push it forward. From there, we need those previous skills to drive part 3: the ability to adapt while in motion; recognizing that change impacts the short term results and be able to make effective decisions in the moment.

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?

Upskilling, reskilling and development shouldn’t be chores — they should be fun. It’s development in yourself and all about you. When we think of it as an opportunity for us to get better — and not something we have to do in order to stay relevant, it becomes much more impactful. We can’t dictate what or how others should develop. We must rather lay the groundwork for them to do the work and gain the benefit.

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. Recognize that it’s not about you — people will do things differently. For coaching to be effective, it has to be about the person being coached … and they need to make the realizations.
  2. Ask really good questions — you don’t need the answers. Most people don’t know the definition of a question, which is a request for information where you don’t know the answer and still want it. We need to eliminate our assumptions and ask really good questions
  3. Remember — you can’t coach someone who doesn’t want to be coached. There is an excellent book called “Helping” by Edgar Schein — an academic book on how to help people. We need to understand the dynamics of bringing a person along and being helped. The first step in helping someone is to bring them up to your level and be open to being helped. That takes work.
  4. Eliminate your assumptions. The past, while important to remember, can only inform today, but shouldn’t dictate our decisions. Using our questions will help us find new solutions, utilizing the best of all of those around us.
  5. Drop your expectations, then raise them. Expectations are assumptions, and they can do damage. The best way to motivate other people is to raise your expectations of them, but you can only do so when you eliminate previous assumptions.

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?

There is a lot to be learned among the different generations. Yes, boomers have some wisdom and experience, but it can be outdated. The younger generations have the insight into new technologies and motivations, but lack the wisdom. The learning mindset of asking questions, giving validity and mutual respect allows us to focus on a bigger goal, rather than just “being right.”

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?

First, recognize the respect we need to have for other human beings. In the workplace, respect can fall behind a bigger work goal.

Second, we need to work on our “mental filter,” wherein we give validity first to other perspectives rather than finding out why they are wrong. It’s a new exercise to eliminate our previous assumptions and look at the world anew.

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

Efficacy, Identity and Intentionality. With things changing as fast as they are, we have to understand the steps to get to an end goal and believe in our ability to execute, we must be very comfortable with who we are as an individual, and without intentionality, we are just spinning our wheels.

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

Jean Jacques Rousseau, in his Confessions, once wrote, “How can anyone be satisfied in life if they aren’t satisfied with the one person they can never be separated from?” In order to help others, we have to be our best and invest in ourselves. Ethical philosophy states that by helping others, we become better people. But we can’t help others until we have fully figured out ourselves.

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 blog and podcast are on www.bellwetherhub.com; I’m active on LinkedIn and my social handles are @jimfrawleyny.

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