As published in Forbes.
Countless organizations today are striving to create a learning, feedback-rich coaching culture. Having personally taught coaching to (and mentor-coached) hundreds of senior leaders in organizations like American Express, General Electric, salesforce.com, St. Jude Medical, and the Mayo Clinic, I know firsthand the significant investment companies are making.
Recently, General Electric announced it was abandoning formal annual reviews and its legacy performance management system for its 300,000-plus employee workforce. What will replace these? More frequent feedback via an app. Given GE’s influence on the rest of the world, this change represents a fundamental shift in how organizations will develop, manage and evaluate people in the decades to come.
This is a good thing. Our world is moving faster than ever — so who has the time to wait until next week, let alone the end of the year, to learn if all they were focused on, exhibiting and driving toward, was deemed effective or not by their managers and key stakeholders?
We need to have more real-time, feedback-rich interactions, whether these occur in person or via technology. Such interactions create the basis of a coaching culture in which we support each other, with the tacit message underneath being simply: “I want you to win!”
Of course, there are prerequisites for this kind of authentic exchange. In order to truly want your success, I must see you as a part of me. I must believe we are on the same team. As such, your success becomes my success. You might think the idea of fusing your identity with another individual or group is unrealistic; however, people routinely do this. One example is in their support of a sports team. “We won!” John exclaims. Who exactly is this “we”? It is the sports team, the one John identifies with, even though he did little or nothing to facilitate the actual winning.
Unfortunately, within organizations, wanting another person’s success as much as we want our own often flies in the face of our cultural programming. In his book Toxic Success: How to Stop Striving and Start Thriving, Dr. Paul Pearsall points out an interesting distinction between the North American (and I would argue, many developed nations’) definition of success and that of the Hawaiian culture.
In North America, the cultural belief is that for me to be successful, I have to be better than you. However, in Hawaiian culture, it is the opposite; in order for me to be regarded as successful, you must also be successful. My success actually depends upon yours and demands the question, “How could I ever be successful if you are not?” At its very core then, success is a collective endeavor. This is just common sense, because we know that in order to accomplish anything great, we need the talents and efforts of many. Given the state of our planet and the uncertainty of humanity’s fate, it is the only definition we should be striving for today.
“The planet does not need more ‘successful’ people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who you have no fear of living with side by side. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with ‘success’ as we have defined it.” – David Orr, ecologist and writer
Think about the greatest group of people with whom you have worked. Within that group, I suspect you naturally focused on your teammates’ success. You were probably generous with your time, making yourself available to listen to others. You likely also did all you could to help them think through their own opportunities and challenges by asking simple, open-ended questions. You probably readily shared your knowledge and connections, doing all you could to assist them because you cared. No doubt, you easily had the real conversations that needed to be had (a key aspect of a coaching culture). And you would have done it all with a pure intention that the group would succeed. Others could easily feel your intention and, as a result, they trusted you.
Leaders, if you want to foster a feedback-rich coaching culture, it must start with you. Today, as you interact with others, remind yourself that you want them to win. You want them to win as much as you would want your own loved ones to succeed. Act as if your very livelihood depends upon others’ ultimate success, because it does. See what you notice by doing so.
As always, I welcome any and all feedback.