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Coaching and The Digital Era-Part Three

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.


Executive Coaching Is Training


Experience is Food For The Brain

Bill Watterson

Putting Those AHA Moments Into Action

If you have spent even a few minutes of time paying attention to the Oprah playbook you likely know that she talks about “Aha” moments a lot. We all have those moments in our life, when something that didn’t make sense or seem to fit before, suddenly becomes clear. How often have you taken your Aha moments and put them into action with clear outcomes? Jot down the last 3 times you had an Aha moment, what was it? What did you do with it? How did it improve or change an outcome?

ROI – Training

Were you sitting in a seminar one day and something the facilitator said brought on one of those thoughts? Then back in the workplace, armed with this insight, determined to turn it into an improvement, it quickly slid to the back of your mind. As you work your way through your day, your week, your month, that idea may still hover about your conscience mind but you just don’t get around to doing anything about it. This is a common scenario and one that plagues development efforts in many organizations. As often as we hear how important creativity and innovation are to the success of an organization, it is rare that those skills are given the time and resources to work. This is true of new ideas for products, services, efficiencies, and skill development of the humans in the workforce.

What Do We Do About This?

The obvious answer is to hire a coach. Coaches are committed to helping their clients to turn the Aha moments into action. This is why they assign practical, back on the job, exercises to clients. Putting thought into action is not only a productivity enhancer, it bolsters confidence, increases the value of knowledge, ramps up our ability to learn and adds points to the incremental learning bank we all have working away in our brains all the time.

Coaching And Training-Two For One

Executive Coaching is also a highly effective training method, one that carries us through every aspect of our lives. While the assignment may be based on workplace projects or needs, the experience of carrying out those assignments adds to our abilities in other areas of life. Working with a coach fits nicely into the organization’s training budget because it offers hands on learning opportunities. Trades such as plumbers and welders go through apprenticeship training because it strengthens learning and makes the most efficient use of the learning process for these trades. Anyone at work, whether they are executives or not, benefit from coaching in much the same way.

Visit our Services/Packages Page

Go here right now to see the variety of packages available. The EC-Impact and EC-Power packages are an ideal way to escalate your work performance. The Quick Start and Professional Career Planning Packages are our promotional packages from April 15-June 15, 2013. Contact me today to talk about which package will work best for your needs and take advantage of the promotional offers. I look forward to meeting you and talking about your coaching needs.


Top Ten Books-Understanding Humans and Organizations


Books offer a world of knowledge.

The emotional brain responds to an event more quickly than the thinking brain, Daniel Goleman.

I find that the more time I take to bolster my thinking brain the better my decisions are in business and in the other aspects of life.  Reading books from a range of authors offers me a better way to think, connect ideas and see the bigger picture.

The following list is for anyone in a professional and/or managerial role that is looking for a less bumpy way to evolve through the shift to the [connected/digital era] we are experiencing now. Some of these books were published more than twenty years ago and some were published this year. Some of the older publications have updates and you may prefer to read those. They are all related and they all provide a picture of the workplace to come. I have listed them in the order that I think will most benefit you to read but you can choose your own way through them.

(1) The Art Of Systems Thinking (1997)

Joseph O’Connor & Ian McDermott

This little book is a gem for anyone struggling to understand how and why things happen in any organization. If you want to influence the decision makers in your organization to buy on board to your workplace ideas, start with this book. Being prepared to answer the Why, What, When, Who, Where questions will be easier once you understand Systems Thinking.

(2) The Fifth Discipline (1990)

Peter Senge

Still the best starting point to grasp a reasonable understanding of the value of knowledge in organizations. If you haven’t read this don’t wait – it is as relevant today as it was when first published.

(3) Emotional Intelligence (1995)

Daniel Goleman

Since Daniel Goleman first wrote Emotional Intelligence a number of other authors have published perspectives on Emotional Intelligence in the workplace. I believe that starting with Daniel Goleman’s work offers the reader a solid place to begin to understand how EI affects many aspects of organizational success.

