Feature Article
Power, Responsibility and Wisdom: Exploring the Issues at the Core of Ethical Decision-Making and Leadership by Dr. Bruce Lloyd

Why is it so difficult to balance power with responsibility, especially when it comes to decision-making? Dr. Bruce Lloyd has an answer.

Success Story
A Bright Start in a Dark Economy by Michael Schutzler

Starting a technology company is always a challenge. Starting one in the midst of an economic meltdown is even tougher.  Learn how Jon Ingalls, CEO of TrackSimple, faced this situation and succeeded in launching his company in the midst of the greatest economic turmoil since the Great Depression.

Get the Edge
Stuck in a Career Rut? Maybe It's Your Learning Style That's to Blame! by Devon Scheef & Diane Thielfoldt

Devon Scheef and Diane Thielfoldt explain how to solve problems and meet challenges most successfully by engaging three different learning styles.

Hot Topic
Business Coaching in the Former Soviet Union by Michael J. Horner

What's it like to do business in the former Soviet Union? What challenges face foreign and local business people in these republics? Michael J. Horner explains and offers suggestions.

Coaching Great Leaders by Marshall Goldsmith

Feedback can leave colleagues feeling judged, but "feedforward"—suggestions without comments on past mistakes—is a lot easier to stomach.

Coaching Models for Business Success by Dr. Sunny Stout Rostron

Dr. Sunny Stout Rostron continues to investigate coaching models that influence the work of business and executive coaches worldwide. Here she examines the essence of coaching as a learning conversation, and explores how to develop a structured approach to the coaching intervention using nested-levels models.

Based on the Evidence by Dr. Annette Fillery-Travis

Dr. Annette Fillery-Travis highlights the importance of a tight ethical framework and gratitude when taking on the role of practitioner researcher.

Thriving in Tough Times by Holly G. Green

2009 is well underway. It promises to continue to be an exciting ride filled with more uncertainty and higher expectations than ever before. The one sure thing about 2009 is that we will get through it and we will recover, but with all of the forces at work, what can you do to influence your success most directly?

Leading with Presence by John Baldoni

Personal disclosure: when does it help and when does it hurt?

Business Book Summaries
Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls by Noel M. Tichy and Warren G. Bennis

In Judgment, Tichy and Bennis parse leadership down to what they believe is its fundamental element—judgment. It is their premise that "With good judgment, little else matters. Without it, nothing else matters. ... Whether ... United States presidents, CEOs, Major League coaches, or wartime generals, leaders are remembered for their best and worst judgment calls.".

In Our Next Issue

Patricia Wheeler discusses executive transitions and Marshall Goldsmith gives us his thoughts on "favoritism."


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Power, Responsibility, and Wisdom: Exploring the Issues at the Core of Ethical Decision Making and Leadership1

By Dr. Bruce Lloyd

The objective is simple: Better decision making. The only issue is that there are so many different views on what we mean by "better." At the core of all decision making is the need to balance power with responsibility as the vehicle for resolving the ‘better' question. This article explores why that is so difficult. It also argues that exploring the concept of wisdom can provide invaluable insights into how to achieve the most effective balance between power and responsibility, which is central to what our values mean in practice, as well as about how we incorporate ethics into our decision making.

Wise decision making, inevitably, involves moral/ethical choices. It is not surprising that comments we might define as wisdom are essentially comments about the relationship between people, or their relationship with society and the universe as a whole. These statements are generally globally recognized as relatively timeless and are insights that help us provide meaning to the world about us. Yet how often do they seem to be almost totally ignored in futurist, strategy, knowledge management, coaching, and even ethics literature? We appear to spend more and more time focused on learning knowledge, or facts—which have a relatively short shelf life-and less and less time on knowledge that overlaps with wisdom, which has a long shelf life. Why is that? What can we do about it?

Western sociological and management/leadership literature is full of references to power. How to get it? How to keep it? And how to prevent it being taken away? In parallel, but rarely in the same studies, there is also an enormous amount of literature on the concept of responsibility.

While power is the ability to make things happen, responsibility is driven by attempting to answer the question: In whose interest is the power being used? Yet the two concepts of power and responsibility are simply different sides of the same coin; they are the yin and yang of our behavior; they are how we balance our relations with ourselves with the interests of others, which is at the core of what we mean by our values. Power makes things happen, but it is the exercise of an appropriate balance between power and responsibility that helps ensure that as many ‘good' things happen as possible.

Leadership is nothing more than the well-informed, responsible use of power. The more that leadership-related decisions are responsibility-driven (i.e., the more they are genuinely concerned with the wider interest), not only will they be better informed decisions, but the results are much more likely to genuinely reflect the long-term interests of all concerned, which also happens to be a sound foundation for improving their ethical quality and sustainability.

In essence, the above leadership definition is exactly what could also be called ‘Wise Leadership.' In this context, the concepts of leader, leading, and leadership are used interchangeably, although it could be argued that ‘leaders' are individuals (including their intentions, beliefs, assumptions, etc.), while ‘leading' entails their actions in relation to others, and ‘leadership' is the whole system of individual and social relationships that result in efforts to create change/progress. However, the above definition can be used to cover the integrated interrelationship of those three dimensions.

Briefly, wisdom can be considered as: "Making the best use of exercising good judgment...the capacity to realize what is of value in life for oneself and others...." Or as "the end point of a process that encompasses the idea of making sound judgments in the face of uncertainty."2

Of course, wisdom is one thing and ‘being wise' is quite another. Being wise is certainly more than the ability to recycle wisdom. In essence, ‘being wise' involves the ability to apply wisdom effectively in practice.

Wisdom is by far the most sustainable dimension of the information/knowledge industry. But is it teachable? It is learned somehow, and as far as I know, there is no values/wisdom gene. Consequently, there are things that we can all do to help manage the learning processes more effectively, although detailed consideration of these are outside the scope of this article.

In the end, the quality of our decisions depends on the quality of our conversations/dialogue; not only dialogue about information but, perhaps even more important, about the best way to use that information. In other words, it is about how our values influence the decision-making process. Dialogue both facilitates the transfer of technical knowledge and is an invaluable part of personal development. Having a quality dialogue about values is not only the most important issue we need to address, but it is often the most difficult.

We need to recognize that the more change that is going on in society, the more important it is that we make sure that our learning is as effective as possible. That is the only way we have any chance of being able to equate change with progress. If we want to have a better future, the first—and most important—thing that we have to do is improve the quality and effectiveness of our learning.

In recent years we have seen considerable effort to move people from the idea of 'working harder' to 'working smarter.' But what is really needed is to move beyond 'working smarter' to 'working wiser.' We need to move from being the ‘Knowledge Society' to the ‘Wise Society.' And, the more we move along that progression, the more we need to recognize that we are moving to a situation where the important issues primarily reflect the quality of our values rather than the quantity of our physical effort. If we want to improve the quality of our decision making, the focus needs not only to be on the quality of our information but, even more importantly, on the ‘right' use of that information; hence the importance of improving the dialogue-related issues mentioned earlier.

