When I was hired as program director for Alber Enterprise Center in December 2011, I thought I knew how to be a manager and leader. After all, for two decades I studied the best authors – Drucker, Collins, Covey, Buckingham, Friedman and dozens more. I witnessed a myriad of management styles in private business and public education, and listened to their employees’ reactions, praise and complaints, then eventually began teaching leadership development courses. I knew the importance of listening, team building, problem solving, performance management and conflict resolution skills; especially their role in engaging employees and moving the organization forward. Yes, I felt confident in my abilities to lead my own team.
Well, I learned there is a difference between knowing and doing! My personal style of working entails rolling up my sleeves and digging in, taking full ownership of all details while visioning the future. My new team was great, helping me understand our center’s history with clients and excited about the opportunities to develop updated programs. After three years, we were holding our own but I knew we had so much more potential to make an impact. Sensing we had stalled, I found myself wondering about my abilities as a leader. Then a phone call from a certified coach transformed our team into a high speed powerhouse that doubled the number of delivered programs in six short months.
He called me in hopes of becoming one of our center’s educational partners; a partner in delivery of leadership training and coaching. I decided that the best way to assess his qualifications was to try him out on our team. He facilitated our strategic plan and provided follow-up coaching to help us implement our goals.
What did the coach do for each of us?
- Confidentially identified behaviors each team member wished to strengthen
- Assessed our current level of skill in each of those behavioral areas
- Assembled a plan of action for improvement
- Monitored our progress through feedback and other objective means
I learned two key lessons during my coaching sessions that have helped take our center to a new level of performance:
- Let go of the details and delegate them to others – stay focused on the big picture instead of getting “tangled in the weeds”
- Empower others to take ownership of their jobs by using the coaching techniques I learned – listening more and speaking less, asking questions rather than directing, rewarding positive behavior and sharing successes as a team
This external (and objective) assessment not only made me a better leader and manager but has also elevated the performance of our organization and its members in the process.