With the fast pace of the current working environment, what worked in the past does not necessarily work today. Leaders were expected to have all the answers and experience but considering the nature of today’s fast paced environment it is impossible. To cope, organisations are shifting from the traditional leadership style of command-and-control to something different. Organisations are moving towards practices where a leader’s role is focused on support and guidance. This enables employees to adapt to the changing environments rather than executing commands. Therefore, a leaders’ role is becoming more of a mentor and coach for his or her team.

Leaders have a natural ability to develop those around them. This can be because true leaders aim to serve others. They spend time to get to know their team, understand their strengths and weaknesses and most importantly, they listen more than they talk. Therefore, organisations should focus on training their leaders as mentors and coaches.

This concept where leaders fulfil the role of coaches and mentors is valuable because it can assist you as leader to unlock your team’s potential and therefore maximise their performance. It refers to asking others the right questions – instead of providing them with the answers – to spark insight, innovation, and problem-solving. Proving others with the opportunity to attain knowledge and new insights and simultaneously creates a learning culture. However, it is easy to aspire to such a culture because the gap between this aspiration and the reality is quite big. It is easy for the leader to try and provide the employees with solutions and convince them to execute their solution. Herminia Ibarra and Anne Scoular proposed the following matrix as a useful tool to help leaders improve their approach to coaching and mentoring.

Styles of Coaching

More information input 1.     Directive 4. Situational
Less information input 2.     Laissez-faire 3.     Non-directive
Less energy pulled out More energy pulled out
  1. Directive coaching refers to This is a mentoring approach where an older more experienced leader shares his expertise with a junior member.
  2. The Laissez-faire approach is almost the opposite approach. There may be instances when team members are productive and getting on with their work and the approach that the leader can follow is to let them be.
  3. The Non-directive approach focuses on listening, questioning, and not judging your team. The aim is to draw insights, knowledge, and creativity from your team and leaving your team to figure it out themselves.
  4. The sweet spot of the framework is the Situational approach. This refers to finding a balance between the directive and non-directive style according to the specific needs of the situation.

Another valuable tool that leaders can use is continuous feedback. Organisations often fall into the trap of giving feedback on a bi-annual basis. This form of feedback should be eradicated and replaced with a more frequent and open form of communication. The aim is continuous feedback. What are the benefits of providing continuous feedback?

  1. Provide a sense of purpose and belonging: As humans, we have the need to feel appreciated, that we belong and that what we do has a purpose. When we understand where we can improve and accept the feedback we receive, it enhances the need we have to create and to embrace what we do because it has meaning and purpose.
  2. Unlocks your ability to change and innovate: If you are not provided with feedback, you will go your whole life thinking you are performing perfectly. However, if you are not given feedback, you will never think of new and inventive ways of doing things. Receiving feedback is imperative to enhancing yourself and challenging your own way of doing things.
  3. Fosters a healthy organisational culture: When you create a culture where employees feel comfortable to discuss their strengths and developmental areas, you create a culture that values continuous learning and development of their employees. Providing continuous feedback will allow your employees to excel and enhance their performance in the workplace.
  4. Encourages better organisational and employee goal setting: Many organisations follow the trend of annual performance review sessions. However, research suggests that setting quarterly feedback generates 30-35% better results than annual performance goals. Regular and continuous feedback provides the organisation and employees with a greater opportunity to achieve their goals.
  5. Enhances company morale: Providing your employees with the opportunity to deliver feedback will improve not only their morale but give them a personal sense of responsibility towards the business. Gifting your employees with the feeling of being heard gives them hope and confidence that their feedback has been heard and that steps have been taken to implement it.
  6. Boosts clients’ appreciation: When feedback is not limited to internal employees, but rather spreads over to clients, something magical happens. Clients have an external perception of the organisation, which often means their perceptions are objective. Organisations should prompt clients to provide feedback. That way, they can implement the feedback where necessary and where enhancement is sure to occur.
  7. Identifies best job fit: If you provide continuous feedback to your team, you are not only being decent and making them aware of their performance, but it can also identify an individual’s job fit. If you provide feedback because one of your employees is not performing to scratch, it may be because they are not in the right position and are possibly suited elsewhere.

The longer you withhold feedback, the longer you keep the individual in the dark about potential areas they could work on. This inhibits them from not only performing optimally in your organisation but also impacts how they carry themselves and perform in the future.

Sources:

Herminia Ibarra and Anne Scoular. (2019). The leader as coach. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2019/11/the-leader-as-coach

Lead Change. (2017). Mentor and Coach. Retrieved from https://leadchangegroup.com/mentor-and-coach/#:~:text=A%20leader%20uses%20experience%20and,less%20experienced%20or%20knowledgeable%20individual.&text=While%20a%20leader%20coaches%20and,dedicates%20time%20to%20develop%20them.

Forbes. (2017). How Workplace Feedback is Changing (And How Technology Can Play a Role). Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2017/04/07/how-workplace-feedback-is-changing-and-how-technology-can-play-a-role/#7f95a00f2dd0

Forbes. (2020). Feedback is a Gift- and Wise Leaders Give it Generously. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/robasghar/2020/02/25/feedback-is-a-gift-and-wise-leaders-give-it-generously-to-their-teams/#12b101c16d8c

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