Building with your team a clear vision of what success will look like once the change is implemented, their contribution to this vision will be make it very engaging.
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 Marion Gamel.
Marion Gamel is an EZRAx MasterCoach. She holds certifications from the International Coach Federation and the World Association of Business Coaches. In addition to coaching, Marion is a business writer, public speaker, non-executive director and mentor in the tech space. Previously, she served as Chief Marketing Officer at Betsson and Vice President of Marketing at Eventbrite. In 2003, Marion joined Google as employee number 1400, where she worked for seven years launching the search giant in the UK and Ireland, India, the Middle East and Africa and Eastern Europe. In the early stages of her career, Marion harnessed her entrepreneurial spirit as the co-Founder of NG Magazine, further to working for Paris fashion houses Chanel Haute Couture, Guy Laroche Haute Couture, and Chloé.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?
It’s lovely to get a chance to interact with your readers! I am Marion Gamel, MasterCoach at EZRAx, the executive coaching arm of EZRA. I have been coaching C-level executives for about 5 years now. Coaching is actually my second career. I worked for 20 years in digital. After being an entrepreneur in the ’90s, in 2003, I joined a cool and exciting start-up called Google, which I launched around the world during the 7 years I worked there. What an adventure! Google shaped the way I work, exposing me to incredibly fast growth while building the right processes and adapting to a wider audience. While working at Google, I was coached by an incredibly talented and impactful individual. This experience added so much to the way I see work, the organization, collaboration and making an impact it inspired me, years later, to become a coach myself.
It has been said that sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, and what did you learn from that mistake?
Ouch! Tough question! I think my biggest mistake during the first part of my corporate career was lacking clarity about the game I was playing. I alternated between focusing on my values and ethics and prioritizing the needs and the rules of my work context. Was my purpose to be me or to make an impact? I learned to take time to set up what I call my rules of engagement: A clear purpose and role for myself, with myself and with my colleagues. I find myself discussing rules of engagement very often with the senior executives I work with these days.
There is a quote attributed to John C. Maxwell that says, “A leader knows, goes, and shows the way.” Can you please share an example from your experience of how you do that?
I may not understand this quote in the same way you do. The way I understand it, I would question it. Does a leader ‘know’ today? I think we’ve moved on from the leader who had done all the jobs in his own team and climbed the ladder slowly, and therefore knew all there was to know about the roles of the people he managed. Today’s leaders are comfortable NOT knowing! Leaders attract and nurture a talent pool composed of specialists that they consult. Example: When I was Chief Marketing Officer, I was never a Search Engine Optimization specialist! I was lucky enough to be advised by the SEO gurus on my team! However, in terms of ‘goes’ and ‘shows’ the way, I agree that a leader, no matter how digital our work has become, should set an example as far as frame of mind and behavior are concerned.
Ok, fantastic. Let’s now move to the main part of our interview about how leaders and managers can become better coaches. What exactly would it look like for a leader or manager to be a coach? How would it look different than the classical paradigm of management?
I think we can answer quite simply: Leaders who coach their team ask more questions than they make statements. Through questioning, leaders help their team find solutions by themselves, become more independent, and grow in knowledge and confidence. Coaching takes more time than to say to people what to do, but the rewards for the leader, the team, and the entire organization, are long-term.
Can you help articulate a few reasons why coaching is an essential skill for managers and leaders to have?
In today’s VUCA context, there is no way a leader can ‘know everything.’ Companies grow, globalization takes place, the offering of companies broadens, new tools appear. Today’s leaders cannot possibly have ‘the answer’ for all their employees’ questions. It is, therefore, essential for leaders to turn from well-of-knowledge into a tool for empowerment. Coaching is about empowering people to think and find solutions by themselves.
What can be done to shift the momentum and inspire more leaders and managers to become coachees rather than dictators?
- I would start with educating leaders about the benefits of coaching in today’s context. The data exists and brilliant articles have been written on the topic. I would expose leaders to this content, in order to make sure we all agree: It’s high time to become coaches.
- I would then take time to define with leaders the multiple benefits of a coaching style of leadership for themselves, for their team and for the entire organisation.
- Finally, I would collaborate with each leader to make a plan about what level of coaching their wish to reach, by when, and what ‘success’ will tangibly look like and what it will noticeably impact.
This is a much bigger discussion, but we’d like to touch upon it here. How would you explain how leaders and managers should coach employees from different generations? For example, is there a more effective way to coach a member of GenX than GenZ? Can you please explain what you mean?
In my opinion, good coaching works for everyone. Coaching is a set of techniques, approaches and tools that coaches are taught during coaching training. They are universal and work with everyone. I am also not a great fan of categorizing people according to the year they were born — as if everyone born between such and such dates would act and think identically. I think that leaders, if they want to learn how to coach, should focus on learning basic coaching techniques. Such techniques are easy to adapt to people’s personalities, ambitions and sensitivities.
Can you give a few examples of how leaders can incorporate more emotional intelligence into their leadership?
I think a good way to incorporate emotional intelligence in the way you lead is to put yourself in the shoes of others. For instance, when driving a major change in your organization (let’s say, a re-org’), there are techniques that bring everyone together, create more trust and help people to overcome their fear of change, such as:
- Giving time for people to digest the news (to ‘mourn’) and think about how they will adapt to it. When leaders announce a piece of news, they’ve been working on it for weeks or months, and they’re impatient to see it come to fruition. But for their team, it’s brand new, and they may need to wrap their head around it!
- Giving plenty of room and creating opportunities for people to ask questions, voice their feelings and concerns, and for the more enthusiastic to help the less enthusiastic come along. The more you encourage open discussions, the less people will need to gossip and dramatize in secret.
- Being clear about what’s changing and what’s not changing! Avoid this way over-dramatization: “Nothing will ever be the same!” “Everything’s changing here!”
- Paying tribute to the past, to what worked, to what we’re ending today. Indeed, today’s change is not about criticizing the past, this is about embracing the future. This avoids the ‘older’ part of your workforces feeling at risk of becoming obsolete.
- Taking into consideration that attention is a limited resource, so if you ask your team to focus for a while on something new, they’re likely to forget about something older.
- Building with your team a clear vision of what success will look like once the change is implemented, their contribution to this vision will be make it very engaging.
In just one or two words, what would you say is the “new leadership language”? Can you explain what you mean by that?
My understanding of the “new leadership language” is that it’s a way to communicate that:
- Engages your team by boosting their confidence, reminding them about their specialty, their strength and their experience
- Gives your team full clarity about not only the goal to reach but also the broader context
- Empowers them to fully own a piece of work and to be accountable for it
- Means leaders remain available throughout the project for advice, brainstorming, introductions and guidance
I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?
My favorite quote is by Albert Einstein who said something like, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Hearing this quote for the first time felt like an electric shock! In our fast-changing world, this quote often helps me spot patterns in my life and make the difference between right and wrong.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she, or they might just see this if we tag them.
If I were an animal, I’d be a dog as I am super-loyal! My immediate thoughts, for this reason, go to amazing individuals I have had the privilege of working with at Google, they are people I’d love to reconnect with such as Lorraine Twohill, Sherryl Sandberg, or Kim Scott.
Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?
Don’t be shy! Send me an email ([email protected]), or contact me via LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/mariongamel/ ). I sometimes blog on LinkedIn as well, and love reading feedback and reactions, so get involved!
Thank you for a meaningful conversation. We wish you continued success with your mission.