A Research Paper By Shay Babila, Life Coach, AUSTRIA
Interview With Roland Mayer on Coaching & Leadership Coach
It was a great experience to interview an experienced coach. I wanted to hear about his coaching style and to learn about the concept of leadership concerning coaching.
The conversation was light and insightful.
Leadership Coach: What Is Coaching in the Workplace
Thank you so much for agreeing to share with me these 45 minutes together to get to know you better, so thank you for that.
I wanted to start by telling you a story of why I wanted to interview you.
As you know, we used to work in the same company, you as an Organizational Developer and me as an IT engineer. At that time, I scheduled 30 minutes for us online to learn about your role in the company, learn about coaching, and ask to join some of the workshops that you moderated.
At this time of getting to know each other, you mirrored something about myself, which is courage. Approaching you mirrored my courage.
You then scheduled me a coaching session with one of the leadership coaches working for the company and this was my first experience with coaching.
I was 100% convinced that I have to go forward with my curiosity towards coaching, and I have to see if this is something that I can do professionally.
I think I never told you this. Yeah.
So, with the help of LinkedIn, I learned a little bit about your career experience in the last few years – you accomplished so much – I’m curious about hearing from you, what brought you into coaching?
Okay, sure, thanks for having me. It’s an honor to talk with you.
So, what brought me to coaching was, I think, in the year 2015, something like that, where a colleague of mine joined the company I was working at, and he said that coaching could help people to find their solutions.
And before that, my understanding of coaching was okay, the body coach, nutrition coach, someone who explains to you the golden and helps you to find their solution and their reality.
Then I thought, Okay, let’s take some of my money and let’s spend it on my education and my development because six months before that, I changed my job as a salesman selling HealthCare software to Hospitals. I realized that I don’t want to be a sales guy my whole life, I want to change. And there is a new opportunity, this new opportunity was being a part of the consulting company, by learning as a junior consultant, the whole topic of leadership and organizational development, understanding people, and understanding how organizations are running. And one piece of this element was, hey, there is no one reality but there are always different perspectives. And this has helped me to say okay, let’s get in touch with this topic of coaching. So and then, there was this moment of, of coaching, I said, Okay, we want to talk about systemic coaching. We want to talk about Constructivist Coaching, we want to talk about different perspectives, and so on. And this was the moment I think, in retrospect, It helped me not to judge people. In a way to say okay, It is not about right or wrong, it’s about other perspectives and the value of all perspectives is equal. So there are always different perspectives in life, and when I understood this concept, it was easier for me to get in touch with people, it was easier to collaborate, it was way easier to communicate only by removing this Judging element. So this was a thing. On one hand, it was very courageous for me to say, Okay, I spent more than 4000 euro on my development, knowing okay, I don’t have the money, but let’s try it, let’s take the risk, maybe there will be a benefit, there will be a good result afterward. Now I’m very grateful because, in my current job, it helps me with the foundation of collaboration and guiding companies and people on their way, or their career and on their success. So this was my way to coaching. Hopefully, it is explained in detail.
Absolutely. It was very interesting to hear about the insight you received in your journey with coaching, the insight about different perspectives and understanding this allowed you to be in no judgment.
Then it took into a memory about you. In one of our conversations in the past, you talked about trust. It was about trusting someone in advance.
Okay. Yes. When we talk about trust in German-speaking countries, there is always this way: you have to earn trust. Much more than the approach of giving someone trust in advance, even when they don’t know that person.
I think, especially in collaborations with colleagues in a company, it’s fundamental to say, I don’t know you, but I know the good elements of humans, and I give you my trust.
And what if the whole world gives trust in advance. We will not need any type of regulations. We will not need contracts between companies and suppliers and stuff like that.
We could reduce a lot of costs. Trust is such a big word.
There is always a formula in my mind.
David Maister created a Quotation about trust: the first element is credibility. Do I believe that you have the ability and skills of doing that? If the answer is yes, then I can trust you.
The second element is intimacy where one can feel something, be empathetic, be vulnerable, and when others see that one is not building up a grey wall, and does not need to show strength and be strong, in our company, then this leads to trust.
The third element is to walk the talk, Instead of selling this as knowledge to someone who just explained this to you, or, are you executing.
And then there is this element of self egoism, something like that. Am I looking at myself? What’s in it for me? What is in for my career? Do I just help people because I know that this is good for my career? Do I believe in the whole company or the big picture and not think about… so more altruism versus egoism that way.
Well, trust is such a big topic, and to ask ourselves, what helps to increase trust and what decreases trust? One element is listening to the people listening to the people taking time. And not giving the people the feeling of hey, I don’t have time for you. I have to jump from one meeting to another meeting. Also, giving people value by acknowledging their actions, like with you Shay. Yeah, You booked usf 1.5 hours, and you prepared yourself. Now, you are more important than maybe incoming calls or some other people who might just want to knock on the door or come in. So it’s about Yeah, well, your appreciation, something like that. And hopefully, the level of trust increases.
