The key to understanding others is to first know yourself.
This article by John Reed, Ph.D, MBA was in this months Caliber Leadership Systems newsletter. I am posting it here as it offers some great criteria to consider when you want to find the right Executive Coach for your needs.
What We Debate
In “Coaching and The Digital Era, Part One and Two, we discussed some thoughts on how executive coaches can prepare their clients for the Digital Era. In this last of the series we take a look at competencies and skills.
Determining what competencies and skills may need to be added or further developed for people in leadership roles to be successful in the Digital Era has been a topic of debate for several years now. The responses from various sources range from “no change necessary” to moving abilities higher on the scale of importance to leadership success. Some seem obvious, such as communication skills being further developed and conflict management skills moving higher in importance. Some seem counter productive, such as “ability to do extreme multitasking” and others suggest that one can be a great leader in the Digital Era without being technical or needing a degree in computer science. Another line of thought stated that a Digital Era leader would need to know which of the digital strategies and tools are relevant to their business model.
What We Know-Act Now
We need to increase our awareness and skills, while being able to appropriately filter information. Ultimately it may be the ability to delegate, to push responsibility, accountability and decision-making further out in the organization. How quickly this happens will depend on the current culture and the willingness of the senior decision makers to commit to the change.
Preparing For The Future
What are the implications for coaches in all of this? We need to best serve our clients by focusing on the skills that will carry them through most situations and remain resilient. Creating a framework for behavioural and interpersonal skill development that can be customized according to a clients need is perhaps more helpful than working with a set product or method. A set product or method can be helpful at certain times to quickly resolve some immediate issues. For long-term benefit pay attention to what this client needs for the future. Products and methods eventually saturate the market and lose their effectiveness as a competitive advantage. Flexible skill development offers agility, adaptability, alignment and laughability [Eileen McDargh defines resilience this way] and resilience is both an individual and organizational imperative.
Is Resilience That Important?
Yes! Resilience is important as it is widely recognized as being critical to remaining able to handle change. One note from working and researching in the change field for a long time is that people transition through change at different speeds and often may appear to move to new beginnings. Then suddenly slide back to the neutral zone or to the behaviours prior to the change. This may be because more change happens when they are still figuring out how to handle existing change. The effort required to learn something new or the glitches that come along with a new system or process is frustrating and demotivating. Additionally, the influence of those around us affects how we view the current state. A state of confusion, feeling anxious, unsure and frustrated can only be tolerated for so long. The stronger our resilience, the better able we are to handle what comes along.
Filters and Focus
Connecting the dots between coaching, technology, and leadership asks that we look beyond the obvious, that we look outside a narrow focus of attention, but that we do so using appropriate filters and the ability to know when to move ahead given the information on hand. Connecting the dots in general helps us look forward to prepare for what will challenge us next, for the opportunities that may not be obvious right now, and as a coach, to help us offer longer term benefits to our clients. Focus on what will create the longest lasting results, the ripple effect, rather than the quick fix. Your clients deserve this and so do you as a coach.
In “Coaching and The Digital Era” connecting the dots began exploring why executive coaches need to be aware of how to connect the dots that are often not obvious to others. Often, when a client signs on with an executive coach they are asking for help to resolve a specific challenge. During the coaching contract it is possible to simply focus on that specific challenge and your client will be satisfied. In business coaching this may be a good outcome for a client. In Executive Coaching it may be the least effective outcome for a client. Executive coaching primarily focuses on behavioural and interpersonal skills that clients need to be effective today, and must also serve them well in the future. This is part of creating resiliency, which is a non-negotiable requirement for individuals and organizations.
Eileen McDargh offers a positive definition of resiliency:
- It is about growing through
- It is about possibility
- It is about advantage
Resilience Is More Important
The Digital Era makes this even more compelling because our behaviour and interpersonal skills become increasingly public and are open to opinions or reactions from a broader range of humans than in the past. I hope that by now more people are aware that simply not participating in online activities does not inoculate us from the effect that digital technologies have on us.
The Order Of Things
A comment often heard is that business leaders try to solve problems by buying technology without appearing to be aware of the effect that the technology will have on the people in the organization. Simply bringing in new tools will create a ripple effect in the organization although whether it turns out to be positive or not may be left to chance. The skills required for success in the Digital Era are the same skills that business leaders must use when making technology decisions.
