Speaking your mind Robust coaching

In a recent article in The Times by Matthew Syed, the term "mitigated speech" was brought up. This is where we are so worried about hurting someone’s feelings, that we soften the message, and even completely obscure the meaning. This can be understandable when in a personal environment, talking with friends or partners, but can be disastrous when used in high pressure, or high consequence, environments, such as flying a plane, or in an operating theatre.

Success can only happen when we confront our mistakes.

The often quoted example is of the aviation industry that realised in the 1970’s that there was a problem with subservience and an unwillingness to admit to mistakes. This cover-up culture would just see the same mistakes made time and again.

By improving the assertiveness of junior members of the flight crew, and having a culture that enables the industry to learn from errors rather than being threatened by them, has led to a dramatic improvement in the safety of the aviation industry.

What is the culture of your team? Do you learn from, or cover up, your mistakes?
Society, as a whole, has a deeply contradictory attitude to failure. Even as we find excuses for our own failings, we are quick to blame others who mess up.

"It is always worth remembering that one of the great social benefits of sport is that it can help to build resilience."

Why is it that some athletes and teams are able to withstand pressure and attain peak performance, whereas others succumb?

"The cut and thrust gives us a chance to learn dignity in victory and determination in defeat. Trying to protect people from harsh truths — like, say, that they are not as good as the competition — doesn’t alter these truths for one second. It merely prevents them from learning the lessons, and finding the courage to grow. It runs the risk of creating a generation of snowflakes." Syed, M. (2017, September 27). Why leaders must be encouraged to speak their mind. The Times

It is vital that leaders are able to speak frankly. This doesn’t imply that they are bullies.

It is vital in high performing teams, that leaders are able to express to their teams what is needed, and provide feedback on how they are doing. There is an obvious strong line between a robust exchange of ideas, and bullying.

The leader must develop the more junior members of the team to feel confident in putting their views across, as this will improve team cohesion, team morale, and a sense of “we’re all in it together”.

A leader must not be scared of telling the truth, no matter how unpalatable, and conversely, the team must not shy away from giving advice and opinions to the leadership. A team of scared YES-MEN is not going to be a high achieving team for long.

If you want to improve the culture of your team, then consider coaching. High performance sports teams all invest heavily in a coaching team.

Which style of Executive Coaching?

Many coaches choose soft, fuzzy issues that are irrelevant to people outside of coaching or leadership development. If you are working for a high performing team, that needs to understand, cope with, and thrive, in competitive environments, then strong robust coaching that challenges the pre-conceptions is more likely to achieve what you are looking for.

Dr Paul Horwood is a former British Army Officer, a Veterinary Surgeon, and an entrepreneur. He is a director at Sandstone Communications, with a particular interest in the leadership and growth of SME's and businesses in the legal and healthcare sectors.

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