One of the things I have learned from meeting with leaders of successful teams is that they role model and empower healthy behaviors. Jeffery D. Ford and Laurie W. Ford in their very good article called “Decoding Resistance to Change” (Harvard Business Review, April 2009) write that “People expect history to repeat itself - and they resist going through it all over again.” Leaders who overcome resistance focus on understanding why people are showing resistance or lack of clarity. They do not suppress dialogue but instead encourage it. They also assume they and the team will spend time in the trough of chaos and plan accordingly. They get that it is normal for things to get messy. Therefore, they role model healthy personal choices and behaviors when it does.
Second, these same leader continually try to improve their capacity to coach others. They understand, as Patrick Lencioni points out in his book, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business (Jossey-Bass, 2012), that behavioral problems almost always precede quantitative results. They also recognize that behavioral problems “occur long before any decrease in measurable results is apparent.”
What we as leaders need to remember is that once a person “experiences good coaching, one becomes a better coach.” Peter Cappelli and Anna Travis say this is very important in their article called “HR Goes Agile” in the March-April 2018 issue of the Harvard Business Review.
Richard Hackman in his book, Leading Teams: Setting The Stage For Great Performances (Harvard Business School Press, 2002) explains that coaches focus on the following three areas: the amount of effort members of the team apply to the work, the appropriateness of the performance strategies to carry out the work, and the knowledge and skill they apply to the work. Therefore, coaching can be motivational, consultative, or educational.
But as I reflect on his writing I am reminded of what Marshall Goldsmith wrote in his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful (Hyperion, 2007). Goldsmith challenges us to “stop trying to coach people who shouldn’t be coached.” As he notes, “stop trying to change people who don’t think they have a problem” and “stop trying to change people who are pursuing the wrong strategy for the organization.” He continues by pointing out that we should “stop trying to change people who should not be in their job” and “stop trying to help people who think everyone else is the problem.” I think we must embrace his perspective and harken back to Jim Collin’s early work where he said “who before what”. From my experience, the best coaches know who should be coached and who will not change no matter how much we try and coach them. Instead, we need to coach these individuals out of the organization rather than try to coach them into the organization.
Along this same line of thought, the big thing about hiring people to join a team is to remember Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Ideal Team Player (Jossey-Bass, 2016), about the three virtues of a team player. Lencioni says that the best team players are humble, hungry and people smart. While I agree with Lencioni and have seen this in my own experiences as a consultant and executive coach, I think there is a missing element.
Last May, I read a quote by Pastor A.R. Bernard that stopped me in my tracks: “Without character, talent will only take you so far.” Upon much reflection, I realized that we, as leaders, need to talk more about character and focus more on character rather than just talent development. We need to discuss the importance of integrity, compassion, and courage during our coaching and our team meetings. We need to talk about what is commitment, faithfulness, and truthfulness. As Abraham Lincoln wrote, “Reputation is the shadow. Character is the tree.”
This week, reflect on the following questions: Who are the people of “character” that I have known in my life? What separates them from others? How do they engage with people in group settings that is unique? How do they role model? It is time that we follow in their foot steps.