Clearly DEFINE the tasks on the cadence needed to ensure that each day is a step towards the ultimate goal. Role definition is paramount for any size team.
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 changing how we coach and our play calls and playbooks to get things done. As part of our interview series, “Moving From Command & Control to Coaching & Collaboration; How Leaders and Managers Can Become Better Coaches,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Kerry Keating.
Kerry Keating (aka “Coach”) is the Head of Business Development at TaskHuman. This real-time digital coaching platform connects each employee 1:1 with a global network of coaches over a video call on nearly 1000 topics of daily work and personal life. He has over 20 years of division 1 basketball coaching experience and is a seasoned connector among multiple verticals, passionate about the TaskHuman mission, and a believer in the greater good.
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?
Before joining TaskHuman in January 2018, I spent over two decades as a basketball coach at several Division 1 universities: Tennessee, App State, Tulsa, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, UCLA, Seton Hall, and Santa Clara.
This naturally led to various strategic advisor, business development, and consultant roles with sports teams and tech startups.
In my position at TaskHuman, I wanted to be flexible to do anything needed: recruiting coaches, capital raise introductions, employee onboarding, or whatever the CEO and founders needed to build and grow.
You can’t be above it as a leader, whether sweeping the floor, changing the laundry, or picking up the snacks. Details matter, so when they matter most to the person at the top, they will undoubtedly matter to all. This is most certainly the case at startups. I pride myself on being humble enough to treat every job, regardless of size and importance, and the most important one at that time.
But the one attribute that I came to understand is the most important for me as a leader, and that I try to implement here at TaskHuman, is to be a good listener. An emotional beacon to help others see through the haze and struggles and keep the team goal in mind.
On the evening of our second postseason title game, while I was Head Coach at Santa Clara, my coaches and I were doing what we routinely do, pouring over game film and looking for the edge; to find some overlooked detail to put in the game plan that had not been used before. As the night continued, one of my long-time assistants and I got into a healthy disagreement. One that, earlier in my career, I would have shut down with a declaration of who the head coach was. But this was different; he left the meeting, declared it over, and told me I wasn’t listening. That there was nothing to see or glean from our course that night, the “cake is in the oven, just let it bake.” He got the last word in and went to bed.
We won the game the next day, and I did something long overdue at a critical point in the game with it still close and not in hand — I asked the players in the huddle what they wanted to do on the next two possessions, offense and defense. It wasn’t that I never trusted them; it was always that I wanted to guide them and let them execute. But that time, it was about them deciding and executing. And me listening to them first instead of them to me and me to their responses.
As a leader, sometimes you may need to trust to listen instead of listening to trust. But also be aware of the bigger picture and what else may come from an instance that begat your trust first so you could listen more effectively.
John C. Maxwell said, “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 told my young staff members that this was the best and worst position they could be in for them. It was the best because I would give them every opportunity to get a piece of every part of the program. Still, it was the worst because that’s precisely how I came up — doing anything and everything — so there was nothing I hadn’t already done myself at a high level in our ecosystem. So no shortcuts or excuses; we’re going to get us to the next step.
That experience is rare for a head coach as most hadn’t gone from A-Z; however, I feel that is why almost all those assistant coaches have elevated to higher levels.
The same rings true in a corporate structure. I believe leaders must know, show and go, but I’ll add one more to that. They need to GROW the way as well. That collaborative and trustworthy path requires extreme communication, clarity, and co-emotional stability. It is the opportunity for both sides to come in, close the door, and discuss their emotional needs and state at that time in the journey.
It’s all about relationships. My upbringing in coaching basketball was an exercise in managing and cultivating relationships. To drive trust and care and, ultimately, take the most joy in others’ success, knowing that will ensure your own as well.
How do you define the differences between a leader as a manager and a leader as a coach?
A great leader who embodies the coaching method sees the areas of growth in employees and helps them tap into their unrealized potential. They create safe spaces for employees to feel empowered and comfortable to experiment and ask questions allowing them to grow.
We started our conversation by noting that improved coaching is the number one leadership initiative in any organization today. What essential skills and competencies must leaders have now to be better coaches?
Supply chain shortages, ever-increasing prices, the ongoing pandemic, and now a potential recession — how can leaders best manage their people during such an uncertain time or, more specifically, when a recession seems imminent? When navigating a recessionary business environment, leaders should focus on their most valuable asset: their people.
