[00:00:34] Chicago Camps: Could you start by defining the coaching leadership style and how does it differ from other leadership styles?
[00:00:40] Andrea Mignolo: I think that leadership styles in general, these days are basically just a combination of characteristics that describe how you lead.
[00:00:48] These days a lot of people talk about discovering your unique leadership style. So while there are categorizations and classifications of leadership styles, I think today we’re seeing how wide that range is. Like originally I think they were defined in maybe the early 1900s and there were a few different arms just like autocratic and democratic leadership styles.
[00:01:08] More recently, Daniel Goleman with his emotional intelligence defined about eight leadership styles around that. Now, again, depending on who you ask, there’s probably a flavor of leadership style for everything. All of that’s to say the coaching leadership style is approach to leadership that utilizes a lot of coaching skills in its approach.
[00:01:28] I think the most adjacent leadership style that people probably know about that utilizes coaching is the situational leadership style. And that’s like coaching and delegating. I don’t know a ton about it. There’s different approaches that you take with the person you’re working with, depending on their developmental level.
[00:01:44] From my understanding in terms of situational leadership, it’s really oriented around skills of a person, whereas the coaching leadership style and a coaching approach, skills as part of it. But then you’re also looking at much wider range of ways to support somebody. And that might be in behaviors, attitudes, limiting beliefs, conditioned tendencies.
[00:02:05] All of those kinds of things. At a very high level. I would just say the coaching leadership style is an approach to leadership with a coaching approach at its foundation.
[00:02:14] Chicago Camps: How did your journey in design and product management lead you to the coaching leadership style?
[00:02:20] Andrea Mignolo: Probably the best way to describe that is when I stepped into my first leadership role, I failed miserably. I had these conceptions of leadership of, if I’m the one leading, then it should be the way that I see things in the way that I like to do things.
[00:02:34] And people should just get that and it should happen. And then I stepped into leadership and I was like, why doesn’t everyone understand what I want and why aren’t they doing it? And why is everything going sideways? And I was lucky enough that the organization I was at didn’t fire me, but instead hired an executive coach.
[00:02:51] And when we started working together, I thought that I was going to share these challenges and I was going to get some models and I would just follow the steps of the model and I’d get the outcomes that I wanted. What we started to do instead was some kind of deep, more personal inner work, which led to the outcomes I was looking for and also a lot more.
[00:03:10] And so I learned that we can take the challenges at work as at surface level and just fix those, but then they keep showing up in the same way, or we can look at it as material for deeper transformation. When I saw that that was possible to use work in this way, that it could have such a profound effect on how I was showing up, not only professionally, but personally, like people in my personal life made a lot of comments about that.
[00:03:33] Wow, you’re really different. You respond to things in different ways or whatever it was happening at the time. And so I thought, this is what I really want to be able to provide for my team as well. And in order to do that, I went to a year long coaching program because I thought I really need to ground my approach in proper coaching skills.
[00:03:52] The first week of that coaching program, you learn, you can’t coach your direct report, not in a full professional way, because in that space, you’re really opening up to bringing in everything that’s happening in the person’s life and in a work relationship, especially when you’re the boss and there are power dynamics at play, no matter how much you try to minimize those, but you can use a lot of the skills of coaching in the work environment.
[00:04:15] And so that’s what I started to do. And I found everyone on the team responded really well to it. Everyone was very well resourced. We had a wonderful team culture. And so that’s how I found my way into it was through failing miserably as a leader, getting an executive coach, wanting to bring that to the team, learning all the ways I couldn’t bring it to the team and then finding ways that it could start to work for all of us together.
[00:04:37] And sometimes the organizational context in default way match really well.
[00:04:43] And sometimes they don’t, or when they do match really well, at some point you reach some type of situation where that breaks apart and you realize, Oh, there are different ways of leading. And maybe I need to augment my leadership style in different ways.
[00:04:57] Chicago Camps: You’ve had a diverse background from being a design and product executive at startups to teaching English at the Japanese Air Self Defense Force. How did that last one influence your coaching style?
[00:05:11] Andrea Mignolo: Teaching English, number one, wasn’t something I ever expected. When I first started doing it, I was an incredibly shy, incredibly introverted human being. I didn’t start at the self defense force, I started teaching in community classes in Japan and that was very terrifying for me.
[00:05:28] So there was just a lot of self-development work and being able to step in front of a class. A couple years in, I wound up at the self defense force. Which is a whole different class of people, I don’t know, goals and where people want to take their leadership. And I had to go to the base to teach.
[00:05:49] And so I’m in a completely unique environment in a field that I never thought I would be teaching in with people who are doing wildly different things, who I was terrified of flying at the time and better now, but even getting in an airplane was terrifying for me. So everything was way outside of my wheelhouse.
