Most leaders have the technical expertise to do their jobs effectively. In fact, that’s usually the reason they were promoted to a leadership position in the first place. But technical know-how is only part of what it takes to be an effective leader–and an effective coach. Many managers and executives may be surprised to learn that it’s not the most important part. Technical expertise and knowledge are prerequisites to good leadership; they’re necessary, but they’re not sufficient.
The ability to relate with and motivate the people who report to the leader is far more important. Much research shows that when people work in a climate of respect, caring, honesty, collaboration, cooperation and trust, they maximize their contributions to the organization.
Leaders can create a climate of acceptance and openness in which team members are free to express their ideas, try new things, take risks, be responsible for producing results—or an atmosphere in which there is a sense of uneasiness and tension and people are afraid of making mistakes or of being criticized so they play it safe, don’t speak up, keep conflicts hidden, stifle their ideas and creativity.
Creating a climate in which people are free to develop their abilities and talents, to break through their limitations and make behavior changes needed for growth, to perform at their highest level isn’t a matter of trial and error or luck or chance. Deciding to create such a climate is a conscious choice. This conscious choice needs to be followed by learning the relationships skills that make such a climate possible: 1) empathic listening skills that convey acceptance and understanding of team members; 2) self-disclosure skills that allow a leader to communicate authentically and; 3) conflict resolution skills which enable the leader and team member to work out the inevitable disputes and problems that come up in all relationships. These are also problem-solving and planning skills which help people improve their performance.