- Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
- Season 7, Episode 12
- Employees need to fulfill their unique purpose. Learn how you as a coach can help them do that at work.
On a recent Called to Coach, we spoke with Chris Miller, founder of Chris Miller Coaching and a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach who has called many countries of the world "home," including Canada, Scotland and New Zealand. Chris loves helping leaders and their followers to do what they love, and to love what they do, and to use strengths to help guide people toward their calling.
Our host was Gallup Learning Solutions Consultant Anne Lingafelter.
Below is a summary of the conversation. Full audio and video are posted above.
[9:31] Anne Lingafelter: Do you see changes -- obviously, there are changes in organizational design and structure these days when we're talking about things like agile approaches. Do you see coaching changing in that sort of environment? Is it different than it used to be when you were managing and coaching back in the U.K. in the pharmaceutical industry?
Chris Miller: It is changing, and I think my familiarity with government in Wellington (New Zealand) is pretty high, and so I see a lot of energy being put into training managers as coaches, and coaching philosophy is taking hold quite well. And it's giving permission to, let's call it junior or mid-manager individuals who have coaching skill, to actually influence senior leaders more frequently. So they're able to step in as coach or as facilitator, even though they are two or three layers down below the executive team, they're respected for their skill as a coach and their skill as a facilitator, and therefore they're having an influence on people who are much more senior than they are.
So that's a real positive move, and I think a really positive change for organizations to tap into the talent of people throughout the organization and not assume that if you don't have positional authority, you can't be very influential.
AL: That's very interesting to hear, and great to know that you're seeing that exhibited, because often we have coaches who are uncomfortable or fearful of coaching above them -- they are concerned about delivering a message that's not going to be popular, and that sort of thing might impact their progression within the organization. So that's great to hear.
[11:27] AL: We talk a lot at Gallup about certain people having the ability to be great managers, and how those managers -- many times, the only way for them to progress in an organization is to go "up." We talk about the interesting and innovative companies that are developing these "functional experts" and have an alternate pathway of functional expertise. Are you seeing that in the coaching you're doing within organizations?
CM: It's in its infancy, if I'm honest. I think people's ability to create career paths for people that don't involve managing others is still very shallow. And I think there's a couple of things -- I think there's starting to be a recognition that leadership is different from management, and that organizations need both to be really successful. And if you are a technical leader, you don't have to lead people. You can lead the organization through a technical change or an expertise based on your sphere of influence, and never have any direct reports.
So you can be a leader of strategy or a leader of technology or a leader of financials and never have any direct reports, and be extremely good at your job. That's different from being a talented manager, who by implication has direct reports, and you manage a team or you manage leaders who also lead teams who then create a difference for the organization, and there's alignment and resources that need to be talked about. But that spirit of, "Can I be a leader without direct reports?" Absolutely. And it's just a question of, How do you use your influencing skills to really change the direction of your organization?
[14:56] AL: So as you look at that challenge that leaders face in making sure that vision and strategy are translated effectively into each of those lines down, how do you see coaching and managers come into that element, and address that sort of need in an organization?
CM: That's a great question. When I think about how I see the differences between leadership and management, for me, leadership is all about purpose and values and vision and brand. And the leader has to uphold those four things. And a manager needs to be very good at articulating and managing to the Q12, as far as I'm concerned. The Q12 is as good a tool as we have around the world to manage people effectively and lift engagement.
And so I would argue that leadership and management are very different. And managers need to be comfortable with learning leadership skills, because even at a local, functional unit level, there has to be a purpose, there has to be values, there has to be a vision, and there has to be a brand. What's the brand of the finance team? What's the brand of the sales team, for example?
And I think the organizations that are getting it right more often these days are giving the power of that leadership down the organization to allow managers to be leaders of their portfolio, and make important decisions for the business that are aligned to the organizational principles but allow them the freedom to make vision decisions for their business unit that are in alignment with the corporate vision but give the team a great opportunity to learn and grow and contribute to the organization.
[20:13] AL: So as an independent coach who is trying to get clients, do you go forward and say your coaching approach is about being able to allow the individual to fulfill their purpose -- is that a popular external brand when you're approaching people that you're hoping will hire you? Are they concerned that in your coaching of their employees and staff, that that staff may end up leaving the business? How do you address all of that?
CM: In a real way, when I sit down particularly with a small business that has maybe 5 to 7 employees plus the owner, the owner knows deep down who's on board and who's not. They know. They know exactly who's on board and who's not. They just can't put their finger on why. Right? And so my "purpose and values" conversation with the owner and with staff helps people realize that they are here for a reason, and that reason might be to contribute to their current organization, or it might be something else. And they and their employer will be happier if they happen to move on, for example.
So it's very rare for the wrong people to exit.
AL: That's interesting. I feel like we could do another whole show just on that idea.
[22:05] AL: For the coaches that are listening and that are going to listen to this, how would you advise them to manage expectations up front, when you're dealing with the organizations that are hiring you, about whose agenda you're going to be addressing and coaching in the room? I think that's often something that we as coaches will get into that conversation of whose agenda takes precedence, who's paying for this coaching? The organization may have some clear things that they want you to touch on, and that may not be at all where the individual is going.
How do you manage that up front? How do you manage that whilst you're in the process of that?
CM: There are a few exceptions, but in principle, I will clarify confidentiality up front. And for me, confidentiality rests with the person I am coaching, not the organization. And so if I'm going to add value to the organization, I need permission from the person paying the bills for the coaching that my coaching to their individual, to their employee is entirely confidential.
I will encourage that person to explore or share any outcomes of the coaching with their employer, but it is not up to me to report back to the employer the content of my coaching with the individual. And when I'm coaching small organizations, I'm coaching everyone. I'm coaching the owner, I'm coaching the staff, I'm coaching the general manager. And everybody has to honor -- or if my confidentiality isn't honored across that entire group, the whole thing falls apart. Right? I wouldn't coach the owner and presume to share the content of that coaching with anyone. Not their life partner, not their staff, not anyone, because we could talk about anything, potentially. And that's just the rule that I follow.
Now in an organization, a corporate scenario, where a manager or a leader is hiring me for coaching of a group or a team, I will give themes or patterns -- here are some things to be looking for, here are some things to be concerned about -- without revealing the identity of who that came from.
Chris Miller's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Maximizer, Learner, Connectedness, Input and Woo.