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Coach Them Up Or Coach Them Out

Jacob M Engel (Yeda LLC) | CEO & Author | #1 Amazon Bestseller | Family Business & Entrepreneur Consultant | Leadership Coach. Prof. John Izzo once told the story of meeting Jimmy Blanchard, the now-retired CEO of Synovus Bank, a relatively unknown bank in Columbus, Georgia, that in 1998 Fortune magazine named the best place to work in America. They had incredible growth and profitability and a turnover rate one-fifth their industry average. Izzo was interested in understanding what made this bank so successful, so he paid the CEO a visit.

Blanchard said the secret was the power of love. "He said we love each other, we love the customers. We know each other's kids, each other's grandchildren," Izzo recounted. "He said, one part of this company cries, the whole company cries with them." Blanchard then gave Izzo a badge and suggested he meet and talk to his employees. As he walked around, Izzo came across an interesting equation —100/0 — written on the walls, desks and even employee badges. When he asked a teller to explain, she said that 100 represents the idea that it's 100% your responsibility to give your very best in every interaction with your clients, colleagues, etc. and the zero means there are zero excuses not to be your best. When Izzo asked the CEO about this equation and the power of love, Blanchard said, "I forgot to tell you — it's tough love."

What Izzo shared next particularly resonated with me. He talked about the great balance every leader must strike between coaching up or coaching out. Meaning, we want to help our people be successful because if they're successful, we're successful. But there is no excuse for incompetency or a bad attitude. In my practice, I find that this is something leaders and managers struggle with constantly. They struggle with having what Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People calls the balance between courage and consideration. If we are too considerate and we want people to like us versus respect us, we will have a hard time holding people accountable. If we are too tough, we will lose our people. According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review (Zenger, Folkman), 8.9% of employees feel engaged with tough bosses, 6.7% of employees feel engaged with nice bosses, but 68% of employees feel engaged with bosses who are both nice andtough. Recently, I was training a group of nonprofit professionals and while they agreed that their roles call for compassion, they also agreed that, as a group, there needs to be more accountability. One way to achieve this is to create a team mission statement that spells out the values and commitments everyone will adhere to. Additionally, I'm training the leader of the group to be more assertive and create clear expectations. In this case, the challenge is that she was picked by the board to be the leader but for the last few years she was an equal. The good news is that by nature she's assertive and communicates openly and honestly. Coincidentally, their team mission has openness and honesty as values.

In this case, we followed several steps to create buy-in from the team:

1. Craft a clear and concise team mission statement of the values and behaviors you are looking for. Getting your team to all be on the same page by giving them a voice will inspire them to step up to the plate. 2. Train the team in open and honest communications. I prefer to use the DR GRAC process, but there are lots of resources available. Find the one that works best for you and your team. 3. Nominate one team member to be the leader, specifically to review each member's goals and objectives (also known as OKRs, or objectives and key results). While it's usually the most senior person on the team who steps into this role, it can also be someone that will champion the cause and keep people focused. Remember, what you inspect gets respect, so inspect what you expect. 4. Have weekly check-in meetings and daily huddles if necessary. I find that having short (no more than an hour) weekly meetings are extremely helpful in keeping everyone focused on their priorities. A daily huddle is useful when you have critical, time-sensitive projects and you don't want to wait a week to get updated on. 5. Meet one on one with team members. I find this useful for a few reasons: It allows the weekly meetings to run smoothly instead of getting too in the weeds with details. It also allows for interaction with your people. 6. Put everything on a board for the weekly meetings. All tasks and goals should be updated and reviewed this way so things don't fall between the cracks. Digital tools like Trello and Asana make it easy for everyone to collaborate and review the board, no matter where they are. 7. Celebrate small wins. How, you ask? In the weekly meetings applaud the successes. Also, small gestures go a long way. Send a dinner for two to a team member that accomplished something meaningful. Add a written note to make an impact! 8. Do a lunch and learn once a month. It can be as simple as one team member reading a book and then summarizing it for the team. Or you can bring in an outside guest or offer a series of trainings. 9. Remember the CEO is really the chief coaching officer. Their role should be more about coaching top talent and inspiring them to greatness than breathing down their necks. Remember, ABC — always be coaching. 10. Coach them up or coach them out! I'm a big fan of telling your people, especially when you first hire them, that: "We want you to be successful because if you're successful, we're successful. We will help you achieve success by coaching you up to bigger and better things. At the same time, we will not be shy about telling you that maybe this company is not for you and you need to move on." The philosophy of coaching up or out tells everyone "We are a meritocracy and we apreciate and applaud you for your positive contribution, and we don't believe it helps anyone by holding on to people that either aren't able or willing to move up."

I once saw a great quote that says, "Culture is created by the bad behaviors you tolerate." If your people know that you are not holding people accountable, you will lose your good people.


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