While cliché, I think this may be one of the rare times where mentioning how quickly the time went by could be appropriate. When I first realized how long six months would be, I truly wondered what I was thinking. Yet, I can say now at the end of the course journey, while being on camera for half a day every month on a Friday and finding ways to commit to a weekly conversation in the middle of work chaos was challenging, in the end it went by almost too quickly.
There are so many valuable pieces to the course, but a couple stood out to me personally:
- The ‘powerful questions’ is like a mini-list for your toolbox to keep challenging conversations moving
- The Arc of Coaching really became more easily applied with each session’s coaching dojo interactions till the conversations almost felt natural instead of following a pattern
- The opportunity to hear others and their challenges, successes and approaches is absolutely invaluable for building your own confidence
The sessions were well spaced out over the course of a month, you had opportunities to try out in real-life situations some of the skills you learned during the previous session, often more than once. The difference between mentoring and coaching was one of the skills where this was the case for me. I have always been known throughout my career as a ‘fixer’ for everyone’s issues. I don’t even necessarily need to be tasked with an issue to start working on a resolution. I just need to be made aware of an issue’s existence. Nowhere was this more prevalent than with coaching. I have been someone who never walked away from a coaching session without taking on the problems/issues presented as my own. That can be exhausting and prohibitive in terms of my own development, yet I always felt a precedent had been set that when you brought issues to me, I found a way to resolve them for you.
After the session focused on coaching vs mentoring, approaching each conversation as an opportunity to look at the interaction as more than just an intake for future issues I needed to resolve has truly been a game-changer. Initially, it felt strange not trying to solve problems or give specific direction to my own direct reports on how to move forward, but I can say that this has disappeared over the last few months. I’ve taken a much more guided approach to helping those I am working with find the path forward, take ownership of that path, and developing their own capabilities.
Separating the coaching and mentoring approach to sessions has really been an enabler for me to personally stop trying to solve everyone else’s problems, but I believe also starting to help those who want to take ownership of their careers develop themselves. While my goal was to help those looking to me for coaching to take more ownership of solving problems, it really had the added benefit of reducing some of my own stress as well, as I have always been quick to personally take on the responsibility of other’s problems. In the end, this approach has been a much better situation for my direct reports and their careers as well as for my own sanity and only owning what I should be responsible for solving. Taking more of a guidance and using powerful questions to help others walk down the path to their own conclusions and necessary tasks is already starting to make a difference from what I can see. Definitely a game-changer!
The other area I want to mention is around saboteurs. In some ways, the results were obvious before ever seeing them in print, but the impact of those on your life, your career, and your day-to-day activities really cannot be understated. I’m sure most here are like me; too busy to have time to spend reflecting on yourself. It does not mean you don’t know your own strengths and weaknesses but spending the time on seeing how they affect you and the progress you have targeted really gets lost in all the other priorities. The saboteur’s exercise was a great reminder of just how who you are can affect your own progress. Having that knowledge, such as the ‘thoughts’ from the saboteur results (This isn’t fulfilling/I want to trust people, but I find myself suspicious of their motives) could have literally been taken from my own thoughts. Reminding yourself these thoughts not only exist in us, but also are causing impacts on your own success is valuable information. Knowledge, especially of our own internal challenges, is powerful.
My biggest ‘aha’ moment was how others see me and respond to me. I think we all see it when we are working with our teams but the feedback from peers was really much more powerful. There are and I followed up, several people who validated they see me as someone who cuts through the BS and gets things accomplished. Hearing that from peers…means a great deal. Knowing others see that and respect that and look to me and how I get things accomplished without all the resources really means I’m delivering value.
In terms of my own leadership journey, I would say there is much to continue and explore. I am far more willing to let go of the reigns at the end of this course vs where I was at the beginning. I hope to always say that in all honesty, I expect to keep on learning and exploring. I want to make sure that others see that continuous lifelong learning journey because who you are today can be changed. No one should feel that who they are today is ‘IT’. Keep growing and learning.
I am comfortable in most settings, from working alongside front-line new hires as they use the tools my teams have created to quarterly read-outs with execs on progress and roadmaps. I now feel as though I have a background from the business perspective, from the development perspective, and from a comfort level with my own style so I can speak with some authority. To me, feeling as though you know your stakeholder’s business in addition to your own business is a powerful feeling. Ensuring those I can empower and raise up within my care through additional visibility and opportunities with leaders to showcase their skills is part of my ‘To Do’ list. I am at a stage where my own light is far less important than shining the spotlight on those with log careers in front of them.
Next up on my journey looks to be finishing migration of the four underlying communication platforms the company uses with our customer base and building out a vendor infrastructure and operations team to support our critical servicing platforms in a more structured framework. Beyond that, a whole new path is on the horizon as well so much to remain busy.