Better Leadership: Focus on a Coach Approach

Coaching is a leadership style that is growing in organizational cultures. It is shifting from an optional leadership skill to an expectation of the culture – especially for the retention of employees and leaders. How do you as a leader develop this skill? How do you keep growing and enhancing your coaching ability?

During the pandemic, many leaders found themselves interacting in new ways with their teams – because they had no choice. This was especially true if remote work was new to the organization. Employees were alone in their separate spaces, away from their leader and their peers. Leaders weren’t in close proximity so there were actually less direct statements and less telling. As a result, leaders found themselves asking more questions to check in, rather than walking by giving direction and regularly being present and accessible.

Let’s consider a real situation. I coach leaders, and many of our coaching conversations involve them trying out new ways to better engage with their people. One leader comes to mind. His goal was to learn and use a new skill to better engage his team of ten people. After six months of using more questions and staying curious longer during one-on-one conversations, he reported feeling less overwhelmed and more connected to what was really going on for his team. What did he do differently? He took a coach approach.

Coaching is an approach to facilitate individuals to draw on their own experiences and capabilities, to set and reach their own objectives. Make sense. Yet, many leaders find themselves holding back from adding a coach approach to their leadership style. According to Michael Bungay-Stanier, The Coaching Habit (2016), coaching helps leaders break away from three vicious cycles. Which one describes how you may be feeling?

  1. Creating overdependence: In this vicious cycle, you have trained people to be over reliant on you. You are a bottleneck. This may have developed unintentionally, yet here you are. If you take a coach approach, your team will be more self-sufficient, and have an increased level of engagement and autonomy, which could lead to their own mastery of skills.
  2. Getting overwhelmed: In this vicious cycle, you are so overwhelmed with the never-ending quantity of work, that your quality is hard to focus on. You continue to lose focus. If you take a coach approach, you can direct your own work efforts. Your team can focus on what has real impact, and grow to solve their own challenges.
  3. Becoming disconnected: In this vicious cycle, you have become disconnected from the work that matters. If you take a coach approach, you will reconnect with your team and the truly impactful and meaningful work. Coaching can fuel your courage to step out of your comfort zone and increase the potential of your team.

I poll the participants in our Coaching Skills program, and the number one reason is creating overdependence, followed by getting overwhelmed. I will add three more reasons that holds leaders back from adding a coach approach to their leadership:

  • The lack of training, or a poor experience with training whereby they didn’t walk away with implementable tools.
  • Not having been the recipient of a coaching style themselves. If you have never been coached properly, you may not know what a coaching conversation looks and feels like.
  • And finally, an organizational culture that fosters a solely a directive leadership style.

Let’s conclude with celebrating a real situation where a participant embraced her desire to become more connected to the reality of her employees. This leader came into the Coaching Skills program wanting to get ideas how to move forward with a decision to release or keep a struggling employee. At the end of the Coaching Skills program, she realized that there was one approach she hadn’t tried yet – a coach approach. Why? She didn’t know what process to follow or what her role was, however after the program, she had both, including confidence that her employee deserved the better version of herself as a leader.

Think about what holds you back from using a coach approach and taking a coach approach more often. Leadership is like a muscle that we need to exercise, stretch and challenge to do more. See you in the Coaching Skills program!

About the Author

Linda Allen-HardistyLinda Allen-Hardisty is an organizational development professional (Queens IRC OD Certificate), an executive coach (ICF MCC professional designation), a team coach (EMCC Global Accreditation), and a Forbes Coaches Council contributing member. She’s built a reputation as a vibrant, contemporary voice in the business world by blending her grounding in OD with a practical approach to addressing organizational challenges and opportunities. With a Masters of Education from the University of Regina, Linda’s uniqueness is that, prior to private practice, she fulfilled corporate leadership roles including the Director of Organizational Development in a company listed on the Hewitt Top 50 Employers in Canada and became the first Manager of Strategy and Performance for a municipal government undertaking cultural transformation. Over her 20-year OD career, she has helped many leaders – from corporate executives to entrepreneurs – improve their personal and professional success. She is a sought-after facilitator, coach and advisor for executive development, strategy and change, team effectiveness, and emotional intelligence.

 Linda is the lead facilitator for the Queen’s IRC Coaching Skills program, as well as Building Trust Using Emotional Intelligence and Performance Management.

 

5 Benefits to Growing Your Team’s Emotional Effectiveness

In the post-pandemic hybrid world, people are craving reconnection. They are looking to rebuild trust in organizations that look and function differently than they did just a few years ago. Leaders of teams know they must foster new ways of connection among their teams. Growing your leadership team’s emotional intelligence is key to building a connection and managing the increasingly diverse needs of employees, while creating a healthy and engaged organization.

