Coaching Matters

Coaching the New Leader

Santhosh Babu, as the founder of OD Alternatives and Orglens, and with 23 years of experience as a Coach in Organizational Leadership Development set forth the stage to ‘Coaching a New Leader’.

Beginning with “Who is defined as a Young vs New Leader?”
Young leaders are matched to the physical age. But, ‘New Leader’ is someone who is either hired from outside into an organization and a system, or someone within the organization who has been assigned with a leadership role.

What is the difference between Coaching a new leader vs someone who has been in the system for a very long time?
Learning coaching involves delving into the philosophy, tools, and models, etc. But, what is important is what happens after that once you start coaching. Similar to the seven-and-a-half circles tool that most artists learn as a part of sketching, coaching in its pedagogy provides tools. But, the reality remains that most artists don’t use the tool.

For coaches, using this analogy what matters is the ‘context’. While coaching within an organization, you would come across multiple contexts. And the context of the ‘New Leader’ is the most important.

Before we dive into how to coach a new leader, here is an exercise that will familiarize you with what is the meaning of ‘context’. Read the paragraph below and note down what you understand by it. Here you go…

Keep guessing…

Now see if anything about the same para makes sense to you when you read it as below.

Did you notice that the para remains the same, but the heading has been changed. With that, every sentence fits and is in coherence.

In the words of Santhosh Babu, a context functions through the cognitive lens through which we see the world. And, the three lenses a Coach needs while interacting with a new leader are — personal (self), role-oriented, and organizational. These three lenses work with each other in a dynamic and organic way.

3 Lenses to Coach a New Leader

Personal Lens
  • Unconscious processes influence the behavior as the psychodynamic perspective predicts. Evidence for the importance of unconscious influences is so compelling that it has become a central element of contemporary cognitive and social psychology.
  • We all use our ego defenses and help determine our psychological adjustment and physical health. People really do differ in degree that they rely on different ego defences —  so much so that researchers now study each person’s defence style (the unique constellation of defences that we use). It turns out that certain defences are more adaptive than others.
  • Mental representations of self and others do indeed serve as blueprints for later relationships. Dozens of studies have shown that mental images of our parents, and other significant figures, really do shape our expectations for later friendships and romantic relationships.
Role Identity
  • This refers to the goals, values, beliefs, norms, interactions, expected traits and time horizons, associated with a particular role. 
  • When people enact roles that afford power, they tend to internalize the roles and adopt self construals that are consistent with role expectations.
  • Power may also reduce, rather than increase, role identification due to greater demands and stress associated with these roles.
Organizational Lens
  • Organizational Expectation and Savior Identity
  • Need to bring about changes quickly.
  • Need to prove credibility and usefulness
  • Organizational anxiety towards the new body and unconscious processes to reject.

The basic principle for a Coach before coaching a New Leader is to gain ‘context awareness’. This needs to happen even before stepping into coaching.

A coach needs to avoid the bottlenecks while coaching a new leader in a new context and a coach coming in from a different context.

  • You as a coach need to be aware that the ‘new leader’ will try to do more and impress you. The system will try to bring resistance with the coming of the ‘new leader’.
  • The new leader could also be overwhelmed with this power that the role brings and this happens due to the personal context. They could step into self doubt asking “Am I worth it?”

To avoid these bottlenecks as coaches you need to do two things:

  • Increase their awareness about the self and the system. Because it is not a personal process. Expand the awareness at the system’s level.
  • Bring accountability

For practical life examples and responses to questions about how to respond to new leaders during your coaching career, stay tuned to Coaching Matters visit; https://xmonks.com/coaching-matters/

Disclaimer: This is a summary extracted from a Coaching Matters webinar which was hosted by xMonks. The ideas and recommendations in this article are derived from the presentation delivered by Santhosh Babu on 23 Sept, 2020.

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ICW 2020