Years ago someone shared with me a simple truth: “We don’t know what we don’t know.” It is common for young leaders to have no reference point for what to do next in certain situations, because they often encounter many situations that are new to them. Still, with the right kind of coaching and learning, they can overcome these challenges and end up doing well in the midst of these challenges. The key is to teach them four key skills.
First, we need to help young leaders learn how to create and clarify direction. This sounds simple and yet may be the most difficult skill to learn. A good place to start is to have a young leader read the following book: Blanchard, Kenneth, Donald Carew, and Eunice Parisi-Carew. The One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams, (Wm. Morrow and Company, 1990). In this very quick read, one learns that leaders use different skills to handle different situations. The authors also give a nice foundation about how to create and give direction.
Second, young leaders need to learn how to prioritize. The fastest way to do this level of learning is to review with them Stephen Covey’s model for putting first things first. It begins with learning how to differentiate between what is urgent and what is important. Click on this Wikipedia link and you can learn a lot more detail about how this works: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Things_First_(book) Here is a YouTube video on the subject as well: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-357998200076562861 Helping young leaders understand what are the “big rocks” as presented in the YouTube video will help them learn how to prioritize.
Third, many young leaders do not know how to coach. They also have not received much good coaching over the course of their career, too. In the beginning, we need to educate young leaders that there are two kinds of coaching, namely transactive coaching and transformational coaching. The former focus on the teaching of key skills and the later is about developing a specific mindset. Both are important. The key in the beginning is to be more mindful of when we are doing which kind of coaching.
Fourth, we need to teach them how to resolve issues. For starts, I encourage all young leaders and those who are coaching them to read the following book: Patterson, Kerry, and Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. Crucial Conversations: Tools For Talking When Stakes Are High (McGraw-Hill, 2002). I have yet to meet people who were born to deal with conflict well within the work place or home. Yet, with some key information from the aforementioned book, they can get better at dealing with these issues. It also is important for young leaders to know that avoiding toxic people issues will cause more problems than dealing with them. They also need to know that not dealing with misaligned systems will also cause major problems.
Every day, successful, young and experienced leaders learn something new. However, after visiting with them for many decades, I can assure you that every one of them is good at the following four skill sets: giving direction, clarifying priorities, coaching people, and resolving problems. These skills are the foundation of successful leadership and management.
Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257