Many believe that leaders focus only on performance. Not so anymore. CEOs across the world indicate in leadership surveys, including those of The Conference Board, DDI, and CCL that leaders now need to focus on people to deliver performance. They call this the 2020 leadership paradigm.
Indian CEOs do not feel very differently. What has changed?
A combination of the millennial generation aspirations and new technological models in the fastest growing knowledge industry sectors have forced leaders to move from the ‘tell’ mindset to an ‘ask’ mindset. It is not that the millennial generation is ‘entitlement’ oriented as several older executives complain; this generation wants to be heard first, then told. The attitude of saying ‘how high, sir?’ when told to jump, has changed to ‘whatever for?’
In my opinion, this is a change that needed to happen. Organizations should never have been dictatorships.
Challenges of Engagement & Change
These global surveys also indicate that the biggest leadership challenges are in engaging with people and leading change. Lack of engagement, evidenced as lack of alignment between employee and organizational values and goals, is the biggest profit destroyer in global corporations. Surveys indicate that almost 75% of employees are misaligned with their organization’s goals and as a result disengaged from its success. Many companies are doing something about this, and not effectively. I have seen many well-intended processes become manipulative rituals, if there is no effort to change executive mindset and organizational culture.
The next biggest challenge, accelerating change termed as VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous), demands that executives learn to move into unknown territories without a compass, not knowing what to expect. For those used to rulebooks and procedural manuals this is a huge leap. Overcoming this challenge is also mindset change, not a skill development.
What mindset changes are needed?
My own observation on why engaging people and leading change have become so difficult for executives is that almost 80% of the many hundred executives I have coached measure as STJ (sensory, thinking, judging) personality types in Jungian tests. I believe earlier day hierarchical manufacturing industry practices to be responsible for this, generating the belief that workers cannot be responsible for their actions and needed to be told.
I am convinced that today’s leaders need to be of the NFP (intuitive, feeling, perceiving) personality profile! Leadership development practices are yet to realize this. Managing these 2020 leadership challenges requires that leaders engage, influence, and inspire people, in order to leverage their collective, collaborative engagement to successfully navigate the unknown. These, in turn, require that leaders be people-centric and be emotionally intelligent in being self and socially aware. Leaders need to integrate sensory, thinking, judging mindsets with intuitive, feeling, perceiving orientation.
Why is coaching relevant?
Coaching competencies and 2020 leadership paradigm competencies are quite congruent. The coaching process too is client centric and is a partnership. Competencies of outcome orientation, establishing rapport, communicating both cognitively and emotionally, creating self and client awareness, and co-creating planned, accountable action are competencies common to both.
I have experienced that a very effective way of enhancing performance in high potential managers is to work with them through structured coaching competencies. Training mentor managers in coaching competencies helps them shift from STJ to NFP perspective to coach like leaders, integrating people orientation with performance orientation. These leaders act decisively and effectively, while still in touch with people and their yearnings.
Coaching to Lead
Several well-known global leaders in coach training offer their programs as leadership development programs. However, not many are structured for integration in the corporate leadership development process. Based on my experience, institutional leadership development programs based on coaching intervention need to fulfill these requirements.
· Institutions should specify ROI based meta goals to evidence the efficacy of the program, in addition to individual development objectives for individual behavioral changes. Coaches should be prepared to perform based on success measures.
· The program should blend individual coaching with group coaching to address both institutional and individual needs. Coaches need to be trained in both group and individual competencies, which are not the same.
· Coaching should be transformational and strategic focusing on mindset shift rather than transactional and tactical. Focus needs to be on clients deriving solutions through their own awareness rather than mentors providing solutions based on their experience and expertise.
· Coaching should be based on action learning cycle. Each session of group coaching followed by individual coaching needs to be followed by application of mutually agreed actions on the job. The next coaching session starts with the learning from action.
· In the Indian context, ancient Indian concepts of Mindless Awareness can be integrated with the coaching process to anchor and sustain the transformational mindset. Indian coaches need to learn Indian culture.
I have used these concepts successfully in the Coach-to-Lead model I coach executive groups with. Generally, these programs start with a vision-to-action process that helps a group of executives co-create a vision and then collaboratively produce an action plan, which each member of the team takes accountability for. In addition to producing a collective vision-to-action plan, this process builds an emotional bond transforming the group into a committed team.
This action plan serves as the outcome for the coaching program. At the group level focus is on the organizational goals. Observation of group dynamics as well as psychometric assessments helps with individual transformation.
I am sure several such models using coaching as an intervention in leadership development will evolve to fulfill the needs of the next generation organizational leaders.