The Reciprocity of Coaching: Rise above, take the lead and lead by example.

All month I’ve been think about my high school guidance counselor, Doug Ash, who I consider to be my first life “coach”. He actually wasn’t my assigned counselor, but another one of the counselors — coaches — who befriended me at a time when I need heartfelt counsel more than textbook counsel.

What I remember most of what he counseled me on is the following, paraphrased but is the ballpark essence:

  • Pay attention to life.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Then listen to your heart.
  • And be true to it.
  • Failure is always an option.
  • Rise above, take the lead and lead by example. Always.

Everything else will fall into place. He was that kind of person and instilled in me the inspiration to grow that way as well.

There was no “put your nose to the grindstone and study hard and get into the best college and get the best job and rule the world and never fail” preaching.

In other words, without calling it by name specifically, he was coaching me on the basics of developing emotional intelligence, the ability to understand, manage and respond effectively to one’s own emotions and the emotions of others. Intellect alone doesn’t cut it anymore.

Segue to an article someone shared with me recently titled Welcome to An Executive′s Guide To Social Media. While the article reached common ground with me on social media halfway through (which will be another post for another time), the first half was as alien as the early 1960s world of Mad Men.

  • Executives don’t require attention, approval or applause from others.
  • Executives are “eagles” and eagles don’t flock.
  • Executives hate networking.
  • Executives view social as “socialism”.
  • Executives aren’t people people.

Now, I’ve worked with hundreds of executives in all my incarnations over the years, but only a handful fall into this archaic camp.

Thank God because I’m not sure how these people survive today in this 24/7/365 highly integrated professional and personal world. Emotional intelligent leaders have to be people people — givers as well as receivers — otherwise you’re just another tyrant whose ability to influence will wither in the winter like the poisonous Bloodflower.

Sharlyn Lauby (HR Bartender) wrote in her blog yesterday about leading by example:

I wonder if everyone practiced leading by example what kind of impact it would have on a company. I say, let’s find out.

That also means the ability to receive counsel as well as give. Now more than ever do busy professionals need “coaches” — informal or formal — who also become our mentors, counselors, even friends. There’s a “lead by example” reciprocity to it all that pays dividends to the individual and the businesses they work in and run.

Because it’s the life happens part that disrupts the lead by example part:

  • My good friend who’s a pilot for a major cargo transport company and away two weeks out of each month and who is now separating from his wife. They have three young children.
  • My neighbor who lost everything including his mortgage company and his own house soon as well in this latest economic meltdown who came home drunk the other night and crashed into another neighbor’s house. He was arrested.
  • My 38-week-pregnant wife has a confirmed blood clot in her leg and she’s been relegated to bed rest. When the baby arrives, she’ll have to be in the hospital to receive anticoagulants for a few days post birth. We were planning a home birth.
  • Farther away, there’s the poor choices that HP’s Mark Hurd made in his highly integrated (now disintegrated) personal and professional life.

The list could go on and on. Whether from circumstances or the choices we make, failure is always an option, but leaders of all shapes and sizes combined with coaching guidance have to rise above the emotional horizon and see the heart of the sun for what it is.

Rise above, take the lead and lead by example. Always.


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