The next generation of leaders will be coaches

Have you ever stopped to think about the world’s work culture–really thought about it? We’re so used to the way things are, that it’s easy to forget that our workhorse mentality isn’t how it always used to be. That is, not until the Industrial Revolution. It wasn’t until this transitional era to new manufacturing processes that work culture evolved to meaning more hours equated to more work, and therefore more money; i.e. time is money. 

Stanley Gen. McChrystal tells the eye-opening origin story of this mental construct in his phenomenal book, Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement For a Complex World, which he wrote to help leaders make their teams more adaptable, unified, and successful in the wake of change. In the book, McChrystal tells the story of Fredrick Taylor, an integral player during the industrial revolution for his contributions to improve industrial efficiency. It was Taylor who began the seeming correlation between time and money creating success. He used to go into factories and use stopwatches to figure out the fastest way to do something “reductionist”. The pressure we feel to work more hours to achieve success is ingrained in us, and it’s running us down. Our society operates on this mental construct. We’re still dealing with the aftershock of the Industrial Revolution, but it’s not the best way to get things done. We aren’t our best when we’re overworked or doing the same thing day in and day out. 

However, there is a crack in the matrix. We are ushering in a new era. An era where the quality of work due to great work-life balance and sound mental health is far more important. An era where leadership looks more like coaching and less than dictatorship. Leaders are beginning to understand the importance of possessing excellent facilitation skills to bring out the best in their employees. 

Companies are transitioning their business, from tip to tail, to align with the evolving digital age; instead of command and control, leadership is focused on helping employees adapt to a changing environment. Leaders are learning to cultivate new energy, innovation, and unity amongst their teams. In other words, facilitation is a SUPER critical skill to learn if you want your business to operate at top performance. 

This is a call to bring out the inner facilitator in everyone: we need people that help us humans be human because the computers (that are slowly taking over) are going to do everything else. 

I started to think about all of the leaders across industries outside of facilitation and what makes them great. These leaders, from the military to sports to mental health, possess traits of great facilitators. They realize we are operating in a new paradigm and we need to step into that with new perspectives and new approaches. These leaders are curious and experiment towards better outcomes. They include. They motivate. The ignite.

Let’s look at 49’s coach Bill Walsch as an example. Bill was amazing at helping folks realize they CAN do it.

“The four most powerful words are: I believe in you.” – Bill Walsch

He taught his teams that if you go into the game assuming you will lose or assuming you have already lost, then you won’t play a good game. This is especially noteworthy because this approach helped Walsch turn the worst team in the league into the best. He always coached from the perspective that the team can always turn things around. “The ability to help the people around me self-actualize their goals,” he said, “underlines the single aspect of my abilities and the label that I value most — teacher.” He also focused heavily on improvement. “I directed our focus less to the prize of victory than to the process of improving — obsessing, perhaps, about the quality of our execution and the content of our thinking; that is, our actions and attitude. I knew if I did that, winning would take care of itself.”

Walsch’s effective leadership approach is that of a facilitator, guiding his team to cultivate each individual’s best performance so that they thrive when they come together as a whole. He understands the power of a coach mentality–one that encourage’s each player’s development while simultaneously facilitating problem-solving admist change. This is what expert coaching, no matter the industry, looks like:

“For members of your team, you determine what their inner voice says. The leader, at least a good one, teaches the team how to talk to themselves. An effective leader has a profound influence on what that inner voice will say.”

Yes, Walsch is a coach by title. But he also represents the next set of bosses. Rather than traditional bosses, they are going to be coaches. Group coaching is #3 on Forbe’s list of top 5 leadership development trends for 2020. “In this new decade, everyone needs to be a leader who actively engages their people. Awareness of this will see leadership development pushed down through the organization, and coaching will become a standard part of every manager’s experience.”

This shift is critical. Knowledge work is like playing a game. While there are rules and procedures, ultimately we are “playing” against humans that are cunning and attempting different things. We need leaders to help us play the game.

Now consider a factory, where things are predictable. They work the same way every single day. Leaders and managers can simply run a checklist and prescribe a “best way of doing things”. That’s not the case when we are a complex adaptive system. This is where we find ourselves these days. Knowledge work that we engage in and even the shifting landscape requires us to learn and adapt, meaning we can’t simply just do what we did yesterday. This requires a leadership style that nurtures. Like a gardener. 

While leaders who coach may impart wisdom, much of what they do is about removing barriers, whether physical or mental. Let’s be front runners in this transition and boost up folks to shine so that we may all do our best. Ready to get started? At Voltage Control, we help enterprises scale change. We facilitate and coach large diverse groups toward shared understanding and transform cultures to sustain innovation. If you have a project that is having trouble getting traction or will require input from lots of people, let us coach you through the process. Contact us today.