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Coach Them Up Or Coach Them Out

Jacob M. Engel Forbes Councils Member Forbes Coaches Council Leadership

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, specifi