Are you an enabling leader?

I ask this question having run a webinar with clients this week. On the webinar we discussed what the term an “Enabling Leader” means and what the benefits to those being led in an enabling manner derive.

Our discussion was shaped by the work of Myles Downey and we conclude that his split of the three functions of an enabling leader to be Lead, Manage, Coach make sense and also that this is the order in which engagement is required to lead most effectively.

I will now go through the three functions in more detail to give you an insight into the areas each should involve and achieve.

Lead – This is the phase where direction is set. It should answer the question “Why am I doing what you ask me to do?”. In essence, this sets the context and meaning for each team member around what they are being asked to do and explains how it fits with overall business or organisation goals, aims and objectives.

You should think about how you hold these conversations and how you check in with them to ensure your communication is two – way, remember that true communication is the response you get. Ask good questions and listen to ensure there are no mis-understandings or areas of confusion.

The outcomes you are looking to achieve in this phase are good engagement and clarity of purpose. Many motivational studies have shown that uncertainty of what to do or why what a person is doing is important are two of the major barriers to performance success. As a result, clarity on purpose and understand why they do what they do will lead to quicker and better decision making.

AS Martyn Newman says, the leader should think of themselves as “the chief story telling officer”. Tell the right story to your team and they will be enrolled and inspired.

Manage – Once the team member understands why their role is important and relevant, the next phase is to manage. This is the phase where you answer the question “What do I need to do?”. More importantly is the second question to answer “What do I need to achieve?”. An Action Coach general principle is the Equation for Success –

                                                                                 BE X DO = HAVE

The manage phase is clarifying what the team member’s DO is and what the desired HAVE is. It is not enough to set out accountabilities, it is critical that you also set Indicators of Effectiveness.

The outcomes will be that you and the team member agree on the role goals, tasks, activities and priorities. You should also clarify quality standards and expectations.

The benefits to the team member when managed well are that they have a clear focus and mandate, understand the scope of their work and understand any constraints that may affect their role performance.

In my experience, based on the teachings of Verne Harnish, the key word to use around management is “rhythm”. What is the daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual and beyond communication rhythm that you set up to establish micro – communication to achieve good management? This should include key questions – what did you do? What are your numbers? What are you doing next?

Coach – The third, but by no means least important phase of being an enabling leader is to coach. This deals with improving the BE in the Equation for Success above. Unfortunately, in my experience this is the phase that many leaders do NOT put sufficient time and energy into. So, what does this phase involve?

The key activity is to enable the team member to think through how to achieve their goals and to facilitate their personal performance growth. To do this effectively you should £teach the team member to fish” rather than “buying fish for them to eat”. In other words, focus on their self-development so they move from dependent to independent.

The three key things to look out for in the coaching journey are – help them find their own way forward rather than telling them what to do, get them to make their own decisions rather than relying on you to solve their problems and get them to take full responsibility for their actions and decisions. Of course, during this phase you should provide support and assist with questioning and providing insights but leave them with the problem to solve and ensure they understand their growth in effectiveness as it occurs along the path to independent excellent performance.

The outcomes of this coaching phase are that they take ownership of their role, they have greater clarity on their decisions and they learn and grow over time.

I have to add that as a business coach, it is my role to work in this way with the business owners I coach and at times I have performed this role with senior teams within businesses until the business owner gains confidence in their own coaching ability.

I hope this helps you to become and enabling leader. Please contact me on 07511969690 or at if I can help you on this leadership journey.