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By Karen Frost
Director of Operations at Values Based Leadership
as though there was now an imaginary ‘tripwire’
across the door to his office and that staff from all
sections of the charity had stopped talking to him,
thus creating a feedback vacuum. My role was,
therefore, to be Non-Directive to enable the CEO to
come to terms with the loneliness of leadership and
to find alternative strategies to this issue, and to
listen to how he was currently leading, and share
learning and give feedback and advice on style
where required. I believe I was both a coach
and a mentor in each of our sessions.
Case Study 3:
My final example is a
current client who is the Commercial
Services Manager of a highly success-
ful and expanding SME. She thought
she was at a crossroads in her career
and elected to have some coaching to
give her the space to consider all as-
pects of her current job before making
any sort of decision. It was clear that,
with this backdrop to the coaching relationship, I
needed to listen and be predominantly Non-
Directive to give her the opportunity to explore her
options. Within a couple of sessions, this approach
allowed her to understand that there were a num-
ber of areas of her job where she didn’t yet have the
skills to take her to the next level. I asked her ques-
tions and encouraged her to reflect, which helped
her realise that she needed to learn these skills be-
fore making a decision about her future at her cur-
rent organisation. She identified that, without devel-
oping her skills, she would simply move jobs and
within a few years would likely find herself at the
same crossroads. Her decision was to stay with her
current organisation and learn the new skills, and as
such our relationship changed.
Now we have an agreement that our coaching ses-
sions will be half Non-Directive, where we continue
to explore to raise her self-awareness, and half Di-
rective, where we focus on me giving her advice and
support in the skills she wants to develop. To help
with the language, we call the Non-Directive ap-
proach the ‘coaching’ part of the session and the
Directive element of the session ‘mentoring’. This
works for us, but as I said at the beginning, so long
as the definitions of what you are doing are fully
understood, then it is more about moving along the
continuum to do what is best for your client.
So when a Senior Manager is looking to employ the
support of a coach/mentor – there are a couple of
key requirements to consider:
1. Identify what the specific needs of the Senior
Manager are. Do they need a Non-Directive ap-
proach to raise their awareness and to come to deci-
sions or do they need a sounding board/advisor to
help them? Or, indeed, do they need both in the one
2. Do they need a short-term intervention to get
them through a ‘crossroads’ in their career or an
advisor and confidant who has the experience and
skills to ask a powerful question when required or
knows when to give a sound bit of advice.
The key thing is not what the support is called;
simply that it is the right person for the job. When
working in the education sector I call myself a Men-
tor; in the private sector I refer to myself as a Busi-
ness Coach. The context is different, the issues are
similar. I simply use all the approaches from Non-
Directive to Directive, as and when required, to ena-
ble the person I am working with to be the best they
can possibly be.
My role was, therefore, to be
Non-Directive to enable the CEO to
come to terms with the loneliness of
leadership and to find alternative
strategies to this issue”
As we moved through the first 90
days of his new position, the coaching
relationship developed and the CEO
needed me to listen and ask more
intuitive questions to help him
develop his leadership style.”
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