[00:06:05] And I think one of the things about coaching, I think comes from Carl Rogers, is this idea of unconditional positive regard, right? That everyone is doing the best they can with the awareness and the resources they have available to them. When you’re put in such a wildly different context with people that you can’t, I think it’s very natural for us to want to rely on our own experiences to make sense of other people’s experiences.
[00:06:28] In that environment, I couldn’t at all. And so I think what I would say is relevant from that experience to coaching is to just be really present, to listen, to understand what the people, like where they’re at and what they need for support and whatever is coming up for them. Now when you’re teaching English, that’s a little bit more specific, but in coaching, that’s the wider premise as well is just meet people where they’re at and Support them in the ways that you can.
[00:06:57] One of the cohorts that I taught were like the new recruits. And one question I would always ask them is what made you want to be a pilot? And 90% of them said Top Gun.
[00:07:06] Chicago Camps: How can a leader get started with adopting the coaching leadership style and what are some key steps or strategies?
[00:07:12] Andrea Mignolo: One of the things that I find really powerful about it is that there’s two tracks. One is around self development. The other is around the development of others. And I think this is where the coaching leadership style to me is very powerful and is a little bit different than other styles of leadership where for autocratic leadership, we come in and it’s, I’m the leader.
[00:07:30] I am right. Everything that I want to do, you do go ahead, da, da, da. And we really think about the business context, what others are doing, but we’re not really thinking about ourselves. So one of the first things I have people do when they’re starting with the coaching leadership style is to start to observe what they’re up to at work, right?
[00:07:46] Where are they feeling really resistant to how they’re showing up or what stories are they telling about the people on their team? One of the really common things that I’ve seen in the program that I’ve been running is that sometimes people come in and they’re like, Oh, my employees are problem employees, right?
[00:08:02] That’s a story. And then I have this question about how are you complicit in creating that? How everyone’s showing up. If you show up as a leader, assuming that everyone’s a problem employee, they’re going to sense that. So we have to get really curious about how we’re showing up, where we’re feeling ebb and flow and where things are easy for us.
[00:08:25] And also where, what are we avoiding? That’s one of the really important things to key into. What conversations are we avoiding? What situations are we avoiding? What people are we avoiding? So that we can also start to get a sense of what we’re doing and maybe where our edges are as leaders.
[00:08:40] So that’s one area to start to pay attention to. Journaling is a great way to do it. At the end of every day, you can just jot down what did I avoid or what did I do really well today? What do I want to try differently tomorrow? It can be a really effective way to start to observe yourself.
[00:08:56] Another way to get started with it is to ask more questions. And pause more frequently, just really simply, maybe if you’re used to sharing your opinion immediately in a one on one, ask three questions first. Just something as easy as that. One more piece that I would add to that, and this goes back to that idea of unconditional positive regard, but we’re naturally problem solving.
[00:09:22] Organisms as humans and as designers, we also orient towards problem solving. So there can be a really strong urge to see what’s wrong and to want to have answers there, et cetera, or to see how the person’s what, Oh my God, they’re missing this. They just need to do this thing. It’s so clear to me. And so to reorient yourself into in that spirit of unconditional positive regard to see what is this person doing really well, where the strengths and capacities and how can I really see that in them and believe in their ability to find a creative solution to what’s in front of them.
[00:09:56] Chicago Camps: Looking to the future, how do you see the coaching leadership style evolving and what skills or qualities will be crucial for leaders to develop?
[00:10:05] Andrea Mignolo: I think that the way I see the coaching leadership style evolving is probably more in the deepening of the practice as leaders start to step into it more. I think where this becomes so supportive is that you can really step into a place of not having the answers.
[00:10:24] And of getting really curious and collectively kind of building awareness of what’s happening and what’s possible. And the more that leaders let go of, this is what trips people up a lot when they first start in the coaching leadership styles, they’re supposed to have all the answers or they’re used to having the answers.
[00:10:42] It’s how they get to where they are in their career. So it feels wildly uncomfortable to sit with somebody and say, I don’t have the answers. I don’t know. But the more we can sit in that not knowing, the more I think that people report that they have less stress, that there’s more creativity, that there’s more energy, there’s more playfulness; it doesn’t happen overnight, but I think that’s the edge of the coaching leadership style.
[00:11:08] And I think that as leaders develop, some of these skills are going to naturally want to go a little bit deeper, maybe in a certain area. I just see this again, as this beautiful path of leaders continuing to develop themselves, create the space for their team to in their own development and the work all in this.
[00:11:24] Great learning environment together. Humans are complex. Organizations are complex. We cannot know, we might have a sense of something, but it’s only from our own, especially leaders as they go up the ladder, they have a maybe broader view, but they don’t have a more detailed view, so they can’t know everything, right?
