Leading, Coaching, and Mentoring

Often used synonymously — But vastly different

One of the great things about being involved in leadership development and coaching is the opportunity to be constantly learning and developing your own skills in these areas. They say that “you teach that which you need to learn the most.” Although I don’t really subscribe to that theory, there is a thread running through it that resonates within me because of the learning that often goes along with the teaching.

If you’re like most of us, you have probably noticed the buzz word “Coaching” being thrown around a lot in the corporate world. I am a leadership coach. But what does it actually mean? Sometimes when dealing with abstract concepts it is easier to define it by describing what it is not.

What it is not!

Coaching is not leading. Leadership Voices, LLC is all about leadership and about the many ways that leadership is defined and employed. And great leaders will often provide guidelines and advice on how to succeed in certain areas. Typically they will be seeking to help you reach a certain goal, or they wish to rally you and your colleagues to reach this shared goal. Great leaders will often also be great coaches; however, it is still important to understand the differences in the conversations with them.

Coaching is not mentoring. If you’ve ever been a coach or have been coached, and the conversation has steered towards advice on technical or job-specific concepts, then you aren’t being coached – you are being mentored. Mentoring is defined as, “A situation where a senior or more experienced individual is assigned to act as an advisor, counselor or guide’’ (Business Directory, 2014). Yes, mentoring is crucial in any role, however, it is equally as important to understand what mentoring is and why it is being done.

Coaching is not managing. If your manager provides a coaching session for you, and gives you advice on ways to perform your role in a greater capacity, gives you ideas on how to make your sales quota, or tells you how to achieve KPIs, then you are being managed. And if your manager does this with you frequently and an in a positive way, then you have a great manager. However, a great manager is not necessarily a great coach. It’s not that they are bad at what they are doing – quite the opposite. It’s just that they are doing what they are employed to do – manage their team members and ensure that they deliver on the targets set by their own manager.

So, what is coaching? 

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Make Minor Adjustments

Leadership Lessons from NASCAR’s Kevin Harvick

Last Sunday I found myself at an unlikely place. I spent the day at Texas Motor Speedway and got the chance to meet Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, and Tony Stewart. One thing that I knew going into the event was that some of those guys more than their fair share of fans and “haters.”

Part of the race experience for me that day was the opportunity for a very intimate question and answer period with Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer who would strap in and race later that afternoon. We also got the chance to listen to Tony Stewart tells stories and talk about his life in retirement from NASCAR racing. I am not a big NASCAR fan. But I really enjoyed the Q&A session and it provided a leadership lesson that I don’t think Kevin Harvick intended to provide. He just provided a bit of an inside look at the complex nature of modern racing and the importance of making minor adjustments.

The need for getting the best out of ourselves and our equipment

Kevin Harvick discussed his qualifying runs earlier in the week and how he felt the #4 car was performing. After his final qualifying run, he felt that he was about two and a half tenths of a second from where he needed to be to be competitive on Sunday afternoon. He said, “I told Tony (Stewart) that I have one-tenth of a second still in me and I can squeeze that out on Sunday. And after we tweak the lubrication (the Mobil 1 oil) I know we can get at least another tenth and a half from the oil.”

The importance of two and a half tenths of a second

Something about that “two and a half tenths of a second” kept bouncing around inside my head on Sunday. I thought about it all the way home from Fort Worth to Houston. So, I did a little math. Here is what that two and a half tenths of a second means to a professional race car driver like Kevin Harvick.

  • Harvick’s average speed for the race on Sunday was 187.415 miles per hour.
  • At that speed, he is traveling 277 feet per second.
  • In .25 seconds he travels 69 feet.
  • The race was a 500-mile race.
  • 500 miles is 2,640,000 feet.
  • 69 feet represents .00002614 percent of the total length of the race.

Do you see that? Harvick is concerned about only 69 feet of a race that is more than 2.64 million feet in length. But .00002614 is the difference between winning and coming in somewhere else back in the pack.

What is the Leadership Lesson?

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Nuts and Trees

Legacy Leadership Lessons from a Tiny Acorn

I may have mentioned a time or two before that I love great quotes. The more obscure and pithier the quote, the more I like it. And if I can find a Latin quote, well, that makes it better than a Will Rodgers or Mark Twain quote by far!

I think I have established a new high-water mark for obscure quotes today when I present this one for your consideration:

ex glande quercus

What does it mean?

The phrase is Latin and it is the motto of what was once a proud and noble institution but has become an ill-performing secondary school in England. In fact, recently, the school was in the lowest 20% quintile amongst similar schools nationally. In 2012, only 40% of the pupils enrolled there attained acceptable scores in English and mathematics. Following an inspection in December 2012, the school was placed in “Special Measures” under the Education Act of 2005 because it was failing to provide an acceptable standard of education and the persons responsible for leading, managing, and governing the school were not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvements in the achievements of pupils, quality of teaching, standards of behavior, and managerial leadership.

Oh, have I neglected to give you the translation of the Latin phrase from above that thrilled me so much? Have you “Googled” it already and found it out for your self? Here is the translation:

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Legacy Leadership

Becoming “a Man of Value”

A focus on legacy leadership will drive every decision that you make and every action that you take. But what is Legacy Leadership? And what does it have to do with me?

Try not to become a man of success, but a man of value.
— Albert Einstein

It surprises me how many husbands and fathers don’t spend enough time thinking about their legacy — what they will leave behind for the family that they love and the people they serve. I won’t even go into how many husbands and fathers only carry the life insurance supplied by their employer. But they seem to care more about the financial legacy they will leave than any other legacy that will be left behind.

