Foster a growth mindset by encouraging team members to see potential for growth and development in their work. One way I’ve done this is through regular “fail fast” sessions in our team meetings, where everyone shares a recent mistake and the lessons learned from it, thereby promoting a culture of continuous learning and resilience.

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 Nathalie Weister.

Nathalie Weister is a bilingual Human Resources professional and ICF Certified Leadership Development coach. She has a passion for supporting her business partners and clients connect to their innate creativity and purpose, maximizing their personal fulfillment and impact on their teams and organizations. Nathalie has focused her career on holistic people development strategies that enhance organizational culture and engagement.

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?

One pivotal moment shaping my leadership style was a past work assignment in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In this new role, I was leading a team of Human Resources professionals, surrounded by an unfamiliar language, culture, and labor market. This period was one of my most challenging and transformative experiences, both personally and professionally. Quickly, I recognized the importance of humility in leadership. Despite my prior successes, I found myself in an environment where I was the learner. I embraced this opportunity, approaching my team and business partners with openness and curiosity, ready to learn from their expertise and insights.

In this position, I discovered the power of asking insightful questions and active listening. These tools allowed me to understand the local culture, communication styles, and work dynamics, thereby enhancing my ability to support my team amidst the unique challenges we faced. I also developed a keen appreciation for adaptability, cross-cultural communication, and empathy. Navigating new norms, overcoming language barriers, and demonstrating cultural sensitivity all underscored the need for resilience and versatility.

My time working abroad fundamentally shaped my approach to leadership. It instilled in me the importance of inclusion and adaptability in unlocking a team’s potential, irrespective of geographic boundaries. These principles have remained central to my leadership philosophy to this day, allowing me to foster collaboration and empowerment in diverse environments.

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?

John C. Maxwell’s quote deeply resonates with me and I strive to embody its essence through a blend of coaching and leadership. As a leader-coach, my priority is understanding the unique journeys and challenges of my team members. By employing active listening and insightful questioning, I ‘know the way’ — identifying their strengths, growth areas, and aligning these with our organizational objectives.

To ‘go the way’, I embody the values and behaviors expected of my team, modeling a coaching mindset that fosters trust, collaboration, and continuous learning. I remain open to feedback, acknowledge my mistakes, and emphasize self-awareness and empathy, inspiring others to do the same.

Finally, to ‘show the way’, I provide guidance and resources for my team to thrive. I foster an environment that encourages risk-taking and learning from failures. Believing in the unique expertise of each team member, I create opportunities for them to shine — be it presenting to senior leadership or teaching a new skill to the team. Through coaching and feedback, I facilitate their professional development, helping them to navigate challenges and realize their potential. In doing so, we cultivate a culture of collaboration and mutual growth, driving our collective success.

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

A manager primarily focuses on tasks, operational oversight, and specific outcomes. They set goals, allocate resources, and ensure deadlines are met, maintaining an emphasis on efficiency and control. Conversely, a leader as a coach adopts a people-centric approach, prioritizing individual growth, development, and well-being. They aim to unleash latent potential, fostering an environment of empowerment and continuous learning. Rather than primarily instructing and delegating, a leader-coach employs curiosity and active listening, guiding individuals to discover their own solutions and support their professional growth.

Furthermore, a leader-coach cultivates collaboration, trust, and open communication. They nurture an environment where team members can freely share ideas, provide feedback, and contribute to the collective success. They value building strong relationships and encouraging individuals to take ownership of their work.

In essence, while a leader-manager emphasizes task-oriented responsibilities and efficient outcome attainment, a leader-coach stresses people development, potential realization, and a growth-centric atmosphere. The most effective leaders seamlessly blend managerial and coaching approaches, attuned to their team’s needs and the situation’s demands.

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?

In my interactions with leaders and teams across various sectors, I’ve observed that improved coaching skills have become a critical leadership need. Two books have significantly influenced my understanding of essential coaching skills for leaders: “The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership” by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman, and Kaley Klemp, and “The Coaching Habit” by Michael Bungay Stanier.

