The key to more effective leader, if only.  Have you identified yours?

You know that thing?  That thing that could be transformational? Most people cannot identify that thing.  I call it the “IF ONLY”.  ‘IF ONLY.’ If only you knew what others knew about you.   It’s different for everyone.

Here are some examples from actual coaching clients: The senior VP doesn’t trust you; you come across a know it all, you didn’t speak up, you don’t get to the point, you’re too intense.  On the other hand, some people identified their IF ONLY, but don’t know how to change.

Back when I was a new manager, I had many ‘IF ONLYs.’  They were revealed during a 360-feedback session.  Here are a few:  I finished people’s sentences, didn’t give enough detail, I’m gullible, don’t speak up enough, talked too fast, got defensive, and more!  I am grateful for the feedback and spent my career working on many of them.  Now I teach and coach them to others.

What happens when you can see someone else’s IF ONLY?   My job as a coach is to partner with leaders to identify their IF ONLY.  What happens next?  They might disagree and get defensive, not believe it, or ask for additional context.  Worse case, I’ll get fired.  Best outcome is that they appreciate the insight, accept it, and commit to change.

What if it’s peer or direct report, or your manager whose IF ONLY you can see, and they don’t?  Do you tell them and risk a strain on the relationship, or worse?

As a coach, it’s all about you.   It’s my job to help you understand and change your IF ONLY; but as a peer, manager, or direct report, is it your job to give feedback, and what if they don’t accept it?

The louder my intuition screams that to advance you need to accept it, the harder I’ll work to get you to take ownership.  If it’s not important, or might strain your relationship, the best choice might be to let it go!

If it is important, I might ask, “may I take off my coaching hat and share my opinion?”

I might tell them a story of someone who mastered the skill with which they struggle and had wild success.

Here are seven suggestions to consider when you notice someone else’s IF ONLY, and you are convinced they could be the key to career success.   What you do should vary, based on your relationship with the person and how important you believe the IF ONLY is.

  1. Do nothing. Let it go.
  2. Ask permission:  May I tell you what and why I think your IF ONLY would make huge, positive impact?
  3. Story:  I’d like to share the story of a similar situation, what that person did, and the outcome.  Hint: there was great success.
  4. Ask:  Ask about the IF ONLY when you are meeting with them.  Has it shown up, in them or someone else, what were the impacts?
  5. Create:  Craft questions that highlight the transformational skill; insert as appropriate.
  6. Accountability:  Let them know how important you think this skill is for them. Ask if they would agree to, if the next five times you meet, you hold them accountable to a brief discussion, or answer one question, about this skill.
  7. Mirror and highlight:  If you are doing that skill, or they speak of someone using that skill, grab that conversation thread and dig deeper.
  8. Learn and Share:  Proactively send articles, links, and book references on this topic to them.

Do you know your IF ONLY and what would you do if you knew someone else’s?

The next post is the story of two managers I coached.  One, after many months of working hard to get him to see his IF ONLY, he embraced it, and went on to great success.  The other I let go of too soon, which I regret. My lesson was about learning to trust and act on my intuition.