What comes to mind when you think of leadership? Some would say a leader is a guide; someone who provides direction to others. Others may think of the title a leader might hold -manager, vice president, CEO, etc. While these aren’t necessarily wrong, I think what defines leadership is so much more.
I recently stumbled across a great podcast of Simon Sinek’s called “A Bit of Optimism.” In this episode, he spoke with Bob Chapman, Chairman and CEO of manufacturing company Barry-Wehmiller . Chapman’s company motto is simple: “We build great people to do extraordinary things.” Few words, but a lot of pow. This guy gets it. Leadership requires many qualities but at the end of the day, a good leader will be there to support, trust, respect, and grow their team – and do it all with a little fun.
Chapman goes on to say, “Leadership means the stewardship of lives entrusted to you. To generally care for the people you lead.” Okay, I really like this guy. As leaders, we are responsible for those we lead, and the best way to do that is with care and love. When your employees feel valued and appreciated, it spills over into everything they do and into all parts of their lives. Who wouldn’t want to give that to their teams? I hope no one raised their hand just now. Because a true leader knows how important it is to let people know they matter and that doing it requires great care, genuine curiosity, and a bit of coaching along the way.
Why is it important for leaders to recognize the value of coaching and mentoring? First of all, it engages leaders with their team. Time and attention paid to what the team members need to do their best job and move to their next level, shows that they are valued. It also shows that their leader sees their growth as important and is supportive of them as they get there. It lets the team know that their leader understands the role each team member plays in the organization, and that they are all important. There’s the saying, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” This is as true in leadership as it is in the success of a company. Leadership means working with a team so that they grow, which in turn means the company grows. Sounds so simple, right? Well, it is.
Both coaching and mentoring can help team members develop skills that are key to their growth. In the Forbes article How Does Coaching Actually Help Leaders? it states “The Institute of Coaching cites that over 70% of individuals who receive coaching benefitted from improved work performance, relationships, and communication skills.” Not only was performance improved but relationship building, and communication skills improvement were a direct result of coaching as well. With corporate culture playing the very important role it does in today’s business climate, developing these skills is a must to building (and keeping) a great one.
The labor market agrees. Professional growth and developmental opportunities are ranking at the top of the list for what an employee looks for when job searching, and by this we mean pretty much all employees. In fact, a recent Gallup poll stated “Workers aged 18-24 consider upskilling a more important benefit than retirement, sick leave, parental leave, life insurance and vacation” while workers aged 55 and older also agree that “upskilling is ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ important.” When implemented in an organization, training and development is a great way to attract talent, not to mention to nurture existing team members. It’s a total win-win, and it’s clear that today’s talent demands it. So, the message here for leaders seems to be that even when times are busy, find time to train and development your teams. Yes, it’s that important.
Coaching and mentoring isn’t just a one-way street either. Both participants learn from each other, and curiosity is key to making the most of it. Engagement in these relationships allows the participants to learn what each other’s dreams and goals are. Leaders begin to see what their teams want to aim for, and discussion around this helps identify the training needed. This type of environment and engagement cultivates growth and innovation, ensuring that the employee, and the company, moves forward – together.
A true leader understands a foundational truth – it’s about them not you. A great leader knows that in taking the responsibility for their team, they are committing to making the team their focus and caring about them. Doing so, also means knowing what their employee wants to learn and reach for, and then helping them get it. This cannot be done without leaders engaging their teams and using coaching and mentoring skills in doing so. Further, no engagement will be successful if the leader can’t find a sense of accomplishment in providing that support to another’s growth.
To be clear, there’s a business to run and the numbers matter. But coaching and mentoring develop the teams, creating an atmosphere that is vibrant and innovative – and growing. And the bottom line is that if the employees don’t grow, neither does the business.