Mantle Leadership Lessons

How true leaders grow other leaders

There’s no disputing that the world we live and work in is advancing at an ever-increasing pace. From apps to AI, the level of technological nous needed to do just about any skilled job today is a quantum leap ahead of where it was 10 years ago.

With such rapid change, many of us find our way of working constantly disrupted by new tech. So how do we encourage employees to thrive (and survive!) in the ever-evolving modern workplace?

Why the new world of work requires a new approach

As the world becomes more connected and collaborative, organisations are becoming increasingly flat in structure. However, despite a change in the way companies look, many managers still use a hierarchical approach when team members come in search of guidance.

Traditionally, an employee who came to his or her manager with a problem could expect to receive either an answer, or directions for how to resolve the issue. After all, if their manager (presumably a more senior and experienced employee) has the answer, why not share it?

It may seem counterintuitive but, for employees to develop the skills to thrive in an ever-changing environment, providing neatly packaged solutions isn’t productive.

To develop the right skillset, people need to become comfortable with uncertainty and be able to adapt quickly to change. So, how can leaders facilitate this development?

The best leaders don’t tell – they ask

Consider the employee who goes to his or her manager, seeking guidance. Simply giving an instruction won’t encourage that employee to learn to think on their feet. To achieve this, the individual needs to move from a passive role in resolving the challenge to an active one.

While that might seem like a tough transition for an individual to make, the reality is that a single, simple question can often set the employee on the right path. That question?

“What do you think?”

By asking this question, the leader immediately encourages their team member to become an active participant in the problem-solving process. Asked enough times, the individual will become confident in their ability to present and trial novel solutions. When done well, this approach can be hugely beneficial for employees – empowering them to tackle bigger and more complex problems.

From manager to coach – a critical transition

Developing team members into agile thinkers requires a new type of leadership – one centred on a coaching approach.

Sir John Witmore, a leading figure in the executive management field, defines coaching as “unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”

While coaching is becoming BAU for many leaders, it’s still taking some time for some managers to become accustomed to it.

Ongoing research, carried out by Julia and Trenton Milner, found that when initially asked to coach, many managers instead offered a form of consultancy towards staff that bordered on suggestion. This ultimately did not help staff to become independent of them.

The Milner’s research, which is still ongoing, found that coaching is a skill that management needs to learn themselves, and that it needs to be honed over time to ensure a positive result for them, their staff and the organization as a whole.

The benefits of coaching

While it might seem difficult at first, in the end there are many benefits to embracing a coaching style of management.

In research presented by Judith and Richard Glaser in The Neurochemistry of Positive Conversations, the benefits of coaching led to differences in levels of positive (oxytocin-producing) vs negative (cortisol-producing) interactions between managers and staff.

They also found that taking the ask approach led to better self-confidence for employees. This in turn led them to develop newfound abilities to handle complex problems, allowing the managers to return to focusing on their own work instead.

Coaching can only be beneficial to our fast-paced modern workplaces and, with a bit of patience and practice, managers and leaders are sure to see the benefits of it.

Want to develop your coaching skills?

Mantle is running a two-day coaching workshop – Vital Interactions: Coaching Skills for Leaders – on the 18th and 19th of November. To learn more, and book your seat, click here.

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