The Future of Business and Leadership
For Your Benefits
For Your Benefits
Coaching Mindset: The Future of Business and Leadership
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Coaching Mindset: The Future of Business and Leadership

A top priority for organizations is to attract and retain top talent. As such, leaders are looking for new and innovative ways that will drive growth and increase employee engagement. According to the International Coaching Federation, organizations with strong coaching cultures consistently report higher employee engagement and revenue.

In this episode, Allison Holzer, master certified coach, keynote speaker, and co-author of “Dare to Inspire: Sustain the Fire of Inspiration in Work and Life”, discusses why business leaders need to have a coaching mindset to cultivate talent. You’ll discover:

  • The importance of coaching to company culture
  • Five characteristics of a coaching mindset and why each is important
  • What a coaching mindset culture looks like within organizations
  • How businesses benefit from having a coaching culture
  • Tips for managers on how to start taking a coaching mindset today

Want to learn more about how to actively engage employees? Read “Four Key Factors for an Effective Employee Engagement Strategy” from SentryHealth CMO, Amanda Evans. In it, she describes the importance of having a good employee engagement strategy to drive motivation and participation.

In This Podcast

Allison Holzer, MAT, MFA, MCC, & CPCC, Coaching Mindset: The Future of Business and Leadership Podcast

Allison Holzer, MAT, MFA, MCC, & CPCC

Allison Holzer is the co-CEO and Chief Innovation Officer at InspireCorps, an inspiration strategy firm that partners with organizations to drive business growth and innovation. She passionately speaks and writes on this topic, grounded in her original thought-leadership in executive coaching, leadership, emotional intelligence, and applied positive psychology. Allison holds a B.A. in psychological brain sciences, with an emphasis on learning and cognition, from Dartmouth College and dual master’s degrees in education and Fine Art from American University.

Allison is the co-author of “Dare to Inspire: Sustain the Fire of Inspiration in Work and Life” (Hachette, November 2019), a book that redefines inspiration as a critical resource in modern work, leadership, and organizational culture.

Meghan Henry:
Hello everyone, and welcome back. This is Meghan Henry, Director of Marketing at SentryHealth, creators of WellOnMyWay, an integrated employee health management solution. If this is your first time joining us, welcome to the For Your Benefits podcast. Our goal here is to help HR professionals, business leaders, benefits advisors, and anyone else, stay on the cutting edge of what’s happening in the world of employee benefits, health, company culture, and engagement.

In this episode of For Your Benefits, we’ll be talking about how to create a coaching mindset in organizations. We’re excited to be chatting with Allison Holzer, Co-CEO and Chief Innovation Officer of InspireCorps, an inspirational strategy firm that partners with organizations to drive business growth and innovation. Allison is a master certified coach, keynote speaker, and co-author of “Dare to Inspire: Sustain the Fire of Inspiration in Work and Life”. Welcome, Allison.

Allison Holzer:
Hi, Meghan. It’s so great to be here.

Meghan Henry:
And we’re so glad to have you. So let’s start off by learning a little bit more about you. Can you tell us a little bit more about your background, and then maybe what it means to be a master certified coach?

Allison Holzer:
Sure. Yeah. Master certified coach. I would say one of my greatest passions is coaching. It really combines for me, my love of positive psychology and also my creativity and love for people. I got into the work that I’m doing today via coaching. So I actually started off my career more in the area of education and psychology. And then back in 2003, discovered coaching. And for me, I always joke it was like love at first insight. It was just a brilliant process, and I realized that I wanted it to be a part of my professional career ongoing. So the path to becoming a master certified coach has been a couple of decades in the making. And I love the work.

How to Have a Coaching Mindset

Meghan Henry:
Let’s talk about having a coaching mindset. What is that?

Allison Holzer:
A lot of people, when they think about coaching, think about it as something where you are giving feedback, or where you’re giving advice. And a lot of times they use it synonymously with that. But one of the things I learned through the process of coach training is that what coaching is really about is creating an environment and a space for others to discover new insights and grow and learn and develop for themselves.