[00:11:43] That’s the beauty of organizational awareness and using everybody’s, unique way of sensing into things to build capacity to find innovative answers.
[00:11:54] Chicago Camps: How does your work as a Certified Realization Process Teacher and a Dream Tender complement your approach to coaching leadership?
[00:12:03] Andrea Mignolo: Realization Process is an embodied approach to meditation and other practices that can lead to non dual experiences and awareness.
[00:12:12] Where that kind of intersects with coaching is this idea that we have to be really present and aware and open to really be able to support somebody. The ways in which these kind of habitual thought loops or reactive patterns come up, they’re really deep in our body. And so the more that we can get into our bodies, get a sense of where we’re holding those constrictions and the realization process guides through that and also has processes for releasing those constrictions.
[00:12:39] Then we can more fully inhabit our body, have more contact with ourselves and therefore have more contact with others and with the situation that’s happening around us. So it’s really about deepening our leadership presence and practice. I’m just finishing off a kind of graduate level training in this and I’m hoping that next year I’ll be able to start offering some actual meditation and embodiment classes around this approach.
[00:13:05] Dreamtending is an approach to working with dreams and also deep imagination . My teacher always says that the body is always dreaming. It’s this idea that there are certain things that we’re more attuned to in our conscious life, right? For a lot of us today, it’s maybe how we use our eyes and our brain to understand the world.
[00:13:25] But I find a lot of times when working with people in coaching practices, gestures can be a really important part of what’s coming up for them that they’re not aware of. So it’s this idea of these deeper levels that we have access to for knowing that when we can bring them into awareness and we can start to amplify them, also give us access to things that can resource us or that can guide us into kind of where we want to go with our careers or where we want to go in our personal lives. And so dreamtending is a process that works with dreams in this way, but it can also work with just what’s happening on a more subconscious or unconscious level that has a lot of information for us and creativity for us to work with.
[00:14:06] These are the names of the methodologies as described by the teacher. The Realization Process and Dreamtending, they’re incredibly powerful and they dovetail into coaching and they dovetail into kind of being in life in a very full and whole way.
[00:14:18] Chicago Camps: We have a question from our live studio audience. Yes. Upma asks, how can I start to develop these skills?
[00:14:25] Andrea Mignolo: One thing I like to invite people into is the idea of a learning container.
[00:14:30] And this is the idea I use it in coaching engagements as well, but it’s the idea of a structure that reminds us of the work we’re in. So when we’re learning coaching skills and we want to shift how we’re showing up with our teams, we can create this container to remind us every day. That’s what we’re doing.
[00:14:45] A minimal thing that this looks like is in the morning, I ask people to find five minutes where they can just be really present with themselves. That might be with their cup of coffee or with some tea. No phone, preferably before you’ve checked any electronics and just be present with yourself. What sensations are you noticing?
[00:15:02] What thoughts are coming up? What’s around you? This is a very small awareness practice, but it reminds you that this is part of the work you’re doing as a leader, especially with coaching skills, because coaching skills are about building awareness so that people can take new action and then reflect on that action to see what’s working and what’s not and continue to build that capacity.
[00:15:24] And so awareness is a really important piece of it. You don’t need to have a major meditation practice to do this or anything. But these five minutes every morning are a great reminder of being aware and being present is really important. And I am developing the skills of a coach. And then conversely, at the end of the workday, it’s those reflection questions, those learning questions.
[00:15:43] What was I avoiding today? What was I resisting? What did I learn? What am I proud of? Right, these are some of the questions that you can start to reflect on how you’re showing up, so you can get a sense of where you are able to support people and maybe what you’re learning at is so common. The most common one for so many leaders is difficult conversations.
[00:16:03] People who have come and said, how do I learn coaching skills? They want coaching skills to address a difficult conversation that hasn’t happened when it should have happened three months ago, which is probably the wrong time to coach. Coaching can do a lot of things, but by the time an accountability conversation has gone way off the tracks, coaching’s probably not great there.
[00:16:21] What coaching does help is when we can step more into that not knowing and to build that awareness collectively to say, Hey, something’s happening here. Coaching can help us have those conversations a lot earlier, say, Hey, I’m noticing this thing. Are you noticing it too? So it doesn’t have to get to feel like this weird blame thing, but we’re just building awareness of something that’s going on.
[00:16:40] So that’s where the reflection questions can be really helpful. And then again, adding in some things of what’s one thing I want to try today. Maybe it’s asking three questions instead of providing advice, or maybe it’s in my one on ones, I want to really practice mirroring back what people are saying.
[00:16:55] Just small things like that that can help you start to show up as a coach.