A Personal Note

But the harsh reality is that each of us is leaving a legacy whether we realize it or not or whether we want to or not. The question is whether or not it is a legacy that is positive and has far-reaching implications for the following generations. And for me, the legacy that I want to leave is a spiritual one. That is an intensely personal legacy that will have far-reaching impacts for my family.

But there are other legacies that I should be concerned with. Perhaps you would do well to consider them as well.

What does “Legacy” mean?

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Principles of Intentional Mentoring 

4 Things That Must Be Considered

There are some genuine considerations for the would-be protégé. In fact, there are four that I would have you consider today.

We need to identify a leader that is worthy of following.

It is an indictment of our culture, and maybe even our own judgment sometimes, that we would need to be reminded of this consideration. Not every leader is worthy of following. We must understand that consideration from both the leader’s and from the follower’s perspective. As a follower, I must find a leader that is worthy to follow and whose successes are not compromised by their ethics or methods. As a leader, I must always be diligent to be “worthy” to be followed.

We must learn how they lead.

Is there some “secret sauce?” Usually, there is not. It is just a lot of hard work and some careful application of emotional intelligence concepts. But, as a protégé, they will be asking: “What is the secret to your success as a leader?” So, as a leader, ask yourself the following questions: What makes you worthy to be followed? And what are you doing specifically that makes you “successful” as a leader?

What makes one leader successful will not always work in another place and setting. That is why I am stressing that it is important to learn how they lead. It is the “how” that will be filled with those traits and characteristics that will be the earmarks of an Emotionally Agile Leader.

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Active Mentoring 

What Does the Mentor / Protégé Relationship Look Like?

When you pause a few moments to think about it, consider just how great it would be to sit down with one of the most well-known leaders of all time. Wouldn’t that be incredible?

I would never put myself out there as that level of leader for a moment. But, I know that what everyone wants is that sense of a 1-on-1 dialog and they want that intimate relationship that is built through the kinds of conversations that occur over an extended period of time.

What is the Vision?

My vision is to create that kind of mentoring relationship where we are handcrafting leaders in small batches and not stamping them out in a factory automated format. One size has never fit all. And building more Emotionally Agile Leaders is an artisan process rather than a mass-production process.

Leadership is modeled. It is not taught. Leadership must be lived out and demonstrated before our protégés eyes to be able to impact followers and impact those who would yearn to be a leader too.

Mentoring is not a mass production process. It is done more in the style of an artisan or craftsman who painstakingly creates a work of art one at a time over a substantial period of time.

It is no accident!

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Are You Certified? 

No, but, I am probably certifiable!

I had a vigorous debate several days ago with a recognized leader for a global organization. He oversees a region of more than 100 local affiliates. He is a “legit” leader. There is much upon which we agree. And there is much upon which we do not agree when it comes to leadership and leadership development.

One topic of debate for us on a recent afternoon was on the value of certification when it comes to some of the tools or methodologies that are prevalent in leadership development today. I am a huge proponent of some of them and consider myself a bit of an expert in one or two of them. I just have never bothered to become “certified.” The leader that I was discussing this was fairly adamant in the necessity and value of certification. That, of course, got me thinking and pondering.

The Wright Brothers

Do you suppose anyone ever asked the Orville and Wilbur Wright if they were certified aeronautical engineers?

History tells us that they were actually tinkerers and small business men with a passion for flight. They gained the mechanical skills and experience necessary for their ultimate success by working for years in their shop with printing presses, bicycles, motors, and other gadgets. Some of which they invented or otherwise modified and improved. Their work with bicycles, in particular, influenced their belief that an unstable vehicle like some sort of flying machine could be controlled and balanced by a person with enough natural talent, skill, and practice.

Did you get that? They believed, as do I, that talent, skill, and practice are what really matters when it comes to increasing the potential for success. Not certification!

Thomas Edison

Let’s look at one more guy that was not certified. Consider Thomas Edison for a few moments. Edison, “The Wizard of Menlo Park”, has been called “America’s Greatest Inventor.” Here is a kid who only attended school for a short time and ended up being homeschooled by his mother with much of his education coming from reading rather than formal education. Yet he has given us the phonograph, movie camera, and the lightbulb, just to name a few. And his legacy lives on in the form of General Electric which made the inaugural Fortune 500 list and debuted in the top 10 on that list.

Not bad for an out of work telegraph operator and a seller of candy and newspapers on the railroad.

What made the Wright brothers and Edison successful?

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Watching and Influence 

Someone is always watching you

Even when you don’t think so. Somebody is watching you. Somebody is always watching every little move you make, every step you take, every vow you break. (Wow, I broke into a lyric there for a second.)

Such is the stuff of thrillers and horror movies. But the same is true of the daily and the mundane. Someone is always watching you. That is certainly the case for me today as I sit in a waiting room this morning. As I am waiting, I look up in the corner of the room at the ceiling line and there it is. A little surveillance camera. Someone at a little monitor somewhere in another part of the hospital is watching me. I can’t imagine a more boring job.

This was a gentle reminder that, even when you don’t realize it, someone always has their eyes on us. That fact is also a gentle reminder that folks are influenced by what they see in us.

The Power of Influence

As a leader, do you understand the power of your influence?

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Perception and Clarity 

The importance of clarity over perception

One of my favorite individuals to listen to on the radio when I am driving around is a conservative talk radio host by the name of Dennis Prager. Even if you do not agree with his political persuasion, you have to respect his emphasis on, and value of, clarity over agreement.

This resonates more and more with me the older that I get. There was a time when an argument must lead to agreement, surrender, or acquiescence by my opponent. These days, I am much more willing to accept the possibility of disagreeing agreeably. I just need to ensure that there is clarity and that I am both understanding others and being understood.

All of that aside, I really would like to deal with the issue of clarity and perception. Specifically, it is important to have clarity around our self-perception when we are leaders.

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