Senior Leadership Transitions: What Makes Them Work and What Causes Them to Fail?
By Patricia Wheeler, PhD
Today's senior leaders face high expectations that go beyond being an expert in one primary line of business, principal role, or segment of the organization. In our fast-moving environment of mergers, acquisitions, divestments, and sell-offs, leaders are asked to come up to speed even more quickly as well as influence an increasing number of stakeholders across their organization in order to be successful. Given this climate, how are these leaders faring? And what can coaches do to help?
In 2008, the Institute of Executive Development and the global coaching alliance Alexcel reported results of a year-long market study designed to examine transitions that senior-most leaders (those executives in the top five percent of their organizations) make and to identify what helps them succeed and what causes them to fail. Participants included approximately 150 executives and talent professionals from more than 100 organizations in 12 countries and 21 industries. Participants took an online survey consisting of 18 multiple choice questions, plus a number of deep-dive interviews, specifically on the subject of internal and external transitions, how many failed, and why they failed. Failure was defined as when the leader failed to meet their organization's criteria for success by the two-year mark. (This did not mean that all leaders who were considered "failing" were fired or moved out of their roles.)
We found that one in three senior executives hired externally failed to meet their organization's criteria for successful performance within two years. This is consistent with and perhaps even more optimistic than results from some other studies, particularly those that focused on the entire executive population.
What was even more noteworthy was our finding that one in five senior leaders taking on new roles within their existing organization failed. The clear message here is that what makes a leader successful in one role in the organization will not necessarily continue to drive his or her success in the next role. We echo Marshall Goldsmith's words (and title of his book), "What got them here won't get them there." Organizations must ensure that they offer sufficient help to leaders making internal transitions.
Why did so many of the senior-most leaders fail to make successful transitions? The top two reasons cited by organizations we surveyed were lack of interpersonal skills and lack of personal skills. (Note: Each survey respondent could choose to cite more than one cause of executive failure.) Only 15 percent of respondents said leaders within their organization failed due to lack of technical or business skills. The highest cause of failure was leadership skill deficits, reported by 68 percent of organizations. Another 45 percent of respondents reported failure due to leaders' poor personal skills, including lack of focus and self-management. The implications are clear: obstacles to success in new roles are primarily due to what many organizations consider "soft" skills, i.e., those that focus on the quality and quantity of relationships that leaders craft and maintain.
So what can companies and executive coaches do to help? We gathered information on what companies are doing and what they deemed effective. Online onboarding and meet-and-greets are helpful for external hires, but clearly not sufficient for senior leaders. With leaders new to a company, mentoring programs and informal networks with other executives were the support modalities perceived as most effective. Customized assimilation plans and executive coaching were also helpful.
For internally transitioning leaders, the supports perceived as most effective were executive coaching and the creation of a customized assimilation plan. This speaks to the importance of creating a network of people that will help leaders differentiate the demands and needs of their old role from those of their new role, and develop more senior-level presence as they move through the leadership pipeline.
What does a customized assimilation program look like? Here is an example from my personal case files:
Mark had been with his organization, a Fortune 100 manufacturing division, for 14 years. He was promoted to a corporate vice president role. In this role (his 12th position in the company), he needed to rapidly form relationships with his new stakeholders, many of whom he knew from afar in his plant manager role but with whom he had never worked closely.
First, we reviewed the 360 evaluation generated for his former position. His strengths included his clear ethics, dependability, ability to collaborate with others, and easygoing manner. His primary leadership challenge was his tendency to be too easygoing with employee communication and feedback; we decided that in his new position, he would focus on giving clear, ongoing feedback (and FeedForward1) to his team and challenge himself to adopt a greater sense of urgency about results.
We crafted an assimilation plan that included an "all-hands" meeting with Mark and two levels of his direct reports. Mark organized and prepared to discuss his thoughts around issues including:
- Team vision
- Expected results
- Key customers
- First impressions of his role and of the team
- Expectations of the team
- Plan for ongoing review of progress.
We gathered anonymous information from the team, including:
- Important stakeholders
- First impressions of Mark and the reputation that preceded him
- Questions for and about Mark.
Then we facilitated dialogue between Mark and the team on these areas. My continued role as coach was to help Mark stay aware of his leadership style, leverage his strengths, and navigate around his potential derailers. He created a contact plan to help him identify and reach out to key stakeholders in his new role. We also developed ways for him to hold himself accountable for ongoing FeedForward to his team, boosting both their performance and engagement scores.
Two years later, Mark continues to be successful in his role. Comparing his previous transitions to this one, he credits the plan with saving at least six month's worth of wasted time, false starts, and "water-cooler talk." According to Mark, the work on forming key relationships quickly and creating a platform by which these relationships are maintained and deepened was the most valuable benefit of his assimilation program.
In conclusion, as leaders today must manage more frequent and more complex transitions throughout their careers, it is crucial for organizations and their internal and external coaching resources to take clear steps to help these leaders succeed in their new roles. Making sure that they continue to monitor and develop personal and interpersonal skills is absolutely critical to optimizing performance in new roles, even when they have clear track records of success in their former positions.
Alexcel and the Institute of Executive Development will continue studying what makes senior leadership transitions work and what causes them to fail. We welcome dialogue with organizations and internal coaches who are achieving success in this area, as well as those who are struggling to develop more robust programs for their senior leaders.
1 This process, developed by Marshall Goldsmith, is a quick and proven method for helping successful people be even more successful. The practice of FeedForward requires a disciplined approach to following up with important stakeholders, which research has shown is the key ingredient to successful change. For more about FeedForward, see "Leadership Is a Contact Sport: The ‘Follow-up Factor' in Management Development" strategy + business, Marshall Goldsmith and Howard Morgan, Fall 2004.
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Entrepreneurship: A Heady Business
By Sherry Greenleaf
Transitioning skill sets from a corporate environment to owning and running one's own business takes focus and determination. Now think of "Build it and they will come" times two! Flushed with a successful first venture, this entrepreneur was inspired to create a second business which she eventually sold. Working with business coach Sherry Greenleaf, the Interview Doctor's founder Katherine Burik found her new experiences as CEO one of her most rewarding.
