S2E6 – Resolving the Leader’s Dilemma: Coaching vs. Directing

Show Notes

 In this edition of the TTL podcast, hosts Andy Parker and Mon Chaio Lo bring in their first guest, Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer, an executive coach from Seattle, Washington. Ethan is an International Coaching Federation (ICF) Certified Coach with a background in Fortune 50 Aerospace Engineering Leadership. He helps leaders discover and implement their own, unique leadership approaches to achieve results with authenticity. He believes that we too often tolerate less than incredible circumstances and his approach helps people create environments that others want to be a part of.

The discussion centers around executive coaching, leadership coaching, and the inherent tension managers feel between adopting a coaching approach with their teams and having to sometimes be directive or consultative. Additionally, they delve into the concept of leadership and management, noting the differences between executive and management coaching. Ethan emphasizes the core belief of coaches that their clients have the tools to be successful and that coaching is all about helping the client get out of their own way. The conversation also touches on the different leadership styles, the notion of ‘uncoachability’, and the tactics for unlocking an individual’s ability to contribute.

Connect with Ethan:

References recommended by Ethan:

References from Mon-Chaio and Andy:


Andrew Parker: Welcome to another edition of the TTL podcast. You got me here, Andy Parker, and Mon Chaio Lo. And for the first time In the studio, we have a guest. So everyone welcome Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer, who is an executive coach in Seattle, Washington. And we’re going to be talking to him today about coaching, executive coaching, leadership coaching, as well as the tension that a lot of us feel as leaders and managers between taking this coaching approach with people around us and having to sometimes be a bit more directive or consultative or, or kind of like telling people what to do.

And I think this is a tension that I felt quite a lot. In my practice where I want to help people, and then I kind of reach this point where I’m just like, but I just need this done tomorrow. So we’re going to talk about that tension and what we can do with it. We’ll, of course, get a bit of an introduction from Ethan himself, where he can tell us what he does and who he is in his own words.

And then we’re going to get a little bit into what exactly coaching is, what it isn’t. And then from that transition into. this tension and talk about that and then hopefully end, I shouldn’t say hopefully, we’ll, we’ll drive to end with some tactics that you can use to address this tension for yourself, as a leader in your organization.

How’s that sound for everyone?

Mon-Chaio: Sounds great. I think it makes a lot of sense. Ethan, why don’t you give us a short intro about yourself?

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: Mon Chaio, Andy, thanks so much for having me on. Again, as, as Andy mentioned, my name is Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer I’m an ICF, which is International Coaching Federation Certified Coach. So that’s the gold standard of coaching. And, and so when we’re talking about coaching.

We’re going to be talking about coaching as a, as a modality. So a thing that a coach might do with a client, but then specifically as it’s a tactic for, for tech leaders is how can managers use coaching skills? And so there’s something to be learned from the coaching modality for, for managers to bring into their spaces with their teams.

The work that I do is as a coach with clients and with teams and organizations, and it’s to, it’s to help people work through the challenges that they’re facing, often leadership challenges challenges through, through challenging times of navigating transition and using a coaching skill set and coaching approach to do so.

My clients also. Glean some of those coaching skills that they can then go take and use with their teams. My background’s in aerospace engineering and was at a Fortune 50 aerospace firm in engineering and leadership. And then down the stretch of that piece of my career was a internal coaching consultant for the engineering business.

And now I run my own coaching practice called Ressmeyer Partners and I do this work with clients. So happy, happy to be here.

Andrew Parker: Excellent. Thank you. And that, that I think already showed that you have a very different background from us. And so this is going to be a very interesting conversation to me. I know when we were getting ready for this, you are already bringing up things for more of the material, like material, physical world rather than us.

We’re, we’re software people. So to us, it’s all just bits and bytes and ones and zeros. And and so we’re going to have some fun. Interesting different things to pull on for metaphors and for, for stories.

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: Absolutely. If I, if I, if I use a hardware focused metaphor, I’ll, I’ll make sure to, to check for understanding and explain it if I have to.

Andrew Parker: Thank you. Thank you. That would be very useful. So, Ethan, you, you mentioned the, the coaching modality. In your mind, what is the kernel of that? What is the core of that approach that like, and you, and you mentioned that executives or the leaders that you coach.

They can not only be the recipients of those skills, but they can learn those skills from having been the recipients, or I’m guessing you also give them a little bit of coaching on how to do that itself.

