An increased emphasis on authenticity and openness has led executives, founders, and leaders to seek out coaches to help them improve their leadership techniques. On this week's episode of The Human Factor, Eric Schurenburg, CEO of Mansueto Ventures, sat down with Alisa Cohn, executive coach and author of From Start-up to Grown-up, to discuss the link between personal growth and leadership.
Leadership may not come naturally to some people, says Cohn, but with the right guideposts, time and space for reflection, and support systems, anyone can work through their discomfort. "Let people find chinks in the armor--so that you can be a little bit vulnerable and a little bit human--so they can connect to you. Because that connection is what's going to help everyone feel more cohesive and more bonded, and that's going to be super useful as you try to grow your company."
With openness to growth also comes a need for self-awareness. An acknowledgement that you may be strong in certain areas, but lacking in others is especially important when hiring. Cohn says that if you're not careful, you can end up hiring yourself over and over again. That may be comfortable, but building a successful company takes all sorts of skills. "You need to be aware of your natural swing and make sure you're compensating for it," she says.
Cohn adds that two themes CEOs and leaders regularly need to work on are intentionality and positive feedback. In her book, she explains how to discover exactly what your team needs from you to be successful, and how to implement that through direct communication. She emphasizes that the best way to motivate is through positive feedback, "The reason it's important is because the most motivating thing for people is making progress, understanding how their work matters and how it fits into the bigger picture."
In addition to individual leadership tools, Cohn has advice for dealing with co-founders and other leaders. She stresses the importance of being on the same page, and using direct communication early and often to set expectations.
"It's hard work. It has a lot of ups and downs. You've got to manage your psychology, but as a personal growth experience, it's enormously satisfying and invaluable in terms of the assets it brings back to you," she says.