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Growing and developing mature leaders in today’s workplace

There is no doubt that the workplace has shifted during our global pandemic. Today, leadership–in all forms, shapes and sizes–is more critical than ever before.

As an executive coach, I have worked closely with individuals and teams on growth and development for 30 years. This work has never been more important than it is today as we embrace a new era of changes to the workplace and team dynamics.

In Jan Rybeck’s article on vertical development, she talks about the importance of helping to mature leaders. “This is what is meant by maturing as a leader… increasing capacity to handle what comes at you without getting stuck in rote ways of thinking and doing that limit what is possible. Though neither fast nor easy, the vertical path of development offers a dimension the includes and goes beyond behavior change to include the mental, emotional, relational and systemic shifts that enable this increased capacity.”

Starting Leadership Development

Today, more than ever, we need leaders to increase their capacity and shift their mindset to meet the current environment. It is also imperative that we grow these traits in others today to lead in the future. These skills are the building blocks for success in creating a productive culture today and leaders for the future. Often, if we wait until someone is already in a leadership role to work on these skills, his/her maturity may get tested in ways that we can’t predict and that could mean failure in high risk situations. So, the case is there for starting a path to soft or vertical skills development earlier in one’s career on an ongoing basis.

Recently, I have been working with a small group of individuals inside an organization leveraging a peer coaching model to develop basic soft (vertical) skills — enhancing their ability to work with each other on many levels to help them grow and mature as a team and as leaders within the organization. Each week, we have an area of focus, such as self-awareness, and individuals have assignments that they commit to and then report on the following week. We begin each session with personal self-reflection work and have built-in accountability and peer discussion.

With this style of coaching, close-knit, peer-to-peer interactions allow for “practicing” in a safe environment and building relationships so that in times of conflict or stress, individuals can work better together. I can see first-hand the growth occurring as they make connections to the work and in their day-to-day lives. In addition to the individual and team growth, this investment is helping the CEO of this organization to leverage others in development and day-to-day management. She is no longer “the hub” as her team is building relationships and learning leadership skills at a higher level.

Accelerating Leadership Development

In Nick Petrie’s article on vertical development, he talks about the key factors in accelerating this development. “The challenge for organizations that wish to accelerate the vertical development of their leaders and cultures will be the creation of processes and experiences that embed these developmental principles into the workplace.”

This type of peer coaching model for accelerating vertical development leverages peers to provide more opportunities for accountability with each other in the context of life/work situations — rather than from a boss or leader. I find that this peer coaching model helps the organizations I work with on many fronts:

1. Builds a common language across all levels of the organization. Rather than being pushed down by the leader, development of each other is enhanced through peer work.

2. Builds relationships amongst peers where they are showing up with vulnerability and support for each other. This will allow for better conflict resolution, feedback and overall growth in the workplace.

3. Simulates life/work situations and allows for team members to observe himself/herself in a “safer” environment.

4. Encourages ongoing self-reflection support the work. We ask participants to try something or notice something and then share it in this community. In this model, team members have a chance to “fail” without significant consequences.

5. Builds a support structure with compassion that helps participants to see others’ perspectives, change internal self-talk and show up with less judgment.

6. More cost effective than traditional 1×1 leadership coaching.

The goal of this work is to help build and hone leadership skills to help individuals grow and organizations to thrive. Vertical leadership development has both short-term and long-term benefits. The work helps foster increased peer relationships and engagement, improves culture and helps build confident leaders who can navigate the increasing complexity of leading, especially in today’s environment.