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First Meridian

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Leader as a Coach

Gone are the days when coaching was considered as a remedial tool; organizations today are fast realizing the power of coaching as an investment for business growth. Across the globe, businesses have found coaching effective to improve team functioning, employee engagement, productivity and employee relations. The maximum effect however is seen on leadership development. Traditionally, organizations have hired external coaches or internal coaches; leading to a $366 billion global industry (Training.com). However, a recent study by McKinsey reveals that most of these trainings or interventions have failed to deliver significant results. Further studies reveal coaching is most effective when it is not an isolated practice. Organizations like IBM, Ikea, Apple, Amazon etc. have successfully introduced and benefitted from “Leader as a coach” programs.

 “Leader as a Coach”

The simplest definition of a business leader is the art of directing team members with a strategy to meet the organization’s goals. 

But the reality is that the work of a leader is far more complex; they must have the ability to motivate, inspire, carry the team and maintain harmony. Most leaders succumb to the temptation to lead by telling, advising, exhorting, reprimanding and so on. 

Instead of a directive approach, leaders must adopt a coaching approach: rapport building; empathy; active listening; not judging; focusing on opportunities rather than failures are all hallmarks of a great coach and a great leader. 

A leader-coach operates on the principle that people are naturally creative, resourceful, capable and self-motivated. This means that team members are not hounded to perform but are supported to define their own working parameters. 

For the program to succeed, the organization must have an accepted coaching culture. The coaching program at Amazon works because Jeff Bezos is an advocate of coaching. FirstMeridian invests in building the culture conducive for Leadership to strengthen their teams and inspire them to push their limits. 

 

Core Elements to Build a “Leader as a Coach” Culture:

A recent study reveals that organizations with coaches as leaders tend to have improved business performance. 

 

Level 4 Organizations 

Those with leaders who are highly effective coaches

Other All Organizations
(on average) Those with leaders who are not effective coaches

Collaborative Culture Exists

62%

26%

Improved Revenue

63%

45%

Improved Retention

51%

19%

 

Source: Brandon Hall Group Performance Management and Team Development and Performance studies

As mentioned at the beginning, coaching is not a remedial tool, but a continuous performance enhancement tool. It is essential to communicate the same throughout the organization and remove any stigma (if any) associated with coaching. 

Core Elements:

  1. Top down approach: Hire external coaches for the senior leadership team to coach and train them in coaching. Once this team realizes the benefit of coaching, they will pioneer a coaching culture.

  2. Communicate: Build and communicate a coaching strategy that is aligned with the business strategy. Ensure that every team member understands the strategy and is in sync with it.

  3. Accountability: Every manager knows that one of their key roles is to develop their team members. Ensure that they use a coaching approach by creating a structured process; provide adequate resources and most importantly make time available for coaching.

  4. Curiosity: The hallmark of a coach is curiosity. Train managers to ask questions instead telling people what to do. This approach encourages the team to look at solutions rather than being blinded by the problems.

  5. Recognize and Reward: The process of coaching is result oriented and lends itself to performance metrics; identify managers/leaders who achieve results through coaching. Create a healthy competitive environment for optimal results.

  6. Train! Train! Train: Formal “leader as a coach” trainings help the leaders to gain mastery over coaching conversations for setting and achieving business goals. They also provide continuous support through learning materials (tools, templates etc.). These must be supplemented through continued mentoring and refresher courses. 

 

Tips to be an effective Leader- Coach

  1. Learn to coach. Coaching is not an inborn talent; invest in a program to learn the various tools and techniques to coach effectively. Frequent refresher courses; networking with other coaches etc. will help you stay on top of your game. 

  2. Know your team well and then empower them. Invest time in getting to know your team. Build a strong rapport and an environment of trust. 

  3. Walk the talk! Be an example for your team. Rather than just talking about expected behaviors; adopt them yourself. 

  4. Focus on the success of your team. A coach succeeds only when the client succeeds. Likewise, a leader -coach can succeed only if the team is successful. 

  5. Paint a powerful vision. Coaching is all about staying focused on the larger goal, having a proper action plan. Aid your team members to visualize the goal and motivate them to succeed.

End Note:

 “Coaching is unlocking people's potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” ? John Whitmore

“The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there”. John Buchan

Need we say more?