Technology and Behaviour
As a coach that focuses on behavioural and interpersonal skills I see the need to understand the variety of ways that people react or respond to technology before, during and after introduction. It is pretty much the same kind of reaction and responses that we have seen in other types of change projects over the past twenty years. We humans are wired to sort, label, and box our solutions when we are confronted by change we don’t initiate. We seek to control, to the extent possible, how the change will affect us. And even in this reaction to control we affect those around us. We also can miss connecting the dots and therefore lose the best possible outcomes.
Different Thinking Patterns
Some of us are hardwired to be more comfortable with change [indeed even deliberately create change] than others. It is in open dialogue that we can find the best possible solution. I sometimes encounter people in management positions who declare that they can’t please everyone and that for multiple reasons must make all decisions unilaterally. I also encounter managers that seem to hover in the realm of ambiguity.
In organizations the ability of the leader to bring both the unilateral and ambiguous thinkers together to arrive at the best outcome is an ongoing challenge. In the Digital Era being able to work collaboratively, spark creativity and innovation are necessary to the sustainability of an organization. Outdated management practices reflect a failure to connect the dots.
Putting It Together
How does this connect to the Digital Era? Digital technology offers us the ability to bring more ideas and solutions forward than ever before.
In the past access to this level of information and collaboration through digital technology was either not available or very expensive and time consuming to get. In the Digital Era, we need to adapt to use it effectively and this requires understanding how individuals will interact and react differently with technology. Coaches that understand the importance of this can offer their clients a level of awareness that will place them ahead of the curve.
Today’s post may seem a little off topic for an executive coaching blog entry. I believe it is on topic and if you join me on this little journey over this and the next two blog posts that will become clear.
I Connect The Dots
One of the things I do to improve my own practice and skills is a combination of participating in formal and informal learning opportunities that are directly related to my work or that add awareness that helps me better relate to my clients challenges. A significant challenge for anyone in their own business is bringing in new clients, retaining existing clients through new offerings and always providing the best product or service you can. Most of my learning is rightfully focused on skills that will directly benefit my clients. Part of this is observing trends especially those that offer a fishbowl of human behaviour.
Technology, Social, Sell
With the rise of social media/networks have come an unprecedented call to engage in marketing, branding, selling and ‘engaging’ to the degree that ones real business starts to feel like it takes second place to the call of the media glare. It is easy to see how we can get caught up in it as many of us have expertise in areas that are not about marketing at all. So we are wide-eyed, open to suggestion and seeking the “ten easy steps to marketing your business” advice that proliferates on the Internet and is one of the predominant themes of “Meet Up” events purported to be about networking.
Things That Resonate
Today I read a blog post that really resonated for me as Dr. Giurleo so clearly comments on several things I have observed over the past 18 months as I added ‘marketing’ and ‘branding’ to my things that intrigue me list.
I also volunteer for the Global Leadership Team at The Denovati Group, which offers a wide range of resources to understand the Digital Era, of which ‘social media’ is just one aspect. Participating here is one way I keep ahead of the curve on what all this technology based change means to us both individually and organizationally. It also offers something we need more of, thoughtful, respectful, open minded offerings of how our world is changing.
These Things Are Not The Same or Are They?
Coaching executives, emerging leaders, and professionals seeking to gain excellence in their workplace interactions means that an effective coach needs to be aware of how to connect the dots that are often not obvious to others. If I, as a coach can help my clients benefit from being better able to see what is ahead, the challenges and the opportunities, they will be ahead of the curve in their ability to lead in their organization or profession.
And the rise of the Digital Era, which is largely a result of the creation of ‘social’ based technologies, is not a trend for right now, but a signal of what is ahead.
When seeking a coach, in addition to finding someone you trust with your challenges, you also want to consider if they will help you find your own ‘connecting the future dots’ ability.
One question I get often lately is whether I will provide coaching if the client wants to focus on their development needs outside the workplace. This question is a good one because my online presence focuses on leadership in the workplace. My clients tell me that they do use what they learn from our coaching sessions and the work they do to support those sessions in their activities outside work.
It is important to point out here that I am not a life coach. The competencies and skills that I work on with my clients improve performance in the workplace are the same skills that are very applicable to activities in their lives outside the workplace. Relationship skills, communication, conflict resolution, establishing trust are all important to us regardless of where we are using these skills.
