Be a better mentor leader

Like most leaders, Sharon* feels a great responsibility to share what she knows. She is generous in giving time to others. She remembers the mentors who guided her, and she is keen to pay-it-forward. Imagine her chagrin when team feedback points to a weakness in this area.

“I can’t believe they say I don’t listen. Or that I don’t delegate enough. And that I am too hands-on! Why, my whole leadership style is about empowering others.” In our Coaching, Sharon shares her frustration. This anonymous feedback feels like boxing with a ghost. How can she fix something she doesn’t see?

Coaching sessions give a leader a safe and challenging space to explore blind-spots. We unpack Sharon’s way of sharing. I role play with her. We notice that Sharon is very generous with her knowledge; she gets excited and it pours out of her. There are not many pauses, except when she asks, “Does this make sense?” I imagine a direct report would be overwhelmed and reluctant to probe.

Sharon needs some new habits to align her intentions with her actions. Here are the new behaviours to do so:

  • She prioritizes keeping the listener engaged and attentive, ahead of dispersing her content
  • She begins to pause, parsing out her information in small “twitter-length” bits
  • She stops and asks for feedback, instead of confirmation “What’s that mean to you? What do you think? What would you add?”
  • She notices her voice and body intensity increases when she is becoming preachy and uses that as a cue to slow down
  • She invites the listener to take charge by asking “What do you need to know?”
  • She puts down table-stakes when delegating, and then keeps an open-door for questions that arise
  • She always reminds others that her experience is partial, and that it may or may not be what is needed right now

*Coaching scenarios are fictional accounts of common leadership challenges.

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