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: Mhm. Mhm.

Andrew Parker: and then they can use that internally. And in a book I was reading, that was, that was clarified as the difference between executive coaching and management coaching.

The executive coaching is more of that external to the internal, and the management coaching is what a manager or internal leader might be doing with their people. And it was a very interesting distinction for me. But Ethan, back to the question I was actually trying to ask you before I went on my own self imposed tangent.

What is that kernel of coaching for you? What would someone expect if they sat down in a coaching session with you? What would they start getting?

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: Yeah, that’s, that’s a great question. And there’s a couple of things that kind of come to mind. And one is this sort of core belief that a coach has about their client, and that is that the client has the tools that they need to be successful. They’ve got everything they need. And so a coach’s role is to help enable that for an individual.

So, it’s, it’s helping that person get out of their own way. Is there something blocking them? Are they experiencing some uncertainty? Are they holding back for some reason? with that core belief of my client has what they need, and then a skill set of coaching around not telling somebody what they should be doing, but helping them to discover and explore, to help them get from where they are to where they want to go, that’s really the coaching approach.

Mon-Chaio: That’s interesting. It brings to mind Andy, do you remember when we did the feedback fallacy episode?

Andrew Parker: I was thinking the exact same thing.

Mon-Chaio: So one of the things they talk about in terms of giving good feedback versus bad feedback and we both had interesting thoughts on where we probably differed from these people that wrote that article. One of their biggest things was people already have what they need to be successful. And so giving them feedback about what they lack is not the way to drive them forward.

But both Andy and I said on that episode, that’s not always true. There are often times when people do lack the skills, or lack the understanding, or lack the context to be successful. To me, that plays into that tension behind you’re going into this, trying to coach them, with this assumption in your mind that they have everything to be successful, but when you discover that that’s not actually true, you need to transition. And how do we go about that transition, and what is the right way to transition? Is it even in the same session?

Do we split it out?

And I think that’s the tension that I, and I think many leaders feel. What do you all think about that?

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: The word that’s coming up for me here is awareness. And when I think of this person has what they need to be successful, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve had all of the experiences that they’re going to have for the rest of their life, and there’s no need to grow or to develop. That sounds like a fixed mindset.

So I’m talking about this growth mindset sort of lens, which is if they are missing some important piece of context, If they build the awareness that they need that context to be successful, they’ve got, what they have is the perspective that they need to learn more. And so it’s, it doesn’t, it’s not necessarily about the tactics. It’s about that mindset of like, when confronted with new information or when I’m feeling some disconnect, something’s not lining up, can I reach out to gain more information to inform my approach to move forward?

Andrew Parker: Right. So it’s, it’s not that everyone has inherent within them, the knowledge about how to have a good conversation, how to have an effective hard discussion, but the coaching might bring them to the realization in reflecting on how conversations have been going, that They are lacking something there, and that there’s something that they could do to change that.

Is, is that the idea? Not this idea that, unbeknownst to them, they do know how to have this conversation. But more it’s the uncovering that they do know that they might need to learn something, and it’s uncovering that, that awareness of the situation, awareness of their limits, and awareness of what could be learned.

Is, is that what you’re saying?

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: Yeah, I think that’s a pretty good way to put it. And it’s, we can learn just as much from when things go well from when things aren’t going well. And so if we identify like, Oh, I like this thing’s not going well, I need to change my approach. We can still learn stuff rather than like, Hey, this thing went perfectly.

And now I’m the best at my job and I don’t need to change my approach ever. And so it’s that, it’s being able to stand in that place of like what currently is. I use that word awareness of, you know, what’s going on with me, what’s going on with my team, my context. Given all that information, how do I then choose to move forward given that information?

That’s what a coach is gonna do with a client. That’s what a manager might do with with a, an employee that they’re using coaching skills with.

Mon-Chaio: The thing that that brings to mind for me is at least in my short consulting career, I’ve definitely found that when people bring you in, there’s a difference between people asking for help. There is some realization on their part that they need coaching, mentoring, whatever the case may be. And then in many corporate contexts, there are people who are not asking for your help.

You hire somebody into your organization, you are their manager, you are expected to coach and mentor them. They didn’t ask for it. They simply want to work and get a paycheck. And I imagine that the mindset is quite different. And so, my And I’m gonna use purposely provocative language here for you all.

