Leadership Interview: Keith Svendsen ‘Linking Coaching to Leadership Success’

I have known and worked with Keith Svendsen since 2010. I’ve had the opportunity to observe him in a series of progressive leadership roles over a number of years. He is an enthusiastic advocate for his business and for his company. He has a strong business vision and has always been focussed on developing people, giving people space to work and delivering results. I caught up with Keith recently for one of our rare face-to-face meetings. I took the opportunity to ask him about how he sees coaching linking to leadership success.

Trevor Sherman: “Why is having a strong coaching capability important for the newly promoted leader?”

Keith Svendsen: “For the new leader the key has got to be about delivering results. They are now in the Leader of Others or Leader of Leaders role. They’ve been preparing for this for a long time, and now it’s about delivering results. Suddenly it’s not theoretical anymore. It’s not about having ideas about how other people should do the job. It’s their job now to get the maximum amount of performance and engagement out of this group of people for whom they’ve been given responsibility”.

Trevor Sherman: “Is this link between business success and the use of coaching for performance only important for the newly promoted leader?”

Keith Svendsen: “It’s similar for the established leader. It’s very important that both at organisational level and individual leadership level you realise that your individual success and your company’s success continues to be closely and uniquely tied to your ability to consistently deliver against ambitious goals. Your own leadership transition, and that of leaders reporting to you, will be energised according to your deployment of coaching for performance. If you are delivering results, you are engaging and building the talent of the people in your team. Doing these things consistently ensures your own probability of success will go up exponentially. You’re doing it because you want to enhance your probability of success. You’re doing the right thing as a leader, and taking responsibility for it”.

Trevor Sherman: “What is the nature and purpose of coaching for business performance?”

Keith Svendsen: “Coaching is not a casual conversation, it is purposeful dialogue between the coach and the coachee. This is the mind-set from which the manager needs to start. There are two specific situations in business where coaching is very valuable. The first is where a team member is not living up to his or her potential. The second is when a team member is already successful at producing results and can develop further. As a result of the coaching the team member begins to consider what is possible from a much wider perspective. At the same time they develop a realistic view of what it will take to be successful in achieving the agreed goals. Can you imagine having all your people doing this? The difference in aggregated performance would make a huge competitive advancement for your organization”.

Trevor Sherman: “What is your guiding philosophy when you are working through layers of leaders to get business results?”

Keith Svendsen: “The first thing to acknowledge is that, at a certain stage, the organisation gets to a size where you 100% rely on other people to deliver results. You cannot cope with it any more on your own. That is not true in smaller jobs. Even though you have teams, the teams are of a size where you can make sure you know everything that’s going on. Then what happens is you have the geographical disbursement. You are also starting to manage people with the classic problem where you don’t know their subject. And from knowing you are completely dependent on having the right team and for them to do the job, your role then is to unlock potential and engagement– getting them to do more. That’s where the link for coaching comes in. So how am I able to help my team unlock more performance and more potential from their team? With coaching of course”.

Trevor Sherman: “In your experience, what is the attitude that leaders should have towards becoming a successful leadership coach?”

Keith Svendsen: “The starting point is important, and let’s be clear about what it is. You must care about improving performance and building capability in your people. You need to approach each new leadership situation with a fertile mind-set. This means being open to the positive possibilities that can be achieved through people. I believe the manager’s job number one is simply to improve performance and build the capacity in people to do more. To be successful as a business manager requires many things and there is no magic potion that will accelerate your career. I believe that a successful manager in the 21st century needs to have coaching for performance as a tool in their leadership toolbox”.

Trevor Sherman: “How would you summarise the role of a leadership coach?”

Keith Svendsen: “Successful managers are responsible for using every legitimate resource, tool and strategy available to deliver results through people. When management is done well it contributes to competitive advantage and career advancements. It also attracts more opportunities, makes more money and attracts talented people. When good results are delivered, I believe management is among the most important professions you can seek. You are in a position where you have 8-10 hours available every day from every person who works with you. You have an opportunity to influence each person’s work. At the end of every day your people will go home feeling that they had a good day, they contributed something that matters and that they have personally improved. Isn’t that what you want? Isn’t that what all managers should want?”

Keith Svendsen LinkedIn Profile

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