Meghan Henry:
So what I’m hearing is, that it’s a lot more than just saying, okay, here are five bullet points of the things that you need to be doing to be successful, but encouraging them to find their path to success. As a parent, I feel like it’s also a kind of a parenting thing too. You know, as parents, we try to tell the kids, do X, Y, and Z.

Allison Holzer:
In fact, I love that you mentioned parenting. I often say that having worked in the professional world for many years now, and working in leadership and working with many leaders, I believe that the two best sources of learning that I’ve had in my career on leadership and coaching, which I in many ways see as synonymous with leadership, or very, very closely tied to leadership, is through parenting and also riding horses. And just by way of example there, I started riding horses when I was younger, grew up in Kentucky. And when a child is on a horse… There’s no way that I can force a 2000 pound animal to do something. It’s not possible, you can’t do it, you can’t force them into it.

And so it has to be this sort of two-way reciprocal communication that’s happening. And horses, I think, a lot like children, and truly adults are this way too but I think we just see it more explicitly, they listen to emotion. So, if I’m afraid when I’m on a horse, the horse feels it. And those are the times when I’ve tried to do something and have fallen off because the horse stops. Or if I’m afraid, they’re afraid. So I remember, at a young age, the trainer or the coach helping me was always saying, “The horse can feel your emotions.”

So you have to have this calm confidence. You have to have a calm confidence. And it has to be a two-way reciprocal relationship and communication, where there’s no power dynamic. And when that happens, that’s when real flow happens in terms of riding and communication. That’s what it feels like too, in terms of leadership and relationships, in terms of managing others and coaching others. It’s two-way, it’s reciprocal. And my job, I think, in many ways, as a coach, is to bring that calm confidence and to create that space where others can step up in new ways.

Five Characteristics of a Coaching Mindset

Meghan Henry:
That’s fantastic. Allison, on your website you mentioned there are five characteristics of a coaching mindset. If you can, let’s talk about each of those and why those are important.

Allison Holzer:
Sure. Well, before we get into the five, I would just say that one of the things that were different for me when I moved into the certification process for master certified coach… There are different levels. And one of the core differences and concepts that I learned in terms of masterful coaching was around this relationship that we have between being and doing. You think about this, at all times of the day, we’re always doing, we’re also being. And doing is a little bit more straightforward, you know, what your actions. Being is about how you’re showing up, your emotions, your energy, and even the mindset that you bring to something. Now, a lot of times we tend to be overly focused, in performance at work, and oftentimes in leadership, on the doing, what do we need to be doing?

What are our goals? What are our KPIs? What agenda do we need for this meeting? We’re driving these things forward, and those are really important. But we’re not paying attention to how we’re being in those meetings and conversations. And what we miss in that is realizing that that is just as, if not more important. We have to be mindful of the emotions that we’re bringing, our mindsets, and how we’re communicating those things, because it has a tremendous impact on the people around us, how we’re working together and how everybody shows up. So that is one of the core differences that, in masterful coaching, that really pay attention to the doing and the being. And I find myself now in conversations with so many leaders who need to be thinking about that, because we’re going through so many changes right now, with challenges and returning to work, and there’s so much happening.

And we have to be focusing on how we’re being. But in terms of the five specific characteristics of a coaching mindset. So, if you think about coaching, overarching, being, and doing as being a critical way of thinking about it. What I came up with when I wrote this article, where really kind of pulled out and distilled, what are the top five kinds of mindsets and approaches? So it’s more about… There are lots of skill sets in coaching. There’s lots of particular skill, like here’s how to ask great questions, here’s how to listen in a particular way, et cetera. These five characteristics of a coaching mindset are more about how you’re being. And what’s great about that is anybody can do them. You don’t have to go through a coach certification to do these five things. You can just know what they are and you can begin to feel them and experience them in how you’re interacting with others.

Deep, Full-Body Listening

Meghan Henry:
And that’s a great starting point if you’re looking for somewhere to start. What’s the first one?

