Roger Connors is a four-time New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling leadership author. He’s consistently ranked as the world’s top organisational culture guru – and was kind enough to sit with me, so I could share with you.
He’s speaking with me from the study of his home in the picturesquely named city of Alpine, Utah. It sounds like a lovely place to contemplate and reflect. And thinking is where Roger begins.
“I’ve evolved my thinking about how to get real traction in an organisation in a way that can be scaled. I’ve been studying how to get real change quickly that is powerful and lasting,” he says. “There’s too much checking boxes and going through the motions when it comes to organisational transformation.”
Roger says the time is now to tap into the existing coaching capabilities of an organisation and ignite an environment where people are engaging with one another to get stuff done in line with strategic objectives.
MORE THAN FEEDBACK
It involves more than simply providing constructive feedback.
“I’ve been working for 35 years on feedback to convince leaders to engage. They do a great job when you’re standing there watching them. But not when you’re gone. It’s very hard to maintain. Plus, feedback has taken on some negative connotations in organisations even if we still try to push on that button.”
“What’s the problem?” I ask.
“Feedback is negative. It only happens when things go wrong, it’s corrective. When someone says, ‘I’ve got some feedback,’ you brace yourself for the bad news that is going to come. It’s usually reactive. After the fact. It’s not proactive,” Roger explains.
“We need ‘feed-forward’,” I suggest.
“And that’s coaching,” Roger says. “Coaching replaces feedback in my mind. In most cases, it’s a more proactive, comfortable way to engage around performance improvement.
“So how do we structure peer to peer coaching?” asks I.
TEN THOUSAND COACHES
“In a typical organisation, from the research I’ve done, we’ve identified the average person has 10 coach-ready skills. Meaning, I sit down with a person and say, ‘Let’s list out your skills.’ They hate this exercise, because after six they say, ‘I’m done.’
“But I say, ‘Surely, you have more than that?’ And through a facilitated effort, we get to 60 or 70.
“Then out of that list, I say, ‘Which ones do you feel sufficiently competent that you could coach someone else on? On a scale from 0-10, if you score it on a five or better, keep it.’
“And then they come up with a shorter list of about 30.
“Then I say, ‘Which of these would get you excited to coach someone in?’ and that gets us to 10. The average person has 10 coach-ready skills.
“So, if you have a thousand people in your organisation, you have 10,000 coaches. They’re already on the payroll. They are sitting there waiting for someone to engage them.”
THREE KINDS OF COACHING
“That’s creating a coaching culture. When we can engage peers in a collaborative way to self-direct their efforts to engage in real time with someone and tap into those coach-ready skills, it helps them become more effective.”
“So, how do we encourage the engagement and participation in the organisation?” I ask, being the crack journalist that I am.
“You can do this as an individual in an organisation, even if there isn’t a coaching culture,” Roger says.
“There are several conditions that suggest the need for a coach. One of them is doing something for the first time. Why would you not reach out? Research shows people are very willing to engage in brief coaching interactions.”
Roger relates a story of a woman who worked as a lawyer for a university. She had a problem she wanted help tackling, but she couldn’t think of anyone at the school who could help. Roger encouraged her to seek experts – people she didn’t even know – and ask them for coaching around the issue. She found 15. To her surprise, each person agreed to help.
“She said it was fantastic. She got new ideas how to solve the problem and created a new network.”
People, he says, are open to giving coaching if they’re approached properly. So what is that proper approach?
Roger divides coaching into three groups.
“There’s the ‘Pick Your Brain’. It’s 15 minutes or less. There’s another one I call the ‘Get Some Coaching’. That’s an hour-long coffee, or lunch. And then there’s the ‘Will You Be My Coach?’ That’s the heavy-duty executive coaching over time.”
Roger states that too many people only think about coaching as a long-time relationship engagement. Or they confuse coaching with mentoring which also generally requires an on-going, longer-term commitment.
“Most people say they would love to talk about skills, if they could just spend 15 minutes or so doing it,” Roger explains. “You can have a coaching culture. Start with a simple mental model. Then you have a layer of deep dive executive coaching. And wrapped around that is mentoring. It is more than coaching, but it’s a mentoring role on internal processes.”
And, PS, Roger says he always reaches out for coaching when he’s going to do something for the first time. Take it from Roger: “The fastest way to results is via the experiences of others when you don’t have that experience yourself.”
What are you waiting for?