The business landscape has evolved dramatically over the last 10 years, and even more rapidly within the last 18 months. In fact, we remain in a complex state of change and uncertainty.
I grew up around business. My father was an entrepreneur, and I spent many Saturdays helping him stuff envelopes or do other activities around the office. At that time, in order for a business to survive, much less thrive, the focus was on work ethic and the bottom line—working incredibly hard (and long) hours, understanding the market, and maximizing profits. Typically, a single decision-maker set the vision and led the charge.
But in recent years, business has evolved in many ways. The focus has shifted from bottom-line profit and authoritarian leadership to greater community / stakeholder focus and collaborative decision-making.
A movement called conscious capitalism, created in 2010, speaks to many of these cultural shifts, most of which have happened as a result of up-and-coming generations wanting something different from the companies they work for:
“Most people in the twenty-first century (especially those who are well educated and reasonably affluent) want to work for more than just a paycheck. They crave work that is stimulating and enjoyable. They’re looking for meaning; they want their work to make a difference, to make the world a better place. They’re looking for a community of friends. They’re looking for opportunities to learn and to grow and to have fun.”
―John E. Mackey, co-founder of conscious capitalism and co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods
These shifts in business culture have led to shifts in what leaders today need most to succeed in this complex and collaborative landscape. To succeed, leaders need to listen deeply, empathize with others, and respond to challenging situations with values and higher purpose in mind. It’s a shift toward more focus on impact—on others, on society, and in our communities.
People today make decisions about what they buy, where they live, what they recommend, and where they work based on their values. And more people today seem to value leaders who listen, genuinely care, and inspire and empower them.
A Modern Requirement: Leaders Who Coach
Why has the demand for coaching exploded over the last two to five years, particularly among top leaders and executives? Because the very skills coaches possess are the ones modern leaders most covet as essential to their success. Rather than dictating or demanding, they learn to empower others by inspiring them to take ownership and to step into their lives and work in new ways. They create space and compassion for others to “fail,” understanding that this can lead to resilience, learning, and growth—all essential skill sets within a business.
Leaders and the organizations who embrace a coaching mindset and use a coach approach in their primary mode of communication more successfully embody the leadership qualities most valued today.
I think that many leaders want to be coached so that they can learn those very skills and become better coaches themselves.
It is exactly this shift that has helped rebrand executive and leadership coaching in the last five to 10 years, helping it overcome baggage from the early 2000s. Once considered a last-ditch effort from human resources before firing a problem employee, coaching is now a coveted resource for high-potential employees to improve their performance and grow more rapidly as leaders.
When leaders are deeply coached, they assess their values, strengths, and goals. As a result, many shift how they present themselves—who they are being and what they are doing—in key, meaningful ways. This can be increased awareness, more agility, a greater ability to affect change, and an intentional focus on how they are inspiring themselves and others. When leaders attune to these core internal capabilities that impact who they are being, it leads to transformations in their habits, behaviors, and interactions with others (what they are doing).
5 Core Shifts Leaders Make When Coached
- Awareness—increased awareness of their strengths and blind spots
- Agility—ability to shift approach/style to situation
- Agency—more focus on where they can take action and affect change (vs. powerlessness)
- Inspiring self—increasing personal connection to possibility and invincibility so that they can be at their best, bringing creativity, agility, and vision to their work
- Inspiring others—a leader’s first job is to inspire themselves, and then others by seeing people’s differing motivations and looking for ways to inspire and empower them to be at their best
A new and emerging future demands a new kind of leader. Leadership success today means driving measurable results while also achieving a balance of employee well-being, fulfillment, and performance excellence. Leaders who inspire and empower others to grow through powerful coaching conversations will create enviable organizations that will not just survive, but thrive well into the future.
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