There are several pressure points that affect our ‘technical’ interpersonal skills and this means that we benefit from revisiting where we stand regularly. One of the biggest pressure points is change. Change that we choose deliberately such as a career path or change, leaving an employer and starting with a new employer, moving from working for others or creating our own business. We also must adapt to external changes such as new technology, economy shifts, globalization, job loss, changes to current jobs, etc.
Change Is Still Change
My research several years ago and experience with change indicated that resilience is the most important competency to successfully dealing with all this change. This still holds true today and now we have some news from neuroscience that helps us further understand how we can strengthen our resilience through mindfulness and through creating collaborative relationships both at work and outside work. So, this important information holds true.
Something else that is important is that these skills don’t go away but we do need to continually strengthen them and add to the depth of our skill level or we will find ourselves slipping behind as all those external changes occur.
You likely have guessed the answer to the question about the benefits of my Executive Coaching process to activities outside of the workplace by now.
Executive coaching is absolutely beneficial-to both your workplace activities and your non-workplace activities. This is the right time for you to explore the benefits of coaching.
Register right now for one of our 30-minute consultations to discuss how your workplace and non-workplace activities will benefit. You can register here,or email Karin.firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call (604) 789-9317.
How To Make Your Executive Coaching Experience Effective
Coaches often use assessments as a way to uncover underlying issues that the client may not be aware of and they can be very helpful in finding new ways to understand what our limiting beliefs are and how to overcome them.
The effective executive coach offers clients services that approach their challenges from various methods, asking important questions, uncovering limiting beliefs, helping clients discover their own solutions and offering the client their own practical solutions when appropriate and necessary.
Defining The Successful Experience
A successful coaching relationship requires that the client is fully committed to achieving the goals and overcoming the challenges set out in the coaching contract. This means that the client completes assignments, attends all scheduled coaching sessions, is on time and prepared for each session, is open and honest in discussing their challenges and experiences.
Are You Ready?
Coachability is the readiness of the client to accept the coaching process as outlined and that the client is 100% committed to the process. Clients who are not ready for this commitment are not well served by the coaching process.
Answer these five questions before signing on with an executive coach:
- What do I expect to achieve from working with a coach?
- How committed am I to setting aside the time to attend coaching sessions and to complete the exercises that my coach will assign me?
- Am I prepared to openly communicate with my coach regarding the goals and challenges I am working on? Am I prepared to question my coach when I don’t understand why they are asking me to do something?
- Am I prepared to complete the evaluation process and accept with an open mind the outcomes of the evaluation process?
- What questions will I ask a prospective executive coach to determine if they are the right coach for me?
Other Thoughts To Consider
Understanding that at some point the coaching experience can feel uncomfortable up front helps clients be better prepared to work through the challenges that may arise. Be open with your coach when you are feeling this way in order to ensure that you can work through it and stay on track.
As things progress through the coaching relationship changes may be made to goals or methods, depending on specific requirements. This is one of the many benefits of coaching for professionals in that the one-to-one work means that adjustments and adaptations can be made as suitable quickly and effectively. Coaching is specific, measurable and focused.
The coaching experience will be positive and clients always feel a sense of increased energy and focus through the process.
Your coach will be clear and straightforward if you do not complete assignments, or do not appear to be participating fully in the coaching process by directly asking you to reaffirm your commitment. If the lack of adequate participation continues the coach may end the coaching and/or may refer the client elsewhere if appropriate.
Coaching for executives and professionals a very rewarding experience for clients and the achievement of your goals is the focus for your coach.
In my work I constantly scan for new information, opportunities to learn and to indulge my curiosity. Absorbing all that information on a daily basis can help us feel informed and that we have some measure of control over what happens in life. Every once in awhile I receive a reminder that I need a break from all that information loading and that believing that all the bases are covered can be deceptive.
My Personal Reminder
Last week I discovered that a local shop was sharing information with a government body without my knowledge. I was asked a series of questions most of which I declined to answer because I could not see why gathering that information was relevant to the business I do there. So, I asked the question: What is this for? I have never been asked these questions before. The answer: This is for [government department]. My response: What does this have to do with that department-this is private information? The response was not reassuring, however it became clear that the sharing of information has been going on for some time, that all similar businesses are doing it, and that few people are aware that their information is being transferred to this government department.
I was disturbed by the fact that this is done without our knowledge or agreement and further unhappy that the questions were designed to collect further information to be forwarded. I was also not happy that the reason for this sharing of information received a general and unhelpful response as to why it was being done. If I hadn’t asked the “What is this for?” question, I still would be unaware of what is going on with that particular personal data. Yet people answer these questions in shops all the time without ever asking a few of their own!
