“How do you find the time to manage all of this social media stuff?” That’s one of the most common questions I’m asked whenever I present. And sometimes, I get the sense that people are hoping that it’s so complicated and time-consuming that they’ll have a great excuse NOT to do it. Not to learn [...]
The Future of Leadership: Coaching and the Young Guns
There has been much written on the ‘Y generation and their approach to work, both good and bad! The key differentiating factor for me, between the new generation of managers and leaders and their predecessors, including myself, is that this generation is adopting coaching skills as a normal way of doing business. To me, they actually represent the future of leadership the way I would like to see it!
The young guns are doing leadership development programs in their roles as team leaders and are discovering coaching tools and incorporating coaching as their preferred leadership style.
Unlike many of us ‘oldies,’ and I’m only 38, they have not had to unlearn old habits and let go of preferred ways of operating to relearn their coaching skills. They have adopted coaching skills easily because they are comfortable with them. Sir John Whitmore says that it is harder to let go of and ‘unlearn’ telling people what to do, than it is to learn to coach.
One of the Bright Sparks I interviewed passionately explained that she didn’t want to be the bossy boss who told everyone what to do. She didn’t have the confidence to do it because many of the people that she’d be telling what to do would just scoff at her: What does she know? She is just a young up-start. She thinks she knows everything because she’s graduated with a degree and swallowed a textbook and thinks she knows better.
Fifteen years ago, that was me in the early days of my banking career! I was the young whipper-snapper telling the General Manager of Electronic Banking that I was sure that MYOB would emerge as the preferred protocol for accounting management systems for small business in the future and that the bank should invest in interfacing its electronic banking system to MYOB and Quicken. By investing early in the interface, the bank was likely to win the lucrative market share for small business electronic banking.
The General Manager asked me what evidence I had and I presented my case. He dismissed my recommendations and said that it was too early to invest and he doubted that any one protocol would be dominant enough to warrant the investment of an interface. I actually glared across the table at him and said, ‘Based on my extensive research and discussions with customers, you are making a mistake.’ I instantly thought that saying this was a career-limiting move. But I realise now that much of my career has been dotted with so-called ‘career-limiting moves’ that never limited my career!
The following year, my prediction proved to be true. The bank missed the opportunity and lost market share to a major competitor who became well known in the marketplace for innovative small business banking solutions. It wasn’t so much his decision that upset me; it was that I really felt that he was looking down on me, thought he knew better and wasn’t listening to me because I was young and ‘what did I know.’
Today’s young leaders are different from me because, back then, I didn’t have the skills that they have today. I inspired, motivated and lead high-performance leading-edge teams, but I basically got them to do what I wanted them to do. Yes, I had problems with some ‘older’ people, but I earned their respect through hard work and I was very talented in my field.
One young leader I interviewed from the Reach Foundation, said, ‘Coaching is the most comfortable way for me to do leadership. For me, to be telling people what to do would make me feel sick. You don’t show people you value them if you are ordering them around.’ What a statement! I thought to myself. What if all leaders, regardless of age, had similar thoughts!
I can’t help thinking about the next generation of managers who, if they adopt coaching skills, will become part of a new transformation that all organisations need if they are to truly bring out the best in their people. I have met a number of inspirational new leaders and they are the future of leadership in our organisations. When I’m 50 or 60, I will be so proud to be able to sit back and say that in some small way I influenced their career path, perhaps mentored them originally, and now, wow, look at what they have achieved.
I have trained people who are in their 60s, who, after long and distinguished careers, are adopting coaching skills for the first time and loving it! ‘These skills will set me up for the future’, declared one of my most promising new sixty-year-old coaches. Age is no barrier; it’s about passion for people, excellent questioning, listening and rapport and a focus on bringing out the best in people. It is also about their dedication to self-awareness, self-development and life-long learning, and I really admire this in them.
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