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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #136: The Power of Recognizing the Coaching Moment

May 13, 2021
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #136: The Power of Recognizing the Coaching Moment

Many leaders have an expectation about what the people on their team should be able to do and how they should act. When a team member comes up short or they somehow disappoint, some leaders express their disappointment or even think about moving that person to another role. But this is the coaching moment where a leader can really make a difference.

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Read the Transcript:

Perry Holley:    Welcome to the John Maxwell Executive leadership Podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach.

Chris Goede:     And I’m Chris Goede, Vice President with the John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining us once again. We are grateful for you listening, taking some of the lessons that Perry and I have learned from around the world organizations and leaders, and hopefully being able to apply them to your journey, to your leadership influence journey. And I’m super excited about today’s topic. I’m going to get to that in a moment because I think every single one of us listening here today will understand what Perry’s bringing to us and be able to apply it to our world as soon as you’re done listening.

So just as a reminder before we get started, if you’d like the learner’s guide for today’s session, you can download that there. If you’ve got a question or a comment, you want to learn more about some of the content that we’re able to provide to leadership teams and organizations, don’t hesitate to visit

Well, today’s topic is titled the Power of Recognizing the Coaching Moment. And what I love about this, Perry, we were just kind of talking about this before we got started. And I told him, I said, “Man, I love the content that you’re bringing all of our podcasts,” specifically this one because we think, “Oh, who am I going to coach? Am I really a mentoring anybody?” Like whatever. And when you begin to think about like, “We’re going to unpack it today,” there’s an opportunity for every single one of us to be able to add value through the coaching process as long as you recognize the moment.

So I made some assumptions in that statement as I read through kind of your thoughts ahead of time, but talk to us a little bit about what’s driving this, what’s in your heart behind what we’re going to talk about today.

Perry Holley:    Yeah, it comes up, I think in my own mind, I didn’t realize it until I heard a coaching client mentioned to me that she had a person on her team that was taking more initiative and really going beyond the authority of her position. My client wondered out loud if she should fire the person or perhaps put someone in that’s a little less aggressive into that role. And my response, I just asked her, “Would you rather have someone who acts like an owner on your team or someone who acts like a hired hand? Would you rather spend time pushing someone forward or spend time slowing someone down?”

And what this leader uncovered, I told her, I said, “What you’ve uncovered is what I call the coaching moment.” That when people have struggles or have problems or make mistakes, don’t be so fast to judge or to cut them free or to make other assumptions, but realize that that’s your role. That’s a great opportunity. I just call it the coaching moment. Have you noticed the coaching moment?

Chris Goede:     When we talk about leadership culture in organizations, oftentimes you may even be able to think about the culture of what is it that the individuals are doing or how are they leading other people in the organization when their leader’s not around? And the only way that this can really be effective in changing the culture of the organization, but in your leadership journey is to be able to recognize these moments.

And I know oftentimes I say this straight from experience myself, where I’ve had certain expectations in my mind where that there are people on my team I know they can do that. Or one of the things I really try to stay away from is this shouldn’t be that hard. You should be able to do that. And whenever I say that, I’m like, “Well, have I tried it?” Because I’ve had plenty of these. This shouldn’t take you more than 30 minutes if you just knock that out and look at it. It’s like a three-hour project, but they’d never done it before. And I find myself at times with the pace of which we all live and work doing the same thing.

And then what ends up happening is that they fall short of those expectations and I get frustrated and I get frustrated that the task is not complete, but more importantly, I get frustrated at the individual. Maybe that’s not more importantly. Unfortunately, I get more frustrated with the individual and then I express my disappointment with that individual, and that does nothing to solve the problem for the long-term or drive engagement because I have missed the opportunity to take that moment of disappointment and make it a coaching moment, which could really make a difference.

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Perry Holley:    Yeah, I’m laughing because I just thought about we went to Ikea, we bought two matching dressers and I had to start putting them together. And the first one, completely frustrated, people looking at me in the house going, “Do you even know what you’re doing? Maybe we should get someone else to do it.”

Chris Goede:     Wait, were there a few parts?

Perry Holley:    And they have instructions built for men. They have all pictures, no words and I’m looking at this and it’s taken me 30, 45, 50 minutes and I’m putting the thing together and I’m thinking, “Oh my stars, I got another one to go,” but I picked up the second one. Guess what? 15, 17, 12 minutes. I mean, it was done. I thought I got a little help and I was able to go back again and do it the next way. I said that and I guarantee if I had a third one, I could probably get it done in six minutes and then I probably would never buy one again. But one of the thoughts I had was and we’ve talked about Liz Wiseman’s great book Multipliers how she talked about leaders. You have a choice really on how you respond to things is that you can either multiply the capabilities of your team or you can diminish the capabilities of your team.

It’s really up to you and how you join that. And when I think about the coaching moment and I know this may sound silly, but this is not just a work thing. I noticed at home my kids when they were teenagers and young 20s struggling with things and me kind of going, “What in the world?” “But it’s a coaching moment, dad. It’s a coaching moment, leader.” Can I take my experience and my understandings and even my willingness to help, even if I don’t know to say, “How can we get through this together and to solve this, but help make people better?”