The Business/The Organization
Katherine Burik is a human resources professional with more than 25 years of experience growing people and strengthening organizational resources. Her career with Fortune 1000 companies seemed destined to rise with company fortunes until 2004, when she became an entrepreneur with the Interview Doctor, Inc.
National and local organizations were introducing topics about coaching and Katherine considered how coaching could help develop managers and supervisors at MACtac. In the midst of her search for more information, the company began a mass downsizing and she found that she needed to transition out of her corporate position. She decided to open a human resources consulting service specializing in helping others improve their job-seeking skills and win more interviews with potential employers.
Sherry had served as a human resources manager and then transitioned from a corporate position to an entrepreneurial position in the mid-nineties as a result of down-sizing. She joined a local training company and with her business partner helped to expand programs and services, which included coaching. Their joint success was a result of providing training with follow-up coaching.
Sherry invited Katherine to learn more about coaching as a way to expand services to clients who needed support and guidance through a very stressful time.
Katherine wanted to create an infrastructure of financial systems, programs and services, marketing, Internet presence, and business development. She quickly adapted her corporate expertise to strategic planning and finances. With a strong desire to meet the needs of a rapidly growing market, she wanted to test the marketplace to determine if her process and approach would work.
She met with her church leadership council and found that not only were some members of the church possible candidates, but there was a need in the surrounding community. This would provide the opportunity to refine and tweak her concepts. With the support of the church and community, she set up a no-fee program within her church to research her approach.
That left two components for growing a business—development and marketing—both critical to her strategic plan, but areas that Katherine needed to develop if she would be successful as an entrepreneur.
Katherine developed a unique approach to coaching candidates that helped the candidate get the job. She found an Internet company that would build her platform and develop web pages, establishing an Internet presence, which gave the business legitimacy to candidates.
Sherry helped Katherine realize that the adage "build it and they will come" is only half right. Katherine had the website, the vision, and was paying the bills without a lot coming in. Entrepreneurship is a heady business. However, without sales, that's where it stays—in the head. Together, Sherry and Katherine worked out a plan to attract new clients that included a corporate base as well as individuals.
Sherry helped Katherine to recognize the power of networking by encouraging her to attend local professional societies and learn how to tell her story to attract clients. Through regular coaching with Sherry, Katherine set monthly goals that pushed her to rapidly apply what she learned about business development. She set specific goals for weekly networking and cold calling targets, wrote articles, and created an electronic newsletter, then set goals for follow-up. The networking through various avenues created relationships leading to referrals and eventually to new clients. Sherry encouraged Katherine, answered questions, and provided research ideas that Katherine could apply to grow the business.
The Value Delivered
Katherine derived so much pleasure out of creating one business, she developed a second one. Having a strong interest in health and wellness, and knowing how the cost of health benefits impacted bottom-line results for her organizations, she partnered with a fitness instructor and created a wellness program to increase the health and fitness of employees.
Following the model of her first new business, Katherine quickly applied many of the principles—developed a wellness program, built a website, met with healthcare professionals, attended and made presentations within her professional network, and targeted key corporate clients. The result was that she was able to successfully attract several local institutions to contract for her Health Initiative Project.
With two budding businesses, Katherine was able to leverage her expertise with two niches. Passionate about both, she developed a strong network with both markets and expanded her services by relying on Sherry's knowledge and professional relationships to develop a team of coaches that could handle the overflow for the Interview Doctor.
Sherry's coaching, feedback, and resources helped Katherine juggle both businesses and find time to spend with her active family. While both businesses were achieving financial success, the relationship between Katherine and the fitness instructor dissolved due to differences in style and direction. It took several months to end the partnership with many coaching sessions focused on communication, conflict resolution, and personal support.
Each coaching session thereafter focused on the many activities that Katherine wanted to accomplish to attract more clients. She continued to network and was successful in attracting a large recruiting firm that invited her to present at a conference. This endeavor resulted in attracting more attention to her interviewing methods.
The final result was that Katherine's expanded skills in networking and business development successfully helped her to sell the Interview Doctor.
The relationship between a coach and coachee works best when both people listen and bring their best experiences to the table. In this case, Sherry shared her own expertise and experience to coach Katherine in setting goals that moved her businesses forward much faster than would have been possible if she had worked alone.
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GET THE EDGE
Job 1 for Leaders: Aligning Rhetoric to Reality
By Dr. Albert A. Vicere
Scan typical corporate mission statements and you'll note that most companies aspire to be some combination of innovative, customer-driven, market-leading, employee-focused, performance-oriented, and of course, profitable. Although admirable, most leaders would agree that living up to those traits consistently over time is incredibly demanding and extremely difficult. That is not to challenge corporate aspirations, but simply to make an obvious observation: declaring aspirations is much easier than actually achieving them.
My research, coupled with my years of experience as a consultant, has convinced me that the key to resolving this perplexing challenge is rooted in the ability of leaders to reconcile the rhetoric of corporate aspirations with the reality of corporate operating environments. Organizations need aspirations, and as Jim Collins reminded us in his book Built to Last1, people seek the exuberance of being part of an organization with Big Hairy Audacious Goals. But if the organization's declared purpose and aspirations are out of synch with its operating environment, if people within the organization experience a culture that is very different from its stated purpose and aspirations, the organization is headed for disaster.
That's because, regardless of the strategy statement or CEO speeches, the way an organization's leaders actually behave, coupled with the things they ultimately measure and reward, combine to shape employee thinking and behavior across the organization. In effect, they shape what I call "organizational DNA."
Through careful research and discussions with thousands of leaders and managers worldwide, I have built a framework for organizational DNA, the Direction and Alignment (DNA)® Model [Figure 1]. The model is based on a visual metaphor, the DNA double helix. The biological double helix is comprised of a backbone—the two intertwining strands that frame genetic character. These strands are connected by a four-letter code comprising the instructions for a person's genetic profile. Each letter of the code is comprised of essential chemical elements. Those elements combine into sets of base pairs within which one's genetic code resides.
