What leadership challenges are taboos?
“A recent study indicates that Swiss leaders are subject to stress, solitude, uncertainty as well as being overwhelmed by work. Why is admitting to these leadership challenges taboo?”
This is a question Thierry Dime, a journalist, from a prestigious Swiss magazine called, “Le Monde Economique“, asked me. So I thought I would share my answer to encourage a discussion with my readers. The journalist and I sat down in a 5 star hotel’s comfortable lounge in front of a scenic view of lake Geneva. While sipping his tea, he asked me,
What leadership challenges are business leaders facing today?
Through my experience in coaching business leaders, I have identified three significant leadership challenges that leaders face in today’s global environment.
1. Unpredictable change
Unpredictable change and globalization enforce Swiss business leaders to innovate or rethink their business model. These are the environmental leadership challenges. Recently, a client confided in me that with the decrease of the Euro’s value against the Swiss Franc, on January 16, 2015, he was obliged to change his business model and substantially decrease the price of his high end consumer products. Otherwise, the Swiss would cross the nearby French, German, Italian or Austrian border to purchase these high-end products in Euros. The Swiss national bank abruptly decided to unpeg the Swiss Franc against the Euro and the Swiss Franc increased its value by 20% overnight. The change was drastic and unexpected.
As we can see by this example, competition for sales is now global, rather than just local. Consumers will cross neighboring countries to buy at a 20% discount.
2. Projections in a changing environment
Leaders need to make short term and long-term projections in a changing environment. A bad decision has consequences for employees, cost and revenue. The pressure leaders feel and their stress cascades down to employees, which causes a poor working environment.
3. Decision-making & uncertainty
The third leadership challenge that I will discuss today is the need for top leaders to make rapid decisions to respond to market opportunities without having all the necessary information. This too creates uncertainty. As the environment has changed, what was relevant in the past is no longer. Managers are being asked to do more with less capacity. For many leaders, showing their stress or solitude is a sign of weakness. Research indicate that employees feel when leaders are stressed and moody, this interferes with creating a productive working environment. However, often when a leader admits a weakness, the leaders’ employees feel s/he is more human and approachable.
How leadership coaching can help
Coaching reduces the leader’s stress and solitude
Leaders find that discussing challenging situations with an experienced coach that understands the business environment, releases some of the stress, solitude, and sense of uncertainty. Helping the leader have insights to creatively problem solve, the issues alleviates much of the stress. Discussing with an outside coach has no internal political consequences. This is not always the case if the leader discusses with a boss, colleague or employee. Sometimes, simply empathizing with leaders while they make difficult decisions is enough to reduce these leaders’ sense of solitude. However, creating a safe environment where confidentiality is respected is the key.
Leadership coaches serve as impartial sparring partners to stimulate the leaders’ thinking. Leadership coaches challenge the leaders’ approaches, to better support them in reaching their goals. Coaches create a more positive environment for the leader to brainstorm and find creative solutions. Coaching reduces the leader’s stress and solitude. Coaching brings the leader in an emotional state that is conducive to insights and creative thinking.
Our role as leadership coaches is to serve as a catalyst to stimulate leaders’ most effective thinking, learning, and creativity to resolve any issue at hand. The leadership coaching engages leaders and managers to find their own solutions while challenging them to clarify their thoughts, but also their feelings, so to bring their best thinking to the table.
The Leadership Coach’s Role
The leadership coach’s role needs to use 14 steps to fulfill his or her role:
- Assure confidentiality
- Create an environment of trust
- Energize the leader towards a more positive attitude that in turn stimulates creativity
- Encourage the leader to step back from the operational urgencies and think more strategically
- Help clarify the leader’s organizational goals and underlying personal goal
- Support the leader’s in identifying the leader’s strengths and blind areas
- Identify and research how the leader is perceived by his/her key stakeholders
- Determine with the leader what perceived strengths can be leveraged and how can the leader have more productive relationships with each of the leader’s stakeholders
- Encourage the leader in making a personal action plan with key performance indicators and milestones
- Follow-up on the action plan identified by the client and review what was accomplished between coaching sessions
- Help the leader overcome fears and resistances
- Enhance the leader’s awareness and insights
- Increase the leader’s capacity and knowledge
- Support the leader in developing talents by integrating the coaching leadership style
What challenges do you have as leaders or what challenges do your clients have? In addition to the three challenges I discussed here, there are many more that you or your clients might face. Let me know what they are in your experience. Leave a comment below. I’d like to hear from you. Let’s start a conversation.
I shall update these series of blog posts weekly on the Top Coach Blog so make sure you check back in on a regular basis and leave your comments below!