One key skill highlighted in “The 15 Commitments” is the need for leaders to take radical responsibility for their thoughts, emotions, and actions. Conscious leaders exhibit self-awareness and acknowledge their impact on others, fostering a culture of accountability and authenticity. The principles of presence and active listening are also emphasized. Engaged and attentive leaders, who listen beyond mere words, can deepen their understanding of their teams and cultivate an setting of trust and psychological safety.

“The Coaching Habit” underscores the power of curiosity and impactful questioning. By adopting a mindset of curiosity, leader-coaches can gain deeper insights and encourage self-discovery within their teams. They ask open-ended questions that challenge assumptions, stimulate reflection, and drive personal growth.

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?

As a Human Resources professional, I inspire leaders to invest in upskilling and reskilling by underscoring its dual benefits: increased employee engagement and productivity, and organizational competitiveness and adaptability. I employ a coach’s approach to foster a learning culture. By illustrating the direct link between team skill development and organizational goal attainment, leaders start viewing upskilling and reskilling as strategic investments rather than mere costs. I use real-world examples, demonstrating how companies investing in their employees’ skills thrive amidst change and uncertainty. Additionally, I highlight the personal development benefits. Upskilling and reskilling not only contribute to employees’ sense of value and recognition but also promote job satisfaction, engagement, and performance. Furthermore, I emphasize the advantage of employee retention. Recruiting new talent often outpaces the cost of retaining and upskilling current employees. By investing in their team’s skills, leaders foster a stable, adept workforce, thereby saving costs and building an agile, resilient organization equipped to navigate the evolving work environment.

By framing upskilling and reskilling as an investment in human capital rather than an expense, I encourage leaders to acknowledge its long-term benefits for their teams and the broader organization.

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?”

Coaching individuals to achieve their best work and driving peak performance is a transformative leadership approach. In our current context, effective leaders adapt their coaching strategies to meet evolving needs. Drawing inspiration from Herminia Ibarra and Anne Scoular’s insightful HBR article ‘The Leader As Coach,’ here are my top five ways that leaders and managers can be effective coaches:

  1. Foster a growth mindset by encouraging team members to see potential for growth and development in their work. One way I’ve done this is through regular “fail fast” sessions in our team meetings, where everyone shares a recent mistake and the lessons learned from it, thereby promoting a culture of continuous learning and resilience.
  2. Create a psychologically safe space, nurturing an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing ideas and expressing concerns without fear of judgment. To do this, I’ve incorporated coaching practices like ‘clearing’ at the beginning of meetings, allowing individuals to discuss anything that might be preventing them from focusing, and thereby removing emotional blockages to productivity and creativity.
  3. Encourage team members to deepen their self-awareness and recognize their strengths and areas for growth. I do this by asking thought-provoking questions that prompt meaningful discussions, promoting self-discovery and insight.
  4. Ensure feedback is specific, timely, and constructive, focusing on both strengths and areas for improvement. Instead of waiting for formal performance evaluations, I take immediate action when I notice areas for improvement, setting up either individual meetings or collective “after action reviews” to discuss project outcomes and areas of future growth.
  5. Encourage a sense of personal accountability among team members. I recall leading a complex, cross-functional project where I assigned roles based on strengths and interests, then clarified expectations. The team was given the autonomy to plan their work and solve problems independently. When hurdles emerged, I guided them but also encouraged self-sufficiency in problem-solving. This approach not only allowed the team to take responsibility for their results, but also enhanced their confidence, problem-solving skills, and empowered them to become proactive contributors who take pride in their work.

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?

In our diverse organizations, coaching a multi-generational workforce means understanding and appreciating each generation’s unique perspectives and strengths. As an effective leader-coach, I encourage embracing these differences, seeing them not as divides but as opportunities for growth and learning. For instance, I’ve implemented cross-generational mentoring and reverse mentoring programs in my organizations. These initiatives allow for the exchange of knowledge, skills, and experiences across age groups. Veterans provide guidance and industry expertise, while younger employees offer technological proficiency and fresh viewpoints.

Moreover, understanding that different generations may have varied communication preferences is critical. Adapting one’s communication style to meet these preferences can significantly impact the effectiveness of coaching. For example, Baby Boomers often prefer structured, face-to-face meetings or phone calls and appreciate a directive coaching approach. Conversely, Gen Xers are more inclined to value independence and respond well to coaching that respects their autonomy, generally preferring communication via emails that they can manage in their own time.

