Posts Tagged ‘leadership coaching’

Three Signs That You’re Ready for a Coach June 27 2013 2 responses

coach-whistle1When I wrote a post last week called Three Reasons You Should Not Hire a Coach, I promised to revisit the topic this week with the reasons you should hire a coach.

Upon further reflection, I thought it would be more useful to share three signs that you’re ready for a coach. Much like last week’s post, my point of view is informed by more than a dozen years of working with scores of great coaching clients and, frankly, a few that I shouldn’t have taken on.

So, based on that experience, here are three signs that you’re ready for a coach.

That’s a Good Question August 7 2012 4 responses

Last week, I had coffee at the San Francisco airport with a new friend of mine, Ed Batista. Ed is a leadership coach who does most of his work in the MBA program at Stanford. We met each other online (no, not through but through our mutual friend, leadership blogger Wally Bock ). When I found out I was going to be in the Bay Area, I got in touch with Ed to see if we could meet up face to face.

I’m really glad we did. Ed is an exceedingly good coach and just a fun guy to hang out with. One of the things we talked about was the questions we ask as coaches. Before our meeting, I did a little bit of homework on Ed by poking around on his website and blog. One of the things that really stood out for me was his “Introduction to Our Coaching Engagement” section that he asks his new clients to read before their first meeting with Ed. It’s full of excellent questions like:

  • How do you deal with disappointment or failure? How do you deal with success?
  • What one thing could you do immediately that would make the greatest difference in your current situation?
  • What would make your work so compelling that you would do it without compensation?

For me, and, I suspect, most coaches, one of the most rewarding parts of the job is when I ask a client a question and they pause and say, “That’s a good question.” It’s at those moments that I know I’m adding some value. Ed’s questions are like that. They add value because they make you stop and think.

The good questions are the ones that disrupt the flow of everyday thinking and cause someone to step back and really look at what’s going on or what they’d like to have going on. They’re the ones that, as Harvard’s Ron Heifetz might say, get you off the dance floor and onto the balcony.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a professional coach to ask good questions. If you’re interested in asking them, I can offer three ideas that can help:

1. Have a commitment to helping your colleagues get off the dance floor occasionally to stop, think and reflect on what’s going on.

2. Ask open ended, non-agenda driven questions that get them up on the balcony.

3. Be quiet and listen to their answers. Allow them to talk.

What about you? What difference has a good question made to you? What’s the best question you’ve ever been asked?

How to Find Out What’s Really Going On June 7 2012 one response

I’m on the road for the rest of the week working with new executives on delegation skills today and delivering colleague feedback to a senior executive coaching client on Friday. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been conducting a lot of colleague interviews for that client and two others. Even though I’ve conducted these kinds of interviews for a dozen years now, I’m still learning new things about how to find out what’s really going on for a client.

What got me thinking about this was an article I read recently in Booz and Company’s Strategy and Business Magazine. It was called “Navigating the First Year:  Advice from 18 Chief Executives.” It’s a good read for any leader who finds or expects to find themselves in a new job.

One of the CEOs who participated in the article was Chip Bergh of Levi Strauss. Here’s what he said about how he figured out what was really going on in his new company:

I spent the first month mostly listening. I came up with a set of standard questions: What three things must we preserve? What three things must we change? What do you most hope I will do? What are you most concerned I might do? What advice do you have for me? … I spent an hour with (over 65 people) and basically just listened and took notes as they answered the questions.

What was interesting was that after about 15 or so interviews, it was pretty clear what the objectives needed to be. People inside the company knew what needed to happen, and it was pretty consistent.

Bergh’s experience is similar to three things I find in conducting feedback interviews for my clients.  First, if you work from a standard set of questions you can compare and contrast the answers and see the patterns.  Second, if you ask short, open-ended questions you can learn a lot.  Third, you don’t have to interview scores of people to find out what’s really going on.  The patterns emerge pretty quickly after a dozen or so conversations.

Bergh asked some great questions.  Here’s what I’ve been asking my clients’ colleagues lately and why I think they’ve helped in finding out what’s really going on for my clients:

Are You a Transmitter or a Receiver? April 26 2012 one response

One of the things I love most about leadership coaching is the opportunity to see lots of different executives in action.  I get to see them in team meetings, in presentations, in one-on-one’s, and just walking around the plant or office.  In addition to the first-hand observations, I usually collect a lot of feedback from the executives’ managers, peers and direct reports.  It’s a lot of good data, and I love culling through it for patterns that underlie high performance.

Here’s a conclusion I’ve come to lately.  The best leaders spend less time transmitting and more time receiving.

The transmitters are so focused on driving their agenda and goals that people eventually tune them out.  It’s sort of like changing the dial on the radio or fast forwarding on the DVR when the commercials come on.  You’ve heard it all so much that you just want to ignore it.

The receivers have agendas and goals as well but they do more than just hammer the message home.  They stop to learn and observe what’s going on with people.  They stop because they think they might actually have something to learn that will help everyone reach or exceed the goal faster and better.

Are you a transmitter or a receiver?  Here’s a quick self-assessment:

3 New Leadership Lessons from Yoga April 19 2012 6 responses

So, for those keeping score at home, over the past year and a half I think I’ve become a yogi.  Am I on the verge of releasing my own instructional yoga videos?  Fortunately for you and the rest of the world, I’m not that kind of yogi.  Nah, I’m just a guy who’s showing up for class consistently and learning lots of little things bit by bit.   As I’ve written before, it turns out that with hours of practice (still far away from the 10,000 that Malcolm Gladwell recommends) and good instruction, you can change the way you show up.

Apart from the physical and mental health benefits (and learning a few fun party tricks), one of the things I like about yoga is the opportunity it provides for making connections to the rest of the world.  As a leadership coach, I’m big into encouraging my clients to practice self-observation so they form and practice the habits that best serve their goals.   With that principle in mind, here are three things I’ve observed through yoga over the past several months that I think apply to leadership and the rest of life:

How to Coach Leaders to Really Change March 19 2012 one response

There was a great article in the New York Times on Sunday called “Helping Managers Find, and Fix, Their Flaws.” It details the seminal work of Harvard’s Bob Kegan and Lisa Lahey and how they’ve leveraged their research to help leaders make lasting changes that make them more effective. My guess is a lot of leadership coaches soaked up that article because Kegan and Lahey’s books are go-to resources for just about anyone who’s a serious player in the coaching industry.

One of their big ideas is that leaders often have competing commitments. For instance, I might be committed to leading at a more strategic, big-picture level. At the same time, I might have a commitment to making sure that everything that comes out of my shop is absolutely perfect (i.e. done exactly the way that I would do it myself).

How can leaders overcome those competing commitments and move on to whatever their next level is? I’ll share two ideas that my colleagues and I teach in the “Flow of Coaching” segment of the Georgetown Leadership Coaching Certificate Program. Both of these are consistent with the approach that Kegan and Lahey use with their clients.

The first idea is what we call a Self Observation Exercise. The second is what we call a Behavioral Practice. The first often sets up the second.