RCT Blog


One of my favorite coaching clients (let’s call him Zach) is a skilled, moving, and inspirational speaker to his troops. When Zach does one of his ”all-staff meetings,” infusing his team with his passion and determination as they head into an important new initiative, he even gets to me. The power of his delivery, and the energy he builds in the room, makes me want to go to work for him! (And believe me, I’m a tough critic.)

Zach is gifted at that, and he is confident and comfortable in that “inspire the team” part of his role. And he knows it.

Where Zach is humbled is in the results: He is too frequently disappointed to find that his top leaders don’t “keep that fire burning” and bring back the results the company is looking for.


Certainly a key role for the leader is to get people excited and motivated to achieve big goals, to make things happen. And we invest abundant time and sweat in preparing just the right kick-off speech. In Zach’s case, he develops and delivers this masterfully. And when he’s done, he expects the energy he’s created to yield great results! What he has had to face, however, is that this act of leadership is only the start. Leading is start to finish – not just “starting” and then assuming the team will carry it through. When they don’t, is it because they’re incompetent or unmotivated – or is it at least partly because their leader got things started – but maybe never really made his expectations clear? Maybe didn’t stay close enough to coach his managers in how to make his expectations happen? Yes, and yes.

Zach is learning to make his gift really work for his company, rather than just provide the “quick hit” of a motivational speech at a conference (or…… a pep rally). And now Zach is finding that he is:
a) Seeing weekly numbers that are bolstering his confidence that the big goal is achievable – rather than waiting for the big day and being frustrated with the result;
b) Much “closer to the action” – (he’s a natural salesperson himself, and was missing the dynamics of the customer interaction);
c) Also much closer to the missed opportunities, able to help his team assess, evaluate and correct their course in order to keep a sale on track.

So what’s Zach doing differently? It starts with his impassioned “fire up the troops!” speech – he can’t (and shouldn’t) give that up. But in Zach’s determination to be a great leader to his team, he is learning that he has to be more than the motivational speaker, so here’s his formula:

• He meets with his top team ahead of the all-staff meeting to discuss and share the goal, get their input on it, and secure their commitment. They decide exactly what their roles will be in the upcoming meeting with their own direct reports, so the meeting isn’t just “the Zach show.”

• Immediately after the all-staff meeting, after Zach has gotten everyone pumped up and ready, the leaders meet briefly together and then meet with their own staffs to make sure everyone knows exactly what they need to do to make the goal a reality. And over the course of that next day or two, Zach meets individually with each of his top leaders, checking in to make sure the goal, and their individual roles and accountabilities, are clear and well-understood.

• Zach insists he doesn’t want to micro-manage, so he tempers his natural tendency to “jump in and do it” with some coaching methods he’s learning. He checks in weekly with his leaders on how things are going, reviewing interim results and evaluating progress together. He asks probing questions, making it clear he’s available to help. He holds back on prescribing what they should do next – until he gets the signal that they need that.

• When his leaders have good news to share, or may need a suggestion about what they should try next, Zach is there to help. And ---- he’s in touch and up to date. He senses the pulse of how the initiative is going so he knows when another of his energy boosts is needed.

But what is Zach really learning to do? He’s learning to trust. He makes sure the expectations are clear and the training is in place. He’s understanding that “coaching” isn’t jumping in and taking over – rather, it’s frequently checking in, assessing progress, offering guidance, and keeping the energy focused. A good coach wants his team to win – and knows he can‘t be the one to play all the positions.

Posted by Stuart Brooks

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