This quote now holds meaning for teams at work:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
   – Margaret Mead, Cultural anthropologist

For the thoughtful, committed teams I have worked with recently, I have observed them having a tremendous experience with each other when they focused on identifying their own level of emotional intelligence, and working to gain an understanding of their own trust-growth opportunities. Then they can leverage trust to have conversations that strengthen their commitment on the team.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is a set of emotional and social skills that collectively establish how well we:

  • Perceive and express ourselves
  • Develop and maintain social relationships
  • Cope with challenges
  • Use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way (2012, Multi-Health Systems Inc.)

To learn more about emotional intelligence, and the importance of it to leaders, please see my previous article:  Emotional Intelligence: How Leaders Can Use it to Their Advantage

5 Benefits to Growing Your Team’s Emotional Effectiveness

In the Queen’s IRC custom “Building Team Trust with Emotional Intelligence” program, leadership teams learn about emotional intelligence, and they explore how that relates to different levels of trust from individual, team, and organizational perspectives.

Below are 5 benefits to teams experiencing this program together. They are highlighted with some of the emotional intelligences:

  1. Understanding Emotional Reactions and Triggers as a Team
    There is value in the group learning together about emotional intelligence when they realize that they aren’t alone in learning how to become more emotionally effective. For example, Emotional Self-Awareness is one of the emotional intelligences that the team benefits from talking about. If a team is able to understand emotional reactions and triggers, then they can benefit from sharpening this understanding. If there is any tension in the team, it could be because there are moments of unawareness of how emotions are impacting the group. The team could put these emotions to positive use instead of being derailed by them.
    “We are similar in our journeys, but sometimes you can feel alone at work.” – team member
  2. Leveraging Empathy
    Training all leaders together creates space for people to step out of their departmental box. All levels of leadership participate including supervisors, managers and the CEO. This program is a customized way to promote open communication and collaboration, which often results in them getting to know each other better. One of the best emotional intelligences to leverage is Empathy, where they get to spend time understanding and appreciating how each other feels. For teams that have a lower score for empathy, it may be beneficial to think about how to ensure group consensus is reached before carrying out a decision; this is especially helpful during times where individuals’ worries or concerns take over instead of gaining an understanding of how decisions can be made that would beneficial everyone. Trust is strengthened in the team as they use empathy as a regular tool to be gaining insights into each other’s perspectives.
    “I experienced growth as a collective and individually…  Helped me to not just think of me, but to think of the team.” – team member
  3. Using Reality Testing
    By experiencing the build of a Trust Fit Plan, the team co-creates solutions to using emotional intelligence to their collective advantage.  Reality Testing is one of the emotional intelligences used by teams who want to honestly rebuild and repair trust. Reality testing is about remaining objective and seeing things as they really are, versus seeing things the way you want to see them. (2012, Multi-Health Systems Inc.)   Teams that can view situations from an objective stay point do strengthen their decision-making ability; however, during stressful times, emotions can impact how realistic they are in approaching challenges. When teams focus on accurately assessing a situation and understanding why the reasons occurred, trust becomes a stronger characteristic of the team.
    “There are opportunities to rebuild together now.” – team member
  4. Building Confidence and Trust
    Team members say they have more confidence in the group after sharing and participating in the discussions. They express feeling ready to do the work that needs to be done by making trust a part of their regular conversations – in other words, this program helps teams to look forward. By doing this work together, it helps teams to identify how to be more emotionally effective with each other, which can result in them finding new ways to do the work. Optimism is an emotional intelligence that teams leverage in order to see the best in people, and it helps to remain hopeful about the future despite challenges and issues. Conflict can be a natural result of diversity, so teams that leverage diversity make better decisions and create more trustworthy workplaces.
    “So much wisdom in this group. Now, I would trust you all in a decision. Ready to embrace a new way of working with each other.” – team member
  5. Developing Interpersonal Trust
    One participant said that this opportunity to be vulnerable in the group during the program was key to her learning experience. During the program, there are many small group break out discussions where team members can openly explore how the organization facilitates trust with their stakeholders too – the program looks outside of the organization’s walls so that teams can see themselves as a collective group who are co-creating for their customers, clients and the public in general. The emotional intelligence at play here is interpersonal relationships which is about creating relationships based on mutual respect and trust. This takes time. This 2-day program fully dedicates the time to learn way more about each other than a normal work environment permits; this is one of the most common elements teams build into their Trust Fit Plans: time and space to stay connected.
    “Free of judgement to learn in this space that is fully dedicated to team trust”. – team member 

Building Team Trust with Emotional Intelligence

This two-day custom program is based on our open enrollment Building Trust in the Workplace program. While many parts of the open program are also included when running in-house training, running custom training for your internal leadership team provides the opportunity for building trust and learning together as a team. Some of the highlights of the program are:

  • Prior to the program, each team member completes a confidential self-assessment online survey.
  • During the program, we explore the different emotional intelligences and participants receive their Individual EI Leadership Self-Assessment report.
  • We share a Group Profile – this provides a lens through which to interpret emotional intelligence (EI) results in a team or group setting. (It combines scores of individual self-assessments which is helpful to learn how they contribute to the collective EI of the team.)
  • Participants diagnose their organization’s current state, and collaborate to design a “Trust Fitness Plan” for their team by using the emotional intelligences.

