Executive Coaching

International Communications

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InternationalSo many more organizations today have to deal with, not alone work colleagues at other locations throughout the United States, but also throughout the world. This is obviously not a new phenomenon but is becoming more prevalent and many would try to argue it is easier because of advances in technology. However if would be a mistake to think that technological advances can somehow circumvent many of the communication challenges that often exist between different locations. If fact they can add to the angst.

When one considers the fundamentals of human nature, the realities of how human are supposed to communicate becomes apparent. First and foremost there has to be a relationship that is somehow grounded on familiarity. Unquestionably advances in video conferencing are far more effective than telephone or e-mail, but it still does not create a human connection. Site visits remain critical because the face to face social interaction is what establishes relationships.

The other component of this international divide is obviously culture. No matter what way you cut it, or despite best efforts, there are always going to be differences. One way to minimize this as an obstacle is to recognize the one common denominator in all cultures; respect. Many would argue that this is something you earn but how about looking at it from the perspective of it being something that you can lose? Start off by building respectful relationships by meeting people half way or, if taking the initiative, work hard at a relationship even if it does not appear as reciprocating.

The final piece is the dog and tail syndrome. Who are calling the shots and what level of autonomy truly exists? This is driven primarily as a function of senior leadership and whether the influential strength lies locally or at corporate. This can be a perilous situation which is great during good times, but extremely delicate when things are not going according to plan. Corporate cannot be ignored, so often the best policy is to maintain a respectful disposition that is based on open communication and appropriate involvement.

Global Leadership – The Culture Affect

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Based on some work I have been doing as an Executive Coach at Harvard Business Schools, I have had the opportunity to meet and interact with business leaders from all over the world. One of the significant observations of this international diversity has been a better understanding of culture. Culture can be defined very simply “how things work around here” and no matter what way you cut it, there are always going to be differences.

 When one considers the fundamentals of human nature, the realities of how humans are supposed to communicate becomes apparent. First and foremost there has to be a relationship that is somehow grounded in familiarity. Interestingly when one assesses culture, under whatever categoriglobales might be appropriate, you find that people have typically more in common than differences. Once you understand this and people become familiar with each other, it actually becomes quite easy to build on the similarities and respect the differences.

However cultural differences are not just about people from different parts of the world; it can also exist within organizations and often between the various hierarchical levels. How does the culture that is espoused by senior leadership compare to what actually exists on the ground. In this instance, “micro” cultures are created where various leaders can shape the behaviors, the respect (or lack of), the biases, etc so that sometimes it feels like you are walking into “another world”. Anybody who has worked with different organizations can attest to this.

So as we think about global culture, be mindful of how both personal and organizational cultures can actually shape behaviors. And to ensure that it functions in a positive way for all involved, ensure familiarity to build positive relationships, which in turn will generate respect.

ENERGY – Where Are You?

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energy 3Motivation can take on many forms from physical rewards and incentives (Extrinsic) to the more subtleties of recognition, fulfillment and general emotional satisfaction (Intrinsic). As human beings we don’t function or perform solely on motivation; we also need energy. But what do we mean by energy and how does it manifest itself in the workplace?

In this context energy is primarily sourced from our thoughts, beliefs and behaviors; essentially how we, as human beings, show up. Bruce Schneider of iPEC Coaching has done quite considerable research into this arena and he points to two major types of energy that are at opposite ends of a continuum.

1. Anabolic – this is positive energy and is characterized by constructive mindset intent on building relationships. This positivity is promoted through congruence with values and beliefs, and with a connection to personal purpose. Possibility is apparent and people in this space are active participants and want to achieve results. There is a contagion affect and people are attracted to those with this energetic state. At the highest level they have won the game before it starts; they know what they want and act appropriately and accordingly.

2. Catabolic – this type of energy is destructive and harmful to individuals and organizations. Apathy and anger are very apparent and there is a propensity for conflict and people being in the victim mode. This negativity causes people to disengage and, at best, passive which in turn fosters more catabolic energy. The attitude is defiance and total unwillingness to contribute as they feel they have no power, no choice and consequently no chance of success.

However, by virtue of these being driven by thoughts, beliefs and behaviors, they can be changed. Establishing self awareness around where you are at predominantly along this continuum is a great starting point. Even though we might have a predominant state, depending on circumstances, we also oscillate back and forth (good days and bad days!). However once this is better understood you can begin the process of moving to a place of choice and create action towards your desired state.

Similarities between Coaching and Investing

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insuranceI was recently researching the benefits of having a Whole Life Insurance Policy. For the uninformed this is like a life insurance plus an investment portfolio all wrapped up in one. The beauty of whole life insurance is that there is a payment when you actually die; the more typical life insurance policies expire when you turn 65. This all sounds very morbid but there is a point as it relates to coaching that I would like to elaborate on.

Firstly, on a very practical level, coaching is an investment both in terms of time, effort and money. You need to commit resources on a consistent basis in order to get a return. There is also a relationship to how much you put in and yes, just as with your money, there are trade offs in terms of redirecting some of your priorities.

