I recently led two coaching sessions – one with a newly appointed manager (coach to coachee) and one with a Lean coach (coach to coach). At the core of coaching is a fundamental question for leaders and coaches: What is our fundamental purpose and what is our deliberate practice of understanding why we do what we do as Lean coaches?
The concept of coaching is now ubiquitous in the world of leadership and management as evidenced by the more than 5,000 books Amazon lists under coaching and the more than one million search results of executive coaching. A small industry is developing around preparing people to be coaches, both external and internal to organizations. Human resource professionals are reframing management development programs to include methods for coaching employees. Obviously in the world of Lean Healthcare and process improvement we are very familiar with and support the importance of improvement and coaching kata. Indeed we teach the coaching framework of 1.) Review 2.) Support 3.) Listen, Learn and Coach and we teach coaching techniques, such as how to ask questions.
This preparation of leaders and managers to coach is essential yet insufficient, especially when those leaders are primarily experienced in a command-and-control style of leadership. The critical element in effective coaching is the self-awareness of one’s own strengths, weaknesses, behaviors and purpose. Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, offers that self-awareness is foundational for leaders to develop and enhance their own emotional intelligence. For someone to be effective in their coaching of others they need to understand themselves, starting with why they do what they do. Simon Sinek in his TED Talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action speaks directly to the heart of leading and coaching – we follow and change when leaders and coaches speak to our purpose and are clear on their own purpose. Achieving this clarity requires the inner work of self-reflection.
Now to the new manager and the Lean coach. The former, as a newly appointed manager, wanted to develop his managerial style around the coaching framework. So our coaching sessions started with the question “Why do you want to be a manager?” We didn’t explore the how and what of managing, we explored his inner self and why is he motivated to move from being a very successful analyst to leading a team of analysts. This allowed him to explore and develop a clear personal purpose statement to anchor the how and what of management.
In the second situation regarding the Lean coach, I lost sight of my purpose, hence my ability to effectively coach. My purpose is to help and support others to realize their goals and dreams. In the coaching session, I didn’t start with understanding the current state of the coach – what she was experiencing and feeling. Rather, I moved right into a “tell” mode around tools and techniques to demonstrate my knowledge. To say the least, the session was a failure and unfortunately, I realized it not during but after the session. After the session I saw through my arrogance and realized that my coaching stance in that session was not to help and support but to be right in tools and techniques – the how and what. In a subsequent conversation with the Lean coach I apologized and used the opportunity to express what I am sharing in this blog.
As coaches and practitioners of Lean Healthcare, as well as leaders, it is essential to develop the practice of self-reflection in order to achieve clarity of our personal purpose. Without this clarity we fumble the opportunity to coach and develop others. As Sinek suggests, the truly effective leaders and change agents operate from “inside out” rather than “outside in.”
Today’s blog was written by Bill Kirkwood, Ph.D., director at HPP.
Bill has 30 years of healthcare leadership experience in both system and individual hospital settings across the United States. His experience includes change management activities, Lean transformation engagements and serving in an executive capacity in quality, operations and human resources. He holds a Master’s Degree in Health Administration from Xavier University and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Organizational Behavior from the Union Institute and University.