Phases of Strengthening Team Emotional Effectiveness

As teams work together to strengthen their emotional effectiveness, they will follow these phases:

  1. They learn the Concept of emotional intelligence.
  2. They start to Experiment with the concepts by imaging saying or doing something differently.
  3. After the program, they have an Experience by trying it out and actually saying or do something differently.
  4. They Reflect and think about what it was like having that experience: How did you feel? What did you notice in the other person? Impact? Outcome?
  5. Repeat the phases like a fitness rep. The phases of learning constantly repeat, just like our actions for healthy living, like taking a fitness class. We don’t check off the fitness box and say “well, I exercised, so I am done doing that forever.”  The analogy to fitness is the foundation of the Trust Fit Plan where the team EI repetitions are embedded into how they work together.

For more information on a custom “Building Team Trust with Emotional Intelligence” program, please contact cathy.sheldrick@queensu.ca or find more information on our website: Customized Training

About the Author

Linda Allen-HardistyLinda Allen-Hardisty is an organizational development professional (Queens IRC OD Certificate), an executive coach (ICF PCC professional designation), a team coach (EMCC Global Accreditation), and a Forbes Coaches Council contributing member. She’s built a reputation as a vibrant, contemporary voice in the business world by blending her grounding in OD with a practical approach to addressing organizational challenges and opportunities. With a Masters of Education from the University of Regina, Linda’s uniqueness is that, prior to private practice, she fulfilled corporate leadership roles including the Director of Organizational Development in a company listed on the Hewitt Top 50 Employers in Canada and became the first Manager of Strategy and Performance for a municipal government undertaking cultural transformation. Over her 20-year OD career, she has helped many leaders – from corporate executives to entrepreneurs – improve their personal and professional success. She is a sought-after facilitator and advisor for executive development, strategy and change, team effectiveness, and emotional intelligence.

Linda is the lead facilitator for the Queen’s IRC Building Trust in the Workplace program, which runs in cities across Canada and virtually. She facilitates custom programs with a wide variety of organizations, including union groups, government organizations and private companies.

Trust Yourself First: Addressing DEI Using Emotional Intelligence

Think of the last time you questioned how much you trust yourself – to make a tough decision on your own, to initiate a tough conversation with someone not knowing if you can handle how it goes, to admit to others you were wrong, to learn something new, or to simply be honest with yourself? Exploring your self-trust is what I call “inner work”, and it is foundational to your contribution to addressing one of the most critical forces of our time – creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI) workplace.

As organizations continue to make and refine plans for a hybrid workplace, they are also focusing on the leaders’ top five priorities for 2021. According to the July 28, 2021 issue of HRD Magazine, diversity, equity and inclusion is number two.[1]

Let’s explore how trusting yourself will help you to listen, learn (and unlearn), and be extremely open to your role in making a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace.

Addressing workforce diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is one of the most prominent focuses of organizations today. It is a business imperative.  With all the reports and headlines capturing our attention (as it should), many leaders I work with find themselves overwhelmed with closing the many gaps, for example:

  • “A 2020 Ipsos poll found 60 percent of those surveyed see systemic racism as a serious problem and a majority believe more needs to be done to ensure equality for all Canadians”[2]
  • “But what surprises some people is how far behind Canada is compared with other OECD countries in narrowing the pay gap between men and women. Of the 36 OECD countries, Canada ranks 29th.”[3]

There are some good examples of well-designed policies and practices for corporate DEI efforts to be successful.   As you grow in your ability to trust yourself to learn and unlearn, here are a few ways to get started to trust yourself more.  The emotional intelligences to lean into are:

  • Empathy
  • Interpersonal relationship-building
  • Stress tolerance
  • Self-awareness

Empathy

Empathy is recognizing, understanding, and appreciating how other people feel.  Empathy involves you being able to articulate your understanding of another’s perspective and behaving in a way that respects other people’s feelings (MHS).  A recent example is Penny Oleksiak’s reflection on how her relay team leveraged empathy over time to achieve:

“I’ve grown a lot as a person in the last five years,” said Oleksiak. “I think we’re all so supportive of each other when someone else is going through a tough time. … Having a team that’s that professional, that empathetic, that amazing, you don’t see that anywhere else in the world.” (Tokyo Olympics, August 2021) – Canada’s most decorated Olympian[4]

To trust yourself to be empathetic, really be present to listen to someone’s reply about what would make a team meeting more inclusive so all can contribute in a way that works for them. Trust that you can learn to set up a team meeting based on what they said – and to also unlearn or stop doing something that didn’t help.  An example question – “When do you feel most included in a meeting?”.   Your intention doesn’t matter as much as people feeling that you understand and recognize their view – only they can tell you if they feel included.

Interpersonal Relationship-Building

Interpersonal relationships as an emotional intelligence refers to your skill of developing and maintain mutually satisfying relationships that are characterized by trust and compassion (MHS).