The best leaders adapt at the speed of change. This can also be said of any employee. A recessionary or pre-recessionary market requires that an organization embrace flexibility, resilience, and optimism. Intelligent companies will do this by focusing on their people and arming them with the tools, training, and support they need to deliver their best work amid an environment shaped by uncertainty, challenge, and constant change.
We’re 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?
While the pandemic is partly to blame for mass resignations, it’s a problem that has been brewing for some time. The rapid workplace change, a declining population growth rate, and other factors — like burnout — have created a critical talent shortage.
Companies have two options: Pay more for new employees or invest in the workers they already have through upskilling (teaching them additional skills) or reskilling (teaching them an entirely new skill).
But upskilling and reskilling are about much more than just profitability. It’s about investing in employees, creating new opportunities, and showing workers they are valued. When it comes down to it, every company should think about ways to enrich the lives and careers of its employees.
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?”
Let’s “Grow the Way,” shall we?
- Clearly DEFINE the tasks on the cadence needed to ensure that each day is a step towards the ultimate goal. Role definition is paramount for any size team.
- LISTEN to the needs, and support those needs in the best ways and means, emotionally, mentally, structurally, and financially. Be clear and upfront with what resources are and sometimes are not available to support the work. Allow for feedback to flow freely and unbiasedly.
- SHARE the team’s success, and identify how we will WIN, which means, What’s Important Now. As a leader, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, but in a supportive manner to move forward, not to micro-manage.
- ENCOURAGE in the discouraging times with a reminder that no one is perfect. Still, we can control our attitude and effort each time, and a setback of any magnitude is an opportunity to LEARN.
- Be confident that you are coaching people, most likely better than you! Provide them with the stage to shine, and seek fulfillment in their success; there is no greater power than that of APPRECIATION!
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 coaching a multi-generational workforce effectively? And how do you activate the collective potential of a multi-generational workforce?
Generation Z, born from 1997 through 2012, will make up almost 30% of the global workforce by 2025. According to research from Deloitte, these digital-native Zoomers prioritize social activism and stability and value training, leadership programs, human connection, and authentic company culture — and they want to invest in a job that invests in them.
Generation Z grew up in an always-on tech-centric environment. Businesses should ensure workers have quick access to Slack, Teams, Workday, Gusto, or whatever combination of communication channels, HR management platforms, and company resources they need. Gen Z workers expect it to be fast, easy, personalized, and mobile.
In the same way, Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon provide personal recommendations; Gen Z workers also expect the same “deep personalization” in the workplace. What does this look like? Employers can enable people to work remotely (or from anywhere). You can also allow people to maximize their productivity by adjusting their work schedule to include early mornings or evenings. Is someone a self-study learner? Or do they need 1:1 training?
A recent American Psychological Association report also indicates that Gen Z “is significantly more likely to report their mental health as fair or poor.” Employers can boost employee mental health by embracing a culture of work-life integration. Work-life integration considers the 24-hour version of the employee and is considered an antidote to several life stressors.
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?
Business leaders must create an environment where employees feel valued and have the guidance and resources to build healthy behaviors to feel good about their personal lives. When your employees are taken care of, they are more inclined to find meaning and motivation to fulfill their job.
Managers need to create a culture where their team can feel empowered to share their feelings and thoughts and understand that management will do their best to implement but can not guarantee. With that shared understanding, the larger team dynamic becomes much more collaborative and understanding and nurtures feelings and sentiments.
Words matter. And we’re collectively creating a new leadership language right now. What are essential words for leaders to use now?
I think more than the words themselves; it’s the message and meaning inside them. Since we are remote, emotions are more challenging to convey and share — especially the passionate emotions of what we can accomplish and inspire others. So as always, choose wisely but thoughtfully because ambiguity is the last thing you want in any relationship or even simple conversation.
Clarity, patience, and words focused on intent and understanding.
I once met with a group of folks that help startups establish, and they had a great lesson: TALK LESS. It wasn’t a directive to say less; instead, state intention and essentially LISTEN. The relation mindset leads to a better understanding and choice of words.
To wit, I’m a big acronym person. Pack words into a word. For instance: Team. Together Everyone Achieves More. Or: Win. What’s Important Now
I keep inspiring quotes on my desk. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote,” and why does it mean so much to you?
“It’s amazing what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit.”
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?
You can stay current on TaskHuman news, product announcements, and customer case studies by following us on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/taskhuman/ or Twitter: @taskhuman or visiting us online at taskhuman.com/.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!