Figure 1: The Direction and Alignment (DNA)® Model
In the Direction and Alignment (DNA) Model®, the backbone of organizational DNA is comprised of two intertwining strands—an organization's roots or its history and operating capabilities, and its wings or its ability to change and innovate. Those two strands are connected by a three letter code—SLC, the first letters in the words strategy, leadership, and culture. Each letter of an organization's genetic code is comprised of three essential elements. Strategy is comprised of perspectives toward innovation, talent, and infrastructure. Leadership is comprised of perspectives toward hindsight, insight, and foresight. Culture is comprised of perspectives toward aspiration, accountability, and initiative. As indicated in Figure 1, each of these nine essential elements can be defined by a set of "base pairs" or essential viewpoints held by leaders that guide their interpretation of organizational strategy, leadership, and culture.
The DNA Model®, as described above, has been operationalized in a survey instrument, the Strategy, Leadership, Culture Questionnaire (SLCQ)®. Respondents indicate their perceptions of their organization with regard to each set of base pairs. The data generated by the SLCQ® reveal the way members think about strategy, leadership, and culture and the potential impact those perceptions have on member behavior, organizational performance, and strategy execution.
The SLCQ® has been used by a variety of major organizations and in a number of settings over the past six years, resulting in a database of nearly 12,000 respondents representing all levels of organizations, though the vast majority are in middle- through senior-level leadership positions. An analysis of the database paints a compelling picture of the challenge faced by leaders as they attempt to align their organizations with a desired future state.
Despite the fact that the economic environment has had its ups and downs over the period that data have been collected, an analysis of the overall database generated a "typical" or average profile of an organization that has remained consistent over time, despite economic fluctuations and changing business conditions.
In terms of strategy, respondents indicate that their organizations are followers/perfecters slow to develop new ideas or approaches to business, staffed by take-charge people complemented by technical experts, who are trying to work together but feel like they are operating in silos.
In terms of culture, they indicate that their organizations are prospecting for and reacting to opportunities, in order to generate improvements, for the purpose of extracting as much return as possible from their current asset base.
In terms of leadership, they indicate a passion for their organization and feel challenged by their jobs. However, although a majority feel energized by their work situation, over 30 percent indicate that the organization's reward system is not tied to performance and that there is little certainty about pathways for advancement in the organization.
It is worth repeating that this overall profile emerged early and has remained consistent over the years that we have collected data. Individual organizations can vary dramatically from the norm, but the norm itself has remained consistent. Respondents indicate that the "typical" organization is exactly as described above.
The vast majority of respondents to the SLCQ® are from large, established companies. As those companies have grown and become successful, their culture, as defined by focus, metrics, and rewards, has evolved from the creation of new products, services, and business models to a focus on maintaining share and margins and driving profits. The typical organization is profiled as having limited openness to new ideas and making limited effort to divine new opportunities for growth and development.
If that's the case, how likely is it that a new strategy statement, even one rolled out with town meetings, speeches, and training programs, is really going to make an impact on the way respondents think and behave on their job? It's a safe bet that respondents will keep working as they always have until leaders not only generate the rhetoric of a change in focus and emphasis, but also take steps to align that rhetoric with the reality of the operating environment by changing the mental models of organizational members. And they do that by changing metrics, adjusting rewards, modeling new behaviors, and demonstrating that the organization actually means what it is saying.
Like many key elements of leadership and strategy, it may seem like common sense that to achieve organizational performance and longevity, leaders must align the rhetoric of an organization to the reality of its operating environment. Yet, my research and experience suggest that for most organizations, this connection is fleeting at best. Data from an SLCQ® analysis make rhetoric-reality gaps clear, and therefore addressable.
1 Collins, J. and Porras, J. (2004). Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. New York: HarperBusiness.
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How to Benefit from Social Media and Online Marketing
By Marilyn McLeod
In any economy, nobody makes any money unless somebody sells something. This may or may not be your favorite subject. There are many ways to approach letting the right people know what you do and there are many ways to get new customers
I suggest the first thing to do is consider what kind of new customers you want. In fact, go back even one more step and be honest with yourself about what kind of work you want to attract. How do you really want to spend each day? It's your 24 hours. If your marketing brings in customers who expect you to carry out an array of tasks you don't enjoy, or keep a schedule that doesn't fit your own needs, maybe it's time to reconsider your product offerings or your role within your organization.
Having been involved in Internet technology since the early days, I've watched it grow and I've helped my clients use computers and the Internet to make progress in their small businesses. In this economy, the various forms of online marketing, including social media marketing, make a lot of sense. If you can wrap your arms around the most important social media networks and come up with a strategy that doesn't take a lot of your time, you can get great exposure and be in intimate contact with your target market, using available online tools that are often free...that's the current promise of this marketing method.
Assuming you've defined your ideal product offering, your ideal role, and your ideal customer, how does a professional begin to approach this sometimes overwhelming world of social media?
Every day there are more social networking opportunities. Blogs are adding social networking components. New social portals are being launched. Sites like Twitter are morphing from reporting what someone ate for lunch into performing a vital role in customer relations for companies like Zappos. Unlike Facebook, the search function in Twitter is available to the public. Monitor what your customers are saying about you at search.twitter.com, and respond from within your own free Twitter account.
Consider adding the following social media sites to your marketing toolkit:
- Website: This is still the foundation of your online marketing strategy. How do you want to be seen, and what do you offer? It doesn't have to be a huge or fancy website, but it does have to reflect who you are as a professional. Be very clear about what you offer to your ideal customer so people who visit know whom to refer to you.
- Blog: If you can write at least 300 words a week, consider a blog. There are many free or inexpensive hosted versions, including www.blogger.com, www.wordpress.com, www.typepad.com, and www.moveabletype.com. This is where you let people know who you are as a person and how you see the world. What words of wisdom or advice can you offer? What questions do you have for your audience? Allow comments (you can screen them) and have a dialog with your target audience online.
