By Magdalena Nowicka Mook, CEO, International Coaching Federation
The Covid-19 pandemic imposed unexpected challenges on organizations large and small. The virus has not only reshaped the way professionals do their individual work, but it has also changed the fundamental characteristics of collaborative teamwork and effective leadership.
The net result is that many leaders continue to struggle with learning what the “new normal” really means for them, their team, and their ability to lead.
Leadership used to be largely about motivating employees to achieve established targets for productivity and profitability. The need for such measurable outcomes remains unchanged, but the method for realizing those results is now far more complicated.
When professionals are no longer gathered in a single location for in-person meetings and shared efforts, the reliance on digital platforms increases.
The difficulty is that this reliance on digital tools can have a corollary effect of making individuals feel isolated and disconnected from colleagues. Video meetings are perfectly fine as a way to assemble everyone, but sooner or later, the work must get done—too often by individuals working alone at home in an environment that does not permit walking to a nearby colleague’s office to bounce off an idea, explore a solution, or consider together a means for reaching a goal. In short, the ability to collaborate becomes more difficult.
Meanwhile, the goals must still be met, and the leader must remain focused on outcomes.
Coaching for Success
Most professionals, especially leaders, find there is no single textbook providing clear direction for how to motivate remote teams and foster unified efforts. In their search for guidance, many professionals, especially business and organizational leaders, are enlisting the assistance of executive coaches.
Leadership coaches guide their clients through an individualized process that builds a leader’s capability to achieve short- and long-term organizational goals. A key to achieving positive results is fostering an atmosphere of collaboration within teams. Coaching has been shown to help leaders implement not only personal changes but also approaches for successful virtual teamwork.
A coach can help a leader better understand what is going on within the team and consider solutions that facilitate collaborative interactions.
Three Elements of Effective Leadership
Columbia Business School professor Adam Galinsky describes “perspective thinking” as the ability to look at the world from someone else’s vantage point: a key skill for establishing a culture of collaboration. When we fail to consider another person’s perspective, we only exercise our power or authority as a leader while missing vital information, Galinsky says.
Through coaching, a leader can better understand this dynamic and adapt in ways that motivate all individuals on the team.
According to Galinsky, there are three crucial elements for effective leadership. Interestingly, each of these is a central skill that coaches help client executives develop:
1. Empowerment: the delegation of power, authority, ability, or permission. Empowering employees typically gives them confidence and greater capacity to advance ideas in a collaborative environment.
2. Diversity: the practice of involving people from a range of social and ethnic backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations, and so on. Diversity is known for producing better results in teams.
3. Transparency: ways that make it easy for others to see what actions are performed, but also to understand the thinking behind those actions. Transparency implies openness, communication, and accountability.
Naturally, some of the consequences of these characteristics cannot be predicted. Nor are they certain to produce positive results every time. Each has a so-called “double-edge,” or downside risk, that a coach would work with a leader to consider in advance.
Regardless, in creating collaborative cultures, coaches help leaders to always ask themselves about the intended impacts of their ideas and actions, and to anticipate what side effects and unpredictable consequences may occur. With these questions in mind, leaders can set checks and balances and undertake specific actions to minimize any negative outcomes.
Predicting the Unpredictable
Double-edged thinking may not be natural to all leaders as a discipline. In our fast-changing current environment, identifying predictable consequences of decisions is not always easy. After all, who predicted a global pandemic and the consequences we now more fully realize?
Working with a professional coach can help give a leader a greater openness to broader perspectives and the ability to test and examine hypotheses in a safe and confidential setting. The results will be fewer surprises, more harmonious and collaborative work environments, and ultimately, greater team productivity and satisfaction. Professional coaching can help you sharpen your double-edge.
To learn more about professional coaching and its organizational benefits, visit the International Coaching Federation.