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How Leaders Learn

by Kathleen Spike, MCC, CCAC

As I coach my clients, I have many opportunities to help them communicate and learn to lead at work and home with clarity, compassion and integrity.

In difficult situations, I find clients often choose to make excuses and side step initiating the actions necessary to resolve the situation. Instead they pretend as if everything is all right. They postpone the inevitable and the tension builds until the pressure causes a blow up. Invariably, this forces their hand and they say exactly what they didn't want to say in a way that damages relationships.

A smokescreen of complaints is common. "I don't like the way 'they' are performing", "I don't like the way 'they' delivered that message". These complaints are used to shift the focus from them onto someone else. As a coach, I support these leaders in reframing their language, becoming aware of their habits and gaining mastery over themselves. This results in developing the courage to face issues like an "integrity leader."

A current client, I will call Laura, is the owner of a small retail company. She inherited the company and a challenging secretary/bookkeeper from the former owner of the company.her father. Tension has existed between Laura and the employee from the beginning. The bookkeeper, complained Laura, is short-fused, resistant to change, acts like a victim and put upon by her workload. Through coaching, Laura learned to communicate respectfully with this person. However, the employee remained negative and the lack of cooperation continued to drain Laura.

When I asked Laura what she could do to eliminate this drain, once and for all, her first suggestion was: "I know the bookkeeper will get mad during an upcoming office desk-reorganization. When she does I will be waiting and ready to jump down her throat. I will tell her 'This is the last straw' and fire her on the spot. I want her out of here today. I want to fire her and put an end to this."

My coaching question to her was, "Is this the integrious way to handle this situation?"

She said, "No, but it feels like the easiest way to me." I asked the first question again, seeking to bring her to an awareness of her responsibilities as a fair leader. Her answer was, "Help me, I don't know what to do."

I suggested she draw on truth, compassion, her personal values and vision for the store's success. After brainstorming together for a few minutes, Laura said, "I guess I could just tell her the truth. I could say I am keeping agreements with myself to have positive, happy, willing team members on my staff. I am eliminating everyone who is not willing to work as a team. And, I could tell her a real truth; the company can outsource all her duties for less than it costs to have her as an employee. I could give her 30 days as a warning, then keep her or let her go. I could help her look for another job. She is a great bookkeeper. Maybe she could be the outsource bookkeeper versus the in-office bookkeeper." Then Laura said, "Oh, these all feel awful, they are so direct. I just want to fire her and have her gone." I again challenged her to take the high road versus a blow-up firing that leaves hard feelings.

We did a role-play of the furniture moving scene and how she would handle herself with the bookkeeper. We went over each possible outcome and framed each statement.

The next day Laura called, so proud of herself. Because we had role played the situation, the pitfalls were already rehearsed. They moved the desks and the bookkeeper resisted as expected. Then Laura acted. "Let's sit down. I need to talk with you about something." The bookkeeper was shocked to hear she might be fired; that Laura was unhappy with her attitude. Laura was shocked when the bookkeeper cried and said she loved working there. Laura sent her home for the day and they agreed to talk again later.

Within 24 hours the two had created an outsourcing job for the bookkeeper with Laura's store and two others. The bookkeeper will make more money than she did working solely for Laura. She will be FREE to come and go on her own schedule as long as deadlines are met. She will not have to answer the phone in the office or work with customers. Through Laura learning to communicate directly, with integrity and truth, a winning solution was created for both people. It upped Laura's confidence 1000%.

I have coached Laura for two years and it's a working relationship we both value highly. It has been a joy for me to watch her grow as a person, a leader and as a businessperson. Being at the top of any organization - business or family - can be lonely, and often we lose our objectivity. As a Master Certified Coach, I have years of experience supporting individuals and business leaders with seeing their options and working through challenges to get the results they want. What results are seeking?

Warm Regards, Kathleen

Kathleen Spike, founder of Coaching Works, Inc., is a Master Certified Coach empowering human beings in their work. She helps leaders draw forth visions that are packed with power and intention.

© Kathleen Spike and Coaching Works, Inc. 2000