Allison Holzer:
The first one that we talk about, its called deep full-body listening. There’s a lot out there about active listening, right? So how do you listen actively? And that’s a very specific skill set, which is great. Active listening is part of deep full-body listening. But the reason why we say it’s deep and full body is because you want to be listening really with your full emotions and actual physical body. So as a coach, when I’m truly present with what another person is doing or saying, I can often feel it in my body. It’s like riding the horse, right? The horse feels your emotions.

Like if they’re bringing concern or anxiety about a particular work situation, I start to feel that too and notice it. And it allows me to be more attuned to their experience and be empathetic to that. So, as coaches, I always think about this. Sometimes I even will turn off a video if I’m talking to someone, so I can really focus on the sound of their voice and notice the differences in sort of inflection. And I try to pay attention to how I’m feeling as I’m speaking with them, as a way to notice what might be happening for them. It’s not about me, but it’s about what my body’s telling me about what they might be communicating.

Meghan Henry:
And they may be communicating things they don’t even realize they’re communicating, I suspect, through their voice, through body language, whatever.

Allison Holzer:
That’s right. That’s right. Absolutely. Yeah. We all have these, we call them micro-expressions, where we communicate in a microsecond what we’re truly feeling, even when we’re hiding it. And so sometimes you can pick up on those. But yeah, and sometimes people just, they aren’t aware of how they’re feeling. And that’s part of the benefit of coaching is that it creates a space where you can have those kinds of conversations.

Radical Curiosity

Meghan Henry:
It looks like number two on your list is radical curiosity. Tell me what that is.

Allison Holzer:
Radical curiosity is looking at a person in the conversation as having so many different angles and feelings and mindsets and approaches. And it’s like you want to get into their world and really observe and understand what it’s like for them. That also, to what we talked about earlier, about ego, it requires letting go of ego. Because there’s this natural instinct, when somebody’s speaking about something to say, oh, I got the answer. I want to solve it for you. Here’s what you need to do. And you can kind of feel it when it’s coming up, that you want to give that advice. And it’s turning that around and saying, uh, uh, uh, that’s my perspective. Let’s get really curious about what’s happening over there. What is that like for you? What does that mean to you? What about that is important to you? What about that isn’t important to you? These are the kinds of questions that really get to true curiosity.

Practical Empathy

Meghan Henry:
All right. Number three, Allison, what do we have?

Allison Holzer:
So third one that we have is, we call practical empathy. We call it practical empathy because empathy can happen in different ways. So there’s what we call emotional empathy, which is, if you’re feeling, Meghan, upset and distressed, I am feeling almost that same degree of upset and distress. And we see that sometimes this happens, I know, from a parenting perspective. In my children, I can just really feel that. Then there’s cognitive empathy, and cognitive empathy is, you’re upset and distressed, and I can mentally understand where those feelings are coming from, why you’re feeling that way. And I can really get it, but I’m not feeling those emotions to the same degree that you are. And so practical empathy is like this way of thinking about empathy with some distance. Because what we know is if you’re so empathetic that you’re feeling everything that those around you are feeling, it can lead to… there’s different terminologies for this, compassion fatigue, where you become fatigued by your emotions, just being kind of out there and drawn by what others are feeling all the time.

And there’s a lot of individuals who can struggle with this, particularly in service kinds of professions, when you’re out there helping. And certainly, within healthcare, this can happen a lot as well. And so, practical empathy is having that little bit of distance. Like, I want to be there with you, I want to be deeply curious and understanding, and I want to be listening and all of those things, but I have some distance, I’m not taking on all those emotions. Why empathy is especially important in a coaching mindset is that it creates a sense of trust and support. And so when we talked earlier about, how do you create a space where somebody else can fail and learn from failure and grow, empathy is a place where people feel safe.

Possibility Focused

Meghan Henry:
Number four, possibility focus. Tell me about that.

Allison Holzer:
My business partners, Sandy Spataro, Jen Grace Baron, and I, have conducted original research and wrote a book on inspiration. It’s called “Dare to Inspire”. And it’s all about inspirational leadership and culture, and how do you cultivate inspiration as an untapped resource in the workplace and within the business. And one of the ways that we define inspiration is that it’s a combination of when you’re able to see new possibilities and at the same time unlock this desire to take action. So, I see new ideas and I want to take action with new energy, a new focus that I didn’t have before. And that’s the power of why inspiration can drive really better results for people in the workplace. So one of the roles that I think coaching plays is unlocking other people’s inspiration.