- LinkedIn: You've probably received invitations to connect with others on LinkedIn. If you don't yet have your own profile, consider setting one up. Be strategic about what you put in your profile. You can choose privacy settings to suit your style and comfort level. Visit the Answers section regularly. Show up as an expert in your field by answering questions as you can and asking questions that can help you in your work.
- Facebook: Facebook is moving more and more into the professional as well as personal realm. If you don't want to set up a personal profile, you can just set up a fan page for your company (see the smaller-type link "To create a page for a celebrity, band or business, click here" under the large "Sign Up" button).
- Twitter: Twitter forces brevity (140 characters maximum per post), so link to your blog where you can give more information about your message. Try twhirl.org on your desktop or Tweetie on your iPhone to manage your account and send tweets. URL shorteners are often used in tweets to save characters.
There are also sites like www.friendfeed.com that allow you to aggregate your many social media accounts. Upload your photo to www.gravatar.com to help sites automatically display your photo along with your comments.
Each social media site has a slightly different culture, so become acquainted with the site and its members before jumping in. Be sensitive to over-selling. People don't like to be sold, especially in the social media world. They like to connect with you, get to know who you are. They like to share ideas. Offer what you know; think about how you can help people. You can always link back to your own website or blog, but don't make a big deal of it. Be more interested in connecting and helping than in selling.
Once you have a presence in the online marketing world and you're comfortable with your routine, start thinking about how people find you in the search engines. What do they type into the search field that leads them to your website or blog? Some search terms are more competitive, and with the increasing volume of traffic on the Internet, it's increasingly useful to focus on "long-tail" search terms. For instance, instead of relying on the term "coach" (you may have people looking for Coach handbags, or coach transportation), consider "executive coach Albany New York." There are several ways to research search terms, among them freekeywords.wordtracker.com.
There is always more to learn, so don't wait until you know everything before you jump in. We all learn as we go, and in this new social media world, we're all creating the future together.
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Coaching Great Leaders
Praise Is Good!
By Marshall Goldsmith
One of my clients taught me a simple yet effective system for getting better at providing positive recognition. The first year I reviewed this executive's 360 feedback report (feedback from his direct reports and coworkers), he scored in the 6th percentile for providing recognition (in other words, 94 percent of the people in his company were seen as being more effective than he was). Within one year, he had moved all the way up to the 94th percentile for providing recognition (now—in a complete reversal—only 6 percent were seen as scoring higher than he did).
Given this dramatic turnaround in scores I asked, "Please let me know what you did differently. Whatever it was, it worked. I would like to share it with all of the people that I teach."
His answer provided a road map that I have never seen fail.
- List the names of the key groups of people who impact your life-both at work and at home (customers, coworkers, friends, family members, etc.).
- Write down the names of the people in each group.
- Post your list in a place you can't miss seeing regularly.
- Twice a week—once on Wednesday, once on Friday—review the list and ask yourself, "Did anyone on this list do something that I should recognize?"
- If someone did, stop by to say "thank you," make a quick phone call, leave a voice mail, send an email, or jot down a note.
- Don't do anything that takes up too much time. This process needs to be time-efficient or you won't stick with it.
- If no one on the list did anything that you believe should be recognized, don't say anything. You don't want to be a hypocrite or a phony. No recognition is better than recognition that you don't really mean.
- Stick with the process. You won't see much impact in a week, but you will see a huge difference in a year.
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Coaching Models for Business Success
Working with Coaching Models: The U-Process
By Dr. Sunny Stout Rostron
The U-process is sometimes known as the process of transition, and in the field of coaching this U-process is typically represented in Scharmer's model of change. In the process of transition, the client can move from anxiety, through happiness, fear, threat, guilt, denial, disillusionment, depression, gradual acceptance, and hostility to moving forward.
The U-process is considered a mid-range change theory with a sense of an emerging future. Scharmer's process moves the client through different levels of perception and change, with differing levels of action that follow. The three main elements are sensing, presencing, and realizing. These represent the three basic aspects of the U (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Scharmer's U-Process Model
This process helps the client to work at different levels of perception and change, and allows different levels of action to follow. All three levels are extensions of the learning process. As the coach and client move into the U, sensing is about observing and becoming one with the world; moving to the bottom of the U, presencing is about retreating and reflecting and allowing an inner knowing to emerge; moving out of the U, realizing is about acting swiftly and with a natural flow from the knowledge and understanding that have emerged.
The U-model suggests co-creation between the individual and the collective, i.e., the larger world. It is about the interconnection or integration of the self with the world. At the bottom of the U is the "inner gate" where we drop the baggage of our journey, going through a threshold. The metaphor used here is that of "death of the old self" and "rebirth of the new self"; the client emerges with a different sense of self. On the Web is a lovely dialogue between Wilber and Scharmer where they discuss the seven states and the three movements in this one process (Scharmer, 2003).
Superficial learning and change processes are shorter versions of the U-movement. In using this as a coaching process, the client moves downwards into the base of the U, moving from acting, to thinking, to feeling, to willing. This is to help the client to download with the coach, to let go and discover who they really are, to see from the deepest part of themselves, developing an awareness that is expanded with a shift in intention.
Otto Scharmer (2007), in an executive summary of his new book, Theory U: Leading from the Future as It Emerges, describes the U-process as five movements: co-initiating, co-sensing, presencing, co-creating, and co-evolving. Scharmer describes this as moving "first into intimate connection with the world and to a place of inner knowing that can emerge from within, followed by bringing forth the new, which entails discovering the future by doing." The following case study demonstrates the five-step process.
Figure 2: U-Process Case Study
Case Study: The Global Convention on Coaching (GCC)
From July 2007 until July 2008, I played a role as Chair of the GCC Working Group, Research Agenda for Development of the Field, and Carol Kauffman took the part of Facilitator. The GCC was originally established to create a collaborative dialogue for all stakeholders in coaching worldwide, with the ultimate aim of professionalizing the industry. Nine initial working groups were formed by the GCC's Steering Committee to discuss critical issues related to the professionalization of coaching, producing "white papers" on the current realities and possible future scenarios of these issues. These white papers were presented at the GCC's Dublin convention in July 2008. Using the U-process model, this case study summarizes the working group process of the research agenda, which comprised a 12-month online dialogue, with the addition of monthly telephone conversations.
