Business Coaching and the Credit Crunch
By Colin Gautrey and Katie McGuidwin
As the credit crunch bites, pressures are growing within businesses around the world. Corporations of all shapes and sizes are feeling this tension. For some it is the soaring cost of supply; for others—dwindling demand. Some unfortunates feel the pain at both ends of the supply chain-and even in the middle with spiraling credit costs! While the causes may vary, few can dispute that the strain on corporations is increasing rapidly.
The executives in these corporations are naturally working hard to help the organization to survive. Yet in these tough times, they also have to be more careful about protecting their own positions. When the environment stresses the company, its executives will often disagree about the best way to respond. The tension created can cause some unfortunate and unwelcome side effects—an increase in political maneuvering among senior executives. This is especially likely if the CEO does not pay attention to the problem. While organizational politics is nothing new, the ability to handle this dimension is suddenly of much greater importance.
As business coaches, we are well placed to be able to assist our clients in this respect. By taking this reality seriously, we can help our clients to weather the storm, both the credit crunch and the political maelstrom. Over the last few years we have been working with a number of colleagues around the world unlocking the subtleties of corporate politics. What we have achieved is rapidly being viewed as a ray of hope for integrity—the hope that honest people of integrity can survive and thrive in tough times. When we first sat down to plan our new book, Political Dilemmas at Work1, little did we realize just how timely this work was going to be!
In order to help our clients, we approach the development of their political skills in three steps.
Step 1: Understand the dilemma
If people in an organization are feeling the pressure of the credit crunch, it is likely that as the top executives compete, our clients will find themselves in one or more dilemmas. By codifying these dilemmas, it is much easier for our clients to come to terms with their situation and begin to think clearly about what they can do for the best. Some typical dilemmas include:
Turf Wars: Two powerful people are fighting to win control of your function—and you are caught in the middle.
Political Rival: You've always played it straight and gotten good results. Now you're up against a strong and cunning political rival who seems determined to derail your success.
Spin Doctor: The president is due to arrive, and your boss has told you not to reveal a serious flaw in the proposal. He said to use a bit of spin.
These are just a few of the many dilemmas we have outlined in our book. The critical point is that our clients need to get clarity on their position, so that they can begin to make robust decisions.
Step 2: Investigate the detail
Once they have begun to understand the dilemma they face, we then move to the details. Often this can be elusive, yet any attempt to unravel the complexities of the human behavior behind the dilemma is useful. Some of the key areas we get our clients to focus on are:
The Players: Going beyond the obvious, who are the key people actively or passively involved in the position you find yourself in?
The Agendas: Specifically what are they hoping to achieve from the position they are assuming, or the action they are taking?
The Motivation: What is driving the players to do what they are doing? What are the payoffs if they succeed?
We have to be realistic. Many of the questions that we ask our clients are difficult to answer; however, having them think about these questions sets off an automatic chain reaction in the mind and the actions of the client. Often they become highly motivated to pursue the answers because they know the importance. Our clients are highly educated and successful executives, and sometimes they can use their gut instinct or intuition to get a fix on the answer. That's okay if we have to move quickly, but it is never a substitute for fact. One lesson that many learn here is that they have paid insufficient attention to building and/or maintaining their political intelligence gathering system.
Step 3: Plan the action
Not surprisingly, often the awareness created by the previous steps is sufficient to allow the executive to launch into action. This impulse needs to be held in check a few moments more, because we want them to think through their options in a strategic manner. By doing this, they can avoid unhelpful side effects and find easier, more direct routes to influencing the right outcome. Some of the key areas we focus on are:
Strategic Stakeholder Management: Use a simple and effective tool to plot out the key people involved in your goal and analyze their position before planning your action.
Broker Honest Exchanges: Cultivate a relationship of openness and honesty, and manage your action to achieve this quickly.
Contingency Actions: Think through the action you are about to take and determine what counteractions others may take. Is there anything you can do to limit the impact of these actions?
Build Political Capital: Build longer term action to ensure you have a strong network of political allies ready for when you need them. Building allies when you are in crisis can be difficult.
When we challenge our clients in these four areas, they always find quick and simple actions that they can take to improve their situation; relieve their stress and get more help. At senior levels, being inactive in the political realm is not an option!
In our practice, using the approaches above, we regularly help our clients to achieve multi-million dollar results, and careers advance rapidly. With the current credit crunch we are starting to see more people struggling to survive, and the steps above become more critical than ever. As business coaches, we believe that we have a responsibility to our clients to help them thrive in the political domain. In addition to helping them personally, we also help their organizations to succeed.
1 Gautrey, Colin, Dr. Gary Ranker and Mike Phipps. 2008. Political Dilemmas at Work. John Wiley & Sons: Hoboken, New Jersey.
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GET THE EDGE
The Point of Coaching CirclesTM
By Charles Brassard
Understanding our default drive
In our quest for speed and quick fixes, most of us have been conditioned to deliver solutions and answers that produce the most immediate results. In this light, coaching is often seen as a luxury in our hectic life because it generally entails interrupting the flow of transactions and slowing our pace. This is the pace, however, that allows us to notice other human beings in the fullness of their lives, not as mere robots on the assembly line.
When we understand that each one of us encounters reality in our own unique way, we begin to appreciate the kind of care and attention needed to help others break through their limiting beliefs, unproductive behaviors or frustrated wishes to become more effective and fulfilled at what they do. While solutions from the past may sometimes work for dealing with "technical problems," they rarely work for the leadership challenges people face, because these are invariably rooted in relationship issues (i.e., how effectively we coordinate our actions with others) for which there is always myriad possible answers.