Social Media, Connections, Awareness
You may recall that I also do considerable research and some writing on the impact of social media on people in organizations and speak about how leadership skills and communication skills need to change in order to effectively manage with the advent of the tools. It might therefore seem odd that I was shocked to learn about my personal information being shared with a government agency without my knowledge. The key factor here is that it was without my knowledge and that is unacceptable. The real lesson for me that day though is to remember to ask more questions! I do this in my work frequently, coaches ask a lot of questions. When I worked in HR and Organizational Development roles, I asked a lot of questions.
Whenever I am asked for information by a business that I don’t see as relevant to my purchase or reason for doing business, I ask questions. In the situation above I had never asked the question because it had never crossed my mind they might be doing what they were doing. Sharing information with a government department without my knowledge. Yes in this hyper connected world I should have at least been curious about it.
And asking questions in the workplace is critical to ensuring that we understand what is going on, that our advice or solutions are effective, that customers and co-workers and employees know that we are aware of their contribution, that our answers and solutions are targeted accurately to their requirements.
What, when, why, where, who and how are great question starters! The more we use them, the better our outcomes will be. The less often we will be surprised by a result we didn’t see coming.
Last month I attended a webinar [World Business of Leadership Summit-Pre-Conference] in which Marshall Goldsmith talked about Identity. I distilled some of the points down to this:
- Leadership is perception. Leadership is not just behaviour.
- We have to believe that we can change before we convince others we can change.
- Behaviour change alone can lead to a feeling of lack of authenticity.
- It is harder to change perceptions that it is to change behaviour.
- If the change lasts over time it will change perceptions.
This approach is true for any of us, whether in a leadership position or not-we can take the opportunity to act towards our goals and to contribute to our community if we understand it can be an uncomfortable feeling at various points in the process and we choose to endure that discomfort temporarily to achieve what we want.
Where does this leave us on the question of what we can change? We cannot change a genetic predisposition [hardwiring] but we can change behaviour. We can also learn to value, accept and maximize the potential of what we cannot change. Which is another way of saying we can change our behaviour and our perceptions of ourselves. Our conditioning sometimes leads us away from valuing our hardwired selves and it takes awareness and work to regain that self-value and then to use it in a beneficial way.
Two non-math equations for you:
(A) Your Brain + Your Conditioning + Perception = Your Identity.
(B) Your brain + Your Conditioning + Coaching = Your New Identity. + Perception of Your New Identity
You can choose which equation you want. Where do you want to be?
As I work with the Striving Styles Personality System (SSPS) more often with others it prompts me to think back to my own style and how often an idea would seem like a good one at the time and through different reactions came to land on the growing pile of things I left behind.
I remember attending the ballet at the theatre as a young child and thinking how wonderful it would be to be a ballerina. Being able to dance like that seemed like a worthwhile goal for a six year old although at the time I had no idea just how hard it is to accomplish. The grace of the ballerinas, the costumes and even the ballet slippers all added to my fascination, the dedicated effort to earn all that did not even enter my mind.
I did not understand my real motivation for thinking being a ballerina would be ideal. I did learn quite quickly through my own ballet classes that it was a tedious, difficult and boring process for me. My ballet teacher agreed although I think her version was something like “doesn’t pay attention, doesn’t practice, blah, blah, blah” Well, that was the end of my ballet career-I still love to be in the audience but I have no desire to be on the stage.
Similar inspiration and attempts in the fields of music, drama, and sports followed a similar path. The good news is that I tried a lot of different things and that habit has followed me throughout my life. I learn by trying things out, it helps me understand what it takes for people in other professions or careers to experience and to achieve their success and certainly increases my respect for those who succeed. I know what I do well and what is best left to others quite clearly.
On the question of whether I agree with Malcolm Gladwell’s premise in Outliers that anyone can achieve what they want with 10,000 hours of practice , my response is not really. My belief is that for some things an innate talent is part of the equation. This isn’t something I can prove with artfully displayed data but I believe it for the same reason that I believe that truly effective leaders start with some innate talent. It is that most of us can learn the mechanics of how things are done. The mechanics of how to lead, how to move like a ballerina, how to play guitar like a rock star are things that we can learn from others, from books, from observation and through practice. The ability to imbue these roles with the beauty that takes us beyond the mechanics into our imaginations –that innate talent to invoke positive emotions in others through our art-that I believe requires innate talent as one part of the puzzle piece.