Co-initiating is about building common intent, stopping and listening to others and to what life calls you to do. In the Working Group for the Research Agenda, the group built common intent by first setting up the group, defining its purpose, and beginning to discuss the dialogue process. It was agreed that the chair and facilitator would invite specific individuals to join the working group, and those members would suggest other individuals who might have a key interest in the research agenda for the field (i.e., the emerging coaching profession). The group began their online dialogue, once all had accepted the invitation and received instructions on how to use the online GCC web forum. It was agreed that there would be three communities working together: the Working Group, the Consultative Body for the Research Agenda, and the Steering Committee, which was responsible for the leadership and management of the other groups.
Observe, Observe, Observe. Go to the places of most potential and listen with your mind and heart wide open. The chair and the facilitator of the working group had to learn to co-facilitate, observing each other's skill and competence. They had to be willing to listen to each other, noting each other's style in facilitating an online dialogue. They needed to create the group, and to facilitate the way forward with the group, learning to take constructive criticism and appreciation from each other, guiding the group forward without being prescriptive. Both chair and facilitator agreed to co-chair the process, remaining mentally and emotionally open to each other's divergent opinions, ways of being, and styles of interpersonal communication, whether working with the group online or by phone.
Connect to the source of inspiration and will. Go to the place of silence and allow the inner knowing to emerge. Each individual in the process reflected and regularly added their thoughts and feelings to the online forum. Debate, conflict, and agreement emerged—with chair and facilitator taking responsibility to keep the group on track without being prescriptive. The chair and facilitator each had to connect to their own individual source of inspiration and come together as one voice to guide the group.
Prototype the new with living examples to explore the future by doing. This entailed harnessing the energy of the working group to draft a current reality document of its online and tele-conference dialogues; this document was revised four times. The group brought in a facilitator for a second consultative body who entered that dialogue at stage 1 (co-initiating), but who, at the same time, entered the working group dialogue at stage 3 (presencing). Trying to move forward with their own working group process, yet move the consultative body from stage 1 to stage 2 (co-initiation to co-sensing), was a complex, parallel process. The chair and facilitator enlisted the help of an editor, Nick Wilkins, to manage the writing process of the white paper during the working group's co-creation (stage 4).
Embody the new in ecosystems that facilitate seeing and acting from the whole. The final stage of the process was the physical gathering at the Dublin convention. This took place in three stages: pre-convention, convention, and post-convention (post-convention work has just begun). Several months prior to the convention, all nine working groups began to work together online and by telephone to share their own varied stages in the U-process; they learned from each other as they gathered momentum moving toward Dublin, which was to be the culmination of their year-long project. Some groups had lost participants during the 12 months through disagreement; others managed to harness the energy to move through each of the stages together. The three stages were:
- Pre-convention: Preparation for the presentation of a white paper by nine committees; this was for their committee's current global reality and future possible scenarios for their topic, with the addition of a tenth committee four months prior to Dublin.
- Convention: Physical presence, dialogue, and debate in Dublin with each of the working groups. This was paralleled with virtual online feedback on a daily basis from those not able to attend the convention (however, there were difficulties with this process which frustrated some who could not access the virtual dialogue during that week).
- Post-convention: Continuation of the process with a new format. The work was to take place in diverse groups regionally and nation-wide to proceed to the next step: building the emerging profession of coaching. Post-convention, a Transitional Steering Group (TSG) has begun work to harness the energy of those wishing to continue. The new GCC sees its role as an organic one, continuing to facilitate a global dialogue, rather than forming another coaching organization. The TSG, with representatives from the USA, UK, Australia Argentina, Singapore, and South Africa, has designed a web-based networking platform for the 17,000 GCC members who have signed up to the Dublin Declaration on Coaching (GCC, 2008). Those wishing to take part in this ongoing worldwide dialogue can access it via the web at gccweb.ning.com. Preparations began for a convention in London, 9-10 July 2009.
This U-process is applicable to large innovation projects where the unfolding takes place over a long time (a year in this instance). The team composition in such projects will change and adapt to some degree after each movement; in the GCC process, the Working Group for the Research Agenda lost and added new members, whereas the Consultative Body was a looser entity with only certain members playing a strong role. This was a process of discovery, exploring the future by doing, thinking, and reflecting. As Scharmer explains, it facilitates an opening via "the tuning of three instruments: the open mind, the open heart, and the open will" (Scharmer, 2007).
At any one time there were three U-process journeys taking place for the research agenda: within the working group, the working group interacting with the consultative body, and the working group interacting with the steering committee.
Models offer a great sense of structure yet flexibility for the coach practitioner, but remember that simplicity is a prerequisite. In this series, I explore models from an experiential learning premise, as the client always brings his or her experience into the coaching conversation. The client's experience is underpinned by a range of factors, including gender, race, culture, education, life experience, and personality. In my next article, we will begin to explore the use of four quadrant models.
This article is adapted from the author's Business Coaching Wisdom and Practice: Unlocking the Secrets of Business Coaching (2009, Johannesburg: Knowledge Resources). Her book Business Coaching International will be published September 2009 by Karnac, London.
Global Convention on Coaching (GCC). (2008). Dublin Declaration on Coaching Including Appendices. Global Convention on Coaching. Dublin, 22 August. www.gsaec.org/pdf/Dublin_Declaration_Coaching_Appendices.pdf.
Scharmer, C.O. (2003). Mapping the Integral U: A Conversation between Ken Wilber and Otto Scharmer, Denver, CO, 17 September. Dialog on Leadership. www.dialogonleadership.org/interviews/Wilber.shtml.
Scharmer, C.O. (2007). Addressing the Blind Spot of Our Time: An Executive Summary of the New Book by Otto Scharmer: Theory U: Leading from the Future as It Emerges. http://www.presencing.com/presencing-theoryu/theoryu.shtml.