Where does coaching fit in when the person is uncoachable?

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: Can I ask you a question in response to that question?

Mon-Chaio: course!

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: That’s a coach. That’s a, that’s a coaching buy-in question for, for what it’s worth. In, in your view, what’s the role of the leader

Mon-Chaio: Hmm. That’s a good question. I think in my view, the role of the leader is to drive towards outcomes in a human as human centric way as possible.

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: and, and what does human-centric mean in the context of the space that we’re talking about?

Mon-Chaio: I think it means a lot of different things. Most abstractly, at least in my point of view, and Andy, you can also chime in here. It, it means to me that you recognize that that person exists outside of their role in your company. And that they have wants and needs of their own that also need to be acknowledged.

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: Mm. I’m, I’m curious how that very human focused view of teams, of the role of the leader aligns with this idea of being uncoachable. What does uncoachable mean, kind of in that context?

Mon-Chaio: Ah, yes, I was waiting for that question. I thought that would be first, actually. So I mentioned I use purposely provocative language. And so perhaps we can use other terminology here. But I’ve certainly encountered these people in my past, that I’ve led, right? I think most strongly about this one person that reported to me. He had a very strong view of what management should be. And he took from his opinion all of his experiences from these large companies that he worked at. Feeding into this view was this idea that when we hired this person, We actually had a very difficult time leveling him In fact, I had to go to my boss’s boss to say look we gonna need another interview He might not fit this level.

He might be like one or two levels higher And so we went through this interview process and we decided okay. I think this is where we level him He knew that through the negotiations that he was being considered for a bunch of different things So he came in he wasn’t looking to be managed or coached right?

He fell under my organization I don’t know his thought process, but I would posit to say he probably thought he knew more about leadership than I did, which may or may not even be true. It may be true. And so when we had conversations, there was no openness to coaching and there was no openness really to learn about a new way of doing things.

So that would be an example of something that I would, again, using a provocative term called uncoachable.

Andrew Parker: How did his, closedness to coaching manifest itself?

Mon-Chaio: His closedness to coaching manifested itself by not seeing the same issues that I was seeing or other folks were seeing and not being willing to consider other examples of solutions. One example that I will give is, this person really felt like it was important for every engineer to be a deep knowledge expert in their specific field.

So if you think about the T shaped engineer, which we talk a lot about in software and probably aerospace too, I don’t know, Ethan, if that term resonates. Great. He’s, he’s nodding his head here.

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: Yep.

Mon-Chaio: can see,

Andrew Parker: We have common ground. Excellent.

Mon-Chaio: And you only hear us, but we get to see each other on video. So, that makes it a little bit easier.

But in the T shaped engineer thing, he thought every engineer needed to have a very long depth part of the T. And that they needed to have a lot of autonomy towards that depth part and every engineer needed to have a different depth part of their T. And so he organized his organization in that way where managers and engineers all had this very specific long T part.

There were a lot of pushback around that, specifically around the culture of the organization that he was in, the larger company he was in, as well as from very senior people who felt like, look, I have expertise in this area, but now you’re saying that shouldn’t be part of my T because this more junior engineer needs to develop that part of their T and have space to grow it.

And he was really sidelining those senior engineers and senior managers who were saying I’m not able to contribute the way I need to. When I was trying to mentor or coach him or change the way this happened because it was a detriment to the organization, he did not see it as a problem.

He waved away sort of the concerns of the managers and senior engineers and said, well, this is just the growth period. People get like this. This is how organizations go. We’re starting from a place and we need to get to another place. This is just the painful part. So, without getting into more cause I don’t want to monopolize the whole time.

That’s an example of the behavior that I was seeing.

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: A couple things come up for me in that sort of instance. And one, I think that it makes a lot of sense that that’s an experience that you had that felt like there was some tension. Right, where you’ve just got very different perspectives with a key member of your team, right? Somebody who’s brought in with, what sounds like some, some real power and some influence within the organization.

A couple of things come to mind. One is that sounds like there’s some, you know, indicators of a fixed mindset rather than, than a growth mindset of. My view is that the landscape is what it is. This is how things are. This is how things should be. A lot of like sort of judgment based, definitive language, right?

