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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #144: Becoming a Coaching Leader

July 8, 2021
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #144: Becoming a Coaching Leader

All leaders should be developing their people, but oftentimes this important task is pushed away due to time constraints. Coaching leaders, however, make people development a part of everything they do. Today, Chris and Perry talk about how you can become a coaching leader.

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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 Geode, Vice President with The John Maxwell Company. Welcome, and thank you for joining. Just a reminder, if you want to download the learner guide or have a question or comment for Perry and I, please visit Leave that information there. I know we’ve had listeners reach out to us before, give us different topics that they’re looking to hear from, have questions for us. We would love to be able to connect with you in that way.

Today’s topic, we’re going to talk about becoming a coaching leader. And, recently we did a podcast on recognizing the coaching moment, which was episode, I think, 136. Which, was very beneficial because there are moments all day long in a leader’s life that we need to be aware of in order to coach our people. What I love about that is those were small coaching moments where we saw areas for our team they could improve. What I loved about it was not waiting for the review, it’s like, “No, this is realtime, what does this look like?” Is this where we’re headed today? Talk a little bit about where you’re coming from today.

Perry Holley:    It came up because I ask an executive from time to time about if they either formally or informally coach their people. I’m a little surprised by the number of leaders that don’t do that, that think that’s a unique idea. And, when I ask, “Why not?” The most popular answer is, “I don’t have time.” And, I’m old enough now to know that when somebody says, “I don’t have time.” What they’re really saying is, “It’s not a priority in my life.” But, since I know there’s nothing really more important than developing your people, I’m guessing the real reason might be that, “I’m not confident I know how to be a coaching leader.” So, I want to talk about it. It does tie to the coaching moment a bit, but if you’re not a coaching leader you’re probably missing the coaching moment too.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. And, what I love about this is that Perry has the opportunity to be in front of all types of organizations, and all types of leaders, both from facilitation and coaching. And, we’re just bringing to you what we’re hearing. This is a conversation that we’re having with leaders around the world, and so you may be going, “Man, this is exactly where I’m at.” Well, you’re not the only one. And so, we’re just bringing the content to you. And, I think this is an important one. A lot of times, as leaders and as people, we want the quick fix. We want to, as John says, “Microwave people”, and we want to leave the office at 5:30 or 6:00 and come back the next morning and they’re completely fixed. That may go for yourself as well. But, that is not going to happen. It’s a process, and we need to make sure that we understand that, that we need to continue to grow and to improve our people. And, we just need to take them to the next level. Not, “I wish Perry was like that. I wish Perry led like that.” We’ll get there, but there’s always a next level.

And so, what is it that we can do to begin to coach these individuals and become a coach in order just to take them to that next level? Because, what we know, is that if you continue to take small steps, they lead to big things.

Perry Holley:    That’s right.

Chris Goede:     So, excited about where we’re going.

Perry Holley:    If you want to know more about this topic, I did some reading as well, Daniel Harkavy’s got a fantastic book on becoming a coaching leader, I highly recommend. But, he says, “When it comes to developing people, leaders take on one of five styles.” I thought this was a little funny, but not so much funny because it’s probably true. I’ll take one and then you take one.

Chris Goede:     Okay.

Perry Holley:    He said there’s the… And, I found myself in a little bit of all of these, I’m afraid to say, the self-made leader. The leader that says, “I never anybody help me, I did it myself, you’re on your own.”

Chris Goede:     I love that. The next one is the perk-and-pray. When I first read it I was like, “What?” So, I had to go with the description of it. “Send them to a leadership event as a perk, and then pray it sticks with them.” And, I think about how many people go to different, what we just call, events. And, maybe a catalytic event, but there’s no process behind it. So, a perk-and-pray leader. Love that.

Perry Holley:    mentor leader is, “You just bring me your problems and I’ll tell you how I did it.”

Chris Goede:     The next one is, outsourcing leader. “Bring in the outside expert to develop your people.”

Perry Holley:    And then, the final one was, the coaching leader. “You want a coaching culture, and you follow a proactive coaching plan for each person, making an investment in each person.” So, that’s really where we’re headed.

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Chris Goede:     Love it. We know, if you’re a follower of our podcast, and where Perry and I come from, there’s no doubt that as leaders you have to position yourself as a coaching leader to your people. Think about the things that you’ve learned and the journey you’ve been on. It’s been because of the fact that there were individuals that took the opportunity to coach you along the way.

