Effective communication is key in all relationships, the workplace included. If you’re not clearly sharing the vision, direction, and goals you have for the company and team, there will be a lack of clarity. This will show up as either nothing gets done or it gets done wrong based on the interpretation of what was shared. Be specific in what done look like, who’s responsible, what resources are available, and when it should be completed. This allows everyone involved to feel confident in their work.

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 Lisa Benavidez.

Success Coach and Host of Created for More Podcast, Lisa Benavidez helps women ignite their fire and use the obstacles of life to fuel their success. With over 20 years experience working with entrepreneurs, Lisa mentors with passion, guiding her clients to effectively strengthen and elevate their impact in the world. She’s on a mission to inspire other women to maximize their potential and live a life of purpose. You can learn more at www.LisaBenavidez.com.

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?

Let’s take it all the way back to the 1990’s when I was in elementary school, maybe 4th grade, and was chosen to be a playground mediator. What kid wants to help other kids solve problems during recess? Well I did and loved it. I was able to help both sides share their experience and also listen to the each other. I’m blessed with a natural ability to see two sides of a story and have understanding and compassion to focus on the solution or opportunity instead of the fight or challenge. The simple shift if in focus can massively impact a situation for the good. Throughout my school years I was often chosen by peers to be the leader of a group project, looked to for guidance or advice on a situation, and was captain of the cheerleading team. Leadership became an integral part of my success in encouraging people and getting the job done.

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?

Love that quote! Yes that’s exactly it. Leadership is leading the way. As a leader, we should be walking along side people, not putting ourself above them. There’s a big difference between telling people what to do and talking at them versus encouraging your team or audience and listening to them. A leader is masterful at listening. And the ability to listen is so powerful because then you have the right ammo to truly ignite the person or team to create a successful outcome. I embody this by not placing myself on a pedestal, I’m in the weeds with my clients, my team, my family, my Bible study group and so on. If I’m the leader, I’m in it with you and I’m being open and honest about my own experiences.

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

Coming from the cheerleading world, I love to explain this with sports metaphors. A manager is at the top telling people what to do and making sure people are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. But they aren’t on the ground leading the way right? A leader as a coach is right by you, watching your every move and providing an outside perspective for you to consider to improve your skill and outcome. Think of a basketball coach watching his team go through some offense drills. He or she may notice a player’s footing is slowing them down or if they rotate the other way they’ll have an advantage to making the shot easier. As the player, you might miss those moves where as a coach can give you that insight. The manager isn’t even on the court. You need both to run a successful business or program, but the leader is going to make a huge impact in the success because they see what’s actually happening.

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 7 core skills and competencies that will help you be a better leader and coach. Vision, Integrity, Emotional Intelligence, Decisiveness, Adaptability, Mentorship, and Passion. Now while I think most of these can be learned skills, Vision and Passion are not really learned. Not everyone is a visionary, and that’s ok. We need people who are more get-it-done type of people, they are typically called integrators. And Passion is one of my favorite things to unlock for someone. Your passion must shine through all you do or you’ll just get bored and not give it your all. Of all these characteristics, Emotional Intelligence might be my favorite. When you can understand and manage your own emotions and those of others, you’re at a new level of leadership. This is where we get back to the heart of coaching which is helping people become better with love and compassion and patience. If you want to be an amazing leader and coach, focus on building strong relationships with your team, read body language and emotions, and learn to effectively communicate with others. If you have this, you’re golden.

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?

This goes back to leading the way and that’s what I work on everyday. I can sit back and point fingers all day long. I can easily just tell you what to do. But everyday I try to ask myself, what am I doing to get others pumped to grow and invest in themselves? Living this intentionally puts me in the spotlight but not for the sake of getting attention. It’s for others to see and be inspired to do the same for themselves. Show the possibilities. While you don’t need a permission slip to become a better leader and individual, sometimes it helps to watch others and get that fire ignited to do the same. Together we can motivate each other and celebrate each other. And I think another helpful way I try to do this is share my experiences in an honest and vulnerable way. It can be hard to break down walls and let people know what you’re going through. But it’s a powerful process and being open and honest with a select group of trusted people can help you breakthrough to your next level of growth and success.

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?”

Let’s dig in to the good stuff. As a leader or manager who wants to become a better coach for their team, the main goal is that you want to create transformation. When you focus on creating transformation you are actually building confidence and productivity. My top 5 ways to do this are through effective communication, identifying skills, emotional intelligence, being the visionary, and having a growth mindset.

Effective communication is key in all relationships, the workplace included. If you’re not clearly sharing the vision, direction, and goals you have for the company and team, there will be a lack of clarity. This will show up as either nothing gets done or it gets done wrong based on the interpretation of what was shared. Be specific in what done look like, who’s responsible, what resources are available, and when it should be completed. This allows everyone involved to feel confident in their work.