Use a coach approach to build relationships with your team members. For example, research has shown that what is known as “political correctness” in the workplace inhibits cross-cultural interactions, when leaders struggling under pressure of rule and regulations limit contact with diverse staff for fear of causing any unintended offense.  A coaching approach, on the other hand, promotes mutual respect and inclusion in a way that raises your interpersonal awareness.[5]

To trust yourself to build interpersonal relationships, engage your team in a discussion about how they define success in the workplace – ask what beliefs and criteria are important.  Trust yourself to build trusting relationships with all people, regardless of your feelings toward them. For example, identify people on your team with whom you have not developed a strong relationship; list areas of these relationships you’d like to improve, and talk with them.

Stress Tolerance

Stress tolerance is an emotional intelligence that involves you coping with stressful or difficult situations and believing that you can manage or influence situations in a positive manner.

High trust relationships lower individual stress. For example, I have noticed that some leaders question their ability to lead the change in shifting their workplace culture to more diverse, equitable and inclusive – because they know it comes with potential conflict and challenging conversations.  This can be so stressful!

Trust yourself to hear difficult things that others may raise, and reframe your role as the one to listen. Listen, listen, listen.  People do want to be heard – that could provide priceless release for people and strengthen level of trust in relationships. The path to DEI workplaces is a journey. Build a strong level of stress tolerance so you can create space for such conversations.

Self-awareness

Self-awareness is “the ability to see ourselves clearly to understand who we are, how others see us, and how we fit into the world around us.”[6]

Trust yourself to learn and use the essential coaching skills to listen with empathy and ask open-ended questions and show your genuine curiosity without judgement. For example, ask your team what you can do to build a more diverse team that you currently have now, or what you can do to ensure the new DEI policies are followed and leveraged. Be open and don’t be afraid to hear that you may need to change your own actions.

Where to go next?

In our Building Trust in the Workplace program, participants complete an online self-assessment of how they currently use emotional intelligence, and their results are woven into the program self-reflections and discussions. A past participant said:

“This program has changed how I think about my role in improving my relationships; there is a lot I can do to become more trustworthy to others. That EI self-assessment was an eye-opener for me.”  

Of all the definitions of trust that we explore in the program, the one most participants gravitate to is this: To talk about trust, Brene Brown uses the acronym BRAVING which stands for: boundaries, reliability, accountability, the vault, integrity, non-judgment, and generosity. Trust is choosing to make something important to you vulnerable to the actions of someone else.[7]

Building trust with others begins with building trust in yourself to do the inner work that you are so capable of doing!  Trusting yourself will help you to listen, learn (and unlearn), and be extremely open to your role in making a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace.

Addressing workforce diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is one of the most prominent focuses of organizations today. It is our collective responsibility. The next time you question if you trust yourself, consider your focus on using empathy, growing your interpersonal relationships, strengthening your stress tolerance, and raising your self-awareness.

 

About the Author

Linda Allen-HardistyLinda Allen-Hardisty is an organizational development professional (Queens IRC OD Certificate), an executive coach (ICF PCC professional designation), a team coach (EMCC Global Accreditation), and a Forbes Coaches Council contributing member. She’s built a reputation as a vibrant, contemporary voice in the business world by blending her grounding in OD with a practical approach to addressing organizational challenges and opportunities. Over her 20-year OD career, she has helped many leaders – from corporate executives to entrepreneurs – improve their personal and professional success. She is a sought-after facilitator and advisor for executive development, strategy and change, team effectiveness, and emotional intelligence. With a Masters of Education from the University of Regina, Linda’s uniqueness is that, prior to private practice, she fulfilled corporate leadership roles including the Director of Organizational Development in a company listed on the Hewitt Top 50 Employers in Canada and became the first Manager of Strategy and Performance for a municipal government undertaking cultural transformation.

Linda is the lead facilitator for the Queen’s IRC Building Trust in the Workplace program.

 

References

Brady, R. (2021, August 1). Penny Oleksiak becomes Canada’s most decorated Olympian as swim team Finishes Tokyo Olympics with sixth medal. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/olympics/article-canadas-swim-team-finishes-tokyo-olympics-with-sixth-medal-penny/.

Brown, B. (2018). Dare to lead: Brave work, tough conversations, whole hearts. Vermilion.

Eurich, T. (2017). Insight: Why we’re not as self-aware as we think, and how seeing ourselves clearly helps us succeed at work and in life. Crown Business.

Small, T. (2021, August 1). Canadian companies emerge from COVID-19 pandemic with new diversity and Inclusion plans. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-canadian-companies-emerge-from-covid-19-pandemic-with-new-diversity/#comments.

Syed, N. (2021, July 28). Top leadership priorities for 2021 Revealed. HRD Canada. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://www.hcamag.com/ca/news/general/top-leadership-priorities-for-2021-revealed/292735.

Tanneau, C and McLoughlin, L. (2021, 06 21). Effective Global Leaders Need to Be Culturally Competent | The International Coaching Federation. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://hbr.org/sponsored/2021/06/effective-global-leaders-need-to-be-culturally-competent.