Yeah. And, interestingly, you say it now, because it doesn’t mean that trust cannot grow – it can increase. But it still doesn’t mean that it cannot be there first, so thank you for this Perspective.
So I look at your work experiences in the last couple of years working in big Organisations, and I can only assume that you gathered some common challenges in the topic of Leadership. From your experience, I’m curious about
What Are the Top Issues That Stand Out the Most?
That’s a tough question. There are several consulting models to leadership in organizations, each one believes it is the most important, so, it’s a combination of different elements.
When I reflect on the topic of Leadership and what helps with success in Organisations, it is collaboration and communication. Behind collaboration and communication is a mindset that allows questions like: Do I want to collaborate, do I want to communicate, do I want to convince people from my perspective, do I want to show how brilliant I am, Or, do I want to understand people and find solutions and take these perspectives or the input by listening as a new value in finding a new solution. And the starting point is, to look from a mindfulness approach, and to ask: what do I see? What do you perceive on one hand? In my surroundings, but also me. Which mindset do I carry when I want to reflect on my meetings behavior: Was this helpful now? Was it helpful to find the solution to bring people together? Was it just about showing how strong I am and how brilliant and how experienced I am?
So, I think that the greatest companies are the companies who are willing to contribute to the bigger thing and to not focus on their ego by saying: without me, no one will be able to be successful. It starts with the mindset.
So it’s not about education nor the skills, it’s first of all the willingness to collaborate and this will follow by learning, improving the skills and the abilities and the education. So the willingness and the mindset are the foundation, I would say, for collaboration.
Thank you. So I imagine a mindset that is agreed by the company, and values of communication, self-reflection can help maintain this mindset. I’m curious to hear from you,
Why Is It Important to Reflect Upon Ourselves?
Well, I know people saying: Okay, I am who I am, and you have to take me like that. I am not able to change myself and therefore I am not able to develop myself. Also, people will say: if I’m angry, then I’m angry if I’m if I am frustrated, and I’m frustrated, if I shout out loud, then I shout out loud. And, I think now, why everyone in the company should be frustrated because of one person who is not able to develop or not able to change the behavior of someone.
So, self-reflection is the first moment where you perceive or recognize how you act, or what is the consequence of your acting? What is the result of your doing? And to ask yourself, What do I want? Which result? Do I want my behavior to support this result? Or is this just hindering the result I want? I want to go there. So it’s about this is my goal I want to reach and to ask myself, does this behavior support in reaching that goal? Or does it hinder me and based on that, you have to either say yes, this is a good way or to say no, maybe it’s the wrong way. Maybe I have to change my behavior based on this self-reflection skill.
What Is Coaching Leadership?
Absolutely. So, you know, there is a lot of information out there, about leadership. Different concepts and philosophies, types of coaches, and more. Looking at your long experience with coaching leaders and running workshops on this topic, I would love to hear your meaning to Leadership. You know, when you say to yourself leadership, what kind of meaning comes up for you?
Okay, so. So first of all, what is leadership. I start from the leadership, as it is a way to establish a culture in a company that helps to execute a strategy in the best possible way to reach a common vision.
So, it’s not so much about giving structure to defining some processes, it’s about to say as a company: we defined our way of working, where we say are this is important for us as a company, this is important for our leaders, this is how we charge our leaders, this is how we evaluate our leaders, this is what we expect from our leaders. Because we believe by such behavior, such a culture, we are more able to be successful than without these values. You can say: we need company values for the whole company, or we say: we need company values for the leaders only. Sothis is more or less about establishing a culture that helps us to be successful and to reach our goals. And then, of course, we can jump into this topic of leadership to say: what is important regarding leadership? Is it important to be aware, to be aware of what’s going on in your company, in your team, inside yourself, What emotions are there? And so on.
So it’s a good starting point first to be aware of what happens, and then to think about when you have to make the right decisions.
The second element is pointing people to the mindset of: How can I create proper, robust relationships between people based on trust and credibility? How can I develop my people? How can I create great teams… and this should result in focus and outcome to say, okay, at the end of the day, we want to survive as a company, we want to reach goals, we want to finance ourselves, and ways that help us: the first are, always processing things out, second is guiding people, and third is reaching goals, I would say it’s in a nutshell.
My job is offering physical or remote training, for companies who recognize a need for a change in their Leadership culture, who feel that talents are not choosing them as a working place because of maybe a very old-fashioned traditional image as a company that they carry.