That, that you use to kind of describe this, this this individual’s lens. So as I mentioned, a couple of things come up. One is that there are probably some specific tactics that one might use to try to get this person to open up to see a different picture. This thing could be like things like buy in questions really engaging in curiosity with this person, working to understand where does your viewpoint come from?

And a buy in question might be like, how open are you? How to seeing my viewpoint, right? How open are you to something else? And that may be a definitive yes. It may be a no. It’s a, it sounds like it would have been a process to try to get through to this person in a different way. The second piece here is as, as you engage with this person differently, how you behave makes a difference. Kind of that lead by example. And so if you’re showing up curiously, openly, willingness to take direction, and you’re able to kind of communicate and, and be transparent about that, there are like seepage between how you show up to the people around you. It sounds like this is a thing that, that occurred in the past and has some emotional charge for, for you and your experience, Mon Chaio. My guess is that there are ways that like using coaching skills and tactics and trusting the process, there may be ways to kind of develop inroads with this individual, knowing that you can’t just come in, snap your fingers and have everything be different.

Mon-Chaio: My challenge in this particular case, and I think in a lot of cases, is this person had a large organization that was falling apart in front of me.

Andrew Parker: Oh, interesting.

Mon-Chaio: I think it would have been irresponsible for me to say, look, I’m going to give you three months to work through all these issues. And to get past this specific thing, there’s also the one that I think a lot of people are familiar with this product delivery thing, right? Where you’re trying to have bottoms up. buy in and you have these people that are questioning you all the time. Oh, I don’t know that we should do this or the product direction should be that.

Or even though you want it, we agree on the goal. I don’t want to do it this way. I want to do it that way. Even though you’ve already decided to do it this way. And sometimes it’s like, look, we could go for three months to get everyone on board and but like, I promised we deliver this in two weeks or there’s an investor ready for this to be shipped.

So go get this thing done.

Andrew Parker: I think there is the tension that you’re feeling. Because, so I’ve, I’ve been reading through a book to get prepared for this. The book is called The Psychology of Executive Coaching. It’s been fascinating, Mon Chaio. I think that we can use it as a source material fodder to send us down different paths, but there were a few key concepts in it that I kind of want to bring into the conversation now.

So one is how terribly defined leadership is. Just in general, it’s like there is no single accepted definition. It can mean all sorts of things to all sorts of people. We have a general sense of what it is. But in general, kind of like the sense of those definitions ends up being that it’s about improving and building and setting direction of an organization.

The next one is that management and leadership and coaching are not the same thing and that management is really about execution. They frame management is They’re the ones obsessed with like the Gantt charts and the spreadsheets and the knowing how the process is going to work.

And a complete manager does not like chaos. They want certainty and execution. And then the other one is that the coaching, this is taking the form of executive coaching, but I think management coaching probably gets this even more. Tensioned. Executive coaching differs from something that can, in the book, it lines it out as can seem very similar, which is therapy.

That executive coaching is not therapy. for, there were a whole bunch of reasons, but there was one key reason I’ll be interested in what you think of this, Ethan. Which is that executive coaching is focused on action. Not on just endless exploration. Psychotherapy is kind of famous for this thing that can just kind of go on and on and on.

Executive coaching is about finding the problem, finding an action that can be taken, and taking that action. Because you are in the business setting and you are trying to achieve a goal and you are like, this economic sense is paramount. And actually the author of this book calls out several times, he’s like, yeah, people who come from the psychology background and try to enter executive coaching, that is like culture shock.

This idea that this economic imperative is paramount. And I think that’s one of the things in this tension that I think as leaders, especially if we kind of think we want to be a more democratic leader, we, we get stuck in this much more therapeutic approach to the coaching. It’s like, Oh, let me help you out.

And maybe we could learn something from this executive coaching approach, which is, well, no, we’re here to get something done.

Mon-Chaio: And maybe what it is actually, Andy, is that we don’t know, and that’s already built into it. I mean, is Ethan, I’d also be curious to hear Ethan’s point of view, because he might say, look, no, actually, that’s exactly what I do. And I am biased for action. Y’all just don’t know because you’re not in the field.

So, we’d love to hear your thoughts, Ethan on what Andy had just said.

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: Well, there’s a lot there, right? I heard you, I heard you touch on a definition of leadership. I heard you talk about management being very execution focused. The, the difference between therapy and executive coaching and the bias for action. And then this question about, like, as we try to implement these really complicated, interconnected concepts as leaders.