(4) Who Are You Meant To Be? (2013)

Heather Dranitsaris-Hilliard and Anne Dranitsaris PhD

Anyone who has experienced one or more of the many personality or competency based assessment tools in their career will appreciate the work that Heather and Anne have done to bring actionable meaning to the awareness the other tools offer. If you have developed a cynical or resistent attitude towards such assessments based on past negative experiences,  put it aside just long enough to understand the value offered here. Understanding this work will serve you well in any aspect of your life.

(5) Flourish (2011)

Martin E.P. Seligman

Martin Seligman has a friendly, let’s talk, way of writing about psychology. In this work he says: Coaching is a practice in search of a backbone. Two backbones, actually: a scientific, evidence-based backbone as well as a theoretical backbone. Positive psychology can provide both. And that, for this executive coach sounds like great common sense. Even if you are not a coach, this book will provide a nice little positive mood swing, something we can all benefit from.

(6) Immunity to Change (2009)

Robert Kegan & Lisa Laskow Lahey

I like this book as it fits neatly into my own research and work on change and resilience. If you have responsibility for strengthening the outcomes of change in your organization it can be a useful tool to add to your toolbox. I don’t see it as the answer but it does offer some thoughts that help when working through change with diverse teams. The more tools we have to work with the less chance of falling into the ‘one size fits all’ method of change management.

(7) Clear Leadership (2001)

Gervase Bushe

This is an interesting work, somewhat more complex in the ideas inside it that the title suggests. However, it is worth having on your book shelf to refer to once in a while. It has a way of offering clarity when the fog rolls in.

(8) To Sell is Human (2012)

Daniel Pink

I appreciate the work that Daniel Pink has produced, while Drive certainly struck home with many, is it possible that To Sell is Human is more practical? I think so, and I would like to know what you think once you read it.

(9) The Connected Company (2012)

Dave Gray & Thomas Vander Wal

“To keep pace with today’s connected customers, your company must become a connected company. That means deeply engaging with workers, partners, and customers, changing how work is done, how you measure success, and how performance is rewarded. It requires a new way of thinking about your company: less like a machine to be controlled, and more like a complex, dynamic system that can learn and adapt over time.” I always prefer reading authors who have tested their theories and research through their own hands on efforts, it lends a level of credibility that makes all the difference.

(10) Flat Army (2013)

Dan Pontefract

An unobstructed flow of corporate commonality.

Dan has deftly connected the wisdom of many other organizational behaviour and business research authors, added his own brand of organizational dynamics, and woven in his experience of employing these ideas in currently successful businesses. A rarity in leadership writing, offering the theory, research and practical application from the cyber desk of someone who can say, I researched it and also applied it. If you are not familiar with the other works on this list, I suggest you read them first as a way to ease into the groundbreaking work offered in Flat Army.

And that is my Evolve Top Ten List that offers much to consider about organizational life! What are your suggestions? What books have helped shape your thinking and how did they make a difference in how you went about your work?


Create Your Niche-A Personal Perspective

In the Winter blog series we talked about The Leadership Change Gap, Values Based Leadership ROI, and Improving Performance-A Value Proposition. Spring is now here and it is time for a new thread. This season we take a look at coaching from a more personal perspective so let me know if anything in particular resonates with you.

Coaching has so many meanings these days that it seems to have become a little blurred in peoples minds. This is one of the reasons why it helps to define a niche for ones coaching practice. The niche that a coach defines for their practice helps clients and prospective clients understand what benefits they will gain from working with the coach they choose. I am starting this series with a look at how I created Evolve Executive Coaching.

I chose Executive Coaching as the area to focus on because throughout my corporate career working with managers, supervisors, executives, and emerging leaders has always been the most rewarding aspect of my work. Since moving to the entrepreneurial world, especially small business, I have also discovered that same level of rewards in working with the creators and drivers of these businesses. I am building my business by having coaching packages that are suitable for owners and managers in small businesses and packages that are suitable for executives in medium to large organizations.  I tend to be a ‘big picture’ thinker so from my perspective working toward successful change with leaders and emerging leaders is the most impactful way to use my own skills.

Having a front row seat to observe all these different types of leaders create even more impact in their organizations and communities through the coaching plus action process is terrific.