Zink, L. & Squires-Thompson, K. (2021, August 1). Opinion: Companies, get your pay equity act together. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/commentary/article-companies-get-your-pay-equity-act-together/.

 

Footnotes

[1] Syed, N. (2021, July 28). Top leadership priorities for 2021 Revealed. HRD Canada. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://www.hcamag.com/ca/news/general/top-leadership-priorities-for-2021-revealed/292735.

[2] Small, T. (2021, August 1). Canadian companies emerge from COVID-19 pandemic with new diversity and Inclusion plans. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-canadian-companies-emerge-from-covid-19-pandemic-with-new-diversity/#comments.

[3] Zink, L. & Squires-Thompson, K. (2021, August 1). Opinion: Companies, get your pay equity act together. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/commentary/article-companies-get-your-pay-equity-act-together /.

[4] Brady, R. (2021, August 1). Penny Oleksiak becomes Canada’s most decorated Olympian as swim team Finishes Tokyo Olympics with sixth medal. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/olympics/article-canadas-swim-team-finishes-tokyo-olympics-with-sixth-medal-penny/.

[5] Tanneau, C and McLoughlin, L. (2021, 06 21). Effective Global Leaders Need to Be Culturally Competent | The International Coaching Federation. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://hbr.org/sponsored/2021/06/effective-global-leaders-need-to-be-culturally-competent.

[6] Eurich, T. (2017). Insight: Why we’re not as self-aware as we think, and how seeing ourselves clearly helps us succeed at work and in life. Crown Business.

[7] Brown, B. (2018). Dare to lead: Brave work, tough conversations, whole hearts. Vermilion.

How to Strengthen Our WFH Reality: Flex Your Trust Muscle

The pandemic forced change in the way leaders interact with their employees, forcing many to adapt their approach in how they built trust and relationships with employees throughout the transition into working from home (WFH) practices. For many, this challenging year has actually provided them with a rare opportunity to lead stronger, with a new vision for their teams.

On the one-year anniversary of WFH, this is an ideal time for strong leaders to assess how they are at building trust, and to identify what needs to be strengthened next, as the “new normal” and time of unknowns is still being shaped.

Like a fitness plan full of workouts (like weightlifting repetitions, cardio activities, and daily walking), strengthening your trust muscle requires use Every. Single. Day. Some muscles aren’t used enough unless you intentionally aim to use them. It’s not always easy, and you often feel a bit sore after a good workout; however, because you care about your health, you follow your fitness plan again tomorrow. This is the same for building, rebuilding and strengthening trust with your team of employees. Let’s explore how each of these current WFH realities can be addressed by flexing your trust muscle.

WFH Reality #1 – How Do I Know?

It’s shocking how much information is available on this question for leaders: “how do I know my employees are actually working?” I believe the first question to ask yourself is “how did I know before the pandemic?”

You may still be using some of your past practices, however it is likely that you have had to create new practices for your employee interactions. WFH is felt heavily within organizations that didn’t have a robust culture of providing regular employee feedback on their work. Leaders now find themselves implementing totally new practices for employees to follow. In some cases, monitoring technology has been introduced, which is eroding trust and exhausting everyone involved.

Flex your Trust Muscle:

  • Pull on your empathy emotional intelligence: Put yourself in your employees’ shoes. Think about how you want to be asked to share what you accomplished today, and how you want your manager to interact with you about challenges and successes. This can put you in an effective mindset to seek input from each employee about what is working well for them and what is not as they perform their job duties.
  • Monitor with conversation not technology: If you find that you are not seeing the results from an employee that you did pre-pandemic, then use the same process you did before like goalsetting, feedback and consulting your HR advisor. Employees still want to know what the expectations are of them during WFH. They want to know what is different and what is the same, and how you will handle an achievement or lack of performance on their part – one way is to seek to understand what might have contributed to the situation. WFH for some employees is “working from home with my kids beside me doing online learning, the FedEx delivery truck ringing the doorbell, the dog not staying in the kennel, and aging parents needing help.” You do need to get at the heart of the issue – is it WFH challenges or performance challenges? These might not be the same.

WFH Reality #2 – Team Vision Has Changed

Regardless of how much time you spent recreating the team vision or not, know that is has organically changed, whether you intended it to or not. It changed. What a great opportunity to make it official!