Why are we interested in ethics and the future? The answer is, simply, that we are concerned with trying to make the world a ‘better' place. But for whom? And how? To answer both questions we need to re-ask fundamental questions: Why do we not spend more time to ensure that the important messages that we have learned in the past ('wisdom') can be passed on to future generations? How do we ensure these messages are learned more effectively? These are critical strategy questions, and lie at the very foundation of anything we might want to call the ‘Knowledge Economy,' although what is really needed is to focus on trying to move toward a concept closer to the ‘Wise Economy.' This focus naturally overlaps with the greater attention now being given to values and ethical-related issues and ‘the search for meaning' in management/leadership literature.

Overall, wisdom is a very practical body of sustainable knowledge (/information) that has an incredibly useful contribution to our understanding of our world. Such an approach would enable us all to make ‘better' (wiser) decisions, lead ‘better' lives, and experience wiser leadership, particularly in areas that involve (either explicit or implicit) ethics- and values-related issues. This is also closely linked to establishing more appropriate relationships between power and responsibility.

If we cannot take wisdom seriously, we will pay a very high price for this neglect. We need to foster greater respect for other people, particularly those who have views or reflect values that we do not agree with. This requires us to develop our capacity to have constructive conversations about the issues that divide us; that, in itself, would go a long way toward ensuring that we improve the quality of our decision making for the benefit of all in the long term. So help us move toward a ‘Wiser Society.'

1 A longer version of this article can be found in Integral Leadership Review, 2008, Vol. VIII, No. 5, October.


Dr. Bruce LloydDr Bruce Lloyd is Emeritus Professor of Strategic Management at London South Bank University.

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A Bright Start in a Dark Economy

By Michael Schutzler

The Business/Organization

Jon Ingalls left two years ago to start his own company. Before leaving, he had spent seven years leading the teams that built and operated the business performance and monitoring systems on which his world-renowned former employer drove successful online sales of books, jewelry, cameras, kitchen tools, and so many other kinds of merchandise. While creating and managing a system that handles billions of measurements and electronic transactions every month, Jon began to envision a new kind of company that could measure any electronic transaction and develop superior business insights for any enterprise, not just one superstar online merchant. In 2007, Jon launched TrackSimple Inc with his own money and quickly attracted five of the best and brightest technologists in the industry.

The Partnership

Jon knew that starting and running a company were very different from managing a team of engineers, but like most entrepreneurs, he was undaunted by this challenge. In fact, this uncertainty was highly motivating for Jon. He met with many independent and institutional investors to explore market strategies and investment alternatives. Jon and I met serendipitously during a presentation he made to a venture capital firm that had asked me to assess Jon's business plan and his potential as a CEO. After the meeting, Jon emailed me requesting to meet privately to discuss hiring me as his business coach. We explored our styles, his goals, and whether we were a good fit over the course of three meetings and then agreed to enter a business coaching partnership in June 2008.

The Challenge

There were three main factors on Jon's mind as we started our coaching engagement. First, he wanted to fully evaluate his strengths and weaknesses as a CEO and devise a plan to improve. Second, he needed to devise a strategy to finance his company. And third, he needed to land his first customer.

As is true for most first-time entrepreneurs, Jon wasn't exactly clear about what a CEO was even though he had the opportunity to watch Jeff Bezos perform the role successfully at Amazon. Jon was now in the hot seat and he was quickly realizing there was a lot to learn and learn fast. In addition, the economic walls were already cracking in the venture capital world in late 2007, so by the time he hired me in June 2008, many venture firms were reluctant and nervous about investing into new companies. Especially one with an unproven CEO.

The Approach

We constructed an interleaved three-part coaching plan. First, we worked on a strategy to get the company funded. Next, we set a target and plan to attain that first customer. In addition to those two components, we concurrently evaluated Jon's leadership skills and areas for improvement—now and later.

A consistent coaching methodology was applied throughout each of these blended business activities. Jon assessed his situation and then presented his case. I challenged his assertions and implicit assumptions. After reconciling this discussion into a comprehensive assessment that Jon owned, we set concrete, measurable goals. My role from that point onward was to encourage or provoke Jon to achieve those milestones. Conversations ranged widely among topics including risk assessments, opportunities, progress on plans, progress with new behaviors, and leading a team of people in a sincere, honest, and direct manner.

Financing. Shortly after the company had raised angel funds in late 2007, Jon had started engaging venture capital firms to get his company funded. It was clear by April 2008 that he was not succeeding. His pitch and presentation were admirably ambitious and visionary but neither focused nor polished enough to garner investment. In his own words, "They seem to like me but they aren't buying what I'm selling." Of course, the private equity market was already quite reluctant at this point, which meant that his pitch needed to be brilliant if he was going to get an investor on board.

We focused on Jon's presentation skills and the clarity of his message. To build confidence, we practiced privately in role-playing and whenever he said or did something that contradicted his specific business message or his stature as a CEO, I stopped him and asked him why he said or did that. This allowed Jon to reflect in the moment on the sources of his own behavior, and as a result, he quickly eliminated unnecessary or confusing phrases and started acting more confident and poised in his delivery. He then moved on to business associates as dress-rehearsal audiences and ultimately refined his message and his stage presence as a CEO for the venture community. In fact, he became brilliant in his oratorical skill and his message clarity, which had the added benefit of making Jon a good product salesperson for his young company.

Contract Negotiations. During this period of fund-raising, TrackSimple was also deeply engaged in a dialogue with its first major client prospect. Jon had little prior experience with this level of complex contract negotiation, so we pulled in expertise to help Jon learn the intricacies and principles of this kind of negotiation. I facilitated role-playing with Jon and his team so they could all learn and contribute. We explored what might happen in a negotiation, what would be the best response, etc. His team moved from a confused lot to a well-orchestrated unit in the span of only a few months of practice. However, there was a raging debate on Jon's team about whether this first customer was merely one of convenience or  the first of many. In other words, there were several strong opinions about which market segment to pursue.

My role as a coach was to help Jon balance a measured, Socratic approach with a more emphatic, directive approach. His team was technically brilliant, but had little experience with market analysis or client assessments. At the same time, his team had to believe in the mission to serve the client and in Jon's ability to bring the next client. Thus, while learning to negotiate through a complex, technical contract with a powerful customer, Jon was simultaneously learning to negotiate with his team on the balance of power—when he should listen and when he should assert himself as leader and demand commitment.

The team came to agreement on the market segment, landed their first big client, and our coaching shifted to retaining that client while exploring when and how to land the next one.

On-the-Job CEO Training. The configuration of a start-up company board is of vital importance to the success of the company. It is a critical time because how the board is formed sets the tone moving forward and how the board makes decisions sets precedence for future decisions. Both TrackSimple and its lead Investor were jockeying for as much board power as possible. We focused on Jon's core objectives and must-have terms, and then he worked with legal counsel to get advice on the best approach to document and close on those terms.

More generally, in every weekly coaching session, we began and ended with a grounding assessment of Jon's performance in the core skills and essential functions of leadership. In particular, we ensured that he spent more time listening and devised a plan for him to practice that skill in and out of the workplace. And we always came back to his core objective of motivating and inspiring his team to make a sustained effort toward their primary mission of delivering superior business results to all interested companies through superior measurement of electronic transactions.

