Saturday, July 11, 2015

Unleashing People Potential

Thales said, “The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself.” Why? Because it includes uncovering blind spots in your self-awareness - Knowing what you have (your strengths), what you don’t have (your weaknesses), what you like to do/be (your passion), what you don’t like to do/be (your fear and dislikes), what you want to achieve (your goal), and how you plan to reach there.

The most important trait that distinguishes humans from non-living things is that we grow [biologically] whereas they don’t. And the trait that makes an ordinary human successful is her professional growth. But how do we grow? Horizontally as well as vertically… Is there any prescribed formula to climb the corporate ladder? Can you [always] rely on someone sitting on top to pull you upwards? Can you assume that the ecosystem will [always] be favorable to you? The answer [for most of us] would be, “No.” Your growth [more than often] is your responsibility. Surrounding will not change. You need to change yourself and create opportunities for yourself to play your strengths and get best out of existing surroundings. Pace of the growth is not important. Growing is. There is also a Chinese proverb that says, “Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.

Overwhelmed? Scared? Confused? Need help? If yes, you need a Mentor. Or a Coach? Before we
proceed, let’s clarify this confusion.

Mentor is a person or friend (not necessarily the Manager/Supervisor) who guides a [less experienced] person [mentee] by building trust and modelling positive behaviours. She understands that her role is to be dependable, engaged, authentic, and tuned into the needs of the mentee. Mentoring is a power free situation where the Mentor provides advice, shares knowledge [skills] and experiences, and teaches using a self-discovery (and self-development and self-sufficiency) approach with the goal of holistic development of the mentee. She is both a source of information/knowledge and a Socratic questioner.

Coaching is training or development in which the Coach supports (and encourages) a learner [coachee] in achieving a specific personal or professional goal by providing required directions, instructions and training. For example, you take coaching for Football, Baseball, Cricket, Badminton, Bharatnatyam Dance, preparation for engineering/medical college entrance test, etc. Coaching differs from mentoring in focusing on specific tasks or objectives, as opposed to general goals or overall development. A Coach [often] has some authority over her coachee. Her concern is your performance, ability to adapt to change, and enrolling you support in the vision/direction for the specific task/goal/target/delivery/group/organization.

You see a big overlap. Right? Actually, there is. Though all mentors may not necessarily be coaches, but all coaches [to be effective] need to be mentors. And both aim to unleash your true potential, and help you come out of your comfort zone (the greatest enemy of your courage and confidence). In this article, I intend to focus on the common role of the two roles. You may call it Coach or Mentor or Moach or Mentoach. For my own convenience I’ll still call it a Coach. Wherever relevant, I’ll be referring to my previous articles.

A Coach is always a Leader who leads from the front, and has already finished her journey from Illness(‘I’) to Wellness (‘We’). She develops and possesses various skills and efforts that are aimed at guiding employees to achieve high productivity and positive results. She helps [in setting your date with your inner-self], she guides, she shows alternate paths [to reach the goal], but she lets you choose the path you want to pursue. Understand it like this. Say it’s your Sabbatical and you are planning a holiday. For this, first you need to see which places/activities excite you and your family (beach, mountain, adventure, casinos, museums,…). This helps you in shortlisting few options to consider. Then you check your family’s availability (and health) to decide the time and duration of the trip. Then you look at various transport options (flight, train, bus, self-drive, etc.) to reach the shortlisted options. Then you look at other logistics (lodging, food, destination weather, etc.) And then you look at your budget (and other constraints and safety measures) to finalize the plan. A Coach, in your professional life, guides you thru this entire process. She is Carrier of your Career. She helps you in knowing who you are, what you want, and how you can (what are the options for you to) reach there.

Remember that your Coach is not your Mom (though every Mom is a Coach). So, she does not [always] spoon feed. She develops a trust channel and relationship bonding with her team [coachees/ mentee], and empowers them (by building confidence and competence) to be part of the collaborative decision making process. Rather than being a "hands off" approach, coaching means being very involved in the employee's progress. A Coach challenges and develops her employees' skills and abilities to achieve the best performance results. The emphasis is not on checking and monitoring but on developing a higher level of performance. She is a smart delegator and maintains good communication (articulating the department's goals and values in a clear concise manner) and a high degree of trust with the delegatee. She provides adequate direction and clarity to ensure that employees understand the context in which they work, so that they can see the link between their performance and the department's overall success (and can understand priorities and stay focused).

A Coach is responsible for creating a learning environment where employees are supported in their
efforts to continuously improve to meet today's (and tomorrow’s) challenges. She assesses current capability, provides periodic and regular feedback, takes timely required corrective actions (including, reducing scope, or extending deadlines, or providing additional resources or training, etc.), helps employees to identify what is needed, and creates needed opportunities to fill in the gap. She develops capabilities in her employees to solve problems and make decisions. This is done by asking the right questions, challenging the employee's thinking, offering new options, supplying additional information that expands employee's understanding, or providing a new interpretation to a situation. The Coach doesn't follow the same model/methodology to coach/mentor everybody (Pl. refer to my A Driver and A Passenger analogy). For Top performers (Super Stars), she focuses on their Strengths, Passion and Dislikes (by providing them opportunities and platforms to play their skills and follow their passion). For Low Performers, she focuses on their Weaknesses and Fears (by providing them appropriate and timely adjusting feedback, and required training and support). Based on the need of the hour, she may follow either of the “Tell”,“Sell”, “Consult” or “Join” models. There will also be times when she would serve as a sounding board for the employee as she develops her own strategy for overcoming the obstacle.

But no matter what, a Coach always looks at mirror when it comes to passing blames, and looks out of window when it comes to sharing the credit. She never looks at her team as her competitor. And, she also provides her team a "safe" environment for creativity and risk taking (following the mantra of: Fail Often, Fail Fast and Fail Cheap). Mistakes are viewed as lessons learned and setbacks are considered as opportunities for development. She understands that Result, Processes and Relationship are the three equally important dimensions of the success. The overall objective is always employee commitment to achieving better performance and organizational goals…