Chris Goede:     I love the example of your personal life because I think all of us can learn from that. Matter of fact, I think about even my fuse as a leader or somebody with influence tends to be a little bit shorter at home and I completely skip over that option. So that’s a good word right there. And I think what I love is what you’re talking about is taking the initiative to capture that moment versus actually kind of criticize them or scold them or go level one on them. And that just does nothing for the growth and the productivity of your teammates.

So I know you got the number five in here somewhere, right? And so you have down here for me to say, “Hey, listen, we’re going to talk about five characteristics and traits. I’m so proud of you.”

Perry Holley:    out of the title and you didn’t even catch it till just now.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, I know. I love it. I love it. But we’re going to talk about this, right? So let’s talk about five of these characteristics of coaching moment that we can kind of share. And so why don’t you go ahead and get us started with those.

Perry Holley:    Yeah, I was thinking about it and so I thought, “Well, first of all, I was expressing a little more empathy versus sympathy and not feeling sorry for people, but putting yourself in their shoes. And if you genuinely want to see your teammates grow and develop, you need to put yourself in their shoes. And did you always have all the answers? Did you always know the way to go? And just because they’re struggling, I don’t want to feel sorry for them, but I do want to have an empathy that I find that empathy really builds trust when I come alongside them and say, “Me too. We can do more things together.”

Chris Goede:     Let me go off the cuff for you. I’m going to put you on the spot for just a minute. So people talk a lot about empathy versus sympathy. And oftentimes they say empathy is when you can live in the moment or have lived in the moment that maybe they’re living in, right? Otherwise, it’s kind of sympathy. With all of your leadership experience in organizational development and learning, what comes to mind when you want to have empathy with somebody in a certain situation of their leadership journey that maybe you haven’t been a part of, right?

How do you create that empathy with that individual in that moment if you really can’t feel like where they’re at? Does that make sense? Because I had this question on a coaching conversation that I had last week with a CEO and I thought, “Man, that’s a really good question. Let me think on it a little bit.” So here we are. I thought I just announce it to all of those that have downloaded our podcast and they can hear it straight from Perry.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. I don’t really have to have been where you’ve been. I just think empathy versus sympathy if I’m not empathetic, I tend to be judgmental. And if I judge you, I don’t really know what your background, I don’t know where you come from is, but I know you and I know your character. And I’m thinking, “You’re on my team. I don’t know if you’ve had background in this, but I can come alongside you still and put in your shoes besides you and let you know you’re not alone in this.” I’ve heard Brene Brown used to just say me too.

When people say I’m struggling with this instead of saying, “I’m sorry, and feeling sorry for you.” I say, “Me too. I’ve been there.” I don’t even really know where you came from or what your experience level was for me just to give you a non-judgemental empathetic response to say, “I’m in it with you. Let’s figure it out together.”

Chris Goede:     Yeah, yeah. That’s good. Yeah.

Perry Holley:    I don’t know. Does that go where you were going?

Chris Goede:     Yeah, That’s exactly what I was thinking about because there are some situation leaders that you’re not going to be able to completely be in it with them. And it’s almost like, how do we, we talk about this, how do we ask questions in the right way, the right pace, not overwhelming to be able to truly understand where they’re ar? To me that’s almost the driving the empathy versus having sympathy.

Perry Holley:    We’ve had people that have experiences in life and I’ve seen some terrible ones, but when somebody comes up and says, “I know how you feel.” No you don’t.

Chris Goede:     No, no, no, no, you don’t.

Perry Holley:    It’s silly to even say that, but I said, “I don’t know how you feel, but I’m here to go through it with you.” It says a lot more to someone that says, “I hope you don’t have to know how I feel, but thank you for being on the journey with me.”Chris Goede:     Yeah. That’s good. That’s good. Good insight. I appreciate that. Number two, your suggestion here for these coaching leaders is use questions versus statements to help affect their thinking. We all know this. If you get told what to do or you tell somebody what to do, they’re not thinking for themselves, they’re not growing. And what you got to do is begin to ask them questions. I love this approach because it allows you to see how they think, but it also allows you to help them develop their thinking and then how they act on that.

And I think once you see that, I think you’ll see all kinds of ways to be able to coach and add value to that individual about that moment. And I think if you come up and say just as a statement, “Here’s the problem.” You will have to repeat that statement again in the future. If you go and approach it from a questions and a coaching, you may not have to have that conversation again in the future.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. And if what you said in your statement turns out not to be true or it doesn’t work, guess who gets blamed?

Chris Goede:     And you lose credibility.

Perry Holley:    For that. So if I ask questions, I learn how you think, but also it helps me. That’s the coaching moment. It actually expands the coaching moment when I know what you think and how you think that may be what I need to be coaching, not the actual the hands-on task itself. But how you think about the task? How did you break this down? And I’ve had many a situation where somebody was not inefficient at doing the work, but they were going about it all wrong. They had thought about it incorrectly.

