When meeting with coaching and mentoring clients, I will often do a gut check and ask, was this conversation helpful? Did this exercise make a difference? This conversation is typically in the moment, focused on a current issue and the conversation we just had.

When I reach the end of a formal coaching relationship, I always ask what was most helpful over the course of our meetings. This is more big picture feedback.

I recently transitioned a long term contractual agreement to an informal as-you-need-me relationship. When I asked what had been most helpful over the previous six months, my client said,

“Just talking things out with you. I know you won’t judge me. I don’t have to worry about using the right words, we would figure it out together. I always felt like the only thing you wanted to do was help me grow and help my team succeed.”

Of course, this made me feel good. It also made me feel sad. Do we really need to hire coaches and mentors for this?

Leaders, how can we create an environment that encourages open communication with our emerging leaders? Surely we don’t want our frontline leaders to be so afraid of judgment that they don’t share their concerns. How can we remind ourselves to focus less on how something is said and more on what is being said? How can we impress upon our developing leaders that their growth is a priority for us? How can we demonstrate that we are in it together?

It’s easier for me, I know. I don’t have the day-to-day operational challenges that you have. As a coach, mentor and consultant, I get to focus on just one person or one project at a time. I don’t have to face all the other people, meetings and distractions that you do.

But, if there’s a will, there is a way. Let’s find the will and discover the way. It’s what our developing leaders need from us.

Photo credit: Handshake by Techgen Staffer, used with Creative Commons license.