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Why Leader as Coach is More Important Than Ever

In our 360 feedback debrief, my client’s boss said, “I thought of you when I heard a recent How I Built This podcast.”  One of the founders of Strava, an app for tracking cycling and running performance, told a story about teamwork that had a huge impact on him and his fellow co-founder.  Their college rowing coach stopped the boat to figure out why it was rocking back and forth.  When each crew member shouted out the number on their heart monitor, it was obvious – one rower was 40 beats higher than everyone else.  He stopped trying to do most of the work himself and the boat took off like a rocket.

What’s the Problem?

A lot of my clients are rowing harder than ever as they try to find new approaches to leading hybrid teams while dealing with staffing shortages.  Gartner’s research confirms that leaders are overwhelmed, which can hurt retention and engagement.

What’s the Solution?

The authors of this Harvard Business Review article make a compelling case for reinventing the role of leaders.  In the wake of these significant shifts resulting from the pandemic, the leader as coach model is more important than ever:

  1. Power shift from “me” to “we” – moving from instruction to support and guidance
  2. Skills shift from task overseer to performance coach – moving from oversight to giving feedback
  3. Structural shift from static and physical to fluid and digital – engaging in a way that’s not tied to a physical workplace

As the HBR authors point out, human connection is essential for effective leadership.  Instead of rowing faster and doing more, how are you strengthening your coaching skills to support the demands of this new environment?