I know from my years working in medium to large organizations that when the leadership is effective, the culture in the organization is more conducive to a good employee experience. That counts, not just because I want everyone to have a good experience at work, but because when employees have a good experience in the workplace, the customers they serve are much more likely to also have a good experience with your business. Independent business owners also benefit from this type of coaching as it helps to create an approach to employees and customers that improves their ability to create the type of trust and value proposition the customer is seeking.

Coaching benefits come about through two primary ways: the ‘aha’ moment when something just clicks and the longer process of understanding how and when we create the results we get. Those ‘aha’ moments shed light on a challenge but that understanding rarely provides the solution. Coaches take those aha moments and create the solution with the client, the “Evolve” process and turning that into sustainable change. Sometimes it can be accomplished in two coaching sessions [assessments help speed up results] and sometimes it occurs over a longer period of time. Evolve Executive Coaching offers complementary exploratory sessions to determine the best choice for the client and their readiness for committing to the process.

This month I am adding new service packages to my practice because I have been working with several professionals that are in the beginning or middle of wanting something different from their work. This work reminded me how much I enjoy working with people in transition that are committed to change. Being part of this transition is very rewarding for me as the results are positive but more importantly that these clients trust me enough to work with me at a vulnerable point in their career is meaningful. Watch the Evolve Executive Coaching blog, Twitter and LinkedIn posts for details on these packages.

The next post in this series will include some quotes from Evolve Executive Coaching clients that talk about the benefits they achieved from the packages they signed on for. As always, client confidentiality is honoured, so while the quotes are real quotes from clients they will not be identified.

I leave you with a few questions to either answer via the comments or to take away and consider on your own, so here are a couple of questions for you today:

When was the last time you sat down and looked at your own Evolve process? What did you learn when you did this? What actions did you take based on that review?


Improving Performance-A Value Proposition

Welcome to our new readers and my appreciation to those of you who have returned for more! As promised this post is about improving performance by making it the centre of attention through consistent and timely communication.

Executive coaching focuses on helping us find results based solutions through the process of our own growth and skill development. As we evolve we take that new confidence into the workplace and begin to help others improve their performance. It starts with us, and one of the things that executive coaching offers is insight to how we learn and change that will help us in guiding others through their own performance improvements.

I have experienced performance management from many different angles and so many different methods in my career so what I am proposing here based on years of experience, observation, research and outcomes. Optimal performance is critical to the success of any organization, if you get the performance conversation right, the ‘engagement’ factor that is garnering so much attention lately will take care of itself. Engagement is not a program, it is an outcome of a workplace culture that understands and values the contributions of the people who work there. Create a culture of accountability, trust, and consistency and make sure that performance is a natural part of the workday chat.

There are three absolutes that have been consistently proven to create the best outcomes in my adventures in performance management:

(1) Your communication style will make or break effective performance discussions.

(2) Timeliness is not optional.

(3) Participation by all parties is mandatory.

Do the three absolutes resonate with you? Do you practice them consistently at work?

Try this exercise:

  1. Jot down the number of times you have interacted with an employee in your organization (regardless of where in the organization) in the last three days and offered some form of performance related comment. Consider colleagues, peers, boss, support staff etc. And, jot down when someone else in the organization offered some form of performance related comment to you.
  2. Who were they? What was the nature of the comment?  What response did you get from the employee you spoke with?
  3. Now think about the last time you conducted (or was the recipient of) the annual or quarterly or semi-annual formal review-what did that communication feel like?
  4. Did anyone seem surprised by what you communicated? Were there disagreements about your review content? Did anyone express appreciation for how helpful they found your performance communications over the previous period in their work?
  5. Does performance review time feel like a burden in your workplace? If you were unable to recall even one performance related discussion in your workplace in the previous three days it is time to get started.

How committed are you to changing that going forward?  


Kick Start Performance Today!

Even when we work in organizations that have traditional performance review programs we can easily create our own practice that works well despite those programs. The key is within the absolutes, and that is something that you do have control over. It begins with you changing how you view and approach performance results in your work every day. And it requires consistently operating with the core values in mind.

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