When Leaders Coach: 3 Ways to Help Better Connect With Your Staff

by Dianna Booher

When senior leaders come for coaching, they often show up with great motivation but guarded perspective.

Their CEO has often given them some direct or implied feedback that their career has hit a roadblock unless they develop more “executive presence” or overcome some other nebulous challenge.

In my experience in working with these executives for more than two decades, I’ve identified three recurring difficulties they have in communicating with their staff, peers, and strategic partners. If the following issues sound familiar to you, the accompanying tips may help.

1. Say it in a sentence

These leaders often confess to their inability to summarize key points succinctly in their presentations before I even ask: “I have a tendency to get down in the weeds.” Or: “I came up through the ranks in our organization, so I’m technical and tend to tell them all I know about the situation.” Or: “I like to be comprehensive. It’s hard to know what information they need to make decisions.

The cure for this problem comes down to this: Consider how you like to listen to your voice mails. Do you want three minutes of the back story first, before have the caller get to the point? Or do you prefer that callers give you a one-sentence overview of the point of the call and then go into the necessary details?

2. Talk with them — not AT them

Some leaders lack an understanding of how to connect with people in a large group.

In conversation, they do well. But give them a crowd, and they crumble. While they know what message they want their audience to walk away with, they have little understanding of how to deliver that message in a way that motivates different individuals in a group.

In short, turn this situation around by changing how you think of a presentation: It is not a performance. It is a conversation—but with many people at once. It’s a conversation for which you’re prepared and know where you want to lead people.

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