The Value Delivered

TrackSimple raised $2.2 million in venture capital in a time when most firms were unable to even get an appointment with a partner. The board configuration retained parity in power and control between management team and the investors and the board has established a respectful and productive dialogue. The first client generated well over $100,000 in revenues and is now negotiating a substantially higher value one-year contract. The team is also negotiating with a second client. TrackSimple is now seen as one of the premier technology start-ups in Seattle and is attracting superior talent among technology and business professionals. The investment in coaching to date has been $18,000. The financial return on investment is well over 10,000 percent, even if you only include the fund-raising and first-client revenues.

Michael Schutzler is a successful business coach based in Seattle, WA. His approach to coaching draws on 25 years of leadership experience in public and private companies on three continents and in nine industries. He is the author of the popular book Inspiring Excellence - A Path to Exceptional Leadership (2009: Book Publishers Network)More about Michael in the WABC Membership Directory. Contact Michael.

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Stuck in a Career Rut? Maybe It's Your Learning Style That Is to Blame!

By Devon Scheef & Diane Thielfoldt

Pop Quiz! Read the scenario below and choose your most likely response:

You buy an appliance and you're not sure how to install it. Unfortunately no one is available to install it for you, so you must do it yourself. What do you do first?

  • 1. Call a friend.
  • 2. Read the instruction manual.
  • 3. Plunge ahead!

If we asked ten people this question, not everyone would answer the same. That's because, when confronted with an unfamiliar circumstance, each person's first inclination is different, as well as their second or third:

  • Some of us reach out to a person who might have experience—people learners;
  • Some of us crack the shrink wrap on the manual and dive into it—information learners; and
  • Others of us grab the tools and get started—action learners.

While many of us would eventually try another approach if our first choice didn't work, the truth is that most of us are happily ensconced in a comfort zone of learning. We've got our 'go-to' choice, which has worked well for us over the years.

Each of the three learning approaches has merit and relevance. But, when overused, that approach may no longer serve us. It can become an unconscious habit that blocks us from more effective learning, like a catchy song that gets stuck in our heads whether we like it or not. And as our life and work challenges become more complicated and nuanced, the need to flex our learning style is critical. But because we're not aware we are in a rut, we continue trying more of the same and getting more of the same.

Nowhere is this truer than in career management. We embark, making all the right moves with the best of intentions. Until one day it happens: we run into a wall that we can't get over, around, or through. We're stuck—and we don't know why our career progress has stalled. It is possible that, at this moment, your familiar learning habits are to blame.

We are strongest at solving problems and meeting challenges when we engage with all three learning styles. Each learning style contains a critical element of a solution. In more detail, here are the three "comfort zones" of learning—each highly effective, but each limiting when it is the only approach in our repertoire.

People Learning

People Learning gets results by using others' experience as a shortcut to learning. People learners often seek out best practices, glean insights from others, and learn fastest when they can discuss, brainstorm, and collaborate with others.

Career Challenge: You manage a team of Six Sigma black belts, who support improvement initiatives throughout your organization. You've been in this role for about three years, and you recently applied for internal promotions, with no success. You prefer People Learning.

How People Learning Is Helping You

You probably seek career advice from others, trying to learn why you haven't been promoted. When you apply for internal promotions, you probably leverage your internal networks as references and sources of information about the role so you can make the strongest possible application.

What's Missing?

Information Learning—Carefully study the job description, rewriting your résumé to highlight your relevant expertise.

Action Learning—Since you can't do the job until you get it, provide examples to interviewers of your action plan for the first 30 days.

Information Learning

Information Learning is the ability to observe, synthesize, and analyze situations, facts, and data. Information learners are skilled observers—the stereotype of information learners glued to Google or with their nose in a manual just isn't true.

Career Challenge: As part of a high-potential rotational program, you've been asked to implement your company's new SAP processes in your department. You're going to do this by holding a training session for the department. The session has a lot of visibility; your manager tells you that this is a "career-making" opportunity. You prefer Information Learning.

How Information Learning Is Helping You

No one is more organized, structured, or diligent about the SAP implementation details than you. You're certain of the process steps. You have complete documentation and training manuals customized for each member of your department.

What's Missing?

People Learning—Reaching out to other people who have implemented SAP in their departments to see what they've learned that could help you be most effective. What barriers or challenges did they face in the training?

Action Learning—A trial run or practice session with a key member or two of your department, using that feedback to fine-tune your training.

Action Learning

Action Learning uses experience and results to gauge effectiveness, and engages in step-and-repeat learning,proving true the motto, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."

Career Challenge: You're the national account sales manager for a large office equipment manufacturer. You've been told you have a bright future because of your can-do attitude and action orientation, but that you need to "be more strategic" in order to be promoted to an executive role. You have your eye on the VP Sales role. You prefer Action Learning.

How Action Learning Is Helping You

Just do it! That's your motto. You've willingly jumped into high-risk client situations and helped your company emerge a winner. You'll pick up the phone, badger corporate for the resources your clients need, put your feet on the street with your sales reps, and try new selling approaches.

What's Missing?

People Learning—Connect with and interview the VP of Sales, other executives in your organization and in other like companies. What did they learn about the jump from field sales manager to corporate executive leader? What advice would they give you, especially about the strategic aspect of the role?

Information Learning—Locate your company's executive leadership competencies; how does your experience match with those? How does your company define "strategic"? To be seen as more strategic, subscribe to sales and industry publications. Be alert to trends and industry impacts and how they affect your company.

Now What?

Now, with some insight into the three personal learning approaches and knowledge of your particular 'go-to' style, you can expand your learning style to include some of the other approaches. When faced with a new career challenge, try all three learning approaches for maximum effectiveness and to get unstuck—fast!

Devon Scheef is co-founder of The Learning Café and President of Scheef Organization Development & Training, Inc. She is a frequent speaker and co-author of Mentoring: A How-To Guide published by the American Society for Training & Development and The Personal Learning Model. Contact Devon.

Diane Thielfoldt is a learning strategist and co-founder of The Learning Café, which partners with clients to create custom learning solutions that produce business results and support personal growth. Diane's corporate career encompassed leadership roles with McGraw-Hill, TRW, Bausch & Lomb, and Xerox in sales, marketing, communications, and learning design, development and delivery. Contact Diane.

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Business Coaching in the Former Soviet Union

By Michael J. Horner

Having spent the past seven years in the Republic of Kazakhstan, part of the former Soviet Union, I can say that it will be an uphill road to see business coaching done there with any degree of success. When we went to Kazakhstan in 2001, it was as volunteer humanitarian aid workers joining a NGO (nongovernmental organization) that asked us to design and build a microenterprise development project for the villages around the main economic capital of Almaty. After a couple months of language instruction, we launched into full-scale training and held our first seminar in February 2002. Almost 50 people attended from the city and many of the small villages, and we taught them how to come up with a business idea, how to formulate that idea into a plan and then, in one-on-one meetings after the seminar, we helped them to write a business plan including a full three-year cash flow.