Identify skills in each of your team members. This is often overlooked and it’s heartbreaking. We all have natural abilities and talents. Then we each learn skills along the way, some we thrive in and love while some are difficult and daunting. Learning how to see where a person shines will help the organization as a whole. My dad used to work for a man who would hire someone for a position and pay attention to how he or she worked and handled the role. If they didn’t do a good job, he wouldn’t fire them. Instead, he would re-assign them to another role and it usually ended up working out so well. Help people grow in the areas they’re passionate about learning more in. You’ll notice a huge difference.

I touched on emotional intelligence earlier and this is a big one. This skill is a great one to improve on for all coaches, leaders, managers because it helps you lead so much better. Our emotional intelligence (or EI) is when we can be completely self-aware and people-aware in a way that allows for solution and growth above all. Disagreements and different perspectives are a normal part of life. In the workplace you want to be able to quickly create safe and healthy environments and EI is a great way to cultivate this. I had a client that was not completing important documents properly so that I could best support her in growing her business. Instead of asking or figuring it out, she just winged it and it was wrong at our first meeting. I could tell she was really nervous about presenting her forms to me. Because I practice and study EI regularly, I was able to calmly work through this with her. We went through the expectations and I explained the importance of why the documents had to be filled out and how to do it right. I didn’t make her feel inferior or like she couldn’t do this, I just walked through it with her and confirmed she understood how to do it. She never had incorrect information and we were able to make changes that helped her double her income over the next 3 months. EI supports confidence in others.

Being the visionary is a no brainer when it comes to leading anything, You’ve got to know where you’re taking people. And you can’t just hold on to it or give people pieces, that won’t help your team step up and into the execution of making your vision a reality. Help them buy into the why they’re doing the work they’re doing everyday. We thrive when we feel productive, and productivity means you’re getting the right things done well. Without a clear vision, this isn’t possible. I like to vision map with my clients looking at the next 1, 3, and 5 years. What is the big vision? It should get people excited, there should be anticipation that creates motivation. A couple things to keep in mind, how does the vision affect others, your team and the company overall? From the big vision, breaking goals and objectives down quarter to quarter helps the motivation remain by hitting milestones along the way. Another tip is to celebrate that progress, celebrations go a long way — trust me!

And finally, leaders should always want to have a growth mindset, not a fixed mindset. A growth mindset will cultivate innovation, opportunity, and growth, of course. On the other hand, a fixed mindset creates a dull and mediocre environment that doesn’t look for new possibility. This type of mindset is stuck and focused on what is instead of what can be, why is this so, how can we make it better. Having a growth mindset will expand your potential in all you do. In the book Mindset by Carol Deck, she talks about a study where children couldn’t figure out really difficult puzzles. Some just gave up and walked away — this is a fixed mindset. While other children looked deeper into this and searched for other explanations or ways to go about the challenge in front of them — this is growth mindset. We come into the world knowing how to do very little and as we grow, we learn, fail, try again, adapt, try a different way, and succeed. That’s the growth mindset and pathway to take as a leader so you can coach your way and your team to the next level needed to reach the bigger goal.

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?

Patience and understanding. You can learn something new from everyone, no matter what. But you have to be open to it and willing to receive the learning. When you have an attitude that you know it all or judge what others can teach you, you’ll create a disconnect in the organization and miss out on so much. Multi-generational community is how people were created to survive and thrive. Bottom line is we need each other. So patiently listening, understanding, and working together is key. As the leader who is coaching the multi-generational workforce it starts with you modeling this behavior and highlight opportunities for others to practice this too.

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?

Yes that’s exactly what it is. There are several steps to this but I always recommend starting with yourself. First two steps would be to observe your own feelings and take responsibility for them. Take note of what you’re feeling in different situations, conversations and with people. Notice what excites you, what makes you nervous, what frustrates you and ask yourself why. Dig deep into the why so you can uncover more about yourself. An important things to remember is not to have any positive or negative association. Just notice and pay attention. Being able to demonstrate emotional intelligence is a lifetime learning process. We’re human, so we’re going to slip and make mistakes. But continuing to learn from them and trying again will help you get better, like with anything. And the reward for mastering EI is worth it.

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

Oh this is a great question. I love listening words like “I hear you”, “I completely understand where you’re coming from”, and “Great point, can we talk more about that”. Like we talked about earlier, leadership means you’re in the weeds with others, not above them. So listen and be ready and willing to go together, figuring out solutions and breakthroughs along the way.

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 quotes too and keep them everywhere — desk, phone, water bottle. The one on my desk keeps me in check with what I’m here to do. It says “The greatest gift you can give someone is the gift of inspiration.” Inspiration ignites fire and someone who is on fire is living their life on purpose. When we are living with intention and purpose, the world becomes a better place. So if you can inspire one person today, you’ve done something amazing and given them (and the world) a true gift.

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?

Would love to hear from your readers. They can learn more about my community, podcast, and programs on my website www.LisaBenavidez.com or connect with me on Instagram @Lisa_Benavidez.

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