Thompson (2013) has said, “The quality of the conversation reflects the quality of the leader!” (p. 14). This is worth remembering as conversations tend to change people’s lives, so without a conversation, there is no change (Thompson, 2013).
What Thompson suggested can provide motivation in the way communication is addressed, and it can be very effective as a communication rule when speaking across the generational divide that is presently growing between baby boomer leaders and Millennial entering the workforce. According to the US Census (2010), by 2020, 40% of all U.S. employees are expected to be Millennials; individuals born between 1977 – 1997. This generational communication divide appears to be a challenge for US businesses and poses a serious threat to the coming leadership gap; with baby boomers leaving the workforce, corporate history and knowledge will go with them (Frear, G. 2013). Developing leadership programs will be necessary to help organizations prepare for this looming challenge and human resource departments will play a significant role in the development of these programs (Strubler & Redekop, 2010). The change process won’t be easy however, as change is much more than simply putting a program in place and managing it through its intended process. Instead, these programs may need to be developed that support an entirely new way of thinking about leadership where an open environment, enthusiasm, integrity, and risk taking give opportunity to everyone within the organization. Creating a winning environment can ultimately help create what looks to be more like a learning organization; an inherent requirement to bring the Gen Y generation into the leadership mix (Strubler & Redekop, 2010).
With the millennial generation entering the workforce equal to approximately 1 million per year, this group does not believe they come with the necessary skills to lead today’s organizations (Lykin & Pace, 2013). This group believes that they require specialized leadership development programs, yet today’s organizations are not close to understanding that this problem exists nor are they finding solutions on how to secure the future and develop the necessary leadership programs to support future leadership development (Lykins & Pace, 2013).
Leadership development will play an important role in addressing the coming leadership gap, yet a one size fits all program does not provide the right mix of necessary components to solve the development these future leaders need or want. Coaching, along with training, may be an answer. Fine (2013) has found that coaching alone increases personal productivity over 22%, yet by incorporating training into the mix, the results are more impressive, delivering an 88% increase in productivity.
As a component to leadership, developing an organizational coaching emphasis alongside the many training programs that organizations are already so adept at delivering could be a solution to what ails industry at finding a working solution to the leadership gap issue; delivering tailored solutions to individuals through coaching, coupled with training, may help create the balance needed in today’s organizations.
Coaching Conversations Summary
The frameworks used in the two coaching conversations contain distinctive elements to their methods. The Zenger – Stinnett (2010) FUEL approach was highly structured and useful to dig into a coaching scenario quickly and effectively. Silsbee’s (2010) The Mindful Coach method was more reflective as it was useful to learn what was happening within oneself by understanding the inner voices and the effects these voices have on the coaching scenario as the conversation unfolds.
The first coaching scenario was conducted on a peer who expressed interest in understanding how different future scenarios would benefit her role to support her family. The second scenario was conducted with the support of an employee; a Millennial. This coaching scenario was also future-oriented and focused on better understanding her role in her job and how she could best tap into future developmental learning to support her role at the company, herself personally, and for her family.
Coaching Conversations Framework Analysis
FUEL Framework – The FUEL Framework (Zenger-Stinnett, 2010, Table 6-3, pp. 76-77) develops into a quick coaching approach. The entire coaching session lasted about 35 minutes and produced a thoughtful outcome for the coachee. The coaching focused on professional development and how this person viewed this important aspect in her life. The goal was to address how professional development could enrich her life and support her family’s goals.
What the coach learned from the FUEL approach was that the method afforded a tactical approach to the conversation and when the conversation seemed to get sidetracked it was easy to bring it back in focus. It was easy to bring open-ended questions into the conversation and to not jump in with ‘advice’. The most interesting learning was that the coach found that answers to the questions being asked were unknown, only the coachee knew how to answer the questions.
The Mindful Coach – The coachee in this instance is an employee and the coaching subject was about her future goals and how they can be achieved. Because she is a Millennial, this particular coaching session proved interesting on a personal level. In this coaching session, there was no structured framework with which to work but a more Mindful approach to help navigate as the conversation develops. The ‘investigator’ approach was the primary focus to the methodology. It was important to come across as authentic to the coachee mostly due the employee/employer relationship.
The questioning started out historical in perspective which Silsbee considers to be the ‘situation’ phase of questioning. Gaining a good perspective on the employees historical theme, the next set of questions were delivered on the present or current state of the employee; a phase Silsbee considered as the ‘outcome’. This was then follow up with the future-oriented questioning, a phase Silsbee considered as the ‘action’ phase.
It was this last phase of questioning that proved quite interesting. As the action phase of question was being delivered, this individual was unable to acknowledge a future vision for herself. Though she is a person who is comfortable in her own skin and is creative in thought while also being logical in process – an excellent mix – it was interesting to see that she had clearly not been asked those types of questions. It was also noticeable that she did not ask those questions of herself either.
