The Role of the Leader-Coach in Business Relationships
Posted on December 22, 2021
I’m going to start this with a story. Maria’s story, to be precise. I worked with Maria this year, and it was a clear (and real) example of how the role of Leader-Coach affects relationships in business.
Maria is a Mexican millennial who works as a manager in a global company. She has been working hard enough to be considered one of the most promising employees at the firm. This year she received a promotion, and her team is completely new. She is also struggling with balancing business and relationships.
As a young leader, she has learned from the more senior leaders in the company, who operate in a mainly paternalistic leadership role. So, she’s used to double-checking everything and closely tracking people’s tasks. She tends to micro-manage them; this tendency has created tension in the team and lots of stress for her.
My experience with Maria, and our coaching journey, led me to realize we need a new model of leadership in business.
Why do we need a different leadership model in business?
The quick answer would be because the old way to connect and build trusting relationships with our teams is not working now.
Globally, in these VUCA times — volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous — we need to become bigger and better leaders, capable of inspiring people, being reliable, and helping them to grow.
The new generations are looking for leaders who are real humans, trustable, and empowering. Values are now something they pay attention to; they want a congruent, honest and accessible person, not only someone who gives them instruction, supervision, and feedback. They want fully formed people who can be fully present — not just people who check on the numbers at the end of the month.
This is what Maria needed to learn. She needed to see that what her teams needed was for her to nurture relationships with them as a Leader-Coach.
Creating Leader-Coach relationships means creating connection. And how do we best connect with people?
Actually, it can be! All of us can learn how to make sure we are listening to connect and understand — and not only to solve a problem or have a contra-argument that makes you sound very knowledgeable. Most of the time, people who work with you know you are the expert; they are looking for something beyond that; they want to connect, feel part of the team, and be valuable. You can get that if you listen with intention.
Let’s go back to Maria’s example. After a few coaching sessions, she realized she wanted to have a different level of communication with her team and decided to have one-to-one meetings to talk about:
Expectations (for their professional career and life)
What they value from their role and functions
What they need from her to have a better experience in their jobs
After doing this, Maria says her relationships with her team members changed. She started to trust them, allowing her and her team members to work more independently and have different, more human conversations.
How can I start to integrate the Leader-Coach role into my leadership?
In the next week, I have one challenge for you: observe how much you talk during your business interactions and then how much of that is urgent (non-negotiable) information. You might discover there is a place for you to grow in your listening.
If you want to go one step further, try to self-manage your tendencies to solve and instead start formulating questions for your team. How do they imagine the solution? What is possible to change?
These minor adjustments will transform the relationship, by increasing engagement and supporting the development of your team members.
However, if you want to fully commit to this journey, train yourself as a coach and integrate your new skills, tools, and mindset with your current expertise as the head of your team!