In the summer of 2002, we funded our first group of business owners. We continued this type of training through December 2004 when we returned to the US for a couple of months break after coming close to nervous breakdowns. In total in the first four years, we trained more than 100 people and personally funded 25 people. This formed the basis for our return in June 2005, when we decided that in order to move through the obstacles I will describe in a moment, we needed to open a for-profit consulting and micro-lending firm, which we did in the fall of 2005. Little did we know that this move, combined with me going into partnership with a Kazakh man in a combined law/real estate/investment firm, would open us up to new and adventurous challenges.

The challenges that will face anybody (including Russian or local nationals) in the former Soviet Union are real, but not insurmountable. However, the cost of overcoming them must be counted before attempting to launch any type of venture in the former Soviet republics.

  1. Corruption - Corruption was bad when we arrived in Kazakhstan in the summer of 2001, but with the increased amount of oil money and governmental controls, it is getting worse, not better. When we arrived, there was corruption in the government but it was mainly in the customs control and tax police. In 2001, I was working with a Pakistani national who was opening one of the first sports stores in Almaty. During one of our sessions he told me that if I wanted to I could become extremely wealthy, but one thing was standing in my way. He told me that I was too honest and advised that I stop paying my taxes like I had been doing and applying for my business license like the law called for. He said if I would just pay a bribe to the officials that they would always look the other way. Well, corruption has become worse; now it is like a mold that grows and grows. At every level of government, bribes are not just commonplace, but expected. If you want to register land you bought as agricultural land and actually want to farm, you have to pay the register's office a bribe to register your land as what it is instead of something different. If you want to register it as something different, the bribe gets higher. And any and all officials' signatures and pichat (the all-important Russian stamp) are for sale. Corruption will not go away as long as the price of oil remains high and as long as the current regimes are in place, so be prepared to have to make very tough choices. We chose not to pay a lot of these bribes and it was part of the reason we are no longer working or doing business in the former Soviet Union.
  2. Distrust - Nobody trusts anybody! During the long, hard years of the Soviet Union, nobody knew who was an informer for the KGB, the dreaded secret police. Nothing has changed since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In order to gain trust, you have to trust people who are not always going to trust you back. In order to be an effective coach, you have to be able to trust and be trusted. The key to overcoming this is to take on a lot of stress and continue to trust people even when it isn't reciprocated. This trust can have another effect. It can make you constantly look over your shoulder wondering when one of the people you have a trust relationship with will get caught up in the system of corruption, become too big (next point), and then be turned by the authorities into an informer. Will they put your name out there to get the spotlight off of them? My partner was somebody I trusted. When he overstepped the invisible boundary that is placed around you in business (almost like the caste system of India), he became a target. He eased the stress by pointing the arrow toward me, which very directly led to our leaving Kazakhstan. There are ways to overcome this distrust, but it is still many years from happening and with the current political maneuverings, I wonder if it is even possible.
  3. Invisible Boundary - When we first started to do business training, one of the people we funded told us that his plans for his cattle business were to build his herd up to 25 cattle and then all other cattle he would register in a relative's name. When I asked him why he would do such a thing, he looked at me like I was an idiot, and then explained the way the "mafia" works. Depending on the clan you were born into, you have certain rights and a set boundary as to just how much money and how large your personal business enterprise may become. If you overstep this invisible boundary, then you will be visited by the local official (may be government, may just be some guy who everybody knows is connected to the right clan—that the locals call the "mafia") who will inform you that your entire business is being bought by another "buyer." This "buyer" will give you a very "attractive" offer for your business, which you do not have the right to refuse. If you choose to refuse this "offer," then other things will happen and you will have no money at all. So the way to keep the spotlight off of you is to only grow your business as high as what you "think" the invisible boundary may be. This is at best a guess, but it is real and there are many small businesspeople today who, through hard work and perseverance, grew their business too big and then paid the price and had to start all over again. The going rate for a "buyout" of a business is about ten cents on the dollar. You will always know the "buyout" person, because they never seem to work but drive Hummer H2s, Porsche Cayennes, or whatever other $100,000 vehicle you can imagine. They live in the largest house in the village and have no apparent source of income, yet have large spending tastes. And they own everything around you: the largest plots of land, the best buildings in the region, you name it, they own it. The only way to overcome this challenge (especially as a foreigner) is to grow a small enterprise. Once that enterprise has grown to a size where you get your first visit from these guys (they call themselves "agashkas" meaning "older father" in Kazakh), it is time to downsize or outsource and create an entirely different business from the one that is now successful. This does mean more taxes and more outlay of capital in the beginning, but it is better than having your entire business taken away.

Those are the three biggest challenges to business coaching in the former Soviet Union. As one who has experienced all three of these challenges and lived to leave, this is not something that should deter somebody from wanting to start a coaching enterprise in this region. However, you should go with your eyes wide open and make great use of your local embassy. The local embassy can't keep things from happening to you, but they can keep you from going to a local prison on some trumped up charge that was only brought to separate you from the work you have started so somebody else can reap the benefits of your investment (if you don't believe this just read what is happening to the big oil companies today in these republics). You can grow a coaching business in these areas, but the ideal way is to find somebody who is well connected, pay them a large salary to stay away from the business and just use them as your shield. Be aware that when this person loses their shield through a change in governance, you should be ready to pack up and leave.

Michael J. Horner spent seven years in the former Soviet Union, initially doing microenterprise training and advancing into coaching those business owners upon their successful funding. Now returned to the US, he continues to coach small business owners on how to be more structured and invest themselves fully in their businesses. Contact Michael.

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Coaching Great Leaders
Feed It Forward

By Marshall Goldsmith

I have observed more than 50,000 leaders from around the world as they participated in a fascinating experiential exercise in which I ask participants to play two roles.

In one role, they provide FeedForward: They give another participant suggestions and, as much as they can, help with a specific issue. In the second role, they accept FeedForward: They listen to suggestions from another participant and learn as much as they can.

Step by Step

The exercise typically lasts 10-15 minutes, and the average participant has six or seven such sessions in that time. Participants are asked to

  • Pick one behavior they would like to change. Change in this behavior should make a significant, positive difference in their lives.
  • Describe this behavior to randomly selected fellow participants in one-on-one dialogues. It can be done quite simply, e.g., "I want to be a better listener."
  • Ask for FeedForward that might help them achieve a positive change in their behavior. If participants have worked together in the past, they are not allowed to give any feedback about the past. They are only allowed to give ideas for the future.
  • Listen attentively to the suggestions and take notes. Participants are not allowed to comment on the suggestions in any way, nor are they allowed to critique the suggestions, even to make positive statements, e.g., "That's a good idea."
  • Thank the other participants for their suggestions.
  • Ask fellow participants what they would like to change about themselves.
  • Provide FeedForward—two suggestions for helping the other person change.
  • Say, "You are welcome," when thanked for the suggestions. (The entire process of both giving and receiving FeedForward usually takes about two minutes.)
  • Find another participant and keep repeating the process until the exercise is stopped.

When the exercise is over, I ask the participants to complete the following sentence, "This exercise was...," with the one word that best describes their reaction to the experience. The words selected are almost always positive, such as "great," "energizing," "useful" or "helpful." One of the most common words used is "fun."

What is the last word most of us think of to describe the experience of receiving feedback, coaching and developmental ideas? Fun!