Senge, P., Scharmer, C.O., Jaworski, J., and Flowers, B.S. (2005). Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations, and Society. London: Nicholas Brealey.
Stout Rostron, S. (2009). Business Coaching Wisdom and Practice: Unlocking the Secrets of Business Coaching. Johannesburg: Knowledge Resources.
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Thriving in Tough Times
Start with the End in Mind...
By Holly G. Green
Are you clear on where you are going?
When Roger Bannister was attempting to become the first athlete to break the four-minute mile, all the "experts" told him it was impossible. Some even suggested he risked death by pushing his body beyond human limits. Of course, we now know that not only did Bannister not die, but the week after he broke the barrier, another runner followed in his footsteps, followed shortly thereafter by several more.
Clearly, the sub-four-minute mile wasn't impossible; someone just had to envision doing it. When asked how he accomplished the feat, Bannister replied, "Physiologically impossible or not, I just saw myself doing it." To this day, many Olympic athletes use this type of success visioning to achieve their goals. The difference in skill at premier levels is often not discernible. What is different is the mindset, the clarity of vision on what winning looks like.
Leaders and managers don't often employ this approach in strategic planning or even in simple delegation. Most of us are running so fast we don't take the time to get clear on winning; we just run and hope we are on the right track, running the right race. But organizations are now beginning to understand what world-class athletes have long known—if you can picture the destination and get clear on what winning looks like, your chances of getting there dramatically increase.
One tool for painting a vivid picture of where your organization needs to go is destination modeling. Designed to create powerful visions in the mind of each and every employee, destination statements provide cohesion, direction, and behavioral guidance. They tell people what you are doing, what you are not doing, and what you will be doing when you get to where you want to go.
Some companies develop one overarching destination statement for the entire company. I find it more useful to develop a number of statements, or destination points, for each critical area of the organization. In fact, I often use these statements as a starting point when working with clients.
Examples of destination statement categories include:
- Key operating achievements (the big three or four).
- How the workplace culture will be, including attitudes, beliefs, values, and operating principles.
- What skills, knowledge, and abilities will exist in the organization? In each business unit?
- What organizational structures will be in place, company-wide and at each business unit?
- What work processes and metrics will be used?
- What tools, systems, and technologies will be necessary, both internally and externally?
- What products will be in the market? What products will be in development?
- Who will our customers be? How many will we have?
- Who will our competitors be? What type of companies will we compete against?
- What will be our greatest competitive advantage? Our biggest threat?
- How will we be known?
- What will our brand represent?
Remember, your goal as a leader or manager is to paint as vivid and rich a "picture" of success or winning as you possibly can. To create your company's destination points, draw a vertical line down the middle of a sheet of paper. On the left side, put all the categories listed above and any others you come up with. On the right side, describe for each category what it will look like when you get to where you want to go.
A few short years or even months ago, companies frequently looked five, even ten years into the future. In today's fast-paced world, three years makes more sense. Recently, all of my clients began doing one-year destination modeling and plans. The rate of change today is so great that anything beyond that and you are likely just wildly guessing as to what is possible.
Once you have identified your destination points, measure each one against the following criteria:
- Consistency: Is it consistent with the mission statement (why you exist)?
- Clarity: Is it easy to understand? Is it easy to tell what is in and what is out? Does it tell you what you need to do (directionally)?
- Specificity: Does it provide enough details to initiate a level of measurement? Does it paint a picture employees can relate to and a place they can envision?
- Flexibility: Is it flexible enough to include evolving business needs?
- Pride: Does it make you feel proud to be part of the effort?
- Inspiration: Does it compel you to want to go there?
Once you have clarity on your destination points, repeat the process (using the same categories) to define your current state. This will identify any gaps that need to be addressed and enable you to plan appropriate action steps and time frames. Always start with the end state and then compare to current reality. When you work from the end state backwards, the likelihood of your getting there increases exponentially.
To get the best of what your employees have to offer, it is essential to make sure that your organization's future is more compelling than its past. Picturing your destination and describing it in vivid language will make it easier and much more likely that your organization will achieve its goals and break its own four-minute mile.
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Leading with Presence
Leadership Development Now
By John Baldoni
"It is so obvious that something big has failed," said the dean of the Thunderbird School of Global Management, Angel Cabrera. "We cannot say, ‘Well, it wasn't our fault' when there is such a systemic, widespread failure of leadership." Dr. Cabrera is making the case for revising the curricula of business schools since to some, like him, as well as others quoted in a New York Times article1, it is obvious that schools prepare students to manage, but not to lead. Ethics and responsibility need to be instilled. For example, take the concept of risk management. The question should not be how much risk is feasible, but rather how much risk is ethical, especially in the case that our projections are wrong. That is the domain of leadership, since so much of leadership is about doing what is right for the organization and its stakeholders.
Business school reform may come, but it will not be soon enough for the up-and-coming generation of MBA-equipped managers already in the field. Something is needed now and the good news is that the current economic crisis is the optimal time to implement leadership development initiatives. Skeptics will push back with issues related to two issues: time and funding. Let's address each.
The time is now. Crises should provide a desire for individual initiative. The best leadership development programs are those that accelerate the experience of leading others for intended results. Managers can replicate the experience by providing their high-potentials with opportunities to receive cross-functional training as well as to take on new assignments outside of their individual specialties. If the manager coaches his or her people through these experiences, he or she is providing a hands-on leadership experience.
The cost is variable. Many companies are employing a "do not waste this crisis" imperative to reduce costs, but such a mantra could also be applied to investing in the future. While the ideal leadership development programs combine internal efforts at a corporate university with external offerings at business schools, it is possible to either scale back the spending, or employ one or the other. If formal programs are not feasible, then organizations can provide coaching services.
There is a third issue, and rather than an obstacle it is an opportunity: innovation. History teaches us that organizations that stand the test of time are those that adapt. Creativity is essential and should not be considered an expense. So consider the possibility of bringing back retired executives to mentor and coach next-generation leaders. These veterans have survived similar crises and undoubtedly would be pleased to share their wisdom.