How do we navigate this tension? I’m tempted to ask, where should we start? I think would be a good coaching question. But what,

Andrew Parker: I’m going to ask you for action and you start where you think we should start.

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: beautiful. What I see the relationship in these different things is, is that if we start with your definition of leadership, Driving business results in an organization, I think is about the definition you gave.

My add to that would be through unlocking your team,

Andrew Parker: Mm hmm.

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: Right? It’s doing those things, but doing it while allowing your team to use their skills, to be engaged, to be successful and effective. And so, from my general thinking, leadership is about Achieving those objectives while bringing your team along and helping them be effective and successful. So if we’ve got just a leader as a manager, right? The task master, the micromanager, whatever you want to call them, they’re gonna, they’re gonna grind for results. They’re gonna grind for outcomes. And that might be at the expense of people.

Andrew Parker: mhm

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: that the people are there, using the people, treating them as resources.

And that can be very effective. But if you’re also trying to build an organization where people want to be a part of, are excited to show up to work, this invitation to try to do something a little bit different is where I think coaching can enter the mix. And then That coaching versus therapy is a, I mean, that’s an important distinction.

I’ll sometimes have people after sessions be like, are you sure this isn’t therapy? I’m like, yeah, I’m absolutely positive. There’s a couple pieces I think that are important there. One is in coaching. We don’t spend a lot of time in the past. Right? We’re not talking about, we’re not turning over like what, you know, what, what happened in childhood and things of that nature.

We might look at that, but it’s very quickly to like, what can you gain from that insight? And and so that bias for action, right? Every formal coaching session is finished with like, what are you going to do as a result of this insight you’ve had, right? And there’s an accountability piece and there’s a forward motion. Managers can do the same things with their people. And the difference here, I think, between being a very directive, like let’s say manager versus leader might be, uh, person X, you need to go do this because we have a deadline in two weeks. A coaching approach might be to inquire where we say you provide that context.

So given we have a deadline in two weeks and you are a contributor, what do you think you should do? And that gives that person the opportunity to rise to the occasion, to create their own destiny, to identify the action that they’re going to take. And I would expect you would find their decision is probably going to be somewhat in line with your expectation.

And if it’s not, then you can come in and say, Hey, I actually see it a little bit differently. How open are you to me providing my input? So there was a coach tom, fantastic coach. He would use the language inquiry before direction when talking about the coaching approach for managers.

If you practice inquiry before direction, it, it can unlock all sorts of things. What, what do you think about that?

Andrew Parker: so that your last one inquiry before direction. I was never taught these things as coaching. I was taught these as effective communication. And what I was taught was something very similar. It was inquiry over advocacy, you’re okay to advocate, but you want to inquire more.

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: How often in your engineering career would you see that behavior as the baseline for a management approach?

Andrew Parker: I don’t think it’s all that often . And I think there is a thing that causes that, which is that most managers in our profession, your profession as well, I’m betting, came from that technical background. They became the manager, they were put into that leadership position because they were the best engineer. And one of the things that caused them to be the best engineer, almost always, was that they had that good judgment that meant that they actually wanted to do advocacy more than they wanted to do inquiry. The really even better engineers actually have learned to reverse that, though.

Mon-Chaio: Mm hmm.

Andrew Parker: But it’s not the norm that, that they’ve learned to reverse that. And so when they get into that position, well, you think, I’m here to advocate. And so it shifts us very strongly to that, what we were just talking about, that management mindset of reduce the confusion, reduce the chaos execute to our plan.

And so you want to advocate for that rather than open up what might seem very vulnerable position of inquire. We’re going to do this. Oh, we have this thing we need to ship in two weeks. . Your team is key on this. After this discussion, what is it you’re going to do next to help us achieve that? That’s an advocacy. Now, you can do that advocacy until the point where you say, this does not at all fit with my perception of what needs to happen.

You can now switch to a bit of sorry, inquiry. You can now switch to a bit of advocacy. I think that your team actually needs to work on this because that unblocks this other team and then that other team won’t be stuck for the next two weeks waiting for this and, and risk the whole release, that kind of thing.

And you can find out what that new information does through flipping back to the inquiry and asking, does that change your understanding of this? And if not, why not? What am I missing?