Flex your Trust Muscle:

  • Lead an update of the team vision (One-year anniversary edition): Yes, mark it and be intentional with your employees about carving out dedicated time to revisit your team vision or team charter. Ask questions of your employees about what to keep doing, stop doing, or start doing for key components of:
    • communication
    • goalsetting
    • relationship building
    • conflict handling
    • supporting each other

For example, for relationship building some leaders have made the first team meeting agenda item “Coffee Chat” before any agenda item comes up for business – in an effort to fill the gap of not seeing each other down the hall or in the lunchroom; while in-person experiences truly can’t be replaced, new actions can help fill parts of that gap. For now. To begin, start with this exercise:

Team Vision Chart

WFH Reality #3 – You as a Changing Leader

You are a different leader now. Yes, you are. First, congratulations on transitioning your team to WFH during this once-in-a-lifetime career event. Secondly, plan for your next piece of growth and improvement

Flex Your Trust Muscle:

  • Always ask “What is the learning here, Linda?” My mentor used to ask me this all the time. Take honest stock of what you did well this year and what you did not. What did you learn about yourself?
  • Train your trust muscle for the next transition: WFH is likely not going away completely. Many people believe we will evolve to another “new normal”, and things will not go back to the way it was for all organizations. So, get ready to build more trust with your employees because you will be leading them and collaborating with them into the next transition. In their book “Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader’s Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You”[1] authors Frances Frei and Anne Morriss explain trust is the input that makes the leadership equation work: “If leadership is about empowering others, in your presence and your absence, then trust is the emotional framework that allows that service to be freely exchanged. I’m willing to be led by you because I trust you”. Reflect on how well you may be trusted by others, by using their trust triangle of authenticity, logic, and empathy. People tend to trust you when they think they are:
    • interacting with the real you (authenticity)
    • when they have faith in your judgement and competence (logic)
    • when they believe that you care about them and where they are coming from (empathy)

When trust is lost, you can almost always trace it back to a breakdown to one of these drivers. Ask yourself: You want others to trust you, right? Which one, if you had to pick, do you think you should strengthen? Pay more attention to it.

In summary, as leaders you can improve how you can trust that your employees are working at home by intentionally taking action on your own leadership fitness as outlined in these “Flex Your Trust Muscle” tips.

  • Pull on your empathy emotional intelligence
  • Monitor with conversation not technology
  • Lead an update of the team vision (One-year anniversary edition)
  • Always ask “What is the learning here?”
  • Train your trust muscle for the next transition

WFH is still challenging everyone to keep learning new ways on how to work – and trust – virtually and effectively.

About the Author

Linda Allen-HardistyLinda Allen-Hardisty is an ICF-certified executive coach, a senior OD professional, a chair at The Executive Committee (TEC) Canada, and a contributing member of Forbes Coaches Council. She’s built a reputation as a vibrant, contemporary voice in the business world by blending her grounding in organizational development with a practical approach to addressing business challenges. Over her 20-year OD career, she has helped many leaders – from corporate executives to entrepreneurs – improve their personal and professional success. She is a sought-after facilitator for executive development, organizational change and culture, team effectiveness, and emotional intelligence. With a Masters of Education from the University of Regina and a certificate in Organizational Development from Queen’s IRC, Linda’s uniqueness is that, prior to private practice, she fulfilled corporate leadership roles including the Director of Organizational Development in a company listed on the Hewitt Top 50 Employers in Canada, and became the first Manager of Strategy and Performance for a municipal government undertaking cultural transformation.

Linda is the lead facilitator for the Queen’s IRC Building Trust in the Workplace program.

 

[1] Frei, F. & Morriss, M. (2020). Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader’s Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You. Retrieved March 15, 2021, from  https://www.amazon.ca/Unleashed-Unapologetic-Leaders-Empowering-Everyone/dp/1633697045.

Levels of Trust in Workplace Relationships

How do you define trust? How do you describe what trust means to you? Ask ten people and you will likely hear ten different responses.  Because trust is personal. Our past experiences with building, keeping or losing trust really shape how we define trust.

For me, I define trust as having the belief that someone, or a company, will do what they say they will do and in with my best interest in mind. A tall order?  Maybe, but never have the stakes been higher than in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous times – just think how fast social media posts move and how quickly information in spread. It’s no wonder that trust levels can come into question more than ever.

With this I mind, it is critical to consider what organizations can do to strengthen trust with their employees.  What if trust could be viewed as objective instead of just feeling so personal?  What if we could mark where trust is now, identify where we want to take it and map out a plan to do that?  We tackle this question in our newly expanded Building Trust in the Workplace Program.

Trust relationships can be established between people, between people and organizations, organization to organization, and within society in general such as networks, systems and government institutions.  Regardless of the parties, in my experience there are three levels of trust in any given relationship, and, due to various actions, the levels of trust can shift.  A starting point is to know where the trust relationship level currently stands and then, to identify what level one would like the trust relationship to move towards.

Let’s consider these three levels of trust in relationships. As you read the descriptions, think of a specific relationship you have with a person in your workplace.

Level 1: Governance and Rules-Based Trust

This is the most basic level of trust in relationships. It includes things like the law, policies, procedures, and contracts. If a relationship is at this level, then a quote that captures it is

“I know you will follow the rules and it governs our behavior with each other.” 

An example where this level can show up: Renewing your vehicle license with your insurance provider because you trust the provider that the fees are correct and that the provincial system will accurately be updated that you are driving a legal vehicle!  In this example, one may not need to go beyond this level of trust to be satisfied with the relationship. Both parties are getting what they need at the most basic level.