Reasons to Try FeedForward

I ask participants why this exercise is fun and helpful as opposed to painful, embarrassing or uncomfortable. Their answers offer a great explanation of why FeedForward can often be more useful than feedback as a developmental tool:

  1. We can change the future. We can't change the past. FeedForward helps people envision and focus on a positive future, not a failed past. Race-car drivers are taught to look at the road ahead, not at the wall. By giving people ideas on how they can be even more successful, we can increase their chances of achieving this success in the future.
  2. FeedForward can come from people whom we have never even met. It does not require personal experience. One very common positive reaction to the exercise is that participants are amazed by how much they can learn from people they don't know. For example, if you want to be a better listener, almost any fellow human can give you ideas. They don't have to know you.
  3. Face it! Most of us hate getting negative feedback, and we don't like to give it. I have reviewed summary 360-degree feedback reports for more than 50 companies. The items "provides developmental feedback in a timely manner" and "encourages and accepts constructive criticism" almost always score near the bottom on coworker satisfaction with leaders. Traditional training does not seem to make a great deal of difference. If leaders got better at providing feedback every time the performance appraisal forms were "improved," most would be perfect by now!
  4. FeedForward can cover almost all of the same material as feedback. Imagine you have just made a terrible presentation in front of the executive committee. Your manager is in the room. Rather than make you relive this humiliating experience by detailing what went wrong, your manager might help you by offering suggestions for future presentations. These suggestions can be very specific and still delivered in a positive way—without making you feel even more humiliated.
  5. FeedForward tends to be much faster and more efficient than feedback. An excellent technique for giving ideas to successful people is to say: "Here is an idea for the future. Please accept it in the positive spirit in which it is offered. If you can use it, great! If not, just ignore it." With this approach, almost no time is wasted judging the quality of the ideas or trying to refute the suggestions. This kind of debate is usually negative, wastes time, and is often counterproductive. By eliminating judgment of the ideas, the process becomes much more positive for the sender as well as the receiver.
  6. FeedForward can be a useful tool with managers, peers and team members. Rightly or wrongly, feedback is associated with judgment. This can lead to very negative—even career-limiting—consequences when given to managers or peers. FeedForward does not imply superiority of judgment. It is more focused on being a helpful colleague than an expert. As such, it can be easier to hear from a person who isn't in a position of power or authority.
  7. People tend to listen more attentively to FeedForward than feedback. One participant in the FeedForward exercise noted: "I think that I listened more effectively in this exercise than I ever have in my life!" When asked why, he said, "Normally, when others are speaking, I am so busy composing a reply that will make sure that I sound smart that I am not fully listening to what the other person is saying. In FeedForward, the only reply that I am allowed to make is ‘thank you.' Since I don't have to worry about composing a clever reply, I can focus all of my energy on listening to the other person!"

When to Use FeedForward

The intent of this article is not to imply that leaders should never give feedback or that performance appraisals should be abandoned. The intent is to show how FeedForward can often be preferable to feedback in day-to-day interactions. Aside from its effectiveness and efficiency, FeedForward can make life a lot more enjoyable. When I ask managers how they felt the last time they received feedback, the most common responses are negative. When managers are asked how they felt after receiving FeedForward, they reply that FeedForward was not only useful, it was also fun.

(This column has been modified from "Try FeedForward Instead of Feedback" in Coaching for Leadership, M. Goldsmith and L. Lyons, eds. Jossey Bass, 2005.)

Marshall Goldsmith, MBA, PhD, is a world authority on helping successful leaders achieve positive, lasting behavioral change. His executive coaching expertise has been highlighted in Forbes, Fast Company and Business Week. He is the WSJ and NYT best-selling author of What Got You Here Won't Get You There (Hyperion, 2007). His most recent book is Succession: Are You Ready? Learn more about Marshall in the WABC Coach Directory. Contact Marshall.

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Coaching Models for Business Success
Working with Coaching Models: The Nested-Levels Model

By Dr. Sunny Stout Rostron

Coaching as an Experiential Learning Conversation

One of the core areas where coaches work with clients is that of learning. However, the conversation with your client centers on what is meaningful to them. If significance and relevance are to emerge from the coaching conversation, it doesn't matter what is relevant to you; it matters what is relevant to them. It is therefore important to be aware of your own assumptions about what the client needs.

If you are guiding, directing, and giving your clients all the information they need, it will be difficult for them to ever be free of you. It is helpful if the client embodies new learning personally and physiologically; you can't do their learning for them. What you do as a coach is to help them reconstruct their own thinking and feeling to gain perspective and become self-directed learners. At the end of each coaching session with my clients, we integrate their learning1 with the goals they have set, confirming what action, if any, they are committed to:

  1. Vision-Refine their vision: where is the client going?
  2. Strategy-Outline the strategy: how is the client going to achieve their vision?
  3. Outcomes-What are the specific outcomes that need to be accomplished in the next few weeks in order to work toward achieving the vision, putting the strategy into action?
  4. Learning-Help the client summarize what was gained from the session in order to help underline self-reflection, continuing to help the client understand that they are responsible for their own thinking, their own doing, and their own being.

Nested-Levels Model

Although models create a system within which coach and client learn, it is essential that models are not experienced as either prescriptive or rigid. If the model is inflexible, it means it is fulfilling the coach's agenda, rather than attempting to understand the client's issues.

This nested-levels model was developed by New Ventures West (Weiss, 2004), and introduces the concept of horizontal and vertical levels in coaching models. The nested model works first at the horizontal level of "doing," eventually moving into deeper "learning" one level down; reflecting about self, others, and experience at a third "ontological" level where new knowledge emerges about oneself and the world (Figure1).

In her article, Pam Weiss talks about the two different camps of coaches. In jest, I call them the New York versus the Los Angeles camp. The New York camp says, "I'm the expert, let me fix you," while the L.A. camp says, "You are perfect and whole and have all of your own answers." Joking aside, each of these camps comes up short, even though coaches often fall into one or the other. The role of coaching is actually about developing human beings. It is not really about "I have the expertise" versus "you already have all your own answers."

The Expert Approach

Contrary to what experts might think, clients are not broken and are not in need of fixing. Clients may be anxious, stressed, nervous, overworked, and even narcissistic—but they don't need fixing. They are mostly healthy human beings going about their jobs and lives, experiencing their own human difficulties. Your job as coach is to help the clients learn for themselves, so that when you are no longer walking alongside them, they have become "self-directed" learners (Harri-Augstein and Thomas, 1991) and do not need you anymore. The second view about "expertise" also has limitations. The role of expertise is that, as coach, you are an expert; but coaching is not about the coach giving all the answers; that tends to be the role of the consultant, i.e., to find solutions for the client.

The "You-Have-All-the-Answers" Approach

The "you have all the answers" assumption is partially true, but there are several limitations. The first one is that we all have blind spots, and it is your job as coach to help the client to identify their blind spots. Secondly, it's perhaps a bit of "mythical" thinking that the client has all of the answers already; the flip side of that argument is that, if it does not work out, the client assumes blame and fault. In other words, "If I have all the answers, I should be able to do it myself without help." If that is not the case, they could feel, "Oh dear, if I am not able to do it myself, then perhaps I'm a failure."

Both of these approaches are "horizontal," i.e., they skim the surface of the work you can do with the client. Both help people to maintain the lives they currently have. The expert "New York" approach helps the client to do it better, faster, and more efficiently, and the "Los Angeles" approach may withhold key insights and observations from the coach that could help build the client's awareness of their blind spots. What is important, rather than "fixing" the client, is the skill of "observation" on the part of the coach. There is no problem in helping the client to do it better, faster, or more efficiently—that is often what the organization hopes for in terms of performance improvement. However, it is important for the client to gain the learning they need to address blind spots and to build their own internal capacity and competence.

Learning Level

If you continue to help people accomplish tasks, achieve goals, and keep on "doing," they risk falling into the trap of being "busy" and possibly overwhelmed. They may not, however, necessarily get the "learning" they need to develop self-awareness and self-management. I know all too well about this trap of being excessively busy. If we keep "doing" without reflection, we eventually burn out. To keep individual executives performing better and better, they need to work at one level lower-at the level of learning. They need to learn how to "do the doing" better. As soon as an executive begins to work with a coach, they begin the possibility of working at one or two levels deeper.

As coach, you will be asking questions to help clients reflect, review, and gain useable knowledge from their experience. In the nested-levels model, the higher levels don't include the lower ones, but the lower levels include the higher ones. So we need to help clients address their purpose one level down, at the level of learning. At this level you may ask questions such as, "How are you doing? What are you doing? What are you feeling? How are your peers/colleagues experiencing you/this? What is and what isn't working? What is useful learning for you here? What needs to change and how?"

Ontological Levels-Being and Becoming

The third and fourth levels of the coaching intervention using this model are that of who the client is and who the client wishes to become in terms of thinking, feeling, and being. Your questions move from "what do they need to do" and "how do they need to do it" (doing), to "how does their style of learning impact on how they do what they do; what do they need to learn in order to improve thinking/behavior/feeling/performance/leadership" (learning); to questions about "what do they need to understand and acknowledge about themselves, who are they, how do they be who they are, and what needs to change (being and becoming)?"

So what assists people in getting things done? Above all, it is about clarifying goals, creating action steps, taking responsibility, and being accountable. In order to perform more effectively, we need to help clients shift down a gear to learn how to work with competence (a set of skills) rather than just learning a specific new skill.


Your job as coach is to help the client be open to possibilities of learning something new, and to help them relate to themselves and others at a deeper level. To use the nested-levels model, you could ask questions such as:

  1. What is it that your client(s) want to do? What is their aim or purpose in working with you?
  2. What do they need to learn in order to make the change? What in their thinking, feeling, and behavior needs to change in order to do the doing better? How can they use their own experience to learn what is needed?
  3. How do, and how will, their thoughts, feelings, and behavior impact on how they "be who they are" and "who is it that they want to become"? In this way, we work at horizontal and vertical levels. At the end of the day, the client's new attitudes, behaviors, motivations, and assumptions begin to impact positively on their own performance and their relationships with others.

Our aim with this model is to shift any limiting sense of who the client is so that they can interact and engage with the world in new ways. As clients begin to shift, it has an impact on others with whom they interact in the workplace. It also means addressing issues systemically, from a holistic perspective, whether those issues revolve around health, stress, anxiety, performance, or relationships with others. Our task as coaches is to widen the circle, enlarge the perspective of the client, and help them learn from their own experience how to reach their potential.

A great way to start any coaching intervention is to ask your clients to tell their life story. The coach begins to understand some of the current issues and presenting challenges, and begins to observe patterns of thinking, feeling, and behavior. Because we work with Kolb's theory of "understanding experience in order to transform it into useable knowledge," this model helps us to determine the context in which the client operates, where individual and systemic problems may be occurring, and how organizational values and culture impact on individuals and teams. It is at this level that the coach's ability to observe, challenge, and ask appropriate questions can be most transformational.

In Conclusion

Coaching models help us understand the coaching intervention from a systems perspective, analyzing the "structure" of the interaction between coach and client. This series of articles takes a practical look at how coaching models are constructed, and how they can help you to flexibly structure the overall coaching journey as well as the individual coaching conversation with your business client. In my next article, we will explore the use of the U-process model, sometimes known as the "process of transition," typically represented in Scharmer's U-process.

This article is adapted from Business Coaching Wisdom and Practice: Unlocking the Secrets of Business Coaching (2009, Johannesburg: Knowledge Resources). Business Coaching International will be published mid 2009 by Karnac, London.

Resource Materials

Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Stout Rostron, S. (2009). Business Coaching Wisdom and Practice: Unlocking the Secrets of Business Coaching. Johannesburg: Knowledge Resources.

Stout Rostron, S. (2006). Interventions in the Coaching Conversation: Thinking, Feeling and Behaviour. Unpublished DProf dissertation. London: Middlesex University.

Weiss, P. (2004). "The Three Levels of Coaching." Available at:

1 "Learning conversations" refers to research into learning conversations and self-organized learning, developed by S. Harri-Augstein and L.F. Thomas (1991:24).

Dr. Sunny Stout Rostron, DProf, MA is an executive coach and consultant with a wide range of experience in leadership and management development, business strategy and executive coaching. The author of six books, including Business Coaching Wisdom and Practice: Unlocking the Secrets of Business Coaching (2009), Sunny is Director of the Manthano Institute of Learning (Pty) Ltd and founding president of COMENSA (Coaches and Mentors of South Africa). More about Sunny in the WABC member directory. Contact Sunny.

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Based on the Evidence
Being Grateful - An Essential Perspective of Any Practitioner Researcher

By Dr. Annette Fillery-Travis

So far in these columns we have discussed mainly methodological issues in research such as identifying your own perspective and engaging your community. While musing this week on where to go next, I found myself faced with a number of my own research challenges and realized that all of them revolved around research ethics. So I thought it was high time we opened up that can of worms!

As practitioners, we all aspire to work ethically with our clients. We make ourselves aware of codes of ethics and breathe a sigh of relief that we have a clear framework to steer us out of some of coaching's trickier situations! So, as practitioner researchers, is that enough or do we need a separate ethical framework specific to research?

After all, we do a number of similar things as researchers and as coaches—we uncover an individual's truth through question and challenge, explore meaning through analysis and synthesis, and may even experiment with new behaviors and design alternatives. In short, the initial stages of most coaching models mirror those of the research cycle, and the skills the coach and researcher bring to interventions are very similar. Surely we can use the same ethical framework for research as for coaching!

The answer to my mind is no—we need to go further for a number of reasons. The main one is the care of your participants. When you undertake any research, you are hoping that your participants will give you their time and engagement to provide you with their perspectives, thoughts, and feelings on the research topic. In return, they get the opportunity to have their voice heard. That's it! Nothing more.

So the balance of "gifts" between researcher and participants is rather one-sided. You are getting a wealth of information and knowledge from your participants; they are giving you their hopes, considerations, and reflections. They are prompting your thinking, shining a light on issues hitherto uncovered, and generally exposing their opinions/thoughts/feelings to your scrutiny and trusting you with it all. Your participants are going to provide you with the building blocks of the entire study. You are simply asking the questions. As a researcher I am left feeling profoundly grateful!