Sometimes we have, let’s say, a member of my team, let’s say I’m a leader and I have a member of my team, and I know that they’re just stuck and they’re in this rut and they’re frustrated. And I can just see this. So inspiration, if they can get more inspired by whatever the problem is they’re trying to solve, if they can unlock new possibilities around it for themselves, then they will then have that energy to carry forward in a new way and really solve those problems.

So as a coach, or if you’re taking on a coaching mindset, one of the things that you have to do is rise above when problems are being brought to you. And you can see the problem, it’s not that you deny the problems, but you look at what the possibilities are. You say, all right, here’s the challenge. I hear this, I get this, but what’s the opportunity? What could be different? Where could we go from here? And you’re asking those kinds of questions of the person that you are coaching or leading. And that can unlock for them new solutions going forward. I think it’s one of the most important things that we do in coaching, is inspire others.

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Relationship First

Meghan Henry:
We’re onto the fifth characteristic of a coaching mindset and relationship first.

Allison Holzer:
This is something that, I think with COVID and all the challenges of the last now 18 plus months, I feel like what we’ve all been attuned to even more so than ever before is humanity, and people, and how much people matter. People matter, to help our communities run and thrive and our organizations and companies. We can’t do it without our people. And so, sometimes though I think we lose sight of that. And especially within the business, we can lose sight of it, because there is so much emphasis on results, getting results. And I get it, we have to survive.

But there’s this idea, I think, sometimes, that we put so much emphasis on the results that we lose sight of the importance of people. So we put this here, as relationships first, as being absolutely critical to a coaching mindset. Because at the end of the day, coaching is about creating trust and creating a relationship where someone feels empowered to thrive and grow and lead to the results that you need.

So, it’s not that focusing on a relationship means that you don’t get results. In fact, you can achieve even greater results when people feel safe to grow, thrive, and take new risks, to be inspired. But it’s putting the relationship part ahead of the results and performance side. It’s saying, yes, both are important, but I’ve got to put the relationship side first. I think the truth is most people have positive intentions around this, and they believe relationships to be important. What’s challenging is that in the busyness of the day, in the day to day, that I think sometimes this can get lost.

And it’s not intentional all the time. It’s just, we’re busy, we’ve got pressure, there are high stakes situations, and then all of a sudden, someone who knows that relationships are important at first, are not communicating that to their team, because they’re just, their minds are in another place. And that’s where I think this can kind of get blown up a little bit. And that’s where coming back to this coaching mindset can be a powerful shift, when you notice those shifts in yourself and coming back to that place of, I got to remember, being present to other people and relationships that matter.

Company Culture with a Coaching Mindset

Meghan Henry:
Company culture is really a hot topic these days with a lot of folks. And I’m curious to know, what does a coaching mindset look like when we talk about company culture? How do you create a coaching mindset culture with an organization?

Allison Holzer:
Culture in companies, as I understand it to be defined, is its norms and behaviors. So it’s simply what we do, how we do them, and how often we do them. And, and it typically will start at the top. Because we see norms and behaviors that are modeled from leaders, and that gets cascaded down. I’ll share with you, Meghan, that one organization that we write about in our book, “Dare to Inspire”, I think they do a good job of bringing a coaching mindset into their culture.

The company is called Next Jump. And it’s a company that had started off with a more traditional or hierarchical kind of approach in their culture, 15, 20 years ago, I think it was. And it wasn’t really working. So at that time, it was very much results driven and it was a place where they were just, they were losing talent, and it just, it wasn’t working.

And so, they decided to do a really radical change in their culture. And what they shifted to was a culture that focuses on learning and growth, which is really what coaching is all about. So they took on the philosophy, and it started at the very top, CEOs, they have two CEOs, start at the top in terms of, we want to communicate that this is a place where people are encouraged to fail, to learn, and to grow from all of that. And this transformational culture has happened over a period of time, but it’s embedded into a lot of their processes, how they run things. And then what’s happened is that it’s become so successful that they now run all of these workshops and things, definitely for internal people to learn about it, but actually, you can come in from the outside and attend one of their workshops and trainings on how to replicate some of what they’re doing in their culture.

