5 Step Cycle for Leadership Development
The key when coaching for leadership development is to identify, then apply new learnings and move the learning forward. Help the leader identify the best place to start and tackle one area or even one skill at a time. Here’s the process:
- Take action – the leader commits him/herself to a particular action
- Reflect on key insights – the coach helps the leader reflect on key insights
- Capture the behaviors – the coach helps the leader clarify these in behavioral terms
- Brainstorm ways to apply – the coach helps the leader identify new insight(s) into new ways of thinking or behaving
- Reinforce the learning – the leader applies the action in a real situation to reinforce the learning
A Picture of the Process
Here is how the leadership development process works. In this scenario, a leader wants to refine her ability to remain engaged and listen.
1. Take Action: Commit to listening
When a leader takes action to make progress on an initiative she is pioneering, it is a great chance for coaches to maximize a learning opportunity with clients.
Example: A leader has noticed that she is doing most of the talking during team meetings and not doing as much listening. With this new awareness, she commits to listening more and talking less, asking questions to draw team members in versus dominating the discussion. This is a new way for her to interact, which may feel foreign at first. Over time, however, as the leader practices, she will grow in her ability to listen and ask questions.
Once a leader has taken action it is important to pause and help them process what they can learn from their experience. This leads into the next phase of the learning process.
2. Reflect on key insights: How was listening effective?
Now that the leader (your client) has tested out her new approach, the coach (you) helps the leader process and reflect on how it went. This helps the leader extract new learnings that are hidden below the surface. I call this “mining the gold.”
A coach helps a leader reflect on the way she listened and how it impacted her team. This is where her learning is maximized.
From the scenario above, the leader’s insights were:
- Better engagement by team members
- More ownership from the team
- Greater impact
3. Capture the behaviors: What did you do that made listening effective?
Essentially, this leader tried out new behaviors and one or more of them was effective. As their coach, you want to help the leader clarify exactly what she did that worked well so she can continue to practice those behaviors until they become a habit.
Here are some questions you might ask her to capture listening behaviors:
- How did you position yourself to listen?
- In what ways did you show your team that their insights were valid and important?
- What did you do that elicited the best response?
4. Brainstorm ways to apply: How can you grow your listening skills?
Once the client clarifies her new learning(s), you can help the leader take those fresh insights and build on it by moving her thoughts forward into new ways of thinking and behaving.
A coach asks, “How can you move that learning forward?”
Here are some examples of ways the leader could move the learning forward:
- Before giving input, summarize what team members are saying
- Ask team members if the summary is accurate and complete
- To help team members continue their processing, ask ‘Is there more?’
5. Reinforce the learning: Apply new insights
A coach helps leaders broaden new skills to application in other arenas.
Here are some questions you might ask to help the leader discover additional areas that would benefit from listening:
- Where else can you apply listening for greater effectiveness?
- In what other areas would you benefit from additional perspectives?
- What other projects need greater buy-in?
- Who would you like to know better?
- How can you get to know them?
Move the Learning Forward
When a coach walks a leader through this process on a regular basis, the pace of leadership development increases. Without a coach this process gets bogged down or stalled unless the leader has already learned the importance of this reflection.
Here are three tips to help you move the learning forward with leaders you coach:
- Give leaders the time they need to process their learnings
- Don’t interfere by interjecting YOUR insights
- Let the client do the heavy lifting (become comfortable with silence)
Most leaders fail to give ample time to reflect due to the busyness of life and ministry. They don’t believe they can afford the time that’s required to go through the exercise. When left on their own, chances are they will give in to the “tyranny of the urgent.”
However, leaders can’t afford NOT to adopt this process, as it will eventually and certainly catch up with them (often when they least expect it!). So serve the leaders well that are under your care.
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