Mon-Chaio: It’s funny because when we were preparing for this, Ethan, I think you mentioned something around having a leader above you that thinks you should have all the answers. Or maybe it was Andy that said this? I can’t remember who mentioned this. But going back to what Andy said, yeah, a lot of these people are promoted because they do have the answers.

And in fact, answers are celebrated in organizations. We don’t go to a performance review and we say, look, this person was great and we should promote them or we should give them extra stock options because they learned more than their peers. No, it was they shipped this thing, which had these results and brought in this revenue.

And we celebrate that revenue by giving them rewards based on that, right? So I think the way we reward is certainly a part of this. But I think the mix is really difficult, Andy.

I’ll give you another example from my experience. Think it’s really easy to say, let’s ask questions and inquire and find the rift points where there are clearly misunderstandings between you and the person that you’re coaching. But this example, I would say, is different. I had a manager who disagreed with the direction in which we were moving. And honestly, I disagreed with the direction in which we were moving. The difference between me and this manager was, I was disagreeing and committing. And saying, look, everything you say is right.

We do need to ask more questions. There are questions around this. This may not be the optimal solution. And in fact, I don’t think it’s the optimal solution. But we still need to move forward. Because

Andrew Parker: It’s a better solution for us to work on this with the others than it is for us to sandbag.

Mon-Chaio: Right. And not just sandbag, but like this person had legitimate complaints about whether we were digging a hole for ourselves that we couldn’t dig out of. And I felt like we probably were. And so I was asking those questions too. And so I think where you and the other person are more aligned, but there are things that still need to get done from a business context.

I think that makes it very tricky because to your point, Ethan, you’re right. I like the fact that you said all formal coaching session should come out with a action item, a to do list, right? For this manager, this person’s to do list was ask more questions,

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: Um.

Mon-Chaio: set up more meetings, meet with more people, inquire about more things, when what needed to be on their action item list was ship this thing.

Andrew Parker: So yeah, I guess this is a question for Ethan. In coaching, how do you If someone is missing , the signposts and not seeing the road. How do you get them back on the road and stop them going off into the desert?

Mon-Chaio: I would just add in a reasonable time frame, whatever that reasonable time frame is.

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: I think that’s an important question. And it also likely differs depending on the context. Right? One thing that kind of comes up for me is this idea about leading at the right level. Where you talked about how in the details is, does any individual person need to be, right?

At a different leadership level. How deep down in the details are you? And what are you expected to kind of know and do? The other piece that’s I think pertinent here is that this idea of being a more coach like leader using coaching skills is another set of tools in your toolbox. And you’re still going to have to do other things like be directive.

And to be effective in the times where you need to use direction and to not alienate people or make them question their, personal self worth or value to the organization is to build trust, is to engage in transparency. And so how to get somebody if they’re off the rails or they’re going down some different path, it might be helping them, it might be inquiring, helping them to ask questions like, Hey, how sure are we that we’re in alignment with this executive level expectation?

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: That might be one. It might be, hey, I’m seeing you taking some action and I’m not quite seeing how it aligns with our business objectives for this quarter. How open are you to a conversation about this? And, if they say, no, I’m not open to it, then there might be another type of conversation you want to have.

But generally, people want to be successful. People want to be effective. And so, creating the conditions around that person where they’re able to have vulnerable conversations and conversations that might change their approach. Those things all feel pertinent to me. How, how much sense do those things make?

Mon-Chaio: I think those make a lot of sense in my mind. I like how you mentioned that coaching is one tool in your toolbox. And you also So you started with that at the beginning and something you said at the end was there might need to be a different conversation. And I think this gets to the crux of the situation where there are a lot of tools in your toolbox, and the way that you behave needs to be context specific. There was a study that I read which said something like, the biggest mistake leaders make is that they have a personal style in which they are comfortable with and they employ that style regardless of the situation. I think the number that they came out with is 54 percent of leaders only ever apply one preferred leadership style. And I think that’s tricky because Especially in the Western world, we have gravitated towards there being an accepted leadership style. Something they call transformational leadership. Which includes a lot of this question asking, this inquiry over advocacy, this bottoms up leadership. But there are actually many other leadership styles.

Things like authoritarian leadership, autocratic leadership, paternal leadership, laissez faire leadership. And many of them have their places. And so, thinking about that as a tool, and understanding the context to figure out which club you need out of your bag, I think is a super important thing.