But what you see when a company culture doesn’t embrace a coaching mindset, really the flip side of what you see is that leaders at the top that are functioning like experts, they’re driving down the strategy, they’re driving down results. And they’re missing being able to tap into some of the creativity and the brilliant thinking of the talent and the employees that they’ve hired to be smart and to come up with solutions. And it’s really a missed opportunity to tap into that wisdom and that mind share of everyone. So it creates this culture where people feel like the only way that they can actually learn and grow and advance is by leaving. And so you see that in certain cultures where they don’t really have a coaching approach and a lot of times especially up and coming generations get frustrated with that and they say, all right, well, we’ll leave.

So coaching mindset culture looks different than that. It looks like, no, we create a place where we actually want you to learn and grow in the work. And so you can grow in terms of your career path, but you can also grow in terms of your skill sets, your leadership, all of these different ways. And that we’re going to actually support you in doing that, either by giving you resources to go out elsewhere, to gain those skills and knowledge or by creating within our culture, creating our own sort of workshops or internal leader development and coaching programming that will help grow these things.

Meghan Henry:
Do you think that it is something that new hires or people who are now just getting into the workforce are looking for? I suspect 50 years ago, this would not be a conversation we would be having

Allison Holzer:
100%, 100%. It’s definitely a trend that we’ve seen over the last decade-plus. They’re looking for relationships, they’re looking for learning and growth, they’re looking for meaning and purpose. There’s a lot of stats out there around how people will take salary cuts, or even less, if they feel that they’re learning and growing, or they feel like they’re drawn to the mission of the organization. I don’t think it has to be that kind of a forced choice, ideally, you have both. But it speaks to the values shift that’s been happening. Leaders have to be listening to that. Just because leaders may have grown up in a different culture, they have to be listening to what people want right now. And to be honest, with COVID, I think it’s accelerated that in the culture.

I think it was already bubbling up and happening, that the values were shifting and changing. And now, because we realize that people are just more important than ever before, there’s more of a sense of appreciation and gratitude. I think it’s accelerated. And some companies that prior were saying, “Ah, you know, whatever, we’re not going to listen to that. They’ve got a job, they just need to be grateful for it,” kind of approach. They’re changing their tune. They’re really changing their tune right now because they see they cannot take that approach going forward.

Meghan Henry:
It’s not sustainable.

Allison Holzer:
It’s not sustainable. It’s not competitive either, it really isn’t. If they want to think about it from that kind of results mindset, it’s not competitive for them to do that.

Strong Coaching Cultures Lead to Higher Employee Engagement

Meghan Henry:
The International Coaching Federation says that “Organizations with strong coaching cultures consistently report higher employee engagement and higher revenue.” So let’s talk about how leaders can shift their mindset from a sort of the day-to-day workload to coaching managers and employees for success.

Allison Holzer:
To be honest, the stats on that aren’t surprising to me at all. When managers and leaders, when they’re functioning as coaches, employees step up, learn, and grow, all the things we’ve been talking about, and they feel empowered and engaged in their roles. So absolutely it’s going to lead to better results. But the problem is that while some, I think, leaders and managers are oriented and see those… they’ve connected those dots, some are not oriented that way and they don’t see it that way. So, I think one way that managers and leaders can begin shifting their mindset to this coaching approach is certainly by being coached themselves or participating in coach training. We’re actually seeing major trends in this right now. So organizations are sending leaders to go through different kinds of certifications, coach certifications.

And it’s not because they’re expecting them to then become official coaches within the organization as part of their role. It’s simply because they want them to develop that kind of skill set. It’s almost like, you send your leaders to leadership development training, but now you’re sending leaders also to coach training because that supports their leadership. We’re seeing this trend a lot. We’re also seeing… And I think it’s a great strategy, because not only do those leaders get the benefit of learning those skill sets and those mindsets that come with coaching but then what also happens is they typically benefit from it themselves.