Building new muscles
Coaching can play a critical role in our development by challenging our usual way of seeing and doing things and helping us to expand our field of vision. It helps us to develop our ability to apprehend what life presents in creative and authentic ways through greater awareness, discernment and practice. Imagine if you had five trusted coaches at your service to help you tackle your most critical leadership challenges.
This is what Coaching Circles can offer. They powerfully marry the principles and practices of action learning (pioneered by Reg Revans) and those of integral coaching (pioneered by James Flaherty) to create a learning environment rich in compassion and self-discovery. More to the point, Coaching Circles achieve a dual purpose: they help people take concrete actions to support their goals in the organization and they hone the coaching skills they need to express their leadership voice more fully.
How Coaching Circles work
Coaching Circles are typically composed of a small group of five or six people who meet every six to eight weeks. During these meetings, each person successively uses his/her own "airtime" (i.e., a period of 40-60 minutes) to present issues or challenges and to receive coaching from the rest of the group. In its simplest form, there are typically four elements to each airtime:
- The presentation by the client of his/her issue or challenge
- A period of collaborative inquiry designed to help the client apprehend this challenge in new ways
- Solo time to reflect on what was learned from the exploration
- A period during which each member voices his/her insights and where the client highlights what has shifted in his/her perspective and what he/she intends to do next
Clients bring to the Coaching Circle a dilemma or challenge they have struggled with for a while or one that represents a new opportunity for them. It has to be personally meaningful and they must have some accountability over the outcome. While there may be many "moving parts" to this challenge (and this constitutes the overall context for coaching), the client presenting the challenge will generally focus his/her interest on the element most pressing or most baffling at the time. The client speaks openly and precisely (i.e., with examples) about what he/she is facing and articulates a clear request for coaching to peers in the circle so that the inquiry can focus on what matters most to the client.
The collaborative inquiry
This is where the habitual reflex to solve problems is really put to the test. Asking questions to stimulate exploration and inquiry rather than to elicit precise answers is counterintuitive to most people. Yet this is what produces the most breakthroughs in Coaching Circles. In this element of the process, circle members use the client's request as a starting point to ask insightful questions. What is insightful about questions is their ability to disturb and confront the client with a possible new reality.
Each thread of questions has the potential to awaken a new perspective or to shed some light on a hidden assumption or unseen possibility. This way of inquiring demands that people pay attention to the complete human being at the core of the presented issue and to truly believe in his/her creative potential. The group's questions become catalysts for action, not through "expert advice," but through a discovery process that leaves full accountability and ownership in the way forward to the client.
This practice in Coaching Circles allows everyone to make sense of what just happened in the context of their own realities. We realize in this "breathing space" that the struggles of our peers sometimes mirror our own. Similarly, their insights can spur our own thinking and our own breakthroughs. The skill of reflecting involves stopping long enough to connect our mind to our heart and to our body, to sense our experience fully rather than automatically judging things based on what we "know."
During this last phase of the airtime, circle members share the outcome of their reflection, by focusing either on the "content" of the inquiry or the process, or both. They focus on what is meaningful to their own experience and refrain from discharging their last brilliant piece of advice to "rescue" the client.
For the client, this is an opportunity to provide feedback to peers about their contributions and to make explicit and public commitments for future actions in the context of the leadership challenge presented. This becomes a point of departure for his/her next time as a client when the circle meets again.
This coaching process gains momentum during the successive airtimes that make up the full experience. When supported by a learning coach, the group usually builds their coaching capacity more quickly and becomes more adept at translating their insights and their skills back on the job. The learning coach can also gradually introduce themes and distinctions every time the circle meets to enrich the learning process. Over time, Coaching Circles can become a very powerful community of practice driven by a practical curiosity, a love of inquiry and a deep care for the success of others. The group also learns to function effectively on its own and becomes able to self-regulate, to self-correct and to learn on a continuous basis.
Coaching Circles can take many inventive forms. As such they play a powerful role in the development agenda of executive teams or as an integral part of the leadership programs they sponsor. They help to build a greater capacity for listening, questioning, dialogue and feedback in the workplace and create a momentum for action and learning well beyond the formal boundaries of the development initiatives that bring people together.
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Forget Your Weaknesses
By Adrian Furnham
We all have strengths and...developmental opportunities. The politically correct, counseling, self-esteem police banned the concept of "weaknesses" years ago. So you have strengths and things you can turn into strengths.
And, we were told, through training and therapy, learning and feedback, that we could abolish our weaknesses and turn them into strengths. So adults who never mastered math in school could, through courses called "Financial management for non-financial managers," understand balance sheets. Near Asperger's Syndrome, IT people could become highly emotionally intelligent and all of us could easily become creative.
So we rejoiced in our strengths and put effort into our weaknesses. If we were lucky and senior and young enough, we might have the resources of the organization behind us. Expensive business school courses, personal coaches and job-enrichment experiences could turn us into anything we wanted.
Despite the fact that it is glaringly obvious, few admit that individuals don't change much after their mid 20s. After that, what you see is what you get. You are not going to get any taller or any brighter. Have you ever seen a course called "Become More Intelligent"?
