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Alexandra Reese's Growth Guide

Actionable insights to improve your leadership, life, and impact

What if I told you that with one single investment you could:

  • Cultivate passion and joy in pursuit of your vision
  • Lead with greater confidence and ease
  • Inspire, motivate, and improve the performance of your team
  • Improve wellbeing and engagement
  • Scale transformational leadership through your organization
  • Enable true business agility across your organization

It sounds too good to be true, right?

Wrong. There is one investment you can make that will dramatically improve outcomes in yourself, your team, and your organization:


Train your leaders and managers as coaches.


In today’s Growth Guide, I show the transformational impact this investment could have on your organization. This is the first edition in a three-part series. In part II, I’ll share my favorite coaching skills for leaders with examples of how to put them into action. In part III, I’ll provide guidance and resources for you to develop your leaders and managers as coaches.

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What is coaching?

The International Coaching Federation (ICF), the industry’s governing body, defines coaching as,

“Partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”


There are several key insights about what coaching is and is not embedded in this short definition:

Coaching is...

  • Acting as a catalyst
  • Developing people
  • Exploratory
  • Evoking awareness
  • Eliciting their expertise
  • Empowering

Coaching is not...

  • Acting as a mentor or advisor
  • Achieving situational outcomes
  • Directive
  • Telling how it is
  • Giving your expertise
  • Controlling

This is what great coaching looks, sounds, and feels like in action:


Let's bring these concepts to life with an example:

Imagine you’re in a one-on-one with a direct report. Let’s call him Alex. Alex starts the meeting by asking for your advice. He needs to have a tough conversation with one of his direct reports, we’ll call him Nate, about his performance. What do you do?


I’m going to run through how you might approach this example twice, first as a mentor and second as coach. I’ve italicized my commentary on each example for readability.


Example 1: Imagine you approach this situation as a mentor leader…

You proceed to answer Alex’s question by offering advice based on your experience and best practices. You suggest he:

  • Open the conversation by stating you have some feedback. Then ask if Nate would like to discuss it now or schedule a follow-up, so he feels control over the experience.
  • Deliver the feedback as objectively as possible to avoid bias.
  • Ask Nate to recap what he heard, so you ensure he understood correctly.
  • Ask open-ended questions about how Nate feels, so you have an opportunity to coach the person, not just the situation.

Let’s start by acknowledging that you gave sound advice! But just because you have great advice, doesn’t mean it’s a great idea to give it (at least to start).


When you jump straight into advice-giving mode, you’re instilling learned helplessness. You’re signaling to Alex that you don’t believe he’s capable of working through challenging situations. This will reinforce his belief that he should come to you every time he questions the path forward. And as he begins to come to you more and more to solve his problems, it will pull you away from doing the meaningful, value-add work only you can do.


You’re also missing two important developmental opportunities. The first is to maximize Alex’s success with his upcoming conversation by empowering him to find an authentic solution that aligns with his unique strengths. The second is to develop Alex’s problem-solving abilities, which will help him become a more confident, independent leader going forward.


Alex took copious notes while you gave advice, so you know he’s got the main points down. You also want to make sure he has space to question and challenge, so you ask him, “What do you think? Do you have any follow-ups?”


Alex responds with a hesitant, “No, I really appreciate your advice and it makes perfect sense. No questions, I just need time to digest and work on it.”


These are thoughtful follow-up questions, but they came too late in the conversation. By going straight into mentorship mode and offering your own advice, you positioned yourself as the expert and Alex and the novice. From that position, it’s going to be hard for Alex to tap into his confidence, experience, intuition, and problem-solving abilities to challenge your ideas or generate his own.


You want to instill confidence in Alex, so you affirm your confidence in his leadership ability. You also want him to feel supported, so you offer a follow-up conversation if helpful.


This is a thoughtful way to conclude the conversation, but it also feels inauthentic. Although you said you’re confident in Alex's abilities, how you handled the situation signaled otherwise.


