Coaching to Get Out of Your Own Way

February 13, 2018 Mary Ellen Sailer

When an organization invests in coaching for their leaders, it is often because they want to move the leader from “almost ready” to “ready now” on promotion lists. In many of these situations, the coaches are asked to help the leaders improve and increase specific skills or develop and deploy underutilized strengths.

Basically, skill acquisition of the new and the better is expected by the sponsoring organization.

But what executive coaches have always known is what Ken Blanchard and Renee Broadwell zero in on in their new book, Servant Leadership in Action: leaders need support to look at what they need to eliminate from their behavior. This radical assessment is a critical first thing to address on the path to effective leadership.

In examining the impediments to true leadership, Blanchard states that the essential problem is the leader’s ego, and a preoccupation with how one is perceived. Specifically, he identifies the leadership-limiting implications for leaders as either over-promoting or over-protecting themselves.

Executive coaches resoundingly agree with you, Ken Blanchard!

Truly effective leaders are focused on the needs of those they are leading, which is what Ken calls servant leadership. Working with a coach can expand a leader’s focus from narrow and self-centered to include and, in fact, prioritize a focus on the needs of others. This requires a priority step in the coaching process of the leader’s honest assessment of the extent to which they are over-promoting or over-protecting themselves.

A great coach will “hold the mirror” for the leader, and ask them to honestly answer questions such as:

  • What have you learned about yourself recently that was surprising?
  • What other surprises could be waiting for you?
  • What do you do when you hear something new about yourself that you do not like?
  • What do you most fear people will discover about you?
  • What do you most want people to know about you?
  • What does it cost you when you behave in ways that you do not understand and cannot control?
  • What is the significance of a leader in the life of an employee?
  • If you were exactly the leader you wanted to be, what would be the difference between that image and who you are right now?

Coaching questions like this ask executives to consider the role of ego in their behaviors. With honest self-assessment, the leader can see where false pride or self-doubt have derailed their effectiveness.

With increased knowledge of self, the mirror can be replaced by a window and the gaze of the leader can confidently focus on the needs of others. Expanding skills and leveraging underused strengths is possible now, as the leader’s focus is off of their ego maintenance and on to meeting the needs of their followers and the organization.

Editor’s Note: Would you like to learn more about implementing a servant leadership mindset and skill set in your organization? Join Ken Blanchard for a free online Servant Leadership in Action Livecast on February 28!

Blanchard will host 20 authors, CEOs, and thought leaders from all walks of life as they discuss strategies and offer encouragement for leadership, learning, and talent development professionals interested in discovering more about servant leadership concepts.

The event is free, courtesy of Berrett-Koehler Publishers and The Ken Blanchard Companies. Learn more here! 


About the Author

Mary Ellen Sailer headshotMary Ellen Sailer, Ed.D., is a Coaching Solutions Partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team. Since 2000, Blanchard’s 120 coaches have worked with over 15,000 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.

About the Author

Mary Ellen Sailer

Mary Ellen Sailer is a Senior Coach for The Ken Blanchard Companies. She is a frequent contributor to Blanchard’s LeaderChat blog. Mary Ellen received her professional coach training from Coach U, earned the Professional Coach Certification from International Coach Federation and her Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Organizational Development from the University of Massachusetts.

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