Yes, trauma, intense training, perhaps therapy can lead to some change, but the cost is high. So, is it worth all that effort, trying to learn things and do things you don't like or are not good at?
The emergence of positive psychology has changed the emphasis on personal weakness. Rather than accept our strengths and work on our weaknesses, we should put our efforts first into finding our strengths and then, exclusively, playing to them.
Perhaps we are more aware of our weaknesses than our strengths. Formal schooling certainly exposes us to a variety of exercises that really test our metal. The lobby, the library and the science lab as well as the gym give us ample opportunity to find out what we can and cannot do.
Children and some teachers can be cruel. They pick on you if you fall outside the rather narrow norms. If you are a different shape or color to most, you are teased. Worse, you may have a disability, however small—a mild stutter, a facial tick, a squint. You have to endure those "Sturm und Drang" teenage years acutely conscious of all your inadequacies from poor skin to tone deafness.
The question is: what to do about your weaknesses in adulthood? It largely depends on what they are. Some are clearly much more debilitating than others. And, of course, you might be wrong about them in the first place.
So what are your options?
- Hide them: Some people expend massive time, money and psychological effort in hiding their self-perceived weaknesses. They effectively become phobic, avoiding all possible situations that may possibly reveal them. It can be a high cost indeed, a life sentence, possibly based on a small defect.
- Ignore them: This is a lesser form of denial. It's about pretence. There are stories about blind people who behave as if they are sighted. Of the lame who think nothing about a long walk. The strategy is that rather English-minded approach, "Let's not talk about it or go there." Pretend you don't have weaknesses.
- Accept them: Acceptance is not only about realization but about reality checks. We all have weaknesses for many different reasons; biological, social, moral. We are dealt a hand in life; the die is cast. So be it. This is what we have and we should try our best to get on with it.
- Work on them: This is what coaches, therapists and trainees told you to do. Go to courses, learn skills, you can do it. So the stutterer becomes a public speaker; the cripple an athlete, the illiterate a poet. See weaknesses as a challenge to be overcome: to focus energies, to invest time and effort.
- Expose them: One way of coping is to let them all hang out: to expose your problems, issues, disabilities to the world. You "come out" as being different, or deprived or whatever. The philosophy is: Don't waste energy in hiding or disguising how you are weak—accept, reveal and move on.
- Rejoice in them: This is the most extreme version of dealing with weaknesses. This is about seeing your difference as a strength. By not having, paradoxically, you have more: by being different, you are unique.
After a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats), business managers are encouraged to put their resources behind their strengths and to withdraw from markets where they cannot compete (weaknesses). As in business, so in life: play to your strengths and put energy into minimizing weaknesses only so that they do not hinder your progress. To do otherwise is pointless—weaknesses are expensive and difficult to change; the same resources put behind your areas of strengths pay much greater dividends. So find out what you are good at, and stick to it. But discovering your strengths? Now, that's a different story.
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Coaching Great Leaders
Get Your Ideas on the Move by Effectively Influencing Up!
By Marshall Goldsmith
The great majority of people tend to focus downward. They are occupied with efforts rather than results. They worry over what the organization and their superiors ‘owe' them and should do for them. And they are conscious above all of the authority they ‘should have'. As a result they render themselves ineffectual. Peter Drucker1
Organizations around the world suffer when key employees cannot effectively influence up. Think of all of the knowledge you have accumulated over the years, the time you have spent perfecting your skills, and then think about how your knowledge can potentially benefit your organization. The chances are great that with just a small investment in learning to influence up, you can make a huge difference to the future success of your organization.
First, ask yourself: "Who is my audience?" Every decision in the company is made by the person (people) with the power to make that decision. That is your target. If you can influence the key decision maker(s) in the organization, you can make a positive difference. If not, then you will make much less of a difference.
The following five suggestions are intended to help you improve your odds of successfully making a positive difference by effectively influencing up:
- When presenting ideas to upper management, realize that it is your responsibility to sell—not their responsibility to buy.
Influencing up is similar to selling products or services to customers. They don't have to buy—you have to sell! It is your responsibility to achieve results. No one will be impressed with you if you blame management for not buying your ideas. As a matter of fact, it is disempowering to you when you focus on what others may have done to make things wrong, rather than what you can do to make things right. Spend more time developing your ability to communicate your ideas and less time on blaming management for not buying your ideas.
- Focus on the contribution to the larger good, not just the achievement of your objectives.
Ask yourself: "How do my ideas relate to the needs of the organization? What impact will they have on the overall corporation?" Most often, the needs of the organization and the needs of your unit or department are connected; sometimes they are not. Look into it. Prepare to explain it. Don't assume upper management already knows. Explain to them the connection between the benefit to your unit and the benefit to the larger organization.
- Strive to win the big battles. Don't waste your ammunition on the small points.
Do your homework! Before challenging the system already in place, thoroughly analyze your ideas. Don't waste your time on issues that will only modestly impact results. Focus on issues that will make a real difference and know what they are before you "challenge the system."
- Present a realistic cost-benefit analysis of your ideas. Don't just sell benefits.
The resources, time and energy of organizations are not limitless. Know that if upper management says "yes" to your idea, they may be saying "no" to someone else's. Prepare yourself for a realistic discussion of the costs of your idea; prepare for objections before they occur and point out how the benefits of your plan will outweigh the costs.
- Support the final decision of the team. Don't say, "They made me tell you," to direct reports.
Whether upper management gives the idea a yea or nay, go out and try to make it work. A lack of commitment to the final decision can sabotage its chances for effective execution. Managers who tell their coworkers, "They told me to tell you," are seen as messengers not leaders. And you want to be seen as a leader whether your idea is implemented or not. A simple guideline for communicating difficult decisions about which you don't agree is to ask yourself: "How would I want others to communicate to their people if they were passing down my final decision and they disagreed with me?" Treat your manager in the same way that you would want to be treated and you're on the right track.
You may have spent years developing your functional or technical expertise. My hope is that by making a small investment in learning to influence up, you can make a large and positive difference for the future of your organization.
1 Drucker, P. F. 2001. The Essential Drucker. New York: HarperBusiness. pp. 207.
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Coaching Models for Business Success
How Can Coaching Create Sustainable Behavior Change?
By Dr. Sunny Stout Rostron
Part 3 of 3
In this series, we have been addressing the question: "Can coaching produce sustainable behavior change?" In my previous column, we explored four factors influencing how we can measure the effectiveness of the coaching intervention: (1) building the relationship, (2) learning from experience, (3) understanding the role of others in the system and (4) developing EQ. Following are six further considerations to how we can measure the effectiveness of the coaching intervention: (5) being flexible, (6) making your ethical code explicit, (7) being coached oneself, (8) creating a development plan with goals, (9) measuring coaching results and (10) evaluating and reviewing.
5. Being flexible
Spontaneity is important, so beware of using a formulaic approach in your coaching. If the coach adheres too rigidly to a coaching model, it can get in the way of the coaching relationship—and the personal and professional growth of the client. It is important that both coach and client learn and change as the relationship grows.
In coaching, as in therapy, the practitioner is not always right. The practitioner is human and makes mistakes; it shows flexibility to admit those mistakes. This enhances trust and safety in the relationship and adds to the practitioner's authenticity.
6. Making your ethical code explicit
When client and coach work together, they enter into a verbal and/or written contract that specifies the parameters and boundaries of their work together. Part of a coach's code of ethics is to honor confidentiality in the coaching conversation; the client entrusts the coach with confidences and must feel safe to do so. In an organizational setting, the coach contracts what will and will not be communicated to superiors, and this confidentiality must be honored at all times. Most members of the professional association Coaches and Mentors of South Africa (COMENSA) share the COMENSA ethical code with their clients as part of their contracting and setting of boundaries for the coaching process. With which organization's ethical code do you align your practice?
7. Being coached oneself
The importance of being coached or "in supervision" cannot be overemphasized. Both ensure that the coach understands what the client experiences, and both encourage the coach to work on his/her own issues so that they do not become entangled with those of the client. With the emerging professionalization of coaching, clients are now asking: "What are your coaching qualifications and experience, and how do you continually develop your competence?" Create your own professional development plan, no matter how experienced you are. Although not yet a given in coaching, supervision is a fundamental underpinning of psychological therapeutic practice, and it is similarly recommended by coaching professional bodies worldwide.
Take part in the variety of professional organizations available to you. Join a portfolio committee in your country's relevant professional association as a way to develop yourself and the coaching profession.
8. Creating a development plan with goals
To ensure that coaching achieves the intended results, it is critical to create a development plan with the client's overall purpose, strategy, developmental objectives, developmental actions, strengths, areas for improvement and obstacles to achievement. The coach is responsible for ensuring that goal-setting conversations get the best results. Mary Beth O'Neill differentiates between business goals and personal goals, and links the coaching effort to a business result by highlighting and prioritizing the business areas that need attention. Business goals are about achieving external results; personal goals are what the client has to do differently in how he/she conducts him/herself to get business results.1
According to Irvin Yalom there are two types of goals: content goals (what is to be accomplished) and process goals (how the coach wants to be in a session).2 If you as a coach are aware of your goal, you will stay in response rather than automatic mode when your stress is high. The next step is to ensure that your goal is related to your client's goal.3 Most executive coaches would first identify the client's goals and guide the client accordingly. O'Neill says be very clear about your goal throughout the session so that you lose neither signature presence nor "backbone and heart."
9. Measuring coaching results
Take measures of the outcomes of coaching from different perspectives. This could be from the client, their line manager, senior management, the client's peers and subordinates. At Resolve Encounter Consulting, we ask all our coaching clients to complete a questionnaire at the end of the coaching contract and then provide a quantitative summary that indicates the impact of coaching on performance.
Despite being more than 50 years old, Donald Kirkpatrick's four levels of evaluation (reaction, learning, behavior and results) are relevant, not just to training and capacity building, but also to coaching and leadership development.4 The levels can help determine whether the coaching intervention: (a) should continue; (b) helps improve performance; (c) demonstrates the value of the coaching and (d) gives a deliberate process to evaluate performance. In measuring results, coaches need to identify how factors such as leadership and management competence, interpersonal skills, decision making, conflict management, alliance building, teamwork, diversity management, collaboration, empathy and compassion show up in performance.
10. Evaluating and reviewing
At the end of the coaching contract, there are six factors to consider. First, celebrate achievements and plan for the road ahead. Second, highlight the client's recurring patterns that continue to sabotage his/her success. Third, to ensure long-term sustainability of the coaching intervention, finalize the development plan and who will be supporting the client in this work. Fourth, you may want to schedule a follow-up session for feedback in four to six months' time. In this way, you gauge the sustainability of the coaching work.