The Pros and Cons of each Coaching Model
Both methods offer strong analytical tools for the coach, yet from different angles and perspectives. While the FUEL approach seemed highly structured and completely focused on the coachee, The Mindful Coach seemed more centered on the coach and was set on trying to deliver how different voices work in tandem with the coaching experience, while also delivering a positive coaching session. By understanding the different voices, the coach can subconsciously manage his/her own voice while managing the coaching session; taking the coachee through the different stages of the session.
Though The Mindful Coach incorporates seven different voices into the model, there were two voices that did not seem to fit the coaching equation: One was the Teacher voice and the other was the Guide voice (Silsbee, 2011). Both appear to give advice as an approach. Advice and coaching seem to deliver two very different experiences. Coaching focuses on working through issues to help the individual or team progress through difficulty issues, whereas giving advice in a coaching scenario can be seen as a tactic to help a poor performing employees hit targets, develop performance strategies, or maybe even help them find a more suitable position in the organization (Jamail, 2013).
Coaching focuses on the answers to questions provided through the coachee’s lens, whereas advice is a completely different experience where the ideas are presented through the lens of the coach (Silsbee, 2011). This is not to say that giving advice is not a productive aspect of helping another individual, but it seems to not fit in the traditional coaching model. Coaching is about allowing the coachee to own the ideas and become motivated through self-enrichment of discovering these things out for themselves (Fine, 2013).
Lessons Learned from the Conversations
Both methods can be highly useful together. The structure of the FUEL method can help the coaching session stay on track, while the voices in The Mindful Coach can help with determining which approach to use at the start, in the middle, and at the end of the session as coaching can meander and enter into unchartered territory.
Reflecting back on the second coaching scenario, it was the inner voice that delivering questions: Were the questions authentic? How was this all being viewed by the coachee? As her boss, were these questions too probing? Did the questioning make her uncomfortable? Did she think I was trying to find out if she was trying to leave the organization? Would the questions terminate the session? Within a coaching session that was an employee/employer arrangement, it was important to come across as being helpful regardless of the result.
The first session where the FUEL method was involved, the most important lesson learned was that attention to the coachee seemed to be paramount. The questioning was pointed, straight-forward, and delivered an unbiased method of questioning where the coachee was required to explore and search for all the answers.
Recommendations for Future Coaching Conversations
Silsbee (2010) suggested that not only is it important for coaches to understand the seven voices, but to understand when to use them and in what situation. In an interview Hallett (2010) had with Myles Downey, Myles thought that coaching was all about enabling the genius in people. In this manner of explanation, genius is not meant in the construct of having a high IQ, but more directly associated with how the coach brings out the potential of the coachee.
So in looking at the introductory section of this paper, the case was made for why coaching coupled with training may prove to be an answer to the coming leadership gap. However, industry leaders appear weary of setting out on delivering a program that may not be supported by executive leadership and that would take precious resources away from meeting the coming quarter’s targets. Yet, the observable triad where corporate knowledge is walking out the door by the vacating baby-boomers, and the self-professed lack of leadership skills by Millineals and the benefits that one-on-one coaching can establish through meaningful engagement, it all points to senior management supporting a human resources driven coaching program organization-wide (Dunn, 2009).
Age and sex composition in the United States: 2010 census brief. (2011, May). Retrieved from United States Census Bureau website: http://www.census.gov/population/age/.
Dunn, M. W. (2009). Leadership coaching: The developmental power of the one-on-one. Employment Relations Today (Vol. 25, pp. 25-29). (Wiley).
Fine, A. (2013). Coaching Culture. Leadership Excellence, 30, 13-14.
Frear, G. (2013). Gen-Y questions leadership. New Zealand Management, 60, 6.
Hallett, D. (2010, July 72). Four quadrant coaching: A conversation with Myles Downey. Integral Leadership Review.
Jamail, N. (2013). Micromanaging vs. coaching. Ceramic Industry, 163, 27-28.
Lykins, L., & Pace, A. (2013). Mastering millennial leadership development. T+D, 67(5), 42-45.
Silsbee, D. (2011). The mindful coach: Seven roles for facilitating leader development. Jossey-Bass. Available from http://library.books24x7.com.proxy.cityu.edu/toc.aspx?site=GFV5U&bookid=34947
Strubler, D. C., & Redekop, B. W. (2010). Entrepreneurial human resource leadership: A conversation with Dwight Carlson. Human Resource Management, 49(4), 793-804.
Thakadipuram, T. (2010). Leadership wholeness: a human resource development model. Human Resource Development International, 13(4), 463-475. doi: doi:10.1080/13678868.2010.501993
Thompson, G. (2013). Three Conversations. Leadership Excellence, 30, 14.
Zenger, J. H., & Stinnett, K. (2010). The extraordinary coach: How the best leaders help others grow. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill