By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

‘Quit Leadership’– The two words together sound like an oxymoron…like two words that do not belong to one another. After all, the world of business is replete with stories of bold CEOs like Steve Jobs or Henry Ford who built successful businesses through their charisma and their sizably ruthless business streak. While examples like these are fairly common and make for some interesting anecdotes and outcomes under the right circumstances, there is another kind of leader who doesn’t hit the headlines just as often. This is the ‘quiet leader’.

What is a ‘Quiet Leader’?

Firstly, there is nothing meek or shy about quiet leaders. A quiet leader can be just as effective and powerful as their outspoken counterparts. The quiet leaders are a breed of leaders who exercise their power and their leadership through their actions, rather than their words. 

At the heart of the quiet leader lies confidence. They usually are people who adopt solution-driven approaches, and leverage collaboration, logical thought, and encouragement to solve problems Quiet leaders are open, approachable, compassionate, and understanding. They assume leadership positions because they have a reason to care, they are passionate, and committed and not because of a loud voice or a larger-than-life personality.

The Challenges facing Quiet Leaders 

Empowering quiet leaders is essential for organizations since this genre of leaders does not intentionally seek leadership. Their quiet nature can often also be misconstrued for arrogance and their quiet confidence for ego

Quiet leaders are also often introverted and evaluate decisions thoroughly rather than rush into a decision fast. While this is a great trait and is actually a hallmark of good leadership, it can also often be misunderstood as slow decision-making. 

All kinds make up an organization. While there are employees who thrive under quiet leadership, there are also employees who only respond to a hotshot leader who dominates the spotlight and talks a good game. The bias towards dynamic and alpha leaders has been ingrained as a part of the social conditioning. But just like how we had Steve Jobs, the charismatic guy who could make everyone believe in the miracles up his sleeve, we have Tim Cook, the quiet leader who leads Apple’s success story now. 

Simply put- while we might not be used to the idea of the quiet leader, but that doesn’t mean that these leaders don’t exist, or don’t lead well. If anything, quiet leaders can actually be better leaders. And it is the responsibility of the organization to identify, encourage and enable these leaders to improve organizational outcomes.

Coaching and the Quiet Leaders 

It may seem that the loudest voice in the room is the one that gets heard, the quiet person may have a lot more substantive to contribute. As such, organizations have to identify ways to help these leaders excel by helping them define their style and assist them in understanding how they can improve it to make it more effective.

But how can organizations identify these quiet leaders and help them? Clearly, these are not the people who will be vocal about their skills or aspirations. They probably will be unaware of their leadership qualities.

Here is a look at how organizations identify and capitalize on the power of their quiet leaders:

Identify the quiet leaders 

The first step to this puzzle is to identify those quiet leaders. While managers and organization leaders can keep their eye open for the employees who display the qualities of quiet leaders, taking a data-driven approach makes this an easier and effective process. 

Tests such as 16 Personality Factor self-evaluation tests or Behavioral Skill Analysis provide dependable, data-backed analysis of skills of employees. Those high-performing employees with quiet leadership traits can be easily identified using this data-backed strategy. 

With this approach, organizations also get insights into the areas that these quiet leaders need help in. Organizations can then effectively connect these employees to the right coach and set them on a path of successful leadership.

Connect them to the right coach 

Managing the complexities of today’s organizations, global, distributed, hybrid, or remote teams, and the like needs quiet leaders to develop their communication styles and build authentic connections. Connecting the right coach to quiet leaders especially becomes important when our definition of normal has changed. Ensuring the right coach-learner pair augments the quality of outcomes organically.

Organizations have to help the quiet leaders identify, understand, and reach their true potential. Having the right coach guiding them along this path is imperative for success. As such, organizations have to connect their quiet leaders, both potential and existing, to the right coaches who can help them learn to be better leaders by harnessing the qualities that they have and developing the qualities that they need.