Fifth, to determine the sustainability of behavior change and performance, ask the client to keep a journal of reflections and learning during the coaching process. At the end of the contract: ask the client for their reflections on the entire coaching period, and where they see that insights and changes have occurred and impacted on their overall performance. Sixth, one of the most helpful post-coaching tools is a reflective, quantitative or qualitative questionnaire. Analyze these for each client to determine what shifted for the client during coaching and what new behaviors they continue to use. If possible, collate the information for all clients and produce an analysis of the coaching within that organization.
While we wait for further, definitive research, experience suggests that behavioral change as a result of coaching is possible and sustainable; one way to begin is to work with the ten guidelines outlined in this and my previous columns. My suggestion is that you contribute to the field with your own client research and evaluation of your findings. In future columns, I will begin to explore coaching models you may find useful for your business coaching practice.
1 O'Neill, M. B. 2000. Coaching with Backbone and Heart: A Systems Approach to Engaging Leaders with Their Challenges. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
2 Yalom, I. 1980. Existential Psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books.
3 Stout Rostron, S. 2006. "Interventions in the Coaching Conversation: Thinking, Feeling and Behaviour." Doctoral Thesis, Middlesex University London.
4 Kirkpatrick, D. L. 2006. Evaluating Training Programs, The Four Levels. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
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Who's Coaching the Coach?
By Barry Trailer
I'm certain for this readership that there is NO need to make the argument in favor of coaching. I think it's an almost equally safe bet that each of you has at least an informal coaching relationship, perhaps a mentor who holds you accountable, providing you with feedback and helping to further your growth and development.
But I do have a suspicion that you and your coach may be overlooking one critical area of your and your business' development: Sales.
In his groundbreaking work on mastery, George Leonard, details five keys to pursuing/attaining mastery: coaching, practice, surrender, attitude and excitement. I'll likely cover others of these in future articles but for now, we'll stick with the first key: get a coach.
There are four ways to improve performance: 1) having a coach; 2) playing with knowledgeable friends and peers; 3) practicing and 4) reading books/watching videos. And as each of you know, the first is miles ahead of the others in improving an individual's performance.
However, the coaching I'm speaking of with respect to sales is somewhat different than what most performance coaches focus upon. Yes, there can be a 360 review, but this should be objectively reviewing lead sources and their respective success (hit) rates; percentage of calls leading to a first meeting/presentation; percentage of proposals leading to a close; client satisfaction ratings, feedback and referrals. These are just a few of the key metrics your coach should be analyzing with you to see "how it's going."
In the first articles in this series I detailed the Perfect Prospect Profile and discussed how defining this and holding each new prospect up to it will help you attract and gauge new prospects. The PPP can include both demographic (e.g., industry vertical, employee size, geographic location) and psychographic (e.g., learning organization, win/win culture, appreciative) components. The suggestion is that you create a prospect hit-list and gather PPP information about the top ten or so names on your list.
Even if you don't have your prospect list created yet, reviewing the PPP criteria with your coach can be a valuable exercise. You can apply it to your current clients to determine opportunities for improved communication or early warning signs that may crop up with new clients as you begin to engage with them. And, of course, you may have a client or two that you need to fire but have not yet worked up the courage to do so. The PPP offers a basis for making an evaluation of whether an existing relationship is feeding you psychically as well as physically.
Do you have your PPP in place and do you use it as a yardstick (or meter stick) to measure with and against? That's great! Now move on in your discussion with your coach to look at your practice. This is both the verb—to practice—and the noun—your practice. You want to get feedback/coaching on your sales skills and the particular skill you're currently concentrating on developing. The skill you're practicing could be asking better/tougher questions, preparing more thoroughly for calls, penetrating accounts more fully, etc.
Then there is the practice that is a noun. Like other professionals, you have to ask yourself, "What is your practice development plan?" What is your target mix for new and existing clients? Large and small accounts? Local and remote clients? Each of these has an impact on your business and its ability to sustain down markets and/or the loss of one or more key clients. What is your plan and have you recently reviewed it with your coach?
As noted in the beginning, I'm certain for this readership there is NO need to make the argument in favor of coaching.
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Based on the Evidence
By Dr. Annette Fillery-Travis
Where's the Evidence? First Steps into the Literature (and Research)
In my writing so far, I hope I have whetted your appetite for coaching research and put a convincing argument that it cannot be left as an "academic" pastime, but should be part of every practitioner's arsenal.
Most of us do not have the time to carry out research per se, but given that our profession is in its infancy, there is much to discover in the literature about the true potential of what we can offer as coaches and how this can impact upon our clients and their organizations! We can contribute to the growing body of knowledge ourselves by delving into journals and articles, discussing "hot topics" within our networks and generally making our literature our own. As practitioners we contribute a valuable perspective when we talk with our peers and to academic researchers.
Over the last year I have been contributing to a working group on research as part of the Global Coaching Convention. This convention was established to create a collaborative framework of stakeholders in coaching with the aim of professionalizing the industry. Quite a job and at times I think the size and complexity of the aim has daunted even the hardiest souls. As in any undertaking of this size, there has been a debate about the value of such an initiative. Detractors say that the coaching community has grown organically so far and it should be left to continue doing so. Others say that the convention is taking on too big a job, and with so many diverse agendas on the table, there is little hope of getting collaboration or consensus so people are wasting their time. I will not go further into the debates other than to mention that if any of our clients came out with such a view, we might well consider challenging it! But enough of my soap box, as a good researcher I shall admit my bias and point everyone in the direction of the GCC's website for the latest news and events.