Some organizations, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal,2 are already seeing the benefit of leadership development efforts. While training budgets have been cut, companies such as Philips Electronics NA, Estee Lauder Cos., and Canon USA are continuing their leadership development efforts with either internal or external offerings. These companies and others are investing in grooming the next generation of leaders because they realize that the future of business depends on having talented and tested leaders in place.
There is another reason to invest in leadership development. Companies that invest in their people during hard times may be more likely to retain them when good times return. How much better will it be to have a new generation of leaders who have been tempered and wizened by tough times already in place to take the organization forward? These will be leaders who have figured out how to help the organization survive and many will have the drive to help it thrive. Lose them at your peril. Invest now in leadership development.
1 Kelley Holland, "Is It Time to Retrain B-Schools?" New York Times, March 14, 2009,
2 Dana Mattioli, "Despite Cutbacks, Firms Invest in Developing Leaders," Wall Street Journal, February 9, 2009, https://www.thepartnershipinc.org/pdf/WSJarticle021009.pdf.
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A s k t h e E x p e r t
First published in Business Coaching Worldwide, Ask the Expert is 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: How should we coaches respond to the present economic climate in terms of our marketing and presentation?
Janet Schatzman 2007-9
Fink in Recession: How the Coaching World Has Changed
By Dr. Laurence S. Lyons
Melvyn looks into the mirror and the world's most eminent organizational expert stares straight back. Or does he? "No two ways about it," he mumbles to himself through unkempt whiskers, "Dr. Fink's getting a little jaded around the edges." And in saying this, the good doctor is being remarkably kind to himself. Between you and me, Fink's a mess.
There's no getting away from this simple fact: in order to be recognized as an authority one has to look like an authority. Of course, if you're fortunate enough to be a top celebrity then a rogue touch of raggedness or a strange predilection for chocolate biscuits can add a dash of zestful color to an already outlandish style. But there are limits. A glance into the mirror confirms that in the case of Dr. Xavier Fink all respectable restraints were long since breached.
To be fair, he's got a good excuse. In the corner of Fink's office a pendulous pyramid of neglected post quietly implodes under its own weight. Several envelopes containing big checks wait to be opened and cashed. A spurned answering machine pulsates red with urgent regularity. Hamburg, Brussels, Houston, Milan, and London—all visited in the last few weeks. Fink's been away on business and let his appearance lapse.
He badly needs tonsorial attention, which is easier said than done. He calls Henri the Barber, formerly know as The Engraver in certain circles following an unfortunate shaving accident with a petulant customer. These days Henri is a reformed character who years ago set himself up as the preferred supplier to the coaching profession on the advice of Dr. Fink, who'd suggested he specialize in some market niche. Henri's wife Mavis, d.b.a. "Madame Fifi Leblanc," runs the beauty salon next door. Between them, Henri and Mavis know everything there is to know about the comings and goings in their local coaching community.
Henri has a full appointment book stretching far into the next millennium. Luckily, he has a last-minute cancellation. So Fink can have his plumage attended to if he heads straight for the shop. Thirty minutes later he finds himself manacled to the barber's chair.
"You're the most bedraggled coach I've ever seen," says Henri. "I haven't seen you in ages. All my other customers come in maybe two or three times a day."
"How come you've gotten that busy recently?" Fink asks from under his cotton coverall.
"It's the economy," answers Henri, picking up his largest pair of scissors to make an initial foray into the dense rainforest. "My shop's jammed full of executive coaches with nothing to do. Sometimes they just come in to read the papers. It reminds me of stories my grandpa told me about his barber shop way back in the ‘30s. There was no work to be found and his place got turned into a sort of social club.
"You got your appointment only because one of my regulars heard the phone ring just as he left home on his way here. Before he could answer, the ringing stopped. He called me to say he's sorry but he just can't take the risk of leaving home in case a prospect's trying to get hold of him, and he's petrified that they'll call again while he's out. Personally I think chances are that the call was from some Bombay boiler room unloading phony stocks; they call me all the time. But that's life."
Snip, snip. Giant thinning scissors shear swathes through the undergrowth.
"This state of affairs is great for you but terrible for all these executive coaches," says Fink, who's unobtrusively observing through the barber's mirror a group of smart well-groomed guys chatting, thumbing through old copies of Harvard Business Review, and generally lounging around the waiting area. "What's their problem?"
"Their clients say that their work situation has become uncertain and unstable. In this climate of struggling for survival, personal development and leadership are the last things on their minds. The demand for coaching in a downturn is zero. So they come here. I help them look presentable, just in case they should get a sniff of a lead."
Fink remains silent. Henri looks at the back of his customer's head and considers the task before him in a new light. This head ain't as dense as it looks.
"You don't have that problem, do you?" inquires Henri respectfully.
"Well, of course my clients say exactly those same things. Their situation is equally uncertain and their job positions are often under review. But there is one big difference between my clients and those of your other customers."
"What's that?" demands Henri with a sharp clip.
"In an upside-down world with all its ambiguity and insecurity, personal development and leadership are the first things on their minds. In fact, such matters are at the very forefront of their thinking. For my clients the demand for coaching in a downturn is immense. And that's what I'm seeing."
"I suppose you mean there's demand if the coach can show the client how they can help them navigate through their current situation?"
"Exactly. I believe that's what coaching's always been about!" says Fink.
The beard is crisply trim. Henri's magic has turned jungle into garden. Felled locks festoon the floor. Fink is transformed into a clean-cut version of the man who sat down in the chair only 20 minutes earlier. He now looks as sharp as he is, and he is as sharp as he looks. Melvyn checks Henri's handiwork in the mirror and sees a slightly unfamiliar face. He notices that with age his hairline has retreated to higher ground. It's a more mature visage that now returns his gaze.
"Happens to us all," says Henri, sensing what Fink must be feeling, "this business of getting old."
"I'm not sure I like it like this," says Fink, sizing up his suave senior appearance.