Example 2: Imagine you approach this situation as a coach leader…

You respond to Alex’s question with your own question: “What concerns do you have about this conversation?”


This question is a powerful opener, as it surfaces the real inner blocks to Alex’s success. It may not be a skill gap; Alex may know perfectly well how he should have this conversation. It might be an emotion block that’s getting in his way. You don’t know until you ask!


Alex worries his direct report will get angry and upset, bringing the conversation to a standstill.

Alex's response shows that his question is not rooted in a knowledge or skill gap, which means it's an appropriate situation for coaching. If the stakes were higher (e.g., if this conversation was about a possible termination) or a major skill gap were apparent, a more directive mentorship approach may be appropriate. I'll provide a framework and insight into how to assess when coaching is appropriate in the upcoming third edition of this Growth Guide series.

You can see Alex is visibly stressed, as he imagines this conversation playing out. So, before you dive into solutioning, you pause to acknowledge and validate his experience: “It makes perfect sense why you’d be worried about getting this conversation right, given your concerns that Nate might have a strong emotional reaction. That’s a common fear among even the best leaders, so you’re in good company.” He nods his head in agreement and seems to calm. You then ask permission to keep going, in case he needs another moment to re-center.


(1) Acknowledging and validating and (2) asking permission to proceed are two of my favorite coaching skills to use in high-stress situations. The first skill signals to Alex that he is seen, heard, and understood, which creates a sense of safety. The second gives Alex control over the situation. Once Alex feels safe and in control, his brain will activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which counters the sympathetic nervous system’s stress response.


Alex says he’s ready to talk about how to handle the conversation, so you proceed by asking, “if you were able to show-up as your best self—the capable leader I know you are—in this conversation, how would you respond if Nate had a highly-charged emotional reaction?


Inviting Alex to respond from a place of his best self—the capable leader you know him to be—both raises the bar and build Alex’s confidence in his ability to clear it.


You then conclude the conversation by planning out this response, role playing it, and providing real-time feedback on Alex’s performance.


Role playing is a great skill to introduce, as it allows Alex to learn by doing. You can then offer more personalized feedback that raises his awareness of his strengths, and surfaces opportunities to leverage them even further.


Let’s debrief… 

Neither of these approaches is inherently right or wrong. They’re simply different. I invite you to reflect on those differences through the following questions:

  • How do you think each approach impacted Alex?
  • How did they prepare him for his conversation with Nate?
  • Which approach resonated most with how you lead and why?
  • When is a mentorship approach more appropriate?
  • When is a coach approach more appropriate?


An investment in coach training pays significant dividends.

When you’re leading through a situation without a single, right answer, leveraging coaching skills to frame the problem, elicit novel solutions, and align on a path forward is a recipe for success. While it may take more time to work through the situation at hand, I encourage you to think about that time as an investment in your long-term success.

When you coach your team through a situation, you’re investing in:


Better managers and higher engagement: In its research on employee engagement, Gallup found that managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores. So, if you want to improve engagement (and your bottom line), you need to improve managers. And what do employees want more of from their managers? Coaching (1).


Well-being and productivity: You can’t have productivity without wellbeing. There is an unprecedented amount of loss, fear, and grief in the world. And it is impossible for people to “leave it at home.” So, leaders must engage with and help people process through those heavy emotions, if they hope to create an environment where people feel included, valued, and able to do their best work (2). 


Retention: If you’ve been reading this newsletter for a while, you know that employees want personalized opportunities to grow and develop. And the absence of such opportunities is the top reason high-performers leave. When you integrate coaching into your growth and development process, you empower employees to chart their own unique journeys. This agency is a huge asset to high-performers who want personalized growth and development (3).

