It’s Time for New Leadership Tools

By Jessie Cordova, Bright Morning Senior Associate 

In today’s (6/5/2020) special edition subscriber email which shared the same subject line as this blog post, Elena shared a summary of concepts contained in this blog. Below you will find Jessie’s full post, with an expanded focus on how the foundations of transformational coaching can support leaders. 

In every single workshop I present I say something to the effect of:

Coaching skills help us in our professional lives but also in our personal lives. After we learn here together the quality of your coaching conversations will be different but the next conversation you have with your child, a significant other or a friend, will also improve. Good coaching moves help us become better listeners, better communicators, better leaders, better space-holders and honestly, better human beings.

Expectations for leaders are always high, but in times of crisis, even more is at stake. And therein lies the paradox. Just when people in crisis need and expect more from their leaders, that’s when a leader can cave the hardest.

Let’s be clear: leaders can be and are in crisis too. The “leader” designation doesn’t protect anyone from harsh realities that can prompt pain, hardship and confusion. No one is immune to difficulty. But what is also true, is that by the pure nature of leading others, you carry an additional responsibility. How one handles that responsibility is what sets leaders apart. Across the globe, we are seeing the stark differences in how people are leading. Consider for a moment the different manifestations of “leadership” you have been bearing witness to. You can think of your country’s leader, leaders from local governments, leaders of companies and organizations, your boss, the leadership of someone you have been in close contact with and of course, don’t forget about yourself. How have you been leading? What do you notice about all these types of leadership? What does it make you wonder?

Why the foundations of transformational coaching transfer to broader leadership perfectly.

In Elena’s model of transformational coaching we talk a lot about the 3 Bs—behaviors, beliefs and ways of being. If you have ever been to the Art of Coaching Workshop (whether virtual or in-person) you have seen this diagram.

Most of the coaching we do, likely focuses on people’s behaviors. What they are doing or not doing and what they could be doing differently. Transformational coaches  also take on exploring the beliefs and ways of being of the person. What we believe, what we value, creates a schema for our worldview. We see the world through the beliefs we hold about who we are and who others are. Our values inform our opinion on lots of things and so if these go ignored, how can we ever improve our behaviors? Beliefs coaching helps us get deeper into root causes and prevents us from falling victim to the ‘quick-fix’ that lies on the surface.

All of this gives shape to who and how we are being in a space at any in a moment in time. Are we showing up confident yet humble? Are we busting through the door in an attempt to make our power as visible to others? Behaviors, beliefs and ways of being are all interconnected.

Let’s say you are helping a teacher come up with more inclusive ways to call on students, the change in participation strategies would be a change in behavior. Perhaps you share a few strategies and you see that they work both for him and his students. Kids are more engaged and trust that their participation is valued by the teacher and no one is feeling silenced or not included anymore. Then a couple of weeks later you notice he has regressed back to old behaviors. But why? The strategies were working! When this happens it is usually because we missed an opportunity to help him explore and unpack the deeper beliefs he holds about his students, about what makes meaningful engagement, about the impact not being included is actually having on his students etc. He is not noticing that his way of being in those moments is detracting from a safe, positive and equitable learning space for kids. 

The Three Bs in Broader Leadership

I remind people that even if they are not a “formal” coach by “title,” all of us are communicating with others and so we can all use coaching moves all the time. I encourage us to implement coaching moves in any kind of engagement and get curious about what happens. Anytime you are with someone else you could be using coaching moves to create purpose-driven, trust-filled, human-centered spaces.

Consider these as just a few entry points:

Behaviors: How are you behaving when it comes to:

  • Setting Vision & Direction: Despite the uncertainty, what are you doing, creating, saying that exudes some sense of stability and clarity?
  • Communication: When connecting with others, are you using active and intentional listening? Are you listening for pain, for love, for concern? Are you honoring the emotions that may be coming up for them (and you!)? What tone are you using when you speak?
  • Decision-making: Who is making decisions? Does the rest of your team know that? When it is ‘appropriate’, does the rest of the team have a say? Who determines what classifies as ‘appropriate’?
  • Building strong culture and trust: how are you continuously building trust with your people? How can they build this with each other? How are you building strong culture in virtual spaces?

Beliefs: What are you believing when it comes to:

  • Leadership
  • Crisis
  • Power
  • The role of emotions
  • The role of communication
  • The values that are currently driving you
  • The values you may want to drive you (if different from above)
  • The values your people hold

How, if at all, is this different from what you would’ve said just a few months/weeks ago?

Ways of Being: How are you being when it comes to:

  • How you are showing up in a virtual space?
  • The expectations you are holding/not holding for the work that gets done.
  • Your state of confidence.
  • Your state of fear.

Time does what time knows how to do: change and move forward. Leaders, we need to do the same. As is always the case, leaders must start with self. If you have not explored your own state of being, the emotions alive within you, your current needs and wants, it will be extremely difficult to offer this up to others. 

We are in a different context now so your old leadership toys won’t all apply here. You need to graduate to new toys. We can appreciate and honor what has (hopefully) served us well in the past and now be open to reach for new (or modified) behaviors, beliefs and ways of being. Our upcoming Leading in Times of Crisis Virtual Summit is designed to help you do just that.