Level 2: Experience and Confidence-Based Trust

This level of trust in relationships represents most day-to-day work related and professional type relationships developed over time. A quote that demonstrates a relationship is at this trust level is:

“I know you have my best interest in mind. I have proven experience with you to know that you will do what you say you will do.”

An example where this level can show up in the workplace:  An employee shares a workplace challenge with his manager. He asks his manager for ideas for how to deal with the continuously late turnaround time from another department because it is impacting his ability to meet his deadlines.  She responds with acknowledgement that he brought it to her attention and she initiates a coaching conversation with him to explore the situation and possible solutions for a mutually agreed upon path forward.  It’s more than the basic level 1 because he trusts her to collaborate and help without knowing the outcome right away, rather than solve it for him or to think it is a poor reflection on his competence. This workplace relationship is one based on experience and confidence.

Level 3: Established and vulnerability-based trust

This level of trust in relationships is reserved for the most important connections in life, often created over time from relationships that began at Level 2. A quote that demonstrates a relationship is at this trust level is:

“I personally know you understand my dream, goals, and fears, and this would never be misused. Trust flows easily between both parties.”

An example is where relationships evolve organically and where trust flows throughout an organization. Google’s massive two-year study on team performance revealed that the highest-performing teams have one thing in common: psychological safety, the belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake.  This is an example of a level 3 trust relationship in an organization, when your creativity and the ability to speak up for the good of the team project is respected and valued. Extreme examples of level 3 trust relationships are your best friend, your spouse, and other close intimate relationships that truly are reserved for a select few outside of the workplace.

In my experience, great focus comes with being clear on what trust relationships need to change (move from Level 1 to Level 2, for example) and what trust relationships are ok where they are because both parties in the relationship are satisfied with the results.

It is useful to first reflect on what trust is and how it is evolving in these complex, changing times. Take a look at trust within your own organization and identify what level of trust relationships exist and how it serves the organization, or how it doesn’t and needs to shift. You may decide that a Level 1 trust between two parties is working well and needs to be maintained.

Also, take a look at your own impact on the trust-based relationships in your own experience.  Think about what your role has been in establishing a level of trust in your various relationships. How self-aware are you of how you are seen by others?

Bottom line – Organizational culture can take a monumental shift when leaders intentionally assess the current and desired level of trust relationships in their organization. Resetting the culture isn’t a quick fix. Behaviour can change so think of how to influence the behavior change. To create more trustworthy relationships that you want – know where you are starting from.

Linda is the lead facilitator for the Queen’s IRC Building Trust in the Workplace program. 

 

About the Author

Linda Allen-HardistyLinda Allen-Hardisty is an ICF-certified executive coach, a senior OD professional, a chair at The Executive Committee (TEC) Canada, and a contributing member of Forbes Coaches Council. She’s built a reputation as a vibrant, contemporary voice in the business world by blending her grounding in organizational development with a practical approach to addressing business challenges. Over her 20-year OD career, she has helped many leaders – from corporate executives to entrepreneurs – improve their personal and professional success. She is a sought-after facilitator for executive development, organizational change and culture, team effectiveness, and emotional intelligence. With a Masters of Education from the University of Regina and a certificate in Organizational Development from Queen’s IRC, Linda’s uniqueness is that, prior to private practice, she fulfilled corporate leadership roles including the Director of Organizational Development in a company listed on the Hewitt Top 50 Employers in Canada, and became the first Manager of Strategy and Performance for a municipal government undertaking cultural transformation.

Emotional Intelligence: How Leaders Can Use it to Their Advantage

Ever catch yourself thinking, “Why did I just say that?” or “I didn’t handle that discussion as well as I could have.”

We are all human and can make poor decisions in the heat of the moment. Afterwards, we are often left wondering how managing our emotions could have made a difference in the situation. But for leaders, reacting emotionally can have a negative impact that ripples through the organization. We can all become more effective by understanding emotional intelligence and learning how to strengthen our own emotional intelligence. This skill is particularly important for those in managerial and leadership roles.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is also referred to as EI or emotional quotient (EQ). EI is a set of emotional and social skills that collectively establish how well we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way. (2012, Multi-Health Systems Inc.) EI is not the same as IQ, cognitive ability, aptitude, or personality.

More and more we are witnessing how emotional intelligence truly defines successful leaders, rather than their technical skills or IQ. Think about how often leaders need to use their EI at the organizational, team, and individual levels. Consider these examples:

  • Leaders of international brands who make public apologies for mistakes and how they got right out in front of the issue to admit their shortcomings;
  • Boards of Directors and teams who have had to lead their groups through challenging situations where the ambiguity and tension runs high;
  • Managers and leaders who have what it really takes to listen to someone, while managing their impulse control so that trust can be built.

In such situations, it is the emotional strength of leaders that can make – or break – the difference. The good news is that EI can be developed. Leaders can change their emotional intelligence to become more effective personally, professionally and socially.

Strengthening Your EI

Many leaders have grown in their emotional intelligence because they have made a purposeful effort to accomplish that growth.  A typical path is to participate in an EI leadership assessment, debrief the results with a certified EI practitioner, and then make an action plan to develop specific skills or behaviors.