Sunny Stout Rostron and Carol Kauffman chaired and facilitated the research working group and they did a grand job in challenging our process and thinking as well as generally bringing the project home. The core piece of work was a review of where we are, as a community, in terms of our research. Sunny and Carol will be publishing the full piece in the near future, but I would like to share with you some of the thinking it sparked with me.
First and foremost, we agreed that if we are thinking of moving to becoming a profession then we have to define what our body of knowledge is—what is it that makes our offer different to that of occupational psychologists, management consultants or other related fields? Research is the route to defining our knowledge. Even if we are simply looking at, and comparing, each other's practice we are engaging in research.
The second point that struck a real note with me was our discussion around whether we should define what is "good" and what is "bad" research. This question and its real depth gets in the way of many of us entering the world of research. It throws up all kinds of questions about what is the "correct" way of doing it, reporting it or even defining it.
Let us first consider our purpose in doing research. For me and many others it is to find something out or to learn, and the best evidence of learning is to change behaviors. So we are effectively saying to our colleagues:
"Trust me—I have looked at this issue and found XYZ. You can now take my findings and apply them directly to your practice."
That is quite a thing to say. We are suggesting people change their practice and behaviors because of what we have found out. To do this (and still sleep at night) we need to know that we are right (or valid) and not leading people down the garden path on a scenic route to nowhere. Some researchers have taken the easy route out of this dilemma and stuck to one way of doing research, irrespective of the question they are asking. Usually the method of choice is a controlled experimental study where one group gets coaching and one group doesn't, and at the end there is some measure of impact on behaviors (with everyone hoping there is a positive effect on those who have been coached)!
Everyone breathes a sigh of relief as they are doing a scientific study and don't have to justify themselves any further. Oh if only life was that easy! As we have discussed before, what you research and how you do it is determined by the question you are asking NOT the other way around. A controlled experiment would be terribly complicated and confusing if we wanted to explore how and what elements of the coaching engagement are of most value to a diverse range of clients. Trying to control for all the factors that would be different between groups would make it untenable (and unusable).
Identifying the research method used as the main differentiator between good and bad research is therefore not a sensible path and will only lead to restricting the type of research question we will be able to ask (and answer). Our criteria for whether an inquiry is "good" research must be: Is there coherence between the question, the method used to research it and the analysis undertaken, and has everything been done to the standards of good practice? Let us leave the question of what is good practice to one side for another day and take that as read; we can then be happy to consider good research to include any method or even mix of methods that makes sense for the question we are asking.
The same thinking should be brought to bear on the question: What is the best research to do? Everyone wants to do research that will set the world alight, but choosing a topic isn't easy. Governments have been engaged in foresight exercises for many years trying to second guess the research investment they should make to enable them to meet the challenges for the future. They have invested a significant amount of money, but it has resulted in quite a lot of what has been described as crystal gazing.
Experience has shown that such exercises are useful for mapping current drivers for research, but usually fail to foresee the big issues for the future, e.g., the exponential rise in the use of the mobile phone and the personal computer. If we cannot see what will be the main issue for the future then the best research to do is the research that speaks to you and your practice, i.e., the research that follows your passion. Chances are that your passion will be shared by others—go ahead and ask them—and if that is the case then you can be confident that there will be an audience for your work.
As an introduction to how people are thinking about research for the future, have a look at these two papers. If you do not have access to these journals through a library or database, then just go to the website of the journal and order the download direct to your computer.
Linley, Alex P. 2006. "Coaching Research: Who? What? Where? When? Why?" International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring Vol. 4, No. 2 (Autumn): 1
Bennett, J.L. 2006. "An Agenda for Coaching-Related Research: A Challenge for Researchers." Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research Vol. 58, Part 4: 240-249
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A Global Workplace
Cultural Intelligence: The Key to Global Leadership
By Nerella Campigotto
We live and work in a world that is an integrated entity, increasingly influenced by external cultural factors. For those in leadership positions it is now not only necessary to have a high IQ and EQ (emotional intelligence), but strong Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is also increasingly regarded as a necessary skill to succeed in today's global business community.
Leadership entails communicating a vision and influencing others towards a goal; achieving this across cultures is no easy feat. Defining the characteristics that make a good leader can be daunting. Much of the research and information we are exposed to about this topic is U.S., or at least Western-focused, where leadership skills tend to be measured by organizational performance such as productivity and morale. Nevertheless, universally there are basically two types of leadership—task-oriented and relationship-oriented. People from different cultures react differently to these styles.
In addition, leadership quality, as with charisma, is often about perception; a person perceived as a leader will gain respect, power and authority. Indeed, we may say that it is the followers who determine a leader's greatness. Successful global leaders understand how leadership is viewed in other cultures and how the expectations of culturally diverse followers influence leadership behavior.
Let's look at three ways leaders can demonstrate cultural intelligence.
1. Building awareness
Culturally intelligent leaders are open to knowledge and develop new skills to help them succeed. This means understanding the cultural attributes of the followers and what their expectations are. These attributes can be in a number of areas, such as the relationship between the leaders and their followers, what role seniority plays, how problems are handled and attitudes towards efficiency, punctuality, deadlines, etc. Often tradition will prevail over logic, so it is important for the global leader to learn about the history and values of the followers' culture. This may be achieved by developing alliances with other leaders from different cultural backgrounds who can provide different perspectives for comparison.