Secondly, there’s the risk. What might coaching uncover about who you are, your purpose, your destiny? What actions will you be willing to take in pursuit of what matters most to you? How might it impact your family, the people you work with, your career or your business? With actions there are always consequences.

Thirdly, there’s the control. Unlike a financial investment, you have more control over YOU than anybody else. Coaching helps to create this self awareness and confidence, and the proof is the countless stories of how people have overcome enormous adversity in pursuit of a dream. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

And finally, there’s the return. With an investment portfolio, there are no guarantees but history would suggest that it you are in it for the long run, it will inevitably lead to a positive outcome. So it is with coaching, if you commit resources and are prepared to try new things, inevitably something positive will manifest.

Ironically the insurance policy alluded to above as “Whole Life” also pertains to coaching. Irrespective or what type you might receive, whether executive, career or wellness, there is no separation between personal and professional; they all intertwine. So in many respects what one is investing in is Whole Life Coaching.

Top 10 Leadership Traits

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(in no particular order)

18559263_blogThere appears to be an infinite amount of books on the subject of leadership and despite this every year more new ones come out. However to a large degree this subject just gets re-hashed through a different set of lens and therefore continues to be compelling reading for those of us that are seeking the Leadership Utopia of Knowledge. For those who don’t care to read them all, below are what I believe to be essential leadership traits. Do these well and you are 90% of the way there.

Clear vision of the future
They have absolute clarity on where the business is heading even if unsure how and by when they will get there. They truly believe in the vision.

Big picture thinkers
They focus on what’s critical and allow others to manage the detail by clearly understanding the key drivers and associated success indicators. They do not micromanage.

Invest in their people
They see that a primary role for them is to ensure that people are performing at an optimum level. Talent management, from recruitment to retirement, is one of their top priorities.

Sufficient general business knowledge
They know enough about all disciplines to execute upon the vision even though their expertise maybe in sales, operations, finance or some other discipline.

Possess a quiet determination
They work through adversity and understand that this is a journey, not a destination. They expect challenges along the way and work through them with great resolve.

Demonstrate emotionally intelligent behavior.
They understand that working with people is emotional and involves doing the appropriate thing, at the appropriate time, with the appropriate people.

Have personal humility
They possess an uncanny ability to downplay their own contribution and are more driven by supporting other people’s growth and success. They genuinely care about others and less about their own ego.

Self driven towards success
They are on their own with few peers and many reports. It can be lonely but they have learned to adapt well to this environment through a personal inner drive to succeed. They are determined and self motivated.

Look after their personal health
In order to perform at their best, they see their physical well being as key to their being sharp and alert. They exercise regularly.

Have a stable personal life
They ensure time for family because one cannot detach personal and professional life; consequently family provides a reciprocal understanding for their work commitments. They make time for both.

Mastermind Groups

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mastermindOver that last number of years the concept of Executive Peer or Mastermind Groups has become much more apparent. The concept of the Mastermind Group was formally introduced by Napoleon Hill in the early 1900’s. In his timeless classic, “Think And Grow Rich” he wrote about the Mastermind principle as: “The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony.” Its popularity is certainly gaining traction whether formally through organizations such as Linkage or TAB (The Alternative Board) or less so through Chambers of Commerce or individual coaches / consultants bringing together a group of their clients.

For those of you not familiar with these groups, essentially they are an opportunity to bring together non competing business owners and executives in a setting that is developmental, insightful and supportive. It works off the premise that very often this particular constituent is somewhat isolated within their own work environment relative to certain challenges and having an objective peer group provides the forum to address these types of issues.

For some they see the gathering as being akin to having an Advisory Board where challenges can be discussed and advice offered. For others it’s an opportunity to learn new ideas or share experiences. And finally it creates a sense of community and camaraderie (very often non existent within business) with like minded individuals in a trusting environment where real impactful issues can addressed.

This is not a remedial solution for dealing with a problem executive. On the contrary it is a very effective developmental forum through which business owners and executives can truly learn new ideas, become much more enlightened and motivated, and ultimately lead themselves and / or their businesses to greater success.

MOTIVATIONAL ENERGY

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energy 2Motivation can take on many forms from physical rewards and incentives (Extrinsic) to the more subtleties of recognition, fulfillment and general emotional satisfaction (Intrinsic). As human beings we don’t function or perform solely on motivation; we also need energy. But what do we mean by energy and how does it manifest itself in the workplace?

In this context energy is primarily sourced from our thoughts, beliefs and behaviors; essentially how we, as human beings, show up. Bruce Schneider of iPEC Coaching has done quite considerable research into this arena and he points to two major types of energy that are at opposite ends of a continuum.

  • Anabolic – this is positive energy and is characterized by constructive mindset intent on building relationships. This positivity is promoted through congruence with values and beliefs, and with a connection to personal purpose. Possibility is apparent and people in this space are active participants and want to achieve results. There is a contagion affect and people are attracted to those with this energetic state. At the highest level they have won the game before it starts; they know what they want and act appropriately and accordingly.
  • Catabolic – this type of energy is destructive and harmful to individuals and organizations. Apathy and anger are very apparent and there is a propensity for conflict and people being in the victim mode. This negativity causes people to disengage and, at best, passive which in turn fosters more catabolic energy. The attitude is defiance and total unwillingness to contribute as they feel they have no power, no choice and consequently no chance of success.

