The critical difference between leadership success and failure is people. Many leaders know their business, their domain, their customers, but it’s the softer aspects of leadership—the human capital facets that often prove to be the hardest parts of their leadership journeys (often used interchangeably with people or employees in an organization, human capital is defined as the
sum total of knowledge and the ability that helps a firm’s people produce economic value).
The best in the business get it right by focusing on their people and building these valuable reserves of human capital. Gallup—a US based analytics advisory, research and polling firm—reinforces that point, and goes on to show that no matter which industry, size or location—wide performance fluctuation occurs primarily from the lack of consistency in how people are managed and developed. Great leaders continue to grow and they make sure that their teams grow with them. Average leaders, invariably, hit a ceiling—regardless of the strength of their team. Therein, lies the key to successful leadership. It’s about moving forward together and growing as a team. That’s how trillion-dollar enterprises are built.
In 2008, Google’s Project Oxygen, a multiyear research initiative launched by their famous people analytics team examined data from thousands of employee surveys and performance reviews to find out which behavioural patterns characterize its most effective managers.
Coaching topped the list, which also included helping with career development. As the company grew in size and complexity, demands on their managers and leaders increased and Google decided to take a second look at this research in 2018. They added two new behaviours to the original list and updated a couple. ‘My manager is a good coach’ continues to occupy the undisputed numero uno position.
Google’s finding confirms the assertion that many of us always held true:
Coaching is leadership’s secret sauce: the secret ingredient that adds the zing to leadership. It’s what makes leadership effective and what creates the difference between an average leader and a fabulous one.
A truly uncommon and extraordinary leader is one that ‘coaches’—a process whereby a coach/leader aims to maximize the performance and potential of others through non-directive, self-enabling conversations. The uncommon leader elevates and empowers their people, and in doing so, elevates themselves.
Robert Hargrove, in his book Masterful Coaching, states that the best CEOs in the world spend their time coaching. Curiously, he adds: all the best performers had coaches. Alan Lafley of P&G was coached by Peter Drucker; Jack Welch of GE was coached by Ram Charan; Jeff Bezos was coached by Bill Campbell.
Exemplary leaders coach their people who in turn coach their teams. These exemplary and uncommon leaders create a microculture of coaching and they also get coached in turn. Bill Gates starts his famous TED Talk by saying that everyone needs a coach.
Considered perhaps the most prolific leader of our times, he should know!
Leadership today in this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world is a tough balancing act. Great leaders understand that not all high performers are leadership material. They also understand that some star performers are best left alone, to do what they do best—achieve the numbers and not be saddled by pressures of captaincy or leadership. Leaders focus relentlessly on uncovering potential in their organizations (which is often buried at the lower levels), identifying their unique strengths and working towards taking those skills and capabilities to the next level. And they do it themselves (even if not all by themselves).
This book aims to focus on you—the leader as a coach—because you alone can help your people, your teams be the best that they can possibly be.
It’s vital to understand that coaching is about enablement and bringing out the best in others. It’s about motivating and inspiring, but it’s also about ensuring your people learn on the job. In fact, it’s your responsibility to make that happen. Think of yourself to be that rudder, that compass, that can guide your team and harness their true potential.
—Coaching: The Secret Code to Uncommon Leadership by Ruchira Chaudhary. Excerpted with permission from Penguin Random House India. Price: Rs 599. Release date: 25 January 2021
First Published: IST