Culturally intelligent leaders are comfortable in adapting their behavior to suit different circumstances without changing their inherent leadership style. With stronger awareness they can determine whether, for example, their followers are from an individualistic versus a collectivist culture, whether they work better in an autocratic versus a bureaucratic environment, whether they are motivated by incentives versus punishment, whether they respond to an informal versus formal approach, etc. Successful global leaders spend time with their followers to understand their comfort level and listen to what is said and not said.
Culturally intelligent leaders understand that the way they communicate is critical to their success. Once they are aware of the cultural attributes of their followers and have adapted to their environment, it will be easier to tweak their communication style accordingly. Apart from the obvious need to use clear language, this may also mean determining how much information needs to be imparted in order to achieve the required goal and what the consequences and/or rewards are for the followers. It also means adjusting communication styles to take into account whether the follower's culture is one that exhibits an implicit rather than explicit manner, as well as non-verbal communication traits.
To summarize, whether a leader's style is task-oriented or relationship-oriented, he or she can work towards increasing cultural intelligence by applying the three steps above. By being aware of the cultural attributes of their followers, adapting to the cultural environment and communicating accordingly, leaders are more likely to achieve success. There is no doubt that a healthy dose of CQ is an indispensable asset for today's global leader.
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A s k t h e E x p e r t
A regular column responding to readers' questions by sharing stories from the offbeat life of coach's coach Dr. Xavier Fink (his mother calls him Melvyn) as his colleagues interact at the sharp end of the business world.
Question: What is consulting, and how is it different to coaching?
Answer: Consulting is all about asking the right questions and should always be the research foundation on which your practice rests.
Janet Schatzman 2007
The Fink Interview
A s k i n g t h e R i g h t Q u e s t i o n s
By Dr. Laurence S. Lyons
||We're delighted to have with us the distinguished expert Dr. M. Xavier Fink who has more degrees than a thermometer. Hello, Dr. Fink and welcome. Let's start right away with our postbag. One of our readers writes: Congratulations on "Ask the Expert" which I always enjoy. Dr. Fink has such wide knowledge. So my question is this: What should I ask Dr. Fink?
|| Thank you. That's the best question anyone could possibly ask.
||Yes I'm sure it is. As she says, ours is such a vast subject, isn't it? That's why our readers turn to experts to help highlight those matters which are the most important in our field. So, Dr. Fink, as one such expert, how would you answer her?
||You mean, what is my answer to the question: What should I ask Dr. Fink?
||Yes, this reader—and I'm sure many others like her-would love to hear your answer to that question.
||Well, the best question that she could possibly ask would be this: What should I ask Dr. Fink?
||That was her question.
|| Yes it was.
||And it was also your answer.
||Yes it was.
||And you say that that's the best question she could possibly have asked?
||Oh yes, that would be the very best question in the whole wide world.
||And why is that?
||Well, because oftentimes your client simply doesn't know the right question to ask. And if she sets out with the wrong questions, she'll most likely find herself up a gum tree.
||How might she avoid a sticky problem like that?
||She could start by doing some research to determine what her best question might be. So, for example, she might ask an expert to tell her what important factors might apply in her case.
||You're an expert.
||Yes I am.
|| So you'd be a good person to ask?
||Oh yes, I'd be a really great person to ask, one of the best. What point is there in having an expert on hand if you're not prepared to put questions to him?
||So in the first instance she could turn to you, or someone like you?
||And if she were to ask you, what might you say?
||Now that's a fantastic question! You're asking me what would be my answer to her specific question: What should I ask Dr. Fink?
|| I haven't a clue.
|| You don't know?
||No, I don't know the answer to that at all. That's what makes it such an extremely good question. It's a critical question.
||Let me see if I've got this right. You're saying that her question is the best simply because you can't answer it?
||Dr. Fink, I recollect that your experience is legendary, and as I mentioned earlier, you hold several advanced degrees in our subject. Our reader has put to you the best question you yourself say it's possible for anyone to ask. How can you sit here and proudly admit that you can't answer her basic question yet claim to be an expert?
||Very easily. I think you have it totally round the wrong way, my friend. I'm recognized as a world-class expert precisely because of what I don't know right now. Specifically, I don't know anything about our reader or her situation. As with the medical doctor, she will surely rejoice that I prescribe nothing before I've even met her. You see, true expertise is based not on knowledge but on humility together with a sense of honest inquiry.
||All right, let's move on. Perhaps you could say something about what you earlier called critical questions?
||Of course. A critical question is one of the best questions that it is possible to ask.
|| How would you define a critical question?
|| It's simply any question you put to me which you believe I can't answer.
|| And that's one of the best questions that can be asked, is it?
||It certainly is.
||How can it be such a brilliant question if I already know that you can't answer it?
||Because you're not putting it to me in order to discover any new information...
||But if it doesn't surface any new information, what value can my critical question possibly have?
||Vast value. Critical questions are never asked in order to find anything out. You'd normally ask a critical question simply to make the other person think.
||I see. You would ask such a question with the sole intention of getting the other person to think? Nothing else?
||Correct. That's what leadership coaching is all about; helping the other person reflect on the way she thinks; to discover what's important yet missing in her current thinking or knowledge; and sometimes to change the way she thinks. It would be a very dull world if all we ever did with questions was exchange data.
||Perhaps I should summarize. The best question that can be asked is what should I be asking? An expert can't answer that question without knowing something about the client's situation. And to explore the client's understanding of her situation, the expert asks a critical question which you've said is one that you know in advance the client cannot currently answer. Isn't that all a bit strange?
||Naturally. You surely don't expect to interview an expert and then be told things you thought you already knew?
||Indeed, and on that basis, this has been a great interview. We've been privileged today to talk with and learn from Dr. M. Xavier Fink. Thank you. We've all been totally Finkalized!