First and foremost, we need to make sure that we set a clear direction and clear expectation with our team for those outcomes. I love this, John talks about the disappointment gap. We’ll talk a little bit about this, where the difference between expectations and reality is the disappointment. So, as leaders, we need to make sure that we’re setting clear direction and expectations on the outcomes. If the people on the team are not clear where they’re going and what is expected, it doesn’t matter how much you’re going to coach them, it won’t have an effect on them.

Perry Holley:    That’s right. Next, I think a coaching leader has a really good idea where every person on the team is when it comes to skill and performance. And, wants that person or each person to grow and get to the next level. Coaching leaders, I can’t express this enough about the reality, they’re really based in the reality of where people are. They know what their performance is like, they know where their strengths and weaknesses are. And, while the individuals, I find this to be true, think they’re doing pretty good at what they do, the coaching leader can help them see where they really are and what the next level looks like. I can’t tell how many people… I don’t even think they know there is a next level. They think they’re at the level they need to be. Maybe give me your insight on this, but I think there’s always a next level.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, there’s always a next level. There was a survey done that said 95% of people that answered this question on a survey about self-awareness said that they were self-aware. And, we know that that’s not true. Those percentages do not work out, and so there’s always that gap. We talked a little bit about the disappointment gap just a minute ago, but I think Perry’s onto something here, where there is a gap between where maybe our team thinks they are, maybe even where we think they are, and where we need them to be, or what the organization needs from them. And so, we need to make sure that we’re having those types of conversations with our people. We need to make sure that we not only identify those gaps, but then we are candid and we talk about, in the right way, so that we can make sure that each person that we’re going through and that we’re coaching, we’re on the same page with them. And, that they’re not surprised by either the gap that we see, versus what they see, or where we’re taking them.

Perry Holley:    Yeah, I’ll bring this up to an executive and they’ll say, “What do I coach on?” I said, “Coach to the gap.”

Chris Goede:     That’s good.

Perry Holley:    They said, “What gap?” “A gap from where they are to where you think they should be. That requires a little bit on you to be paying attention, doing performance evaluation about how are they performing, what do you think they could be doing better. No shame not to be there, that’s the idea, part of the journey to get there. But, just coach to the gap.” It became my battle cry.

Chris Goede:     There’s two gaps. Now that you just said that I’m thinking about it. There’s the gap between where the individual sees themself, and where you as a leader see them, so that’s one gap. And then, the second gap is the answer to both that question, wherever that is in the middle somewhere, between that and then where the organization needs them to go, and they got to coach both of those.

Perry Holley:    Yeah, good. Let’s talk practical just for a moment, about how do you actually do this in the real world? I think a lot of leaders get put off by how much time this is going to take and the effort that’s involved. So, let me pose you the question, put you on the spot here. These are the questions I hear, but let me get your feedback on them. So, the first one is, is this is a one-on-one scheduled coaching meeting for each person?

Chris Goede:     It could be, if you’re looking at this as a longterm development individual team member. But, I would encourage you to make this part of your everyday connections, and/or maybe your one-on-one meetings with your team. I use the opportunity when we even have stand-up meetings about certain things going on in our business, to use that to coach through the process. When I have one-on-ones with my team members, I use part of that as part of a coaching process. And, I’m asking questions, and I’m saying, “Hey, what would you do here?” And so, it could be if you have an intentional development plan for an individual, and that takes, by the way, a lot of coaching. I think that’s even where some people get tied up in this, “I don’t have time. I need to schedule it.” And so, that’s why I say it could be, but I want you to think about it a little bit differently, and make it part of what you do every day. What part of that conversation did you take the advantage of to use that as a coaching moment?

Don’t go overboard, because then they won’t even come to you, be like, “Oh man, I’m not going to talk to Chris again. He’s going to try to coach me on something.” But, do it in the right way and with the right pace. So, I would encourage you to make that part of what you do on a daily basis.

Perry Holley:    Someone said to me, “I’m not a certified coach, do I need to get certified? Or just hire Perry?” No, I added that last part. “Do I need to get certified?”Chris Goede:     No, you don’t need to get certified. Matter of fact, I would think that most people that do get certified don’t even lean on their certification. They’re leaning on the fact that they want the best out of that individual, they want to be able to help them and develop them in a way that comes from your own experiences. Everything that I’ve learned has come from somebody that has gone before me and done something very similar. And so, why would I not take the opportunity then to share that from my experiences with other people, and/or other situations? So no, you don’t need a certification. I think if you have the right heart for developing people, you can just pull from your own experiences and share that.

Perry Holley:    Someone asked me, “Do I need to document every conversation I have with someone on the team? Do I need to write all this down?”