The Reskilling Revolution

Technological advances & socio-economic factors are disrupting work environments everywhere. Employees across industries and levels are struggling to learn to work with machines that are fast becoming ubiquitous across all workplaces. To quote Sandeep Bhambure Managing Director - Veeam Software, India & Saarc: “One of the biggest challenges for me is to develop and implement a reskilling strategy not just for my team; but for me too. It is no longer an option. We must join the revolution to stay competitive.”  

The Reskilling Revolution:

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is rapidly changing the world of the workplace. According to The Future of Jobs Report: in the 2018-2022 period; four specific technological advances driving business growth would be: high-speed mobile internet; artificial intelligence; widespread adoption of big data analytics; and cloud technology. These advances will result in the creation of new jobs and would redefine many existing jobs; several of the existing job roles will decline drastically, a few may even disappear completely.

Upskilling: learning new competencies to stay in current role, due to the change in skills required, or adding certain competencies for job progression.

Reskilling: learning new sets of competencies to transition to a completely new role.

 

  Table 1. Examples of stable, new and redundant roles, all industries

Stable Roles

New Roles

Redundant Roles

Managing Director & Chief Executive

General & Operation Managers*

Software & Application Developers & Analysts*

Data Analysts & Scientists*

Sales & Marketing Professionals*

Sales Representatives, Wholesale & Manufacturing, Technical & Scientific products

Human Resources Specialists

Financial & Investment Advisors

Database & Network Professionals

Supply Chain & Logistic Specialists

Risk Management Specialists

Information Security Analysts*

Management & Organization Analysts

Electrotechnology Engineers

Organization Development Specialists*

Chemical Processing Plant Operators

University & Higher Education Teachers

Compliance Officers

Energy & Petroleum Engineers

Robotic Specialists & Engineers.

Petroleum & Natural Gas Refining Plant Operators.

Data Analysts & Scientists*

AI & Machine Learning Specialists

General & Operation Managers*

Big Data Specialists

Digital Transformation Specialists

Sales & Marketing Professionals*

New Technology Specialists

Organization Development Specialists*

Software & Application Developers & Analysts*

Information Technology Services

Process Automation Specialists

Innovation Professionals

Information Security Analysts*

Ecommerce & Social Media Specialists.

User Experience & Human – Machine Interaction Designers.

Training & Development Specialists.

Robotic Specialists & Engineers.

People & Culture Specialists

Client Information & Customer Service Workers*

Service & Solution Designers.

Digital Marketing & Strategy Specialists.

Data Entry Clerks

Accounting, Bookkeeping & Payroll Clerks

Administrative & Executive Secretaries.

Assembly & Factory Workers

Client Information & Customer Service Workers*

Business Services & Administration Managers

Accounts & Auditors

Material Recording & Stock Keeping Clerks

General Operations Managers.

Postal Services Clerks.

Financial Analysts

Cashiers & Ticket Clerks

Mechanics & Machinery Repairers

Tele Marketeers

Electronics & Telecommunications Installers & Repairers

Bank Tellers & Related Clerks

Car, Van & Motorcycle Drivers

Sales & Purchasing Agents & Brokers

Door to Door Sales Workers, News & Street Vendors & Related Workers.

Statistical, Finance & Insurance Clerks

Lawyers

Source: Future of Jobs Survey 2018, World Economic Forum.

Note: Roles marked with * appear across multiple columns. This reflects the fact that they might be seeing stable or declining demand across one industry but be in demand in another.

There is a definite gap in the existing skills vis-à-vis the skills required for the new and redefined jobs. Skills that are expected to be in demand are technology design and programming; systems analysis and evaluation; human skills like creativity, originality and initiative, critical thinking and analysis, leadership and emotional intelligence. At the same time, the demand for physical and mental skills like manual endurance, dexterity and precision; memory, visual, auditory and speech abilities, quality control and safety awareness are expected to decline.

Table 2. Comparing skill demand, 2018 vs 2022, top 10

2018

Increasing, 2022

Declining, 2022

Analytical thinking and innovation

Complex problem solving

Critical thinking and analysis

Active learning & learning strategies

Creativity, originality and initiative.

