As a Coach I work with high level Executives and Entrepreneurs in developing their skills, abilities and behaviors to match the complex requirements of their roles.
Developing a person is a highly demanding and very revealing process for both the Coach and the Coachee.
People that take up leadership roles usually have a track record of successes in their previous positions either in the “functional” part of the role or in the “social” part of it. For example, the best engineer could be promoted to Head of Operations because he knows every detail of the systems and can solve all sorts of technical problems; an excellent communicator could become the Head of Sales because he can motivate his staff and speed up results in sales. In most cases both aim at becoming the CEO of the company in the next step of their career.
People who get promoted to Leadership roles combine both sets of skills “technical and people skills” at different levels.
The Leader the Role and the Culture
When we have to work with a person to develop their Leadership skills we first need to understand their role; what does the specific role require?
It is not always the same.
The requirements of a specific Leadership role depend on the system (the Organization) that he/she has to manage and lead.
It is also very important to consider the Culture of the company in which the Leader has to perform. If the Leader is an internal promotion then he knows the Culture and in most cases, he can navigate in the system successfully. If he is new in the company then it is very important to understand the environment and realize which behaviors he needs to learn or unlearn to be able to lead others in the Organization (the system).
In both cases, whether internal or external promotion, the level of performance required has increased and it requires the leader to continue their own development in 4 areas that’s consistently and repeatedly appeared as I coach leaders into their new role. I broadly outline what each of these are and bring these learnings to light with one of my case studies.
- Expanding the thinking process
- Developing and refining emotional intelligence
- Explore values and ethics
The first step of the Coaching process in Leadership development is to facilitate and promote self-awareness so that the person,
- understands their strengths and
- their areas for development.
Together with that, we both as Coach and Coachee need to understand what the specific role in the specific culture requires.
Although Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Integrity, Openness etc. appear as common values in most Organizations’ websites, in fact they are not the real values that we discover when we do an in depth diagnosis of an Organization’s culture. In the process of understanding the Culture we discuss with people from diverse functions and levels. During the structured interviews we explore the “how we do things here” which is the essence of the Culture, the subconscious thinking and acting process that affects every person in the Organisation. It usually happens that the elements of the Culture differ from the stated values. In each specific context the Leaders should be aware of what is required from their role within the Culture in order to be able to retain and enhance their position and change the Organization for the better.
Embarking on a Coaching Programme an Executive will go through a self- awareness process in which he will be able to realize his strengths, his areas of development and his potential. We work together in exploring their dreams, values, aspirations and fears and plan the way ahead with small steps forward and reflection on achievements and alternative actions. Very often I am happy when people discover a much higher potential that they have never used before because they didn’t know they could!
Expanding the thinking process
Self-awareness includes a very important element: thinking process and beliefs.
During the Coaching process we come across hidden dysfunctional beliefs and fears that shape -and in most cases - limit the thinking process and deprive the Coachee of valuable opportunities for further achievements. A lot of the work I do focusses on their thinking process in order to expand it and open the way for the Coachee to use their own potential freely, purposefully and systematically.
Developing and refining emotional intelligence
Supporting the expansion of the thinking process understanding our own fears and emotions is a major step towards self-development. Understanding other people’s fears and emotions is a significant skill required as a Leader.
- Emotional intelligence is a skill that the Coachee develops and enhances in the process of Coaching;
- Self-awareness leads us to better understand how we feel and how others feel at any different situation.
We can only manage ourselves and others if we can understand and manage our own emotions at any different situation. Fear, stress, anxiety block our best thinking and intentions for result; Coaching creates the “safe framework” for the Coachee to learn to manage them successfully and efficiently.
Exploring values & ethics
Values and ethics is the most complex and challenging topic because both of them influence our decisions and actions unconsciously.
- They are built at an early stage in our lives and form patterns of behavior that we follow without consciously thinking.
- As we evolve our values and ethics might change slightly but again this process happens unconsciously without us dictating or deciding it.