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BUSINESS BOOK SUMMARIES
Surfing the Edge of Chaos
The Laws of Nature and the New Laws of Business
By: Richard Pascale, Mark Milleman and Linda Gioja
Summary by Lydia Morris Brown, Business Book Summaries
According to Pascale, Millemann, and Gioja equilibrium is considered a good thing because it is associated with balance. It occurs in nature when the components of a biosystem are in sync. At the individual level, equilibrium occurs when an organism is able to live in its environment successfully and to meet its own needs with available resources. Then something occurs (e.g., a fire in Yellowstone Park or commerce on the Internet) and, abruptly, the environment is destabilized. Those things that have been dormant, such as the thicker-than-usual brush on the forest floor or unmet customer needs, suddenly ignite, changing everything.
On a small scale and in a short time frame, equilibrium can be desirable, but over long intervals and on very large scales, it becomes a problem. The environment is always changing, and sometimes the change is cataclysmic. Prolonged equilibrium dulls an organism’s senses and saps its ability to react quickly and appropriately in the face of danger. When long periods of stability lull companies into equilibrium, it is the equivalent of a death sentence.
However, not all living systems fall prey to equilibrium. The first reason has to do with the Darwinian struggle for survival. Looking at the competitive corporate landscape, it is apparent that new rivals constantly converge on the same market and fight relentlessly to obtain a better position on the economic food chain. No niche is safe. The second is the genetic diversity that comes as a result of sexual reproduction-homogeneity begets vulnerability, while diversity begets the ability to survive. When GE’s Jack Welch challenges each of the company’s business heads to hire people with e-commerce or other nontraditional backgrounds, and to come up with viable "destroy-your-business.coms" options, he is fostering this kind of diversity.
Humans have an important advantage over nature when it comes to disturbing equilibrium. Companies, as intelligent entities can, in theory, recognize danger and/or opportunity before the fact and mobilize themselves to take appropriate action. Moreover, human learning can be codified and passed on, via the social system, to future generations, making that knowledge a part of the "genetic structure."
Nonetheless, causing disequilibrium, by mobilizing this kind of adaptive intent, is not natural, especially for executives who have always been rewarded for their operational competence. But, what is unnatural within traditional frames of reference becomes sensible and accessible within the framework established by the principles of complexity.
- Equilibrium leads to death. When a living system is in a state of equilibrium, it is less responsive to changes in the environment, which places it at maximum risk.
- In the face of threat or compelling opportunity, living things move toward the edge of chaos. This leads to higher mutation and experimentation, which is, in turn, likely to lead to fresh solutions.
- This awakening causes the components of living systems to self-organize, and new forms and routines emerge from the turmoil.
- Because unforeseen consequences are inevitable, living systems cannot be directed along a linear path.
Thus, they must be disturbed in a manner that comes close to the desired outcome.
This management model, based on the nature of nature, is not a metaphor of how human institutions operate, but it is how they operate in reality. Understanding this important distinction is tantamount to understanding that it is natural for corporations to behave like adaptive organisms and that to do otherwise is to beg for extinction. Thus, the natural model will thrive and persist over Newtonian traditions because the marketplace insists that it be so and because it is more closely akin to what human beings really are and to how they relate to their environment.
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FROM THE EDITOR
Crunch, Crash, Cripes!
By Sarah McArthur
This has been an eventful issue of the eZine. My computer crashed during the process of putting this issue together and it's given me an entirely new perspective on the meaning of "back-up," "double back-up," "online back-up" and don't forget to "back up."
What has been so eye-opening though hasn't been the need for constant hard drive back-ups, it's the overwhelming sympathy and encouragement I've received from so many people who have been through a similar experience. So, I just wanted to say a personal thank you to the WABC staff and all of the contributors without whom this issue would not exist!
But it does. And, it's a great one!
Colin Gautrey and Katie McGuidwin explain the unique position business coaches are in to help their clients weather the current credit crunch in their article "Business Coaching and the Credit Crunch." For a good laugh, read about Dr. Fink's latest exploits in Dr. Laurence S. Lyons' latest "Ask the Expert" column. Charles Brassard discusses the concept of Coaching CirclesTM in this issue's "Get the Edge" column and Adrian Furnham explains how to "Forget Your Weaknesses" in the "Hot Topic."
Columnist Marshall Goldsmith explores how to effectively influence upper management; while Dr. Sunny Stout Rostron continues her discussion of the coaching intervention. In his "Professional Selling" column, Barry Trailer explains how your coach can help you to attract new coaching prospects, and Dr. Annette Fillery-Travis delves into the importance to the business coaching profession of defining our body of knowledge. Finally, in his "Success Story", Enrique López de los Ríos discusses the coaching model used in the first coaching program in HSBC Mexico.
I hope you enjoy this issue of Business Coaching Worldwide. And if there is a subject you are interested in reading about, please send Letters to the Editor. We'd love to hear from you!
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
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