While there are many emotional intelligence models and tests available, one of the most researched and statistically validated models is EQ-I 2.0 (from Multi-Health Systems Inc.). Let’s take a brief look at the five scales of EI followed by examples of EI in action:

  1. Self-Perception refers to the “inner-self” and is designed to assess feelings of inner strength and confidence, persistence in the pursuit of personally relevant and meaningful goals while understanding what, when, why and how different emotions impact thoughts and actions (The emotional intelligences associated with this are: Self-regard, Self-actualization, Emotional Self-Awareness);
  2. Self-Expression is an extension of Self-Perception and addresses the outward expression or the action component of one’s internal perception. Self-expression assesses one’s readiness to be self-directed and openly expressive of thoughts and feelings, while communicating these feelings in a constructive and socially acceptable way (The emotional intelligences associated with this are: Emotional Expression, Assertiveness, Independence);
  3. Interpersonal refers to the ability to develop and maintain relationships based on trust and compassion, articulate an understanding of another’s perspective and act responsibly while showing concern for others, their team or their greater community/organization (The emotional intelligences associated with this are: Interpersonal Relationships, Empathy, Social Responsibility);
  4. Decision Making refers to the way in which one uses emotional information and how well one understands the impact emotions have on decision making, including the ability to resist or delay impulses and remain objective so to avoid rash behaviors and ineffective problem solving (The emotional intelligences associated with this are: Problem Solving, Reality Testing, Impulse Control);
  5. Stress Management refers to how well one can cope with the emotions associated with change and unfamiliar and unpredictable circumstances while remaining hopeful about the future and resilient in the face of setback and obstacles (The emotional intelligences associated with this are: Flexibility, Stress Tolerance, Optimism).

EI in Action – How Raising EI Self-awareness Helps Leaders

Here are a few examples of how business leaders raised their self-awareness with an EI leadership assessment and, as a result, are improving in their leadership effectiveness:

  1. “Greta” caught herself immediately saying no to a new business line that her business partners suggested. Upon reflection, she realized that she often said no to new things, because new ideas challenge her and change her routine. Because her impulse control was low, she would react quickly and appear impatient in decision making. Now with her new awareness of low impulse control, she can better manage her emotional response to new business ideas that come forward from her business partners.  Rather than immediately declining the ideas, she listens and asks questions before offering her opinion.
  1. Working with a team of leaders in Canada, I observed the team having some candid conversations with each other regarding their Group EI Team Profile.  The team’s EI strengths in empathy and social responsibility are two reasons why they are so effective in delivering on their mission; however their collective EI weakness (decision-making when emotions are involved) interfered with their effectiveness and purpose as a team. It was very useful for them to see their top EI strengths and top EI weaknesses as a group, and to talk about how difficult it can be to approach emotionally charged situations with a more logical and factual mindset. Their collective willingness to explore the group EI and to take action is why this team increased their effectiveness.
  1. “Dillon”, a business leader I was coaching, has a high level of assertiveness and self-actualization, and is open to thinking about how he uses emotional information to make decisions. He said, “I like how you don’t solve my problems for me. You ask tough questions without giving me your opinion.” Even without participating in an EI assessment, leaders can raise their awareness of how they use their emotions in decision-making through the process of working with a business coach.

The “inner” work of improving your emotional intelligence isn’t for the faint of heart.  Choosing to improve your EI is about changing one’s behavior – and changing behavior is hard work. It takes time, energy and a commitment to becoming more emotionally effective overall. The EQ-I 2.0 leadership assessment, for example, compares a leader’s result with the scores of the top leaders in the sample across North America. This provides leaders with the unique opportunity to compare results to those exceptional leaders who demonstrate high EI.  If one wants to be on par with top leaders, then this can be one way to do that by giving them something to aim for and compare to; however, it can also be a humbling and surprising experience for leaders who may have expected to already be on par with the high performers – yet, taking time to self-reflect on the results proves to be invaluable to leaders. Many leaders would say that focusing on becoming more emotionally effective is one of the most rewarding journeys.

When was the last time you reflected on how emotionally effective you are?

 

About the Author

Linda Allen-HardistyLinda Allen-Hardisty is an ICF-certified executive coach, organizational development professional, and a chair at The Executive Committee (TEC) Canada. She’s built a reputation as a vibrant, contemporary voice in the business world by blending her grounding in organizational effectiveness with a practical approach to solving problems. She has extensive experience in executive development, organizational change and culture, team effectiveness, organizational design and strategy, and emotional intelligence (certified practitioner EQ-I 2.0 and EQ360). With a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Regina and a certificate in Organizational Development from Queen’s IRC, Linda’s corporate leadership experience includes the role of Director of Organizational Development in a company listed on the Hewitt Top 50 Employers in Canada, and becoming the first Manager of Strategy and Performance for a municipal government undertaking cultural transformation.

Linda is a facilitator for the Queen’s IRC Building Trust in the Workplace program.

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