Because they’re being coached and they’re coaching others. Typically, it can be transformational for them to maybe shift their thinking around their values and what’s important to them as leaders. But the other way that I would say organizations can think about this is again, modeling it from the top. So when senior leaders are speaking the language that communicates coaching mindset, things like permission to fail, let’s grow, being open and curious, not always having the answers, being vulnerable, being empathetic, all the things that we’ve been talking about. When leaders at the very top are modeling those things, it then communicates to all levels of leadership management down that those are the expectations, and that they can prioritize that approach over results at any cost kind of approach to management.

How to Utilize a Coaching Mindset

Meghan Henry:
Allison, we’ve got a lot of business leaders, HR professionals, and others who listen to the podcast. Love to get some final advice from you. Maybe they’re looking to utilize a coaching mindset in their organizations, or at least with their management style. What is some advice that you can give an individual who’s sort of looking to get started with all of that?

Allison Holzer:
As we talked about, a coaching mindset is really different than mentoring. It’s different than giving advice or feedback or counseling. It is truly unique. And as I mentioned at the very beginning, when I first experienced coaching, for me it was… like I felt it in my gut, the kind of power of it. So I say, “love at first insight,” but truly I walked into a room feeling stressed out, stretched thin, burned out, and feeling like I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. It was a very uncomfortable feeling for me in my early twenties. And I left the room feeling like there are new possibilities, feeling inspired, feeling connected and supported and ready to take new steps forward, in a way that I had never before in my life.

That to me is the power of coaching. I can speak to it and I can say it, but the truth is, what it really comes down to, I think, is experiencing it. Because when you experience it that way, it then translates, I think, to all the things that we’ve been talking about. So I think that the fastest way to develop a coaching mindset, to some extent, is by experiencing it.

Meghan Henry:
Being coached yourself.

Allison Holzer:
Yes, being coached yourself. I think it’s a really powerful pathway to do that. And of course, I’m always happy to share, or if anybody wants to learn more about that or do a demo, I’m always happy to do that. But I think the other way to think about it is… or another way that you can experience it within your organization, and particularly if you’re senior HR kind of leader, professional, what we’re seeing are trends and just bringing it to your organization. So bringing in experts who can lead coaching approach to management kinds of experiences. I hate to say workshop because it’s not the kind of thing that you do once, and then you’ve experienced that way.

It’s more of a process. So the organizations that are doing this well, they’re bringing in, maybe it might be a year-long kind of program where leaders can go through and experience a sort of coaching approach. But I think that’s another way that senior leaders, HR leaders, can think about it in a strategic and more scalable way within their organizations. That, along with the modeling from the top, that’s how you’re going to really transform and shift culture. It’s great too when they also put it in their values. And I see this too in companies. You put coaching mindset and approach, or if you don’t use that language, you use things that we’ve talked about, like empathy and listening, and all of that, into your corporate or company values and mission and purpose. So these are all ways that you can continue to reinforce this sort of shift in culture as it’s occurring.

Meghan Henry:
Allison, this has been such a great discussion. Before we wrap up, do you have a website, social handle, anything that you’d like to share for anyone interested in learning more?

Allison Holzer:
You can find me personally on both LinkedIn and Twitter. And my handle is @aaholzer. And I will say that on Twitter specifically, I post a lot of coaching questions. So if you’re interested in learning about what are coaching questions like, or how might I think about coaching questions in my management? If you follow me there, you’ll see some of them come up.

And then in terms of a website, our company website InspireCorps, www.inspirecorps.com, C O R P S, like army corps Marine corps.

Meghan Henry:
We also are going to put links to her site on our website. So if you do go to our website, you’ll be able to find that information as well. Thanks for joining us. This was a great conversation.

Allison Holzer:
Thank you so much, Meghan. It was a pleasure to be here.

Meghan Henry:
Absolutely. Well, that wraps up this episode of For Your Benefits. If you like what you heard today, you want to hear more, don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast. You can also find us on our website at sentryhealth.com, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Thanks for joining us.

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