Crisis come and go. Change is always present. However, does every change require a new leadership style? Do we need a new leadership style for the ‘New Norm’ – if there is such a thing in the first place?
We need leaders who build strong characters, based on their EVP, their Evergreen Values and Principles, guiding them through any stormy sea while being the rock in the surf. We need leaders who have a clear and inspirational vision, coaching people to grow personally and professionally on their joint journey toward that vision. And we need leaders who create more leaders, investing significant time in succession and development.
Developing new leaders is one of the key obligations of leaders. Hereby, we should take “developing” rather literally by its original meaning of “unfolding”, unfolding the best in people. With this in mind, the best one-word-description for a leader not the often cited ‘Visionary’ or ‘Charismatic’, but ‘Coach’. Coaches bring the best out of people, not through telling or advising but through listening and questioning. Like a Coach, great Leaders engage people to achieve success together, developing individual strengths and ensuring that nobody is left behind along the journey.
Therefore, the best way to coach for succession planning, is to help the leader to become a coach. As Voltaire (1694 – 1778) said: “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” In that sense, leaders may focus on asking the right question in the right circumstances using the right tone rather than believing they always must have the right answer. This can be done through:
- Listening to people from the opposite’s point of view, putting the own agenda aside
- Asking open-ended and insightful questions that stimulate self-reflection, imagination of possibilities and discovery of solutions from inside-out
- Supporting sustainable behavior changes, making the change stick
- Recognizing progress and achievements
Using this simplified coaching process in every communication instills trust, avoids conflicts and unleashes the full potential in people – to the benefit of any business.
Another way to help leaders in growing successors within the company, is bringing them away from the “my employees” mindset. Leaders don’t own teams nor employees; they are their temporary coaches. As long leaders develop people for short-term best-fit-assignments, unwilling to let them move and grow into other functions or departments, the succession pipeline becomes stale – and people may leave. Once leaders start developing people in line with their individual strengths and following their long-term personal career aspirations, people will not only grow and become more engaged, they are also more likely to stay.
Once a leader has the mindset of being a temporary coach as well as the ability to apply coaching skills, the coach may address the development roadmap for succession. Since job requirements are changing fast, one great way to build a flexible succession pipeline is to develop several “wildcards”, meaning highly engaged, multi-talented employees that are suitable for several roles in different functions. Here are two ways of developing wildcards: Looking at character rather than competence and focusing on being experiential rather than experienced. What does this mean? Find out more in the hyperlinked two articles on character and being experiential.
“Great Leaders choose the position they take toward people over the position they hold within the organization.” – Alexander Trost
Find more ideas on how to simplify your life in our self-coaching book “Intentionally Becoming Different” and/or in our online course “Unfold the Serene Leader in You” – Now.
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