So, on one hand, of course, there is a specific skill set where you say, Okay, this is something a leader should have in the future. But on the other hand, it’s always connected to the company’s needs where we identify: what do you need? Where are you now? What is important to you? And based on that I would suggest planning together with a training session of some modules, combined with coaching. So, first, we start with training for the leadership team, then we continue with direct coaching sessions with leaders to implement these theoretical constructs to your reality. It gives the possibility to talk with an experienced coach, construct your challenges, and maybe find a solution for a specific topic.
So it’s about this transfer from the theoretical approach of how leadership should work to a way of what I will do now in my situation here, and I think this is the combination of offering training combined with some coaching elements. Does that make sense Shay?
Absolutely. So you offer theoretical, and you offer also practical. I, because of my interests, will be more interested in asking you further about the practical. In your Practical Coaching experience, what topics are appearing the most in sessions? And I already guess that it’s about communication because you spoke about it before.
It depends on the clients. If I coach people whose interest is less finding the solution on their own and more of the ‘what should I do’ approach, I step back and say: okay, and now I’m the mentor, and I’m not the coach anymore and offer tools and my perspective but I do not guarantee the result.
On the other hand, some experienced leaders come with a situation and it’s often most of the time, it’s a situation about communication with people. So it’s never a situation with that person alone. So I would say maybe 10%, it’s about my sales and my person, my personal development. But I would say 90% of the cases, it’s all about good relations, collaboration, and communication. And here, of course, there are some elements like getting feedback, having regular one on ones, do you expressing your needs? Do you talk about non-job-related topics that help connect to people? Do you create a hierarchy-free room where everybody can state whatever opinion and no one should have to, should be afraid of criticizing you? So it’s, I would say it’s about misunderstandings, it’s about talking to people, it’s about giving feedback. So it’s about creating good relationships in a company in a company setup. Because at the end of the day, the relationship and the collaboration is the foundation for the result and performance of the company.
That’s interesting because this only proves how broad coaching can be. It can be blended. It can also include being a mentor and offering tools, or it can be coaching in the purest form.
How Does Coaching Help People Reflect on Their Communication Skills?
Okay. So, therefore, maybe I have to start with my usual sequence, my usual process of art to start a coaching session. So the first question is, What is the topic we’re talking about? And then we’re collecting the topics and then we are prioritizing what would be helpful to talk about in this session. And then, of course, to describe the current situation: how it is now? And for me, it’s not interesting what is the reason for that, or what was in the past, because we’re looking at what we can do in the future to improve the situation or to change the situation, and by only talking or describing the situation, I often got the feedback that it’s getting clearer clients to say: Now I know what it is about, just by describing verbally the situation.
But then the next step is to jump to the future by asking about the desired future state regarding that topic: Where do you want to go? Where’s your north star?
People are often not very used to thinking of where they want to go so they’re often eliminating or moaning about how the situation is, and how it comes to the situation, but they are not used to thinking as What do you want? Where do you want to go? What could be a desired future state?
So I want to point them to think about this: What is different from now. something like that.
And then, of course, asked some weird questions like in which situation the communication was better than that? Maybe there are some exceptions? Or what if a new person joins, What would he think about the situation you are describing? Just to open up the possibilities for your clients. At the end of the session, the client should have 5,6, or 7 different perspectives and he can choose what’s best for him.
Thank you for giving me a close look into a coaching session of yours. It helps me to understand what is important for you.
And I love the term: Weird Questions! 🙂
So if a beginner coach comes to you, and asks for advice or a coaching tip – what would you tell him?
I would say, please don’t be too fast with suggestions and judgments to offer a solution.
I often experience coaches offering solutions very quickly, and I see it as something I am not allowed to do – offer them a solution.
Maybe 30 min into the session you will think like a coach: Oh, good that I did not suggest anything, the client found the solution on his own.
So what becomes possible when I, as a coach, develop this patience to avoid giving solutions?
The client then develops his solutions, own perspective, own way that is much more valuable than an external solution. I, as a coach, am not the expert, the client is.
Yes. I am not an expert on client challenges.
As you are very involved at the moment with coaching, organizations, leadership, what kind of future are you hoping to have with Leadership philosophy, from the individual perspective. You know, if we imagine a young leader starting a new role and feeling a bit confused, what do you hope for him to have?
When a new Teamlead in a company thinks that he is smarter and more intelligent than his team members, he should stop there and re-think his perspective. If you carry the Hierarchy approach where I am better than you etc..that’s not the way leadership will be understood in the future. People want to work in a culture where a leader is a coach. This means that people will feel that their leaders have the skill to not provide a solution but offer the space for the client to find a solution. Leaders, by offering the space and some weird questions, help the new employees with developing themselves.
I would say it’s about SAME LEVEL communication.
Crystal clear. I would like to thank you for your time today. I learned a lot today about your approach to coaching and the relationship to leadership.
Thank you so much!
My Pleasure Shay. Thank you.