I owe my participants a debt: to take care of what they have given me and what I do with it. I need to make sure that it is kept secure and, when reporting my study, I need to keep my participants' safety uppermost in my mind. It is not just putting a tick in a box, but a sincere undertaking that acknowledges the debt of gratitude I owe to my participants, placing the burden of care squarely on my shoulders as the researcher.

Poorly run practitioner research can have devastating effects if we do not keep to a tight ethical framework. One veterinary surgeon I knew, interested in the development of diagnostic skills in young practitioners, designed an inquiry that would have resulted in his sharing his opinion of the skills of a small group of four vets with their boss. It would have been interesting to see who would have been the first vet to sue after being dismissed from their post. A quick rugby tackle by his research supervisor (me!) stopped that design going live, but it threw light on how ethical dilemmas emerge as soon as we start looking.

But it is not all bad news—there is a range of research ethical codes available from the major professional bodies. Best practice, such as a clear contract between you and your participants at the beginning, is also out there in the many books on research practice. But we also need to develop good internal ethical awareness, as no standardized code will cover all eventualities.

One rule of thumb that helps inform me is to consider the information given by a participant (in whatever form) as remaining their property. It is not something the researcher can use as he or she sees fit, but is, instead, a prized possession such as a work of art. An artist remains the spiritual owner of his/her art and the collector simply a custodian of the work. Its value comes from who created it. In a similar way, the participants continue to "own" their data and must give their permission for whatever happens to it. This will mean that we need to check back with our participants to ensure that we are correct in what we have heard from them, that they are amenable to their information being included, and that they give us explicit permission when we want to use quotes from them—even when these are unattributed.

This stance also stops us "giving" our data away to others, even fellow researchers, and this is not a bad thing. Data is bespoke to the study within which it was collected—a product of the question, design, methodology, and instrument used. Rarely is it transferable in its raw form. The outputs of the data analysis can be transferable and of general use, but not the raw data itself.

So keep ethically aware and you are not only taking your participants' gifts to you seriously, but you are taking your own research and work seriously!

Worth a Look

The British Psychological Society code of research ethics.

Dr. Annette Fillery-Travis is a senior researcher and education coach with the Professional Development Foundation. The author of more than 60 research articles and studies, her recent book The Case for Coaching, presenting a literature review with research case studies and interviews from over 20 organizations on coaching efficacy, was published in 2006 by CIPD, UK. Contact Annette.

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Thriving in Tough Times
Ask Yourself: What Are the Most Important Questions I Should Answer to Drive Success?

By Holly G. Green

2009 is now nearly half over. It promises to continue to be an exciting ride filled with more uncertainty and higher expectations than ever before. And despite the doom and gloom consuming a lot of the space around us, you can focus and succeed even in the toughest of times. After all, a lot of people and companies have done it over the years. Just think about GE, which launched during the panic of 1873, or Xerox, which conceived of and worked on its first machine during the Great Depression. Hewlett Packard got its start in 1939. And, what would we do without Tupperware®, which also started during the Depression? Microsoft began in 1975, a tough year for most. IBM has been through numerous ups and downs, written off by many several times but thriving today.

On the flip side, companies go out of business every year. Restaurants fail, start-ups run out of capital, bankruptcies get filed, and on and on it goes.

The one sure thing about 2009 is that we will get through it and we will recover. The recovery may not look like the successes of the past. Who knows what it will look like exactly? With all of the forces at work, what can you do to influence your success most directly? Pause. Despite everything in you and around you screaming at you to run, run, run, slow down just a little to consider where and what to focus on.

Following are some of the key questions to ponder to help you and your clients determine where and how to spend your energy and other resources.

  1. What is going on in my sector or industry, with my competitors, with my clients?
  2. What is possible with my products, services, or clients currently and in the coming months?
  3. Considering this information, why do we exist? What is the reason for our company or our team?

Think about your value to your key stakeholders. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that you understand the value you bring to customers or clients and that they are clear on the value they bring to others. What do they expect from you and are they getting it? Also consider other stakeholders such as employees, suppliers, shareholders, etc. Get clear on what's in it for them when they engage with you or your product and make sure you deliver consistently.

Determine your destination. Where are you going in the next 12 months? What does it look like when you get there? Define excellence and make sure it is clear to everyone involved. This includes important elements beyond your finances. Many companies state their goals in exclusively financial terms—revenue, margin, etc. But by themselves, these measures mean very little to most employees. Supplement your operating goals with clarity on other elements of your destination, including the skills, knowledge, and abilities you want in the organization; the organizational structures, processes, and programs that will serve you best; the necessary tools, systems, and technologies; the products in market and in development; who your customers will be and how many you will have; who your competitors will be and what types of companies you will be competing against; how you will be known and what your brand will represent; and what culture will exist, including the attitudes and beliefs of everyone involved.

"Draw" this picture and communicate it constantly. You will be amazed at how others will respond and align when there is a clear definition of where you are going.

After you are clear on where you are going, compare it to current reality. Where are the gaps that have to be addressed? This gives you the information you need to plan and execute.

Once you have paused and pondered the above, you should have good insight into where to focus your energies and resources. These become your strategies. If you have more than five areas of focus or strategies, you have none! Push yourself to narrow and be optimistically realistic on what you can get done with the resources you have or will have. Today, one of the toughest decisions can be deciding what not to do. We live in a world filled with opportunity and possibility, but to be a successful leader or manager, you have to perform like a laser—narrowing the energy to achieve the greatest result.

Then the tough part really begins. After you have spent the time answering the above questions, you have to act. Execution is one of the greatest challenges facing leaders and managers today. Get all the information about your destination in front of you and your employees. Keep it visible. Carve out time to make progress on it every day. Don't let the noise around you take you off track.

Focus and resolve make all the difference. They almost always have.

Holly G. Green is a consultant, author, and speaker. She is CEO of The Human Factor, Inc. and author of More Than a Minute, How to Be an Effective Leader and Manager in Today's Changing World (Career Press, 2008). Contact Holly.

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Leading with Presence
When to Zip Your Lip

By John Baldoni

Has this ever happened to you? You visit your physician for an annual checkup and he notes that your weight is up, then talks about how much he is exercising and how much less he weighs than you. Or, you come off a bad relationship and your physician says that he, too, is single and dating can be tough on people of a certain age.

Both examples are true and were reported as part of a study on physician self-disclosure published in the Archives of Internal Medicine; its findings were also reported in the New York Times. In the first instance, the doctor is playing one-upmanship; in the second, he may be getting a bit too personal. Both instances underscore a central fact: a physician's personal disclosure does not build, and may even hinder, patient rapport.

It is not only physicians who wrestle with this issue; anyone who works with people in a development capacity, be it an executive coach or a manager, faces a similar dilemma. Counselors and therapists are trained to establish barriers with their clients, but managers are not. This may be why some managers reveal nothing of themselves and end up coming across as cold fish, while other, overly voluble managers may reveal so much about their personal lives that they actually drive people away.

