JMReid Group Blog

John Reid
Find me on: LinkedIn

Recently, I sat down for a group call with a potential client seeking a delegation skills program for their managers. Our conversation was going well. They liked our design principles, which include: context is king, there is wisdom in and out of the room and highly engaging activities promote retention. As a group, they appeared to be moving forward with our proposal. But then, one of the client representatives said, “This all sounds great, but what we really want is to give our managers the skills necessary to delegate. I think this is simply a skill issue.”

Most people in charge of training and development [L&D] often see gaps in performance as skill issues, whether it is delegation, coaching or giving feedback. In actuality, we need to first consider the mindset or belief system driving the current behavior. Let’s start with the difference between bad, good and great behavior.

Bad behavior is obvious, but good behavior is, in some ways, a much more challenging problem. Most managers are performing at “good” or “good enough.” Their current behaviors are not technically “bad,” but have the potential to be “great.” This gap can be subtle and often involves challenging an existing belief system rather than providing more skills to master. For the situation to be only a skill-based issue, L&D would have to conclude that people already have the right mindset/belief system to delegate effectively – to use the issue our client was looking to solve. In our experience, many managers fail to get from “good” to “great” because their unconscious belief system is undermining their efforts. Here’s an example.

For over ten years we have asked this question to participants in our Coaching Skills program: “What do you have to believe about people in order to coach them?” Participants quickly articulate answers that fall into two categories: people either have the skill (knowledge, capability, etc.) or the will (desire, motivation, etc.) to improve. However, they fail to reflect on the required belief system needed for them to coach effectively.

While it’s true that people need the skill and the will, the coach’s belief system is critical in order for coaching to be effective. Specifically, coaches need to believe the person they are coaching has insight and knowledge that they, the coach, does not possess. Without this fundamental belief we have seen these two outcomes:

  1. The coaching is all “tell” (because the coach believes they have all of the knowledge).
  2. If they embrace questioning skills, they more than likely will ask leading/ manipulative questions that diminish trust.

Teaching people how to coach without first addressing the necessary belief system surrounding their coaching method is like building a house without a foundation. Without this powerful awareness, the coaching workshop participant will likely attempt to apply the skills learned but will leverage a less than desirable outcome.

Now, let’s circle back to our potential client. They didn’t initially appreciate our view that beliefs and mindsets drive behavior and that in order to build delegation skills, like coaching, they must first address their managers’ underlying belief system. Potential unproductive beliefs we wanted to address around delegation included:

  • If you want something done right, do it yourself
  • It will just be quicker if I do it
  • I can’t give my team any more work
  • Delegating is too challenging for me and may lead to a difficult conversation
  • I don’t want to be a micro-manager so it’s easier not to delegate

In almost all our engagements, we start with a highly engaging self-discovery activity – to address the mindset – before heading into skills and tools. This approach is how we differentiate ourselves from other learning companies. While it might be more complicated to design and deliver training that focuses on mindset before skillset and toolset, our experience has shown us that this is the most successful approach. 

We won the business with this new client because we were able to show them how critical starting with beliefs and mindset are. In the interest of your learners, contact us.