If you are someone who loves to support others in being successful, there is an important distinction to keep in mind:
Are you being supportive and compassionate, or are you colluding for their status quo? tweet this
Many years ago, when I began my journey as a consultant in organizational change and as a leadership coach, this was perhaps one of the hardest things for me to learn. For whatever reason I seem to have a well developed capacity for empathy. This capacity was perhaps the source of feedback I received from one of my early mentors, Dr. Romi Boucher, that I “loved people into their greatness.” Yet at times that strength actually undermined my effectiveness.
The flip side of her feedback and persistent coaching of me was that I had to learn to take a stronger stand for people to live into their greatness. While compassion helped me to create trust quickly, it also could (and did at times) get in the way of my effectiveness as a coach. It was coaching I resisted for a long time!
On the one hand, the trust I built easily helped me to foster the courage in others to step outside of their comfort zone. Yet it also had me refrain at times from pushing people to the next level in the name of compassion.
In other words, as a coach, I could either help people remove the “lid” on their performance or I could unwittingly help to keep that “lid” in place.
In the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell, elaborates on this idea with The Law of the Lid, which is as follows:
“Leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness.”
Here are three coaching practices for taking the lid off of your leadership when working with someone who needs your support and guidance:
1. Ask Questions vs. Give Answers or Suggestions
If you like to fix things, or are quick to offer ideas, refrain. When you do this you impede their growth rather than foster it. They must be the one to do the work. By asking questions instead, you will empower them to do the thinking required to generate ideas of their own. This is essential to ensuring they own the problem or opportunity about which they came to see you in the first place.
2. Empower Their Action vs. Offering to Help
Focus on what they can and will do vs. what you can do to make things easier for them. For example, instead of offering to have a conversation with someone on their behalf, offer to make an introduction so they can have the conversation themselves. In this way you push them out of their comfort zone and have them own the relationship vs. clear the path so it is easier for them. Of course, in this example, you might support them in designing the conversation they want to have by asking them some great questions. Yet it is in that preparation that they will grow and muster the courage to step forward without you. Empower them to take action and their confidence will grow. Help them too much and they will continue to think they need you to progress.
3. Set an Expectation of Action and Progress
The conversation you have may be great, but remember the old adage “talk is cheap.” They may generate all kinds of insight and ideas, and even actions to take from your great questions. Yet when faced with taking action they are likely to at some point face their own resistance. Therefore, it’s important to set a clear expectation that they will take action and stay with it to keep taking action to make progress. This gives them the extra push they may need to carry forward in the face of whatever internal resistance or external challenges they may face. Better yet, make a request that they take a specific action by a specific date and tell them you will hold them accountable for taking it. The point is to ensure they take action quickly and continue to take action to build momentum.
Holding someone accountable for both action and progress over time is a way for you to take a stand for them to be and do their best.
Also, remember that you are not holding them accountable to what you want from or for them, but rather to the actions and goals they have set for themselves. In this way you will honor them by supporting them in staying true to their personal commitments. They, not you, are the ultimate judge and jury of their progress on their path of growth and development.
What do you think could be the lid on your ability to lead others?
A Special Note of Appreciation: When I first ventured off on my own as a consultant, Romi Hoyt Boucher was a pivotal force in my growth and development. When Romi is around, the status quo doesn’t stand a chance! As with all great coaches, she was relentless in standing for me to be the best I could be no matter how hard, at times, I resisted. She also provided a steady source of income and sense of security when I became a new mom. My family and I will be forever grateful to her. She is an extraordinary leader, coach, and a tremendously talented consultant in transforming organizations. I am so fortunate to have learned from and experienced her talents first hand.
Romi has just graduated with her PhD from Fielding Graduate University. This is yet another demonstration of her tenacity, extraordinary work ethic and commitment to excellence. Congratulations Romi! You continue to amaze and inspire me!
photo credit: RBerteig