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How to lead better: Slay your inner advice monster

While there is no universally accepted definition of what leadership is, there are key aspects of leadership that nearly everyone can agree on. One of these is that a true leader will develop the people around them, and encourage them to support one another.

And so in this article, we’re looking at leadership and peer-development. Peer-development really occurs when your team is at stage four of tribal leadership. Tribal Leadership (click to read the Actionable Summary) describes five stages of tribal culture encapsulated by a key phrase:

Stage One: “Life Sucks” (less than 2% of the pop.)
Stage Two: “My Life Sucks” (25% of workplace cultures)
Stage Three: “I’m great, (and you’re not)” (48% of workplace cultures)
Stage Four: “We’re great, (and they’re not)” (25% of workplace cultures)
Stage Five: “Life is great” (less than 2% of workplace cultures)

Getting to a stage-four tribal culture requires a strong group identity with core values and a shared vision. Once you are at this level, peer-development is ingrained in the culture and offers a way to drive performance. Valuing and focussing on peer-development allows you to bring out the best in everyone in your workplace tribe; so, how do you actually develop your peers?

Possibly the most effective way is coaching. As a leader, it’s often easy to rely on your expertise and give advice to others; but like the old adage suggests, we have two ears and only one mouth for a reason. People want to be heard, not lectured. So, how do you avoid being the annoying know-it-all advice-giver, and be your tribe’s go-to coach and leader?

Ask questions. It’s that simple really. Of course there is a more complex answer, which involves exploring the type of questions you ask, but in essence, being inquisitive and asking questions is the fundamental skill. Coaching works on the assumption that the best person to solve a problem, is the person with the problem. So rather than giving them the solution, your role is to help them arrive at the answer themselves, and you do that by asking questions. ‘The Coaching Habit’ offers seven questions to help.

The Seven Essential Coaching Questions:

  1. The Kickstart Question: “What’s on your mind?”
  2. The AWE Question: “And what else?”
  3. The Focus Question: “What’s the real challenge here for you?”
  4. The Foundation Question: “What do you want?”
  5. The Lazy Question: “How can I help?”
  6. The Strategic Question: “If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?”
  7. The Learning Question: “What was most useful to you about this conversation?”

Using more of these questions in your conversations and holding back the well-intentioned, but often relationship-harming urge to given advice can dramatically improve the culture of your tribe as all members begin to feel more respected and empowered.

You may want to write these questions down or print out this email so that you’re reminded to use them when someone comes up to you and asks if they can have a minute or two of your time (tip: start with question one and then continue on).




Jennifer Bates

Thank you Aileen for your coaching and wisdom. Your coaching style is very responsive, and you have a great balance of theoretical information that is backed up with practical advice. You have a good range of approaches to help work through a situation - from the very practical to the more quirky, but they all help guide the individual to the right answer. I appreciated that you not only took the coach role but on occasions you were the instructor - and that you clarified each time you stepped between those roles. I would recommend you to leaders and executives at any level in the organization.

Jennifer Bates, HR Manager - Leading Oil & Gas Company