Attention to detail, trust worthiness

Emotional Intelligence

Reasoning, Problem solving & Ideation

Leadership & Social Influence

Coordination & Time Management

Analytical thinking and innovation

Active learning & learning strategies

Creativity, originality and initiative.

Technology Design & Programming

Critical thinking and analysis

Complex problem solving

Leadership & Social Influence

Emotional Intelligence

Reasoning, Problem solving & Ideation

Systems Analysis & Evaluation.

Manual dexterity, Endurance & precision.

Memory, verbal, auditory & spatial abilities.

Management of financial and material resources.

Technology installation & maintenance.

Reading, writing, math & active listening.

Management of personnel.

Quality control & Safety awareness.

Coordination & Time Management

Visual, auditory & speech abilities.

Technology use, monitoring & control.

 

Source: World Economic Forum, Future of Jobs Report 2018

Strategies to Meet the Changing Requirements:

Companies across the globe are working frantically to develop a strategy to stay competitive and relevant in the new scenario. Some of the strategies that are commonly adopted are:

  • Hiring new permanent staff with relevant skills for the new work environment.

  • Develop and implement a robust strategy for retraining existing employees.

  • Outsource some of the business functions to external contractors

  • Hire temporary staff with relevant skills to bridge the gap. 

  • Hire freelancers with skills relevant to new technologies

  • Strategic reduction of workforce that lack relevant skills.

Pros & Cons of reskilling:

While hiring a new set of employees rather than reskilling may sound cost effective, it is a proven fact that the cost of hiring and firing is extremely high. Newer employees take a while to adjust to the company’s ecosystem and would result in decreased productivity. Reskilled employees are already a part of the ecosystem; they are back in the system with increased motivation and a desire to excel. 

Shaping the Future Talent Pipeline

Whatever may be the strategy/ies that companies adopt, the need of the hour is to ensure that relevant skills are available and that too at a not too distant future. Companies must work together to bring about the reskilling revolution. 

  1. Develop targeted reskilling programs: Even if companies decide to hire for new skills, it stands to reason that the talent pipeline will soon dry up; and the increased demand would lead to a sharp increase in wage and hiring bills. Companies need to kickstart an internal reskilling program: identifying high potential employees and developing talent through targeted reskilling, job rotations and mentoring. There is a need to build an industry consortium to provide shared reskilling programs.

  2. Upskill on a large scale: Technological disruptions would affect all jobs; to maintain relevance, companies must change their fundamental outlook to training. Continuous learning must become part of the culture. A combination of online and classroom training is known to offer the optimal impact. 

  3. Develop academic curriculum: Creating a ready-to-hire talent pool by creating curricula that are aligned with the needs of the industry ; developing an industry-wide academy focused on the new skills and capabilities; building long-term partnerships with universities to create courses that meet the requirements of the industry; these are just a few strategies that companies are adopting to meet the challenges of the future.  

End Note:

Individuals who have invested in reskilling and have future proofed their skills will be in demand. They can expect increased quality of work, higher wages and definite career prospects. On the other hand, individuals who do not jump on to the reskilling bandwagon may find that their jobs have eroded or taken over by technology. Which group do you belong to?

Developing & Nurturing Culture in Company

As famously said by Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast"

Strategy and culture are important to maintain organizational effectiveness. Strategy provides direction for action plan and helps in better decision making while culture of the organization helps in shaping behaviours and attitudes of employees. Individuals are known by their personal traits, in the same way Culture is personality of any organization. It constitutes of various elements such as vision, mission, values, goals and objectives, etc.

Company culture is important because employees today enjoy being at the workplace when they see they fit in that culture. Culture is categorized into the following types- Team first corporate culture (Team bonding and cross department collaboration is priority), elite corporate culture(Innovation and forward thinking is necessity), hierarchy corporate culture(bottom line is priority), horizontal(flexible and research oriented) and clan corporate culture (Major emphasis on employee engagement). An ideal company would be someone who could inculcate a blend of all these types.

Taking an example of Google which is very widely known for its company culture. The organization still feels like a small company with an informal atmosphere, even though it has grown tremendously over past decade. At lunchtime, almost everyone eats in the office cafe, sitting at whatever table has an opening and enjoying conversations with Googlers from different teams. Every employee is a hands-on contributor.