We discover our true values when we face dilemmas, challenges and major crisis and even then, we may not realize how far our true values and ethics are from what we declare to believe.
This self-deception and incongruence is often a cause of failure and disappointment in life and business. In the Coaching process we have the chance to reveal the inner values, realize them and understand which of them to keep or change in order to feel more in balance with ourselves and our goals in life.
An example of Leadership development might be useful to illustrate some of the above-mentioned points.
A real case of Leadership development in a very different company environment
My client is a Sales Director in a Real Estate Agency. In fact, it is the biggest Real Estate Agency in the country with thousands of transactions every year. He became a Sales Director after a promotion he got for his high performance as an agent. In the new position he needed to develop different skills and behaviours because his role was completely different. He wouldn’t have to see clients to promote property; he would manage people doing that. The team he belonged to merged with another team and some more new people joined. This company is different to the usual companies we know: all the agents work on commission without any benefits or expenses covered; they are free lancers who are independent and their income comes from the sales they achieve.
The Sales Director can manage the work but doesn’t really have power over the people because they are freelancers. How can he make them abide by the rules of the company, work as a team and perform?
In a typically structured company there is hierarchy, roles and tasks, salaries and insurance and in some cases a development plan or some sort of career path for the employees. In this specific case people work on commission, get a very basic training on the systems and regulations and they start selling.
From our conversations it was clear that the management of his team should be based on creating a context of trust, belonging and mutual cooperation that would then lead them to become a team and perform. There was a need to create one team from the two teams that were merged and the new people who joined. He should offer what was missing from the context: people should feel support and stability if not safety.
Because of the specific characteristics of this environment there was no position for a manager; he should be a leader be the example himself or else the freelancers would act independently and ignore him.
We structured together his plan to develop people by being the example himself;
- He was the first to explain the regulations and apply them in every task.
- He was the one who provided a lot of information and tips on how to manage a client so they would sign the contract and earn their commission.
- He would do all the difficult negotiations and discussions to ease the sale.
He started organizing “best practices” sessions to give them the opportunity to share their experience and learn from each other; new and older agents were looking forward to those meetings in which they both learned and got praised. This practice expanded to their everyday work: they started discussing between them the most difficult cases and find solutions for the agent who had the “difficult” client.
They are in the 9th month now and they have become the most connected team in the company and their results are continuously improving. They are a team working closely together with their leader. The Sales Manager enjoys working with the agents that became a team that cooperates and help each other in all difficult cases.
He had to become the example and prove that he cares about the team by truly supporting them to perform and be rewarded for that. And he did. He developed new skills in coaching and developing people and raised to a new level of understanding and practicing his new leadership skills.
It was a great example for my practice of how a person can build a team with trust and care. My contribution to the process was to shed light on the hidden spots of the system (team) and his own unused abilities and qualities that became conscious and were wisely incorporated in his everyday behavior.
Coaching a Leader within the framework of an Organization is the process that will strengthen and develop the person in their role and help them achieve highest results for themselves, their teams and the Organization. At the same time, Coaching builds and refines a person’s hidden talents and abilities and leads them to a more fulfilling life as a person and as a professional with purpose and balance.
As a Coach I find real purpose in life when I contribute to a person’s development and success. There are valuable learnings in every coaching process that I look for and appreciate.
To connect with Maria Biquet:
Maria Biquet is an experienced multilingual Business Consultant and Executive Coach with vast experience from diverse business fields. Maria has long experience in Strategic Marketing and in establishing companies in new markets.
For more than 15 years she has studied various methodologies for self development and change including Neuroscience in Coaching, Systemic approach, Appreciative Inquiry Approach, NLP and mindfulness techniques. She holds a University degree in Language & Linguistics and an MBA-International Marketing.
Vice President of Marketing & Communications of HCA (Hellenic Coaching Association), member of the EMCC (European Mentoring & Coaching Council). Currently is a Mentor at Orange Grove for startup companies and Cherie Blair Foundation.
Works in Greek, English and French.