Corporate care

Leaders are Teachers

Think back to your favorite teacher in high school or college. What was it that you like about her? How did she reach you? What was the environment like in her classroom?

My favorite teacher in high school was my history teacher, Mr. Lilien. While I don’t remember a whole lot of the history he taught, I do remember his classroom. Information moved two ways in his class. Not only did he teach us history, he taught us to teach him. In fact, a couple of my classmates used Bruce Springsteen's album “The River” as an innovative basis for teaching Mr. Lilien about pop culture. He was a diligent student and shared his deep analysis of the album. The class ate it up.

Teachers like Mr, Lilien always create an atmosphere of openness, learning and growth that allow their students to take risks, make mistakes and learn. They also recognize the duality of teaching- at any one point, you can be a teacher or a student.

Questions are More Important than Answers

Today’s great leaders in corporate America understand this duality as well. They know that to engage employees in the mission at hand, questions are more important than answers. They also give the space to allow anybody to be a leader, or a teacher.

Creating an environment where constant learning is expected and fostered is a notable aspect of great organizations. These organizations value the questions over the answer. In his book Legacy, James Kerr writes about the All Black rugby team, the most successful sports organization in history. The All-Blacks continually ask questions of the players and have a process that empowers the players to lead the team. This atmosphere allows anyone on the team to stand up and be a leader or a teacher. When I was on the sales management team at TriNet, John Turner always told us “the answer is in the room.” The willingness for leaders to be open to learning from their charges fosters a learning environment.

Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology and former Director of the Kravis Leadership Institute at Claremont McKenna College.  In “Are Teachers Really Leaders in Disguise”, an article published by Psychology Today, Dr. Riggio notes that great teachers share the same traits as great leaders around their ability to provide a transformational experience. Along with Idealized Influence, Inspirational Motivation, and Individualized Consideration, Dr. Riggio cites Intellectual Stimulation as a cornerstone of transformational leadership: “It involves challenging students/followers to engage their minds and to think creatively. The very best teachers get students to think about things in new ways, and challenge them to greater intellectual achievements. They encourage creative and novel thinking, rather than discouraging it.”

“The Answer is in the Room”

Organizations that create an atmosphere of continual learning growth also value coaching as a way for people to become better so they can be better leaders. Coaching, too, highly values the questions being asked in any engagement. The better the questions the coach asks the more inquiry and growth the client can achieve. That is the work that Helge Hellberg and I do at with teams and individuals in support of creating a learning culture.

In fact, research by Josh Bersin of Deloitte found that some of the most important elements for nurturing a learning environment include a management culture which is open to mistakes, building trust, giving people time to reflect, and creating a value system around learning.  Notably, his report High Impact Learning Culture®:  40 Practices for and Empowered Enterprise finds the single biggest driver of business impact is the strength of an organization's learning culture.

In summary, to create an environment of continual learning and growth makes good business sense. To do that you can emulate the teachers, like Mr. Lilien, who inspired you. Like those teachers, integrate the lessons taught by those around you. Value the questions over the answers. Ignite intellectual curiosity in your team to further engage them. And, offer coaching as a means for all employees to learn about what drives and limits them and to grow as leader/teachers themselves.

Mark diTargiani, Executive Coach

Three of the Most Important Skills a Manager Must Possess

Last night, my business partner Executive Coach Helge Hellberg and I attended the Founders' Leadership Series at NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center with featured speaker Andy Rachleff, founder of Benchmark Capital and Wealthfront CEO. Two of his points on leadership struck me: 1) Leaders must genuinely care about their team and use “radical candor” and selflessness to build trust and 2) leaders cannot motivate employees without an authentic, real vision.

According to Gallup, only 1/3 of today’s employees are inspired at work, a number that has not changed in a decade (I wonder what that number is at Wealthfront?). To increase that “buy-in” leaders must align their team with the purpose and mission of the organization. Gallup studies show that employees work hardest when they believe in and are aligned with the company’s values and mission. Leaders must inspire their team members and themselves, and, as Wealthfront does, the organization must support the development of the leader to build the engagement of the workforce. At Hellberg/diTargiani Corporate Coaching, we believe coaching can be the cornerstone for the growth of the leader, and, thus, the growth of the team and the organization.

Our Three C’s of Leadership- Clarity, Commitment and Care form the foundation and awareness necessary for managers to become better people who, in turn, become better leaders.

Clarity is the process of becoming clear. We coach leaders in creating clarity of personal and team values, and help them connect to and communicate the company’s purpose and mission, which helps to motivate their charges. We also coach leaders to become clear in their expectations and communications with the individual members of their team.

Commitment comes from clarity, and is an agreement between all parties which aligns the values, purpose and mission of the company and the individual.

As Mr. Rachleff noted last night, Care is the foundation for all of this. Care comes from the leader’s purpose and her love for the work and the team. Because of this love, accountability grows as leaders no longer are willing to be out of alignment with the commitment to and of the team.

In fact, ADP data shows that 82% of employees appreciate hearing feedback, positive or negative, and two-thirds want to receive more feedback. The same study shows that 58% of managers think they give enough feedback. That chasm illustrates the need for greater Clarity, Commitment and Care on the part of managers and executives.

One way to bridge the chasm is through executive coaching. Building the foundation and awareness of a leader’s own obstacles through coaching is a first crucial step on the journey to be a better leader who inspires and holds accountable her team. Strengthening the muscles of Clarity, Care and Commitment brings leaders to that “radical candor” and commitment to everyone’s success that builds trust, and with it, a happier and more productive workforce.

Mark diTargiani, Executive Coach