The chemistry between the coach and the learner has to be right for it to deliver the right outcomes. Taking a data-driven approach and employing a technology-enabled, AI-driven coaching platform can make it easier to connect the right coach with the right learner and ensure better coaching outcomes.

Discover the leadership style

Coaching is a great tool for organizations to help their quiet leaders identify and develop their leadership styles. The leaders and those across the organization need to learn that ‘quiet’ does not translate to ‘ineffective’ and ‘loud’ does not always mean ‘effective’. 

A leadership style is essentially the path the leader uses to communicate, influence, or guide others. Connecting the quiet leaders to the right coaches helps them build on their self-awareness, identify their natural tendencies, and evaluate and understand how these can help or hinder their efforts. 

Coaching does not take a cookie-cutter approach to leadership development but rather, it takes a more individualistic approach to leadership development. By doing this, it helps the quiet ones learn and internalize executive skills like influence, inspiring confidence in all stakeholders, networking, stress management, strategic thinking, managing a diverse team, and visioning, etc., and helps them develop a leadership voice of their own. 

Quiet leaders need engagement too

It is a misnomer that employee engagement activities have to be directed at the employees only. Leaders too, are essentially employees.

Just identifying high-performing employees and prompting them to leadership roles does not essentially guarantee great outcomes for the organization. We need to remember that even at the highest levels, leaders need the same things that the everyday employee needs to stay engaged – acknowledgment and growth opportunities. 

Giving leaders, especially quiet leaders, an opportunity to enhance their career paths and providing them with the right tools to move ahead in their careers shows that the organization values them and their contribution. 

It is also an active way to show that the organization is invested in their career progress and their long-term growth and success. This can hugely contribute to the engagement levels of the quiet leaders as they are not the ones who are too vocal about their needs and yet, would like the same level of acknowledgment and growth as any other leader would.

Build leadership presence 

Many top-level executives are great at their jobs, are hard-working, and have team members who like them. And yet, they are not able to step in firmly into leadership roles. Not only does this impede this executive’s growth, but it also impacts their team members and impedes their opportunities for growth and learning. 

These top executives, the quiet leaders, continue to deliver value through their work but they continue to adhere to the ‘worker persona’ and find it hard to adapt and adopt the ‘leader persona’. This attribute is very commonly seen in women leaders who continue to work very hard, try and avoid mistakes as they feel mistakes can impact their careers more strongly than a man’s, or even avoid delegation or seeking help lest it is seen as a sign of weakness. 

Coaching can play a big role in bringing in the right mindset shift here. Coaching helps individuals identify and understand the root cause of issues and behaviors and increase self-awareness. It helps them understand and accept their personal challenges, and evaluate how to harness the power of the strengths that they have. This approach helps the learners enhance their leadership persona and consequently drives them to perform better as leaders. 

In Conclusion 

Quite leaders might not be the norm, but given the direction the world is moving towards, the rise of the global workplace, constant change, and the millennial and Gen Z as the dominant demographic in the workplace demand leaders who are more empathetic, resolute, and resilient. Coaching these quiet leaders to find their style of authentic leadership not only benefits them but also benefits the organization immensely. Since being quiet and the qualities that come with being quiet are behavioral, coaching proves to be a valuable cog in the wheel because it is only with coaching that it is possible to drive behavioral change.

Connect with us to see how you can help your top executives become effective leaders, irrespective of how quiet they are, by using an AI-powered coaching platform. 

By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

Companies are at the cusp of digital transformation and are making ‘upskilling’ employees their priority. 

Take AT&T, for instance. They decided to overhaul their legacy systems and hence had to upskill their employees to keep pace with the emerging technology trends. 

While an overall upskilling of all employees is necessary, companies have started taking a specific interest in upskilling their engineering and tech teams due to the dynamic landscape of technology. But what worked yesterday may become redundant tomorrow. 

However, merely teaching new programming languages or new technologies is not enough. Tech and engineering teams have to be coached on power skills to bring in behavioral changes in their team members. 