Lastly, to activate a multi-generational workforce’s collective potential, consider offering tailored development opportunities that cater to the unique needs and aspirations of each generation. This could range from traditional classroom training to e-learning platforms, mentoring programs, or job rotations. Such adaptation ensures that individuals across all generations can access resources that align with their learning styles, empowering them to thrive and contribute their best work.

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?

Developing a higher level of emotional intelligence is critical for effective leadership. One crucial step is to enhance self-awareness. This involves self-reflection and introspection to gain a deeper understanding of personal emotions, triggers, and behaviors, encompassing an evaluation of strengths, weaknesses, and response patterns. Once again referencing “The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership,” leaders can utilize the “Above the Line/Below the Line” practice. This tool aids leaders in identifying whether they’re operating from a place of openness, curiosity, and responsibility (above the line), or from defensiveness, reactivity, and blame (below the line). Recognizing their internal state allows leaders to transition from a reactive stance to a more intentional, empathetic, and effective leadership approach. Readers can watch a great short video explaining this concept here:

Another step leaders can take is to cultivate empathy and active listening, both pivotal aspects of emotional intelligence. Leaders can foster empathy by seeking to understand others’ perspectives, emotions, and experiences, effectively putting themselves in their team members’ shoes. This validation of their feelings creates a connection. Active listening, engaging fully with the speaker, maintaining eye contact, and suspending judgment, lets leaders apprehend underlying emotions and concerns, helping them manage complex interpersonal dynamics, build strong relationships, and make more effective decisions.

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

In our shared journey to craft a new leadership language, the power of words is undeniable and leaders have a distinctive chance to shape their teams and organizations through those they choose. Based on our previous discussions, some of the crucial words and phrases leaders may incorporate now include:

  1. “Empower”: Leaders can use words like ‘empower,’ ‘enable,’ ‘trust,’ and ‘support’ to inspire their teams. Phrases like ‘I trust your decision-making,’ ‘Your expertise is valued,’ or ‘I support your growth’ encourage individuals to take responsibility, explore their potential, and deliver their best.
  2. “Growth”: Promoting a growth mindset, leaders inspire their teams to accept challenges, view failures as learning opportunities, and actively seek personal and professional growth. Phrases like ‘Let’s view challenges as growth opportunities,’ ‘Your dedication to learning is admirable,’ or ‘I encourage skill and knowledge development’ work well.
  3. “Collaboration”: To foster collaboration, leaders can use words like ‘collaborate,’ ‘teamwork,’ ‘co-create,’ and ‘synergy.’ Phrases such as ‘Let’s achieve our shared goals together,’ ‘Your input is valuable in this collaborative effort,’ or ‘We can accomplish more through collective problem-solving’ endorse a culture of collaboration and collective intelligence.
  4. “Purpose”: Words connecting individuals to a higher purpose and shared vision include ‘purpose,’ ‘mission,’ ‘meaning,’ and ‘impact.’ Phrases like ‘Our work has a meaningful purpose,’ ‘Let’s align our efforts with the larger mission,’ or ‘Your contributions create a positive impact’ inspire team members by articulating a compelling purpose, helping them understand their work’s significance.
  5. “Appreciation”: Expressing gratitude is crucial for a positive work environment. Leaders can use words like ‘appreciate,’ ‘thank you,’ ‘acknowledge,’ and ‘recognize.’ Phrases like ‘I appreciate your dedication,’ ‘Thank you for your contributions,’ or ‘I want to acknowledge your impact’ show genuine appreciation and reinforce a culture that values individual and collective accomplishments.

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

One of my favorite life lesson quotes is by Peter Drucker, an influential Austrian-American management consultant, educator, and author. He stated, “the best way to predict the future is to create it.” This quote is a potent reminder of our ability to shape our destinies. It urges proactive action, innovation, and challenging the status quo. It resonates with my belief that we should be active contributors, not passive spectators, in shaping our future. This simple yet impactful phrase inspires me to take responsibility for my actions, pursue my aspirations deliberately, and continuously strive to make a positive impact.

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?

I’m always interested in sharing more about my personal stories and what I am learning and contemplating on my blog entitled Soul Sustenance: Additionally, readers can connect with me via the following:




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