A learning organization: P&G found that a coaching approach to leadership maximized problem-solving and learning within the organization. So, the C-suite worked with coaches to shift their behavior from making statements to asking questions. Through that work, they identified four powerful questions that dramatically improved learning and performance (4):

  • “What have you learned?”
  • “How did you learn it?”
  • “What else do you need to learn?”
  • “How can I help?”

Innovation and agility: In highly innovative and agile organizations, Harvard Business School professor Linda Hill’s research shows that “leadership is less about having a vision and convincing people to follow you to the future. It’s more about creating an environment in which people will co-create that future with you.” The most effective way to create that environment is through leading as a coach. By using the right skills, you can create an environment of psychological safety, unleash creativity, improve problem-solving, and build cohesion within the team (5).


Regardless of where you want to take your organization and your life this year, coach training is a sound investment that will help you achieve your vision with greater confidence, ease, and speed. I've worked with several executive clients to develop their coaching skills and the results have been nothing short of impressive. 

I hope you'll consider making this investment in yourself, your team, and your future. There's no better time. In the next two editions of the Growth Guide, I'll provide actionable guidance about how to develop your leaders and managers as coaches, so you have a roadmap to get started.


If you're ready to improve your leadership, life, and impact, I'm here to support you through the opportunities below. Please note, I have only 2 spots remaining for new coaching and advisory clients in Q1. If you may want support, please schedule your complementary consultation today


Opportunities to Partner

One-on-one and Team Coaching: If you're ready to rapidly transform your leadership, life, and impact, I'm here to guide the way. As your coach, I'll work with you (and your leadership team, if desired) to clarify your vision and purpose, set bold goals, build an actionable strategy, and cultivate the mindset, beliefs, and behaviors necessary to achieve sustainable results with confidence, ease, and joy. If you're ready to improve your coaching skills, one-on-one and team coaching are great opportunities to do so.

Your Leadership Mindset Blueprint: What could you achieve if you felt engaged, motivated, and fulfilled--even when times are tough? How would you show-up differently for yourself, your team, and those you love if you felt calm, confident, and in control of your actions and reactions? How would it feel to navigate life with the support of someone who only has your best interests at heart, who listens without judgment, and who supports you in creating the life and legacy of your dreams? This life is possible! And it starts by shifting your mindset. This 4-hour experience will empower you to do just that with dramatic results. Read more and sign-up here.

Growth Advisory: You've been working diligently to grow your organization, but have yet to achieve sustainable results. Or perhaps you've done exceptionally well and are ready to take things to a new level. I can help you hone a compelling vision and strategy, then execute with confidence, ease, and joy. 


Links to Past Editions

Here are links to the first 16 editions:

Jan 26: The do's and don't's of transformation leadership in 2023

Jan 19: To hire a GREAT coach/ consultant, avoid these 3 mistakes

Jan 12: Four strategies to achieve goals with greater confidence and ease

Jan 5: The secret to setting effective goals

Dec 22Glean powerful insights from 2022 w/ this 3-step reflection process

Dec 15: Nine proven strategies to eliminate stress

Dec 1: Three things you can do now to boost success in 2023

Nov 17Eight signs you've got a feedback problem & how to fix it!

Nov 10: Make performance management your unfair advantage

Oct: 1/ The four elements of a high-performing leadership team, 2/ Cultivate an empowered leadership mindset

Sep: 1/ Replan for Q4, 2/ Jumpstart growth through self-awareness, 3/ Three Qs to save you BIG in your next strategy process 

Aug: 1/ Adapt your strategy process, 2/ Support your mid-level managers, 3/ Halt your mid-career crisis

Jul: 1/ Win with values, 2/ How to get hybrid work right, 3/ Vacation like a European

Jun: 1/ The mid-year review, 2/ Sharpen your creative skills, 3/ Win through failure

May: 1/ Prepare for downturns; 2/ Better, faster decisions; 3/ Embrace difference to improve performance

Apr: 1/ The Q1 review, 2/ Prime yourself for success, 3/ Focus your innovation investments for impact


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