Hats off to Leaders, but hats on for the Leader Coach

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photo by Hector J. Rivas on Unsplash

Leadership Distinction #45: Coach

As leaders strive on the path of change they can get stuck. They can get isolated, they can get discouraged. Leaders need a Coach – to make breakthroughs, to challenge their thinking, occasionally to bolster them, but always to help them get what they’re after. To pull this off, a leader Coach must be versatile, in playing different roles, must be comfortable wearing multiple hats — and to serve the leader completely, some of the hats must be taken from the hat rack of shared experience. 

Hats have widespread influence and meaning. They come off our heads as a show of deference or admiration. They can select you for Griffindor (or not). They fly down onto the ice when you score 3 goals. Edward de Bono gave us The Six Thinking Hats, a method for more completely understanding complicated work situations. For example, he white hat was for gathering objective facts and figures, the red hat for the emotional view, the black hat for identifying weaknesses, the yellow hat for the more hopeful, positive slant, the green hat for creative, new ideas, and lastly the blue hat for control and organization. 

I believe the leader Coach plays 4 key roles if they are to be of complete service to the coachee. And so, Inspired by deBono’s inventive use of hats to get his message across, here are The Four Leader Coaching Hats.

The primary role of the leader Coach is to be just that, a Coach. This role wears a fedora. Think Indiana Jones. The job is to aid discovery, to uncover what may be gating the client’s progress. It’s about shining a light, probing. Not telling; that’s for the next role, that of a teacher. What new distinctions would be helpful to know when not knowing is blocking the path. A graduation cap fits well here. And the remaining two roles draw upon having faced similar challenges. The Mentor’s beret is donned when a bit of inspiration or a reason why would help the cause. And lastly, the baseball cap-adorned Advisor approaches the mound where the pitcher anxiously stands with a bit of advice for how to move forward, coming from having worn the same uniform.

The multi-dimensional support roles played by a Coach call for many hats, but by comparison with those that are worn by the leaders we coach, we shouldn’t feel all that put upon. They shift between hard hats and helmets.

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Episode 44