"Oh, you should," says Henri, "really you should. Especially you. I think it suits you, recession."
© Laurence S. Lyons 2007-9 | Laurence S. Lyons identifies himself as the author of this work. | Illustrations © Janet Schatzman 2007-9
All rights reserved. | All trademarks acknowledged.
The "Dr. Fink" characters and "Dr. Fink's Casebook" story title are proprietary to Dr. Laurence S. Lyons.
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BUSINESS BOOK SUMMARIES
The Firefly Effect
Build Teams that Capture Creativity and Catapult Results
By: Kimberly Douglas
Summary by Tyler Lacoma, Business Book Summaries
Today's business teams often struggle with piling workloads and the heavy expectations of companies who are after the perfect team, the synergy that will solve all their problems. The managers and leaders of such teams experience struggles of their own, burdened with dozens of different team philosophies and countless workshops offering ideal bonding activities. The options can be overwhelming.
But natural, organic teams are like children gathering to hunt fireflies. They are all clear on their goal (to catch fireflies!), they constantly try new tactics and ideas to reach that goal, and they don't need a dominant leader to give them constant direction. In The Firefly Effect Kimberly Douglas explains how business teams can function the same way, learning to produce creative and satisfying results. All it takes is a little motivation and leader who knows how to inspire.
Even though team leaders should lead through example and avoid domineering methods, their decisions are important. It is up to the leader to create an environment of acceptance and positive reinforcement where ideas from all team members are encouraged. The best solutions and sources of team energy can be found in some of the most unlikely people, often those who may not even feel they have much to offer themselves. This is the "Red quadrant," named for the category of the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument populated by passionate and empathetic personalities. Leaders can harness the power of such creative and energetic people by developing a system of trust and accountability between team members. Criticism is great-as long as it is positive and helps bridge the gap between different team perspectives.
When the Red quadrant has been brought fully onboard the team can begin diagnosing problems and looking for solutions. The team leader must set firm ground rules for conflict and resolution to help the team overcome any difficulties during this process. Issues should be dealt with by the entire team, and actions should be based in the principles on which the team was begun.
Instead of looking at conflict as dangerous or avoidable, skilled leaders should foster a view of conflict as "creative abrasion," a positive force that should be expected and used for the good of the team. To create this mentality, a leader should be willing to acknowledge conflict when it occurs and be able to discuss it with the entire team. Plans of action should be created and put into practice immediately. Sometimes the leader needs to take a coaching role with a particular team member-and sometimes the leader needs to alter the way they act themselves! No matter what scenario, it is important to remember that creative abrasion always furthers the aims of the entire team.
If teams are in charge of creating large plans, or are meeting for the first time, strategic planning sessions may be the best way to draw out the creative energy of the group. These meetings first introduce the mission which the team has been given, followed by the vision for success, or what the company will look like when the team has realized its goals. The team can work together to form key milestones which serve as measurements of how far they are to reaching the vision for success. Creating guiding principles to serve as the foundation of how team members will interact and produce results is also a vital step in these sessions.
Once team energy begins to flow, the key is to keep the process going. Introducing fun games to keep the team stimulated and trusting one another is always a good idea, as are field trips and get-togethers to celebrate success. Successful brainstorming techniques differ from team to team, so leaders should never be afraid to experiment with other activities as they learn how their own team can become a firefly hunt.
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FROM THE EDITOR
Business Coaching for Leadership
By Sarah McArthur
Leading people has never been an easy job. And, leaders today are faced with the very difficult job of forging a path into unknown territories of global proportion. Business coaching may be the best way to help leaders grapple with the unfamiliar and its effects on their stakeholders, strategies, organizations, competitors, customers, and even themselves.
So, read on! I hope you enjoy this last issue of 2009. If something strikes you as particularly helpful, please send me your feedback. I would be most grateful to hear what is beneficial to you.
Our October feature, "Senior Leadership Transitions: What Makes Them Work and What Causes Them to Fail?" by Patricial Wheeler, PhD, reveals what coaches can do to help senior leaders succeed in new roles. In the Success Story, Sherry Greenleaf shares how her client transitioned from a corporate environment to owning and running her own business. Get the Edge contributor Dr. Albert A. Vicere reveals how an organization can be headed for disaster if its declared purpose is out of synch with its operating environment. In her Hot Topic article, Marilyn McLeod gives us tips to benefit from social media and online marketing.
Regular columnist Dr. Laurence S. Lyons shares a lesson in what business coaches can do during an economic downturn through the hilarious tale of "Fink in Recession." In her article, "Start with the End in Mind," Holly G. Green helps us get clear on what is critical to success today. Dr. Annette Fillery-Travis explains the necessity of scrupulous referencing of others' work to build the business coaching profession in her article, "Whose Shoulders Do You Stand Upon?" John Baldoni's article, "Leadership Development Now," discusses investment in leadership and it's correlating benefit, success! Dr. Sunny Stout Rostron continues her investigation of coaching models in her article, "Working with Coaching Models: The U-Process." Finally, Marshall Goldsmith provides suggestions on providing positive recognition in his article, "Praise Is Good!"
Thank you for reading!
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Psychopaths and Narcissists
I appreciated this article ["'Psycopath' or 'Narcissist': The Coach's Dilemma"]. I'm an educational psychologist with a clinical training, and post Masters diploma. I've recently taken on a client who has very strong narcissitic tendencies, and my clinical assessment is that he wouldn't stay in therapy. I proposed that the best route of action for him would be that we facilitate a space in which he can learn to better understand how his behavior impacts others, and in that way he could learn to better deal with his emotions. (His request was that he learn to deal with emotions. He, of course, came at a crisis point in his life, not able to cope that well anymore.) This is rather "new" territory for me, as I have up to now declined to work with narcissists, unless they came into my practice as part of a couple...of which most marriages of course have failed. I very much appreciated this article as it affirms my newfound hope of, "Well, perhaps if I tackle it like coaching/psych-educational sessions, it could contribute something of value." I can't afford a formal coaching training at this point, but aim to in the future. I would like to know of future articles such as this from the organization.
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