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: I think you make some, some interesting points there and, and the question about the leadership style is, is an interesting one. In my experience, I haven’t sort of moved through corporate spaces and been like, wow, everybody’s got a transformational leadership style. It’s, it’s usually like, wow, there’s a lot of command and control out here.

There’s a lot of, you know, there’s a lot of people who, who came up as technical experts and now. They’re directing work that, you know, very directive. And again, it’s a choice of how people can flex. And a question that came up for me is, and I’m going to ask this question and then I’m also going to answer it, which isn’t very coach like thing to do, but if you, if you coach, right, if you coach in your space, what might you expect? What comes up for me, and I think a lot of like more coach like managers is, is one. You’re going to experience some vulnerability, right, because you’re going to have to take an orientation or a position where you’re not going to tell people what to do.

Mon-Chaio: hmm.

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: And I’m a systems thinker, and so if I ask a question, as opposed to giving direction, I’m introducing uncertainty into the system.

Because I don’t know what the person I’m talking to is going to say.

Mon-Chaio: Right.

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: And, we know uncertainty is risk as we think about, you know, technical deliveries. And so I’m introducing uncertainty. I’m not positioning myself as a technical expert. That’s vulnerable. Those things are true. What’s also true is that when you can build a relationship with somebody where they can speak freely, they can use their technical expertise and experience to contribute to the forward direction of the product you’re unlocking an individual’s ability to contribute, and you’re removing the pressure from yourself as the leader from having to know what to do at every step of the way you don’t have to know what everybody’s working on, what everybody should be doing, how that fits into the bigger picture.

It actually allows you to sit back from time to time and be like, what do you think? And if we can do that at times that are appropriate and intentional, we can really start to shift the way our organization feels. And by creating that environment, people start to behave and interact differently.

But what you don’t lose is everybody’s technical know how. You’re tapping that.

Mon-Chaio: Mm hmm.

Andrew Parker: I agree with that completely. It’s, it’s about that tapping. I think there is another thing here as well, Mon Chaio, which might address a little bit as well, the tension.

Mon-Chaio: Mm hmm. Mm

Andrew Parker: And it’s hierarchy.

Mon-Chaio: Mm

Andrew Parker: I know I’ve fallen into this trap. I imagine maybe you’ve fallen into this trap and I, others have, and it’s that uncomfortable with the idea of hierarchy, that the system gives me authority to make a decision or authority to request work, or in some ways you could even say demand work, The thing about the coach versus like directive manager and kind of finding that different leadership style is about understanding your role in the organization.

What is your role within the whole group? And to Ethan’s point, I think, I think managers, leaders, as we’re in higher up layers in that organization, our role shifts more and more towards that inquisitive style. And I say, partly that has to happen because we just don’t know what’s actually happening. But that does not mean that we lose the role of directive. It’s just that it will show up less often. And it’s more impactful and more meaningful when it is used. And so one of the things here is understanding what your role is in that relationship. That your role is the leader, but also the manager of this department.

And that you need certain things done. And making sure that that is clear, that is part of the conversation, that you are here, you’re coaching them, you’re giving them help, you’re giving them support, you’ll, you’ll help them try out that idea, but to the action oriented future looking idea of coaching that we’ve just been talking about, it’s about what’s going to happen and that when that starts diverging from the organizational goals and the organizational direction, That your role as the person responsible, accountable for that section of the organization, your role will shift to a bit more directive to ensure that things aren’t drifting.

You have to correct for that drift sometimes. You’ll try it first through the questioning, but at some point your role has to become clear that we are going down this path. We are going to do the release this weekend, even though we all agree there’s going to be some problems. There are risks.

We’ve talked about the risks, but we’re going to do it.

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: I couldn’t agree more. I think that’s really well put. We still have responsibilities and accountabilities to our role and our organization. And there are times where we need to provide direction to keep our teams moving in the direction that the business is moving. If you were to introduce a different style or a modification is a follow up to that example you gave might be we are going to do the release this weekend. What help do you need?

Andrew Parker: Yes,

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: Right? Of a, of a, of a simple add to, to, to the direction that is like objective. Yeah, this is the direction we’re going. You might even tell him why, you know? And then from there, you know, what does support look like from me? Is it, is a, I would say a coaching skill layered on top of the work that you’re going to do anyway as leader.

Mon-Chaio: I love that as a tactic and we should start getting into tactics and wrapping up here. This idea of be directive, but then you can add on a question. Add on an inquiry to the end of that.