Chris Goede:     That’s good.

Perry Holley:    Number three for me was promoting a growth mindset versus allowing a fixed mindset, that growth mindset leaders, so that’s you, believe everyone can grow and learn. It’s all possible. Abilities are not fixed. Abilities can grow. Performance can improve. If you or the people in your team have the fixed mindset, there’s very little really either of you can do to improve the situation. Thinking that for me to leader first to have a growth mindset that I believe everybody on the team can grow and learn.

Now I may have to deal with the fact that they may not think they can go and learn. That’s the coaching moment. How do I coach them into personal development or skill development or equipping them or developing them, all things that come out of a great leader’s coaching mindset?

Chris Goede:     And I think that that is contagious, right? And when you begin to act that out it may even open up the conversation to come towards you from your peers or those that you work with. So I love that. All right. Number four, focus on relationship more than the task. I was with an organization two weeks ago and thousands of employees. And for them it’s about, I love this, they say, “It’s about people over profits.” And different owners inside this organization that have different ownership in different places are like, “How are you achieving the profit numbers and the financial numbers that you are?”

And the individual, the CEO, the owner says, “We don’t ever focus on the numbers. We focus on the people. We have leadership meetings where we don’t talk about the numbers. We talk about our people.” And I’m just sitting there and I’m listening. And listen, we’re not saying throw the baby out with the bathwater. We understand you’ve got to know your number as a business leader. But man, when you begin to put people over profits it’d be amazing what happens in the culture of your organization that will then just begin a groundswell from the ground up. As long as you’re authentically living that out and this individual, this leader is, and it’s just powerful to watch.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. Well, I think when you focus on the task and what’s not getting done or how it’s not getting done, that connection you have that relationship, the 5 Levels language there we talk about it really will limit your influence with people because now what’s the most important to you. What’s your priority, the task or the people? And to your point, if you’re paying attention to the people, the task will almost always get done.

Chris Goede:     Absolutely.

Perry Holley:    And even if you have to jump in and help and train and equip and develop and it gets done better, but it’s really an oversight sometime to really focus on what needs to be done instead of who’s doing it. Number five and the last one for me was establishing a culture of improving versus proving. This is you may recognize this from Carol Dweck in the mindset or principles where the people on your team are trying to prove their intelligence and worth to you. They are not going to take risks that’s going to promote a fixed mindset. They’re not going to do new things, but when a culture really embraces improving that everything can be viewed as a learning experience, then failures and setbacks become part of the lesson and everyone ends up better for it.

And I’ve seen this where people are just always bringing me the, “Look what I did, look what I did.” You’re trying to prove their worth or value, no, no, we’re about taking chances, taking risks, trying things. If you make a mistake, it’s a chance to improve. And we value that with each other. As a leader, that’s the coaching moment to really jump in and support that.

Chris Goede:     Love that. Improve versus proving. That’s powerful right there. If you just take that statement, think about that and ask yourself about your leadership culture and the culture of the organization, which one does it fall under? Because that’s a huge driver. I love that. Well, I think the bottom line is we kind of go through this. Again, none of this is just, “Wow, that’s incredible.” It’s stuff we’ve talked about before in different ways. But I think what we’re really saying here is the moments are there. As a leader, you need to be looking for them. You got to be intentional about it. And if you’re doing this, I promise you it’s contagious and you’ll see it begin to ripple effect down your organization and it’ll drive a high performing culture.

Perry Holley:    I can hear John Maxwell in my head as he had just a throw away line in one of the books and I highlighted it, but I went back and it said, “Is your team better because of your presence? Is your team better because you were there?” And I have to be honest, in a lot of places where I was, no, I was just causing strife. Probably I was demanding. I was level one being the boss and I wasn’t really adding value to the team. And I think when I discovered for me is am I noticing is my family better because of my presence, coaching moment with my kids? Is my team at work better because of my presence, coaching moments with my team?

And it just opened my eyes up to what’s my role? I can really add value here to a lot of people if I’ll just pay attention and quit having such high expectations that I don’t come alongside them and help them reach those high expectations.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. Well, as I wrap up, let me just say this. I think when you think about the levels of influence that you have with people, there are opportunities for coaching moments, 360° of your sphere of influence. I would encourage you to listen to this lesson and not go up to somebody say, “Hey, I want to coach you right here for a second.” Think about some of the principles that Perry’s laid out for us and we’ve kind of talked about, and think about moments where you can add value to that individual.

Don’t use the word coaching, how can I add value to them in this process? And I think you’ll be amazed at what will happen to your influence and also the production of that team, of the culture, of the performance of it. And then I just want to remind you as we close and I’ll throw it back to you, Perry, is that speaking of 360°, we’re actually going to bring that back. We’re going to be doing a virtual public workshop. And so if you’re interested in that, don’t hesitate to check out our website to be able to find out more information about that.

Perry Holley:    And that website would be You can find a learner’s guide for this session and all of our sessions. You can leave a question or a comment for us there. We always love hearing from you. And we’re always so grateful that you would spend this time with us each week. That’s all today from the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.

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