Key Point: You have to CARE to coach well! A lot data says leaders are lousy at giving feedback and could do a much better job at coaching. How good are you at giving feedback and coaching? In a recent Forbes article, leadership pundit Mark Murphy shared research he’s been conducting at Leadership IQ involving more than 30,000 employees. People answered more than one hundred questions about their jobs, including the question “I know whether my performance is where it should be?”
You can see from the chart that only 29 percent of employees say they “always” know whether their performance is where it should be. As Murphy states in the article, that number should be really close to 100 percent. One of the core functions of leaders is to provide feedback about employees’ performance and the data clearly shows that this just isn’t happening.
At the other end of the continuum of caching prowess is the legendary Bill Campbell, who died of cancer at 75 this past spring. He was one of the most influential figures in Silicon Valley. “Coach,” as everyone called him, could not write a line of code and yet became revered for his ability to give feedback. He got a degree in education and became a college football coach until his career took a turn into Apple and the technology world. “Coach” went on to become a successful VC, CEO/Chairman at Intuit, and a valued and trusted adviser to an impressive list of high-tech legends including Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, and Ben Horowitz, among others.
According to legend, Campbell didn’t operate from a high tech office very often. Instead, he conducted business from a table (with a plaque reading “Coach’s Corner”) in the Old Pro sports bar in Palo Alto. Campbell was an investor in the bar, and apparently gave much of his advice to big shot tech executives there. The story is that Campbell doled out copious amounts of both hugs and profanity as needed. And that is an important part of being a great coach; raw, genuine authenticity. However, according to an article in Inc., the No. 1 rule Campbell both followed and emphasized was: Care about people more than anything!! And above all, regardless how good the content of advice is, that is the foundation for rich feedback and valued coaching.
According to a Fortune interview with renowned Silicon Valley VC Ben Horowitz, this principle was the first filter on all Campbell related counsel. As an example, Horowitz referred to a high profile company restructure he was involved with that included laying off 1/3 of employees. There was pressure for Horowitz to fly to NYC to participate in a press conference on the matter. Coach strongly advised Horowitz to attend and told him to place his attention on what people needed most; his genuine care. Campbell: “Be there (at the company’s offices) all day – help them carry their stuff to the car.” Horowitz referenced the importance of that advice and in a moving tribute to Campbell’s passing, wrote: “The worst thing about today is that I can’t call Bill. I miss him so much…”
- Above everything else, including our insatiably insecure egos, we must sincerely care about people FIRST. It’s not easy to do, because it requires energy and intentional, proactive commitment. Metaphorically, do you choose the “press conference “over helping people carry their stuff?
- For goodness sake, be one of those leaders where people working for you know where they stand! You have to care to coach. Coaching involves regular and timely feedback! And giving feedback, especially constructive feedback, involves talking about the hard things.
- Imagine if people put up a plaque on your desk that exclaimed: “Coach’s Corner.” And think about living a life where people you cared about said, “the worst thing about today is that I can’t call ____ I miss ___ so much…”
Coaches Corner in The Triangle,
One Millennial View: Coaches. Teachers. Mentors. Guides. Whatever you want to call them, we all want them. Often times we hear about such a thing in a workplace and think that only the lucky few are truly in presence of one. That’s unfortunate. But we also have to lead by example too… You want to get coached? Ask for it. We’re bad at that. It’s no coincidence that a common way to break off relationships these days for Millennials is to “ghost” someone. You simply don’t respond to texts or calls or whatever, until they finally get the hint. It’s as “non-confrontational” as you can get, and a great example of the ultimate lack of feedback. Let’s face it, lots of us will go out of our way to avoid any hard conversation. But especially at work, a place where we’re supposed to learn and grow, feedback and coaching is crucial. Please coach me, even if I have to “run laps.”
Edited and published by Garrett Rubis