I think my tactic for listeners of the podcast is to be aware that there are many different leadership styles. And to not think that one is better than the other. There are skills and things that you do at each leadership style, and you need to be aware of them and aware of the ones that you don’t do on a regular basis so that you can be more contextually aware of whether it’s a situation in which you need to put them into practice.

Andrew Parker: I think the one that I got out of this is your leading at the right level, Ethan, as well as you can be directive and curious at the same time. You can say, this is what I need to happen. What do you need from me to help that happen?

What is interesting is in some ways, it’s, it’s very similar to how I was taught to fire people.

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: Mm. Haha.

Mon-Chaio: you gone. What could you do?

Andrew Parker: It was to make very clear. I don’t know if we’ll put this in the episode, but that way was to make very clear. I have this problem. I don’t care if you think I have this problem or not. The, the issues that we have are my problem, not your problem. So the question is, what can you do to stop this being my problem?

Because that’s where you start a performance improvement plan.

Mon-Chaio: I don’t know if we’ll put this in the episode either. I think we should, but I will again echo the tactic that you mentioned around Ethan’s statement because I, I think that’s a really good tactic as well. But I’ll just repeat it because I think it is so good, this idea that you can be directive while being inquisitive.

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: Yeah. Yeah. I love that. And how I think about that is inquiry before direction. And you can do both. So I guess where my, where my sort of idea around tactics intersects with this is, is really around the idea that coaching is a, it’s a muscle. It’s a, it’s a thing that you can practice. And so I would invite people to, to maybe set a goal around asking questions.

To actually practice that inquiry, and this is a thing you can do with people that you, that you work with and that you’re coaching of, you know, what’s a reasonable goal, you know, what’s something you could try. What kind of seems like an intuitive thing to consider would be maybe in five conversations this week, ask one more question than you would have otherwise.

Of, you know, a time where And maybe that’s building awareness of a time where you might be directive. How can you insert a question there before to either help you create awareness or help the other person get to place of clarity on the actions that they should take. I also want to note, did an interview with Authority Magazine, and I’m going to get that published in the next couple of weeks, and in that.

That will be an interview where I talk about some specific coaching skills of ten, of five particular ways that people can, can kind of flex their coaching skills. And there’s stuff around buy- in questions in there, it’s there’s some stuff around trust building. And another piece that I know to be helpful for managers looking to build coaching skills is working with a coach.

And that’s seeing it in practice of what does it look like to have somebody be inquiring every time I tell them everything. They’re not giving me any answers. Every time I say something, they ask me another question. And that’s a really cool, interesting experience that we don’t get. And so working with that coach in that space can help you kind of contextualize how to do that with your teams.

Andrew Parker: I like all of that. Yeah. And, and thank you for the call out of your article. And I, I really like your idea of a tactic is set yourself that goal.

I know a guy who, for his team one time, he had like the, the person who would just talk too much in meetings. And so he sat down with them and he’s like, here’s your goal. You get two sentences in the meeting. That’s it.

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: Nice.

Andrew Parker: Very simple steps.

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: Mm hmm.

Mon-Chaio: Well, and it’s stuff we love on this podcast. We love sensing and we love intentional practice, right? And Ethan, your tactic I think touches on both of those which I think makes it powerful. Anything else from y’all?

Ethan Fryer-Ressmeyer: That’s, that sounds great to me. These are types of discussions that I’m, I’m driving on, on my LinkedIn, on my Instagram and with clients. So happy to connect with anybody who would love a follow up conversation. Would like to hear more kind of in this coaching realm, both as managers, as leaders, and then also as people looking to kind of grow and develop for themselves because there, there is an intersection there. So happy to connect with people on, on my socials.

Mon-Chaio: And with that, we’re through another episode of the TTL podcast. Thank you, Ethan, for being our guest here. We will put Ethan’s contact information on the show notes and definitely reach out to Ethan if you’re in need of further conversation or services. Also, let us know what you thought about our first episode with a guest contributor. We really enjoyed the conversation, but what did you think about it? Would you like us to have more guests? Are there any topics that you would like us to cover ?

Please let us know. You can write to us at hosts at the TTL podcast. com and in either case, please give us a subscribe or rating or comment on any of your favorite podcatching platforms. But until next time, be kind and stay curious.


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