Leaders who ask for input and then follow up to see if progress is being made are seen as people who care. Co-workers might well infer that leaders who don’t respond to feedback must not care very much. Historically, a great deal of leadership development has focused on the importance of an event. This event could be a training program, a motivational speech, or an offsite executive meeting. In a study by Marshall Goldsmith and Howard Morgan, two of the most premier executive coaches in the world, they have found that real leadership development involves a process that occurs over time, not an inspiration or transformation that occurs in a meeting.
Physical exercise provides a useful analogy. Imagine having out-of-shape people sit in a room and listen to a speech on the importance of exercising, then watch some tapes on how to exercise, and perhaps practice exercising. Would you ever wonder why these people were still unfit a year later? The source of physical fitness is not understanding the theory of working out; it is engaging in exercise. As Arnold Schwarzenegger has said, “Nobody ever got muscles by watching me work out!” So, too, with leadership development. As Professor Drucker, Dr. Hersey, and Dr. Blanchard have pointed out, leadership involves a reliance on other co-workers to achieve objectives. Who better than these same co-workers to help the leader increase effectiveness?
Continual contact with colleagues regarding development issues is so effective it can succeed even without a large, formal program. Leaders who do not have coaches can be coached broadly by their co-workers. The key to changing behavior is “learning to learn” from those around us, and then modifying our behavior on the basis of their suggestions. Using very streamlined and efficient training processes and “reminder notes” can help leaders achieve a positive long-term change in effectiveness, without using coaches at all.
If the organization can teach the leader to reach out to co-workers, to listen and learn, and to focus on continuous development, both the leader and the organization will benefit. After all, by following up with col-leagues, a leader demonstrates a commitment to self-improvement — and a determination to get better. This process does not have to take a lot of time or money. There’s something far more valuable: contact.
LISTENING PAYS…..If you make the Investment!