One of my favorite things I do as an executive coach is sharing with my clients the progress they’ve made as demonstrated in the closing colleague feedback I solicit for them at the end of the coaching engagement. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately for both individual executive clients and for the high potential leaders in a couple of cohorts of our Next Level Leadership® group coaching program. They’re almost always fun conversations because the vast majority of my clients show measurable improvement in the leadership behaviors they’ve focused on in their development plans. What makes them even more fun is hearing their stories about how they made such dramatic improvements over the course of six months.
More often than not, my most successful clients have tapped into the transformative power of systematizing simple things. Take, for example, the story of a client I’ll call Joe.
Like a lot of leaders in highly matrixed organizations, Joe is currently in a role where his effectiveness depends on influence more than authority. He doesn’t have any solid line direct reports in his current job, but has to continuously mobilize a lot of colleagues from across the organization to come together and drive results. Historically, Joe has been in leadership roles that were more about authority than influence. He’s had solid line direct reports who took their cues from him and were evaluated on well they executed against Joe’s overall plan. Like a lot of leaders who make the shift from authority to influence driven outcomes, Joe struggled with that change at first.
As the focal points for his Next Level Leadership® Executive Success Plan™, Joe chose to work on giving his team space to come up with their own solutions for his first behavior and appropriately communicating his team’s results within the broader organization for his second behavior. In his closing 360-degree survey at the end of the six-month program, Joe showed a 73 percent rate of improvement on giving his team space and a 90 percent rate of improvement on communicating his team’s results.
Those are impressive rates of improvement any way you slice it. I asked Joe how he did it and it really came down to systematizing some simple things around the way he communicated with his team of indirect reports and how he shared their results within his company. He shared that he systematically did three simple things:
First, he got into the habit of calling one or two of his teammates during his daily afternoon dog walks just to check in on them and ask how he could help. The systematic routine of walking his dog became the cue for checking in with his teammates.
Second, he systematically looked for a few opportunities each week to send an email to key company influencers that highlighted the results his teammates were getting. That served multiple purposes. It made his teammates feel good. It motivated them to do more. And, it built broader support and appreciation for what his team was doing.
Third, Joe held a short team meeting every two weeks where his teammates could share their wins, learn from each other, and identify opportunities to help each other.
Obviously, none of what Joe did is rocket science. Great leadership usually isn’t. It’s quite often about systematically doing the simple things that transform the way a team works and that, in the process, transform the way you’re perceived as a leader. It worked for Joe and it will likely work for you too.
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