Member spotlight: Leadership coach Heather Warner of Unravel Group
Coaching can be seen as “a bit fluffy” admits leadership coach Heather Warner. But the Director of Unravel Group believes coaching skills are vital for a changed, post-Covid world.
Heather joined Growth Faculty as a member during the pandemic in 2020. In the years since she's noticed the workplace shifting to a “far more individual approach” and business cultures struggling to adapt.
As part of our member spotlight series, we interviewed Heather about the changed workplace, post-Covid leadership, and how the Growth Faculty Pass keeps her up-to-date with current leadership thinking. (Interview has been edited for length)
GF: Heather, where are the challenges presenting themselves for leaders post-COVID?
Heather: Well, the biggest thing is the completely different ways of working. When we talk about people and culture, the world has shifted to a far more individual approach as opposed to the collaborative approach.
How we define culture - you know, the ideas, the customs, the social behaviour, the ‘how we do things around here’ –has completely changed because people want to work from home, so the team isn’t always together in one spot.
We need to totally re-look at processes in our businesses, both the written and the unwritten, how we celebrate successes, and how we tackle and manage challenges when we are not all in the one spot. It’s a big shift for businesses, and it’s challenging.
GF: Tell us about Unravel Group.
Heather: Unravel Group is my new business providing strategic advice and coaching. It’s helping businesses be the best they can be and that is largely through people. So, it’s a people and culture focus.
Coaching is typically seen as a one-on-one, and a bit fluffy as well, but really coaching can help people see where they’re stuck from an individual perspective or across the full executive team.
GF: Is it important to coach just the executive team or should there be development across the whole organisation?
Heather: I think it depends on the organisation. You need to start with all the leaders and perhaps give the opportunity to other staff, but ultimately, I want to help leaders learn to coach their team.
So, really, I’m wanting to teach them to fish, as opposed to me having some secret, magic way that I impart on them, which would require me to meet with every other person on the team. I’d rather see that they are learning skills to go and coach their own team members.
GF: What would be some of the first things you would do as a leadership coach?
Heather: It’s all about listening to start with and to understand what’s not working.
If I was working with a leader who was finding it difficult to engage, inspire or motivate the team, then I’d be working with that individual to try to understand what’s happening, what’s not working, and how can we shift that.
If it’s a broader remit where they’re actually wanting to kickstart their business, or an executive with a large team wanting to kickstart that team, then we’d be look at their strategic plan.
We’d be looking at where they’re aiming to get to, and really starting to break down what’s not working and starting to tease out (that’s the reason I chose the name ‘Unravel’ – people tie themselves in knots) – so trying to tease out what the real problems are and to perhaps see a different point of view or try a different approach to get some results.
GF: What’s a tip for leaders to better coach their teams?
Heather: It’s going to sound crazy but listen, I mean really listen, I mean stop talking, move away from the screen and just really listen to what the team member is saying, and what the
team is saying.
My background is ontological coaching which explores language. It’s beneficial to listen to the language people use and tune into ‘Why are they saying that?’ ‘Why are they making that assessment about the situation – is that exactly how it is or do we need to unpack that assessment?’
‘Are they making requests that are not clear or smart?’ Maybe they’re sloppy requests?
‘Are they getting commitments from their team members?’ Or, are they getting ‘slippery maybes’ – which is the ‘yeah, yeah, I’ll get to it, which isn’t really a commitment, it’s not a promise that you’re going to get something done.
Unpacking assessments, sloppy requests, and slippery maybes are, unfortunately, just about the breakdown in every workplace communication.
GF: You’re an active member of Growth Faculty and an enthusiastic participant in our masterclasses. What, for you, are 3 main benefits of being a Growth Faculty Pass holder?
Heather: Firstly, the speakers you get, you have such a great variety and they are world-renowned. It’s that access to amazing tools, tips, techniques, insights, from such a wide range of people, wide range of cultures, it’s fantastic.
The second thing is that it’s very accessible, although sometimes in Western Australia the very early starts that suit the Eastern
States aren’t so great, but they work very well in the day.
Thirdly, it’s very regular. You’re providing resources for us all of the time, both through the recordings and the regular live webinars and book reviews. There’s a wealth of material available at your fingertips.
GF: How does the Growth Faculty Pass make you more effective?
Heather: One of the key things is that Growth Faculty keeps me current. I’m a small business and I operate from one of the most remote cities in the world in Perth in Western Australia.
Growth Faculty provides that wealth of international talent, insight, and current thinking to keep me up-to-date, and that’s invaluable for me when I’m speaking to businesses.
GF: And what other professional development do you do?
Heather: As a Human Resources professional, I’m a member of AHRI (the Australian Human Resources Institute) and they do run a number of webinars etc, and I’m also in TEC (The Executive Connection), where I’m a chair as well as a member.
As well as a speaker once a month, TEC has the afternoon session where it’s issue processing or working on a particular challenge that I might have, or I might help one of the other members in my group to work on a challenge they might have.
GF: What are the main goals for Unravel Group this year?
Heather: Growth trajectory. I’m a very new business. I had another business for 21 years so I’m starting fresh, and this one’s more about me, and about building that strategic advice and coaching programme throughout Western Australia.
I really want to work with executives and leaders and help them navigate the challenging times that we have.
We’ve coming out of Covid, but we’re left with the aftermath of hybrid working places that are not working particularly well and habits that we got into during Covid that we’re now trying to understand and manage.
I really want to help leaders to cope with burnout, and the recruitment challenges they have by engaging their people and enabling them to be the best they can be.
For more learning on building a better culture, book our live virtual Global Headline event in May when organisational health expert Patrick Lencioni will be guest of Growth Faculty for Patrick Lencioni: 6 Types of Genius in a Happy and Engaged Team.
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