The question left from all this experiential activity mentioned earlier is why I was so attracted to activities that I had little interest or motivation to do the required work in. I thought it was simply satisfying my curiosity and offering some insight into the work experience of others-which is part of the overall picture. The SSPS offers another piece of that puzzle and one that took me some time to understand and accept. It wasn’t just wanting to be able to achieve or create something of beauty-it was wanting to be recognized for achieving something out of the ordinary. And in my youth I had no real idea of what my innate talent was. That would begin to show up in small but not very clear ways as I started attending a leadership program as a teenager and would take much experience, reflection, learning and consideration to fully become clear later on. Working with other people to help them unleash their own talents and those activities and choices that help move them to self-actualization was my innate talent and one that took a long time to recognize. It took experience, practice, reflection, questioning, curiosity and an unrelenting seeking of information, and of learning to recognize it.
What is your innate talent? What are you inspired and motivated by to the degree that you will focus your time and attention on it long enough to acquire the skills that make the innate talent something that can be expressed externally?
Coaching is a way of facilitating self-directed neuroplasticity. Jeffrey Schwartz
Have you found yourself starting or engaging with others a discussion about how you feel about work lately? Do you want a career or job change but feel locked in for financial reasons, or a perceived lack of skills, or a concern that a new job will require more expensive education? Downsized or fear you may be soon, but not sure what you want to do next? I am hearing these concerns more often lately from people just starting their careers all the way through to people who have many years of experience.
The State Of Working In Organizations
There are many articles, books, and seminars on the topic of how employers can improve the workplace experience and on how we as individuals can choose work that meets our needs. There is much talk about hiring for ‘fit’ as well as technical skills but this is an employer prerogative. I hear frustration from many people who see it as an obstacle to getting an offer for a job they have the skills for but were not hired because they are not seen as a ‘fit’ with the company culture. There are many different criteria that go into hiring decisions and the best way to avoid the trap of trying to ‘fit’ in somewhere that may not be a good choice for you is to take the time to understand yourself, accountability and control.
One thing that you can do is to create a career plan for yourself that recognizes your skills as well as whether or not the work and the company culture will also fit your needs.
We Are Only Able To Control What We Bring To The Table
How often do you see articles on accountability lately? Do they include tips on how to view accountability in conjunction with what we are able to control? Let’s talk about that today because talking about accountability within the context of what is within our control is realistic and offers a sense of “I can do that” to the discussion.
This Is Something I Have Observed In Other Training Sessions
Today I read a post at ChristopherinHR [you can read it in full here] in which he describes a training session that garnered a repeated response from the facilitator “What Have You Done About That”–asking for personal accountability in the face of participants putting up resistance to the training. Whether or not you agree with the trainer’s approach or the author’s reaction to the situation, the best way to add power to your own accountability is to better understand it in context of what you can control. Often, we have more control over outcomes that we realize, and this is something that coaches often help us unleash.
Start Somewhere Different
When you are trying to solve a problem do you focus solely on the problem itself and try to solve it in a linear fashion? Do you find yourself feeling frustrated when you realize that solving the problem is not within your control? Do you feel inspired or frustrated when someone tells you to ‘change the way you look at the problem or change your attitude towards it’?
When you feel stuck in a workplace or career situation it helps to unpick the story before trying to find a solution. It is natural to look for solutions first; after all we want our problems solved as quickly as possible. When the problem is recurring or of long-standing going straight to a solution may not provide the best outcome and can potentially act as a Band-Aid rather than a longer-term solution.
Unpick The Story?
This involves a process of pulling apart all facets of the situation and considering things from a different perspective. This process requires some patience and a willingness to accept a certain level of discomfort for a period of time. The outcome of doing this is a better solution and often the response you will choose in the end can be quite different from what you may have come up with if you went straight to a solution.
What Does This Have To Do With Accountability & Control
Asking someone to be ‘accountable’ in a situation where they perceive they have little or limited control is a challenging proposition. It tends to elicit a reaction rather than a response. A quick reaction vs. a well thought out response. It has everything to do with accountability and control. We need to know what we are accountable for and we need to better understand control. This process provides a rationale, individual focused method to a better solution.
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift. Albert Einstein