However, by virtue of these being driven by thoughts, beliefs and behaviors, they can be changed. Establishing self awareness around where you are at predominantly along this continuum is a great starting point. Even though we might have a predominant state, depending on circumstances, we also oscillate back and forth (good days and bad days!). However once this is better understood you can begin the process of moving to a place of choice and create action towards your desired state.

Behavioral Expectations

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“Constructive Disagreement, Then Loyalty”. I still remember this vividly as a behavioral expectation for a company I worked with over 25 years ago. There were 9 others which I don’t recall but with this one it encouraged debate, point of view, even disagreement; but then there was an expectation that once a decision was made, everybody would be committed and loyal. I liked that!

dogAs part of any planning process, most progressive companies labor over how they want the management and staff in order to execute upon the strategic intent. Much of what they come up with is truly admirable and there is a consensus that if everybody was to follow along, it would be a magnificent place to work and success would be eminent. Unfortunately most of it goes no further than the paper it is written on. Why is this?

In truth, like may similar endeavors, it is high on intent and poor on execution. For many, conforming to these expectations requires them to behave different to what they normally do. If constructive disagreement, then loyalty doesn’t sit well with you outside of work, you can’t just hit a switch and expect that you will when inside.

The other obvious reason is that in order to ensure a certain expectation of behaviors, those leading must model them. However many of these “leaders” think in terms of how others should show up rather than taking a hard look in the mirror themselves. Jim Collins, in the book Good to Great, put it so eloquently when he described Level 5 leaders as possessing this unique blend of personal humility and professional resolve. Associated with these traits are some unique behaviors that were modeled by these successful leaders but then subsequently expected of their employees.

In the end, these are only expectations and, in reality, sometimes they are present and often not. However there is an honorable intent in creating them in the first place and with perseverance, they can be slowly woven into the fabric of an organization. Behaviors are a function of one’s Emotional Intelligence and when combined with Intellectual Capacity form the bridge to organization success and sustainability. What do you think?

Optimum Consulting

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I recently made a contribution to a local business newspaper (Worcester Business Journal) about the growth of business consulting.  According to market and industry information firm Plunkett Research, the consulting industry has grown 10% from 2013 to 2014 with global revenues of $431billion in a fragmented market that is characterized by some very large players and then a proliferation of one person operations.

20757382_blogOne of the interesting parts of the article pertained to the difference between consulting and coaching which, for many purist coaches, there is a very important distinction.  However the way I view is that they are not exclusive when one thinks of coaching, not in the sports sense, but rather in terms of effective interpersonal skills.  What I like to refer to as Optimum Consulting is a method of sharing ones expertise (consulting) in a manner that fully engages the client (coaching), from problem identification all the way through to solution implementation.

The article also pointed to the fact that many consultants are now seeking coaching credentials to expand their marketability so that they can offer both consulting and executive coaching services.  And while this might be the initial motivation, many are now finding that together these skills enable them to be much more effective in delivering their specific expertise; aka Optimum Consulting.

Indeed this concept spreads even further relative to knowledge and effectively conveying it.  Think about our whole education system – the truly great teachers are also great coaches.  Within organizations, the strong leaders are also strong coaches and I would also go as far as to say that the best parents are also the best coaches.  They may not have received any formal training but innately they possess all the required skills and tools.

When you step back and think about this it seems perfectly logical.  We have all had the experience of consultants coming into organization and whilst there was no questioning their knowledge, their ability to connect, influence, engage and realize desired outcomes often left much to be desired.  Inevitably when nothing changed, it was easy to blame the consultant.  Clearly there is a what (knowledge) and an equally important how (coaching) to ensuring clients commit to the process and subsequently get full value for money.

Innovative Leadership

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In a recent article by Hill, Brandeau, Truelove and Lineback, they contended that “the heart of innovative problem solving is the need to both unleash individual slices of genius and harness them into collective genius”.  In so doing they described six innovative paradoxes:

1. Affirming the individual ……and the group
2. Supporting………and confronting
3. Fostering experimentation and learning……………and performance
4. Promoting improvisation………….and structure
5. Showing patience…………….and urgency
6. Encouraging bottom up initiative………and intervening top down

8558531_blogWith something so subjective, as a leader how do you ensure balance? One key rule of thumb is to work towards doing the right thing, at the right time with the right people. Having this level of self awareness and awareness of others creates the environment for selecting where to be on each of the six continuums.

Another good technique to employ is transparent two way communication. This creates an ease of dialogue whereby both parties know and understand what the other is thinking. All too often unclear expectations and poor feedback leads to interpretations and assumptions that do not serve the intended purpose.

Finally we can also learn from what Jim Collins offered as Level 5 Leadership in Good to Great; he talked about a blend of Professional Resolve and Personal Humility. In an uncanny way, with the above the humility has a strong tendency on the left, whereas the resolve is very present on the right.