If you work with others, what do you disclose? There may be no textbook answer, but comfort levels for those who reveal as well as for those who receive must be established. Here are some guidelines:

1. Be discreet. Some people will tell you about their marital history at the drop of a hat; others will not even reveal that they are married. For some, talking about family is an ice-breaker; for others, it's a turnoff. Read people before you reveal yourself. You will pick up cues from their own conversation. If they focus solely on work, roll with it. If they like to mix in facts about family, friends, and whatever, either follow their lead or draw your own boundaries.

2. Reveal for learning. Reveal information about yourself that casts light on what you have learned. For example, it is appropriate for seasoned managers to reveal mistakes they have made at work in an attempt to help an employee understand that most mistakes are not career-enders. Talk about what you learned from the mistake and how it enabled you to meet subsequent challenges.

3. Avoid "alpha dog" behavior. Avoid revealing information about yourself that makes you look superior. For example, if an employee is struggling with a problem, there is no need to chime in about how you've tackled tougher problems, but then offer no assistance. That behavior is a put down that emphasizes how good you think you are and how inferior you perceive others to be. It turns people off as well as away from your management. What's more, no one likes a braggart!

On the other hand, we like to see some personality from our senior leaders. Senior leaders who talk to folks on the factory floor or in line at the cafeteria become popular figures within the company. Communing with the ranks helps to build trust and create followership, both vital attributes in running an enterprise larger than two people.

Bottom line, when personal revelations become too personal, or are used to pull rank or put another person down, they do more harm than good. Such behaviors reinforce domination over others, and when you are trying to establish trust, the heavy hand does little to get people to commit to your vision, mission, and values. But a little small talk never hurt anyone.


Gina Kolata, "Study Says Chatty Doctors Forget Patients," New York Times, June 26, 2007.

Susan H. McDaniel et al, "Physician Self-Disclosure in Primary Care Visits: Enough about You, What about Me?" Archives of Internal Medicine, 2007, 167, 12, June 25, 1321-1326.

John Baldoni is an internationally-acclaimed leadership consultant, speaker and author of seven books on leadership, including his newest, Lead By Example: 50 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Results (AMACOM, 2008). Website: Contact John.

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How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls

By Noel M. Tichy and Warren G. Bennis

Summary by Lydia Morris Brown, Business Book Summary

Business Book SummaryIn Judgment, Tichy and Bennis parse leadership down to what they believe is its fundamental element—judgment. It is their premise that "With good judgment, little else matters. Without it, nothing else matters. … Whether … United States presidents, CEOs, Major League coaches, or wartime generals, leaders are remembered for their best and worst judgment calls."

In the face of ambiguity, uncertainty, conflicting demands and, often, great time pressure, leaders must make decisions and take effective actions to ensure the survival and success of their organizations. It is the single most important thing they do and the way they add value to their enterprises. Thus, the essence of effective leadership is judgment.

Long-term success is the sole indicator of good judgment. Enthusiasm, good intentions, and hard work may help, but without good results, they do not really count. Judgment is successful only when the outcome achieves the espoused goals. The chronicle of a leader's judgment calls acts as that leader's biography—that's why judgment is the essence of leadership.

The authors note that their exploration of the relatively new discipline of judgment and decision making is informed by:

  • the "choice" and "utility" theories of the classical economists
  • the logicomathematical work of philosophers, Carnap, Quine, and Wittgenstein
  • advances made in computer and system sciences
  • the insights of social psychologists concerning group dynamics
  • the contributions of political scientists whose focus is presidential decision making
  • biographers and historians
  • pioneering work in behavioral economics
  • the "wide-ranging and brilliant work" of cognitive neuroscientists and positive psychologists.

In this last category, Karl Weick and Gary Klein are of special interest. They study leaders and teams in their natural settings—messy and ever-changing—and try to make sense of how real leaders make real decisions under pressure. In the same manner as these researchers, Tichy and Bennis come at judgment, mainly by " 'hanging out' with leaders and their teams while they are acting. … It is this real-world experience that convinced [Tichy and Bennis] that no study of leadership is complete without an understanding of judgment."

With insights gleaned from these sources, the authors demystify the leadership judgment process—a process that has, until now, gotten very little attention in the ever-growing literature on leadership. They transform the vagaries and uncertainties of making judgments into a Judgment Calls Matrix—their content-process framework for improving one's leadership batting average.

In this three-dimensional model, judgment is delineated as a contextually informed decision-making process, encompassing the domains of people, strategy, and crisis. Within each domain, leadership judgments follow a three-phase process: preparation, the call, and execution. Good leadership judgment is supported by contextual knowledge of one's self, and one's social network, organization, and stakeholders. Finally, long-term success—the sole marker of good judgment—is sustained through character, which provides the moral compass, and courage, which produces the results.

From the perspective of this framework readers are shown that, unequivocally: (1) leaders making judgments need to follow this process and (2) the matrix provides the framework for measuring the leader.

The validity of these premises is demonstrated via the many, many case studies in the form of "representative anecdotes" of some "major writers and producers in the judgment drama": Anderson (Best Buy), McNerney (Boeing), Owens (Caterpillar), Schoonover (Circuit City), Josaitis (Focus:HOPE), Immelt (GE), Hurd (HP), Bennett (Intuit), Klein/Knowling (NYC public schools), Tiller (Polaris), Downing (Special Operations Forces), Hackett (Steelcase), Liemandt (Trilogy), and Novak (Yum! Brands).

Nonetheless, the authors don't pretend to have all the answers nor to even have all the possible questions. Their objectives are simple. They wish to help leaders begin the process of improving their own judgment-making faculties and also to do a better, more intentional job of developing good judgment in others. Second, they want to encourage and influence a more vigorous public dialogue about the subject.

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There Is No Better Time Than Now to Invest in the Future!

By Sarah McArthur

Given the global economic shakeup, it may seem impossible right now to invest in those things that support a new future, especially given the difficult circumstances that many of us are working under. Look ahead! Be ready for the time when the economy turns around. You can do this by promoting a business coaching Success Story, sponsoring an ad, or writing an article for Business Coaching Worldwide. Even writing a letter will make a difference. The audience for your piece is in the tens of thousands from more than 90 countries around the world!

In this mid-year issue, you'll find a fascinating feature about balancing power with responsibility by Dr. Bruce Lloyd. Read about Michael J. Horner's experiences as a business coach in the Soviet Union, and learn from John Baldoni when it is a good time for personal disclosure and when it is not. Holly Green shares some of the most important questions you can ask yourself to drive success, and Devon Scheef and Diane Thielfoldt help us see out of a career rut.

Marshall Goldsmith explains the concept of FeedForward, while Dr. Sunny Stout-Rostron explores the Nested-Levels coaching model. Read about a great success even in a down economy in this issue's Success Story by Michael Schutzler, and finally Dr. Annette Fillery Travis delves into the importance of gratitude in research.

Thank you for reading this issue!

Sarah McArthur is editor of Business Coaching Worldwide. Founder of *sdedit, Sarah has nearly 20 years experience in the publishing field as a development and managing editor and writer. With numerous books and articles to her credit, she has become an expert in the fields of management, leadership, executive coaching and human resources. Contact Sarah.

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Your feedback and comments are important to us, so don't hold back. Email us today! What did you think about this issue? Were there any articles that stood out to you? Do you have a question you want us to answer? We want to hear from you!

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