I recently left an almost 20-year career in telecom to join Stratford Managers so that I could help people and organizations grow and scale by sharing my experience and expertise. One of the things I really enjoy doing is executive coaching, where I help to support an executive’s growth in both leadership development and role-based functional performance. I’ve always liked helping people figure out how they can get the best of themselves and get the most out of their teams. In all my years of experience, the best way to way to do this is to engage.
So, what does engage really mean?
In the past, I have had teams report to me that sat right beside me, teams on different floors, teams in different countries, and teams in different time zones. I can tell you that challenges in both large and small organizations are almost always people related and can mostly be avoided with effective listening. As a leader in your organization you cannot process ideas, effect change or deal with conflict without context, and getting proper context involves listening.
To really listen means you have to be there (physically as much as possible), but more importantly, mentally every time. When you make yourself fully available to the people you work with you show that you are willing to go through the journey with them, and it can mean a lot. It can encourage your team members to open up to you and bring you their ideas and concerns because they know they’ll be heard. You cannot get to know someone without really listening to their issues, and processing those issues from their perspective. Really listening takes practice and is relevant to everyone on your team including employees, your boss, and your peers.
As one moves forward in their career they take on new challenges. These could be from taking on a broader function in the company, switching job roles, or joining a new company all together. The greater the number of changes you face the more uncomfortable it can feel. You may find yourself in a situation where a technique you used in your past career to solve a problem no longer works and you find yourself outside your comfort zone and unsure on how to proceed.
This is when it’s vital to become more self-aware of your capabilities in your position and solicit other perspectives on your abilities and the role itself. Situations need to be looked at from different perspectives and from a variety of sources and there are number of traditional tools to formally get other’s perspectives including 360-degree reviews, engagement surveys, or hiring a role-based coach that has gone through similar challenges (check out #12 on the 12 Early Warning Signs of a Business at Risk). In my experience, nothing beats just talking to people and finding out what they think. You would be amazed at how much people will want to help you grow and learn if you just ask for their perspective.
There is nothing that allows one person to be more empathetic to another than to have had experienced something similar in the past or to have gone through a difficult challenge together.
When I apply empathy to my coaching career, I find I’m most effective if I see myself in the person I am coaching and can relate to the challenges they are experiencing. For me, coaching leaders in R&D, product management, marketing, or more general management/CEO positions is ideal because I have spent the majority my career there. I can empathize with the challenges the role can bring while also helping them be better leaders. In the cases where I have not been in similar situations, my role becomes one of asking questions and discovering what the other person is dealing with so that I can empathize on some related level.
Engaging is important in all aspects of your work, whether it would be towards your peers, employees, or decision makers. Engaging helps demonstrate your true desire to progress in your career and to move the company forward. So go on and get the most out of your career and engage!