Chris Goede:     No. And, if that was the case I wouldn’t do it either. Because, it would be on one of my, as you guys have heard on a previous episode, sticky notes somewhere on my desk. But, I do think it’s helpful for you to take maybe a key reminder or two, maybe something that someone’s really working hard through, or struggling with, or you’re coaching them on. Just as a reminder for you to be able to follow back up the next time you connect with them, saying, “Hey, how’s this going? I know you were trying a different approach here, what ended up happening right here? Tell me the story.” So that then you’re making them think through and evaluate that experience. That will even be a bigger coaching moment for you. So, no, you don’t need to sit down and take copious notes, but if there are key monumental things they’re working on, I’d make a note on it and follow it back up with them.

Perry Holley:    On the bottom of a piece of paper I just wrote that persons name, “Next time, start with…” And, I’m just going to ask them, “Hey, we talked about X. Or, you said you were going to do Y. How’d that go?”

Chris Goede:     That’s good.

Perry Holley:    It’s a great way to start a conversation. They know that you paid attention, you listened, you remembered. That’s the way I remember these days, I write it down. I don’t write copious notes, but I do, “Where’s the starting point for the next time?”

So, if we think about wrapping up, I would love to get your ideas on the skillset of a coaching leader. What do you think we lean most on as a skill to really develop this coaching mindset?

Chris Goede:     What do we lean on, or what should we be leaning on? The reason I ask that is because I think probably what we lean on the most as leaders is this whole observation. We’re watching, and so then we want to go and start coaching. That’s not wrong. But, I think a key part of what we should be doing in between there is asking questions. And, I think, as leaders, you can coach even more effectively by asking questions that allows them to think, and develop, and come up with certain solutions. Which, by the way, might not always be the right solution. It may not be your solution. But, it’s okay because it may still accomplish it, and/or if it doesn’t they’re going to learn more from that experience than they did if it was right the first time. Because, by the way, we learn most of our lessons from our failures.

Perry Holley:    That’s right.

Chris Goede:     And, even though it’s hard to watch our team go through that, and/or our children, you have to do that because that’s part of a coaching process. The other thing is, I think if you’re going to step out and begin to coach people, you need to help them… I talk about from us, and what we get the privilege of doing around the world is, I use three A’s. I say, “When we’re coaching people, one of the things you just need to know is that we’re going to be able to ask the tough questions. Maybe ask questions that others that are closer to the game wouldn’t be able to ask you. We’re going to help you develop action plans, and then we’re going to hold you accountable.” And so, if you think about those three A’s, it’s a great way for you to begin to approach coaching people. And, you become a coaching leader if you just keep that in the back of your head as you’re working and connecting with your team.

Perry Holley:    It definitely requires an intentional mindset, that’s for sure. I know it’s easy to be consumed with your urgent and important of your day-to-day job, but this is what Stephen Covey would call quadrant two, it is the not urgent, but important quadrant where this really happens. And, designating the time and just set out a mindset that, “I’m going to really observe the gap and help people coach to that gap, get people across it, help everybody on the team to grow.” Why don’t you wrap it up for us?

Chris Goede:     Here’s what I’m thinking about, John wrote a book entitled, The leader’s Greatest Return. You and I talk about the model of the 5 Levels, and how it is a difference maker for organizations and building a leadership culture of how people think, act, and interact. We’re talking about a level four influence right here. I just want you to think back to the people that have invested in your life, and that have developed you, and that coached you. And, you are where you are today, no matter what that role is, because somebody believed in you and somebody coached you through certain things. And, I think, at the end of the day, we want to make sure that it doesn’t matter what your title is, it doesn’t matter how big the business is, if you had people that looked up and said, “Perry coached me through this, and I am here today because Perry gave me that nugget, or because he did this.” That’s what it’s all about.

That’s what John’s principle is in The Leader’s Greatest Return, people are looking for the financial . And, he’s like, “No, no, no, it’s about adding value, developing your people in a way that allows them to achieve something that they wouldn’t be able to do without your coaching moments.” And so, I just want you to think about that from a perspective of, “This is not a bottom line thing, but it will help your bottom line. This is not about necessarily improving communication, but it will improve your communication.” Begin to think about, “How do I be intentional about coaching my team members?”

Perry Holley:    Fantastic, thank you Chris. As a reminder, there’s a learner’s guide for this, as well as an opportunity for you to leave a comment or a question for us. We love hearing from you. You can also learn more about The 5 Levels of Leadership, 360° Leader, and other offerings that we have. You can do all that at We’re very grateful that you would join us today, as we always are. That’s all today from The John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.

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