FirstMeridian bridges the cultural differences among its group companies through many initiatives. One of the best ways to manage culture difference is to have an open communication with the employees. At Innovsource, President of the company addresses all the employees during townhall every month about current scenario and future plans. The main agenda is to make sure that the employees feel there is transparency and agility as per the values of the company.

A Strong company culture tends to share several common attributes:

Autonomy: Successful organization comprehend that one of the best drivers of profitability is pride of ownership in one's work. The employees therein are engaged to improve and work with self-governance, without micro-managing or hand-holding.

Performance: High-performing organizations place a major emphasis on the nature of work delivered as opposed to the quantity of hours put in. Accomplishments are routinely celebrated within the sight of colleagues, who are additionally urged to remember each other for achieving significant achievements.

Passion: Employees who are part of a strong culture tend to be united by a common path to purpose and not profits. When the goals of each employee align with the objectives of the organization, true transformation happens.

Therefore, it’s important to percolate company culture across the functions. One can consider through some of the following ways.

  • Onboarding process which must be personalized so that it is more engaging, interesting and participatory
  • Incentivizing employees for the work they perform by keeping personal aspects in mind
  • Analysing the group dynamics to increase cohesiveness. Also understanding how current climate is affecting attitude of the employees by asking challenges faced in the business. As per current scenario, focus can be more on diversity initiatives.

Building a routine is essential to build a strong work culture. The culture of Innovsource is extremely vivacious and employee friendly. It is visible in the music played for half an hour every morning, during lunch break and in the evening every single day in the office. It really helps to refresh the mood of all the employees. Additionally, birthday celebration takes place every month during which birthday buddies of that month and all employees assemble together to cut the cake.

Overall, boosting and nurturing a positive culture has proven time and again to improve productivity and well-being of the organization. Investing resources into developing the right culture will contribute towards long term success of your company.

Leadership Hiring Traits

If the Wall Street Journal is to be believed, nearly half of people who switch their jobs do so due to their incompatibility with their boss. Truly said, a manager can either make or break a winning team. He/she can either take your organization to the zenith or strangle the employees to such an extent that they dread showing up. If you don’t want to lose out on your best staff, keep an eye open for these traits while hiring top-level executives.

Honesty

What will make employees trust a leader who is not even honest with them? Openness and transparency run a business. It is helpful to remember that the people down the ladder tend to follow the examples set.

Moreover, the best quality of a leader is the ability to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Believe it or not, it can be quite tough for some to accept that they are lagging in a particular department and need to shift gears. Being yourself is the key. Everything else just falls in place.

Communication Skills

A leader has to not just communicate but also make people understand their component in the completion of a process. Merging together diverse views on the objectives and getting everyone on the same page is what ensures successful completion of a task. Be it in oral or written format, the best leaders are experts in putting their views across.

Decisiveness

Apart from regular mundane decisions, the job of a leader keeps throwing hurdles at him. A leader must be swift to respond and be spontaneous enough to come up with the best possible solutions in no time.

An average person makes around 35,000 decisions daily; now, can you imagine how many decisions a manager has to make? If you want to see the business gallop on the charts of growth, choose someone who can be swift in making decisions.

Confidence

A leader transmits optimism to his employees. A confident leader has the capacity to boost the morale of the employees. A business is set to suffer setbacks, be it a court order or the entry of a new fierce competitor in the market.

If the business plummets ten times, a good leader makes sure that it’s brought back up with the same degree of enthusiasm every single time. A confident leader inspires the employees.

Responsibility

According to the 2015 Employee Engagement Report, only 25% of workers feel as though there are ample opportunities for professional development at their organizations. A great leader should have the understanding that the ship sinks or sails as per his/her actions. He/she should be active in keeping a tab on all the employees and making sure that they develop professionally. Ensuring this will make the employees engage with the business on a deeper level.

Empathy

The stat that was mentioned in the very first line is closely related to this point. If about 70% of people feel that they are filled to the brim with their work, aren’t the leaders supposed to empathize with them and lend a helping hand?

The entire business can collapse like a stack of dominos if managers lack a basic understanding of where the employees come from and what it’s like to be them.

No one is perfect and it will be quite a tough task to find someone who has all the qualities of a leader. Your safest bet would be someone who possesses most of these traits. But remember, there are no good or bad leaders; there are only leaders who are and those who possess the will to be.

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