Read: Power Up Your eLearning Initiatives with Coaching

Let’s look at some coaching strategies that can be used to upskill the engineering and tech teams.

7 Upskilling Coaching Strategies

Identify learning gaps

The first step towards designing a coaching strategy is to identify the learning gaps and fix them. One way to find the gaps is by asking each employee to fill a self-evaluation survey to identify their strengths and weaknesses. The assessments must be prepared according to the nature of the employees’ role. Ensure that the self-evaluation survey includes questions about both – the soft and hard skills, so that mentors can create a coaching plan accordingly. For example, a person with excellent hold on Python language may score low on communication skills. For a team leader, communication is as important as technical skills. Such gaps can be found and fixed for each employee.

Set up coaching goals

Once the assessments are done, the HR and the employees’ coach must identify the core goals that the employees must meet to close the skill gaps. They must communicate the goals they expect the employee to meet. There could be two kinds of goals – the short-term goals that aim to close the immediate gaps, and the long-term goals to achieve a specific outcome such as nurturing an employee for the leadership role. The coach must ensure that the goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant to the employee, and time-bound. This will help both the coach and the employee to remain on track. 

Personalize the coaching

No two employees in the same role or title are similar. That’s why the same learning or coaching path for all employees is not advisable. Employees engage better and show up to 180% improvement in their jobs when their coaching is personalized. Personalized coaching involves aligning the coaching goals based on the employees’ strengths and weaknesses, their interests, their readiness, and their current proficiency levels. The coaching journey is tailored based on various parameters and tested in an individualized manner.

Offer one-to-one coaching

The most crucial thing about coaching is to choose the right coach for the right employee. Finding a coach cannot be based on guesswork. It has a science behind it and might require the help of technologies such as AI to assess and find the right match. Based on the skills gap, companies must identify the areas in which the employees require immediate attention, discuss them with the employees, and pair them with the right coach for each area of improvement. Coaches must help employees face the complexities in their careers and focus on transforming their future for better by improving their skills. Although this form of coaching aims to hone the skills of employees; coaches have admitted that the process has also helped them become a better coach. 

Make coaching holistic 

Engineering and tech teams cannot be proficient in technical skills alone. Of course, it is necessary to master technologies and new programming languages. However, these teams also need to acquire soft skills such as communication, negotiation, creativity, and leadership skills to build meaningful engagement with customers and peers. That’s why it’s essential to make coaching a holistic process. Coaches must assess employees based on their soft and hard skills and ensure that the coaching plan covers all the aspects required to build a good future leader. Even the evaluation and progress should be measured based on all the aspects. 

Make communication a continuous process 

A coach-employee relationship goes beyond a few weekly or monthly meetings. It requires commitment from both parties. A continuous and contextual communication process is needed to make coaching more productive and useful for employees. The idea is to build a healthy personal-professional relationship between them. This one-to-one communication can happen through various devices such as phones, tablets, and internal portals. The communication process must also involve evaluating the employees and coaches and sharing the feedback. So, the coaches know what they must do to offer a more meaningful mentorship to employees, and employees would know what they must do to achieve the goal earmarked for them by the coaches. There should also be a system to provide engagement scores to both the coach and the employee to assess and improve their engagement levels. 

Measure the outcome

Evaluation is not a one-off process. It is a continuous process. Coaches must use data analytics to measure the overall progress of employees and offer feedback on their skills, engagement, and performance. Continuous feedback will help employees to become more mindful of their strengths and weaknesses and transform themselves proactively. The outcome of  coaching should not be only on an individual level. The impact must be evaluated on the overall enterprise-level too. 

We have developed a coaching program, especially for engineering and tech teams, to help them learn hard and soft skills. The program will benefit engineers who seek guidance, managers and executives, engineers who wish to coach, and the SME and HR teams. Check out how we help in transforming the engineering and tech teams through our AI-based coaching platform.