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The Leadership Challenge

by Guest Writter
Bill Bartlett, THE SALES COACH’S PLAYBOOK:  Breaking The Performance Code

During my twenty-two years as a training/development consultant and executive coach, I have interacted with thousands of CEOs who represent businesses that are diverse both in size and function. Most are quite adept at getting the job done as they define it, however, they seem to focus on just one aspect of leadership.

True leadership, as I define and demonstrate it, is comprised of four key components: supervision, coaching, mentoring, and training. Each plays a pivotal role in enabling the CEO to take a well-rounded and effective approach to impacting the managers responsible for the bottom line of the company.

When I first meet with CEOS as their coach, I instruct them to draw a pie chart and allocate a percentage of time they spend in the four aforementioned leadership areas. The majority default solely to supervision and admit they spend most of their time and energy overseeing the performance of their staff. They erroneously identify their role as CEOs as directing their efforts and, unwittingly, create a team who contract the dreaded curse of “learned helplessness”. I observe this phenomenon when managers wait to behold how to resolve problems instead of being coached and rewarded for strategically thinking through them. I unequivocally believe a well-balanced leadership pie chart reflects the following percentages by function: 45% supervision, 35% coaching, 10% mentoring, and 10% training.

Let’s examine the supervisory element of leadership; a function that entails creating and achieving performance norms for the company as well as individual managers. All company employees should have a clear understanding of the behaviors they are expected to satisfactorily perform and their impact on the financial success of the business.  In order to accomplish this, CEOs must facilitate a process of clearly identifying the top ten behaviors their managers must perform on a weekly/monthly basis. If they are the correct performance-driven behaviors, each will have a substantive impact on both the company’s and individual manager’s success. The supervisory function also incorporates on-going performance evaluation and an analysis of bottom-line results, which should be communicated both on a formal and informal basis.

The next critical element of leadership is the coaching function. Its primary objective is to empower individuals in pivotal positions in the company to better utilize the skills they have already developed and modify behavior that is no longer effective.  When in coaching mode, the role of the CEO is to stimulate and enhance their expertise in problem-solving and strategic thinking so that rather than waiting to be spoon fed, they are able to recognize their own ability to strategically tackle any challenge.  In order for managers to understand that they do not have to rely upon a higher authority to finalize decisions, a formal coaching methodology must be implemented to assure success. I have witnessed far too many CEOs “fix” problems during so-called coaching sessions instead of encouraging their managers to find the answer within. Many coaching sessions are training sessions in disguise because the CEO uses the time to teach how they would deal with the issue instead of exploring the situation by coaching until the manager has a “light bulb” moment. Effective coaches listen 70% of the time during a coaching session and ask questions during the other 30%.

The third key function of a leader is mentoring the development of strategic leaders within the management team. It creates bench strength and thoughtful, strategically-oriented leaders, which is a critical need in today’s ever-changing business environment. Without mentoring, managers will stagnate and reach a plateau of ineffectiveness. The CEO does not have to serve as   mentor to all managers; I recommend pairing managers with complementary strengths to facilitate the growth of both.

The last element of leadership is training. It may seem odd to include training in the leadership pie, however, it is the responsibility of the CEO to impart knowledge to their managers. They need to create a continuous learning environment or they may succumb to relying upon outdated information to validate their decisions. CEOs must be “out in the world” to stay abreast of current strategic thinking that will stimulate their managers to embrace needed change in behavior. Attending association meetings, business conferences, peer learning groups, and training sessions delivered by outside consultants are just a few suggestions that will serve this purpose. It is not enough just to attend. The forward-thinking CEO should communicate any new learning to the management team that might enhance performance or modify outdated thinking.

Any and all authority the CEO exhibits, masterfully or poorly, is represented in the four key leadership functions. Supervision yields position-based authority, that is, employees act without question because direction comes from the top. Position-based authority alone is not enough to lead a company because it creates a stifled environment where employees just do what they are told without question. Coaching, mentoring, and training form relationship-based authority as they emanate from the relationship formed with each individual manager. The CEO becomes a well-rounded and powerful leader by adding and prioritizing the relationship focus to their authority base.

The starting point for change is awareness. Take a moment and draw a leadership pie, using supervision, coaching, mentoring, and training for your current view of your position. Next, with an open mind, reapportion the percentages based on how you feel your management team perceives it. Maybe it is time to ask how the addition of coaching, mentoring, and training can make more impactful leaders.


About the Author

Bill Bartlett is author of THE SALES COACH’S PLAYBOOK:  Breaking The Performance Code (Sandler Training / 2016).  Bartlett is an experienced Sandler trainer who plays an important role in Sandler’s worldwide organization and is recognized as a business development expert specializing in executive sales training and sales productivity training.  He currently heads a Sandler Training center in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, IL.

For more information, please visit https://www.sandler.com/resources/sandler-books/coaching.

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