In a corporate leadership development program that I’ve created with a colleague, one aspect of the structure is 1-1 coaching calls. They are monthly. They follow a 3-day launch retreat together. As I share with the people in these calls, “they are largely about keeping your learning alive so as to develop more of your leadership instincts, so as to be able to contribute in helpful, needed, and fulfilling ways.”
Yesterday I had one of those calls with a person growing into her leadership. One of our points to explore was nuancing awareness of differences in “managing” and “leadership.” I loved the conversation, largely because I could see a birth in her leadership mind and heart. The conversation included this:
“Can you share a little of what it is like to be you in your job?” I encouraged.
She started with general description but then found her way to some of her process. “Well, first I like to build report. I like to talk to the people. I like to get along side them in the warehouse, working together.” She shares with excitement. I can see that she likes this part of her job. I encourage her to continue.
“Yah, I like to be curious with them. I like to ask questions. I like to understand how they are working. I like to figure out how they are working with some of the challenges in our multi-branch system.” She continues.
“Great,” I share. “So you are really leading with your curiosity,” I affirm.
I love seeing that she is animated by this. I’m offering her narrative that comes from what she is describing. I’m offering simplification and principles of what comes from her.
I encourage one more step, helping her to find the words. “And then, I imagine that you experiment with what you learn together, yes?” I ask. I’m deliberate about the language of “experiment” knowing that part of leadership is emboldening the spirit of adapting. I’m deliberate about the “action” part of this because I know it is part of her accountability.
I can see that she’s excited about what she is hearing. I feel like I’m putting a few of her pieces together so that she can see it in a different way. “So, what I hear from you is the importance of three things in your context. 1) Build report and relationship (rather than fragmentation and separation). 2) Value curiosity together (rather than finger-pointing; more learning and adapting). And 3) Experiment with improvements (rather than mere reports and rather than getting paralyzed in the complexity).”
She lights up further hearing her own words come back to her. I can see that she is glad for the framing and ready to go.
“Nice job,” I affirm further. “It will be fun to come back together and talk about this in another month.”
Yes, birth of a leadership heart and mind. Great to see. Great to find something simple yet powerful. And to find birth not as far away and distant as some might think.