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Mindshifting to Mindful Coaching: Managing Your Attention So You Can Think, Focus, and Lead by Joshua Ehrlich

Joshua Ehrlich demonstrates how changing how you think—"Mindshifting"—and learning the ancient technique of mindfulness can make all the difference in how you coach and help your coachees to lead.

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Success Stories
Hands-On Coaching for Excellence in One of Mexico's Fastest Growing Enterprises by Irene (Quiti) Vera

How can a well-established business keep up with breakneck growth and new technology without abandoning its traditional focus on the individual or having its workers become overwhelmed?

Quit Selling and Start Coaching by Tim Ursiny

Being a leader requires an unusual ability to inspire and connect with people. In this article you will learn how one man became a top recruiter in his firm and won a coveted promotion by mastering a coaching approach when interacting with others.

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Overworked and Overwhelmed by Tom Heinselman

Leaders typically report that they feel overwhelmed by the amount of work they have to do with an ever-shrinking amount of time and resources. Explore how to better manage the perceptions, realities, and social dynamics involved in overcommitment.

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Management typically fails to involve staff in problem solving.Trudy Triner explains why this is a recipe for failure and demonstrates how leaders can effectively involve and engage staff in finding solutions.

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Connecting to the Invisible - Social Networks Are About What You "Can't See" by Dean R. DeLisle

It's the "unseen" dimensions of social networks that make them so invaluable to coaches!

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Coaching Great Leaders by Marshall Goldsmith

Marshall Goldsmith explores the astounding paradoxical catch that can block us from happiness and meaning at every turn: inertia.

On the Sunny Side by Dr. Sunny Stout Rostron

Dr. Sunny Stout Rostron explains the critical need for contracts between coach and client to establish the parameters of the relationship and clarify communication, expectations, and results.

Based on the Evidence by Dr. Annette Fillery-Travis

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Moving Swiftly with Focus & Flexibility by Holly G. Green

What's the most important task for today's business leaders? The answer might surprise you. Learn why creating a good strategy is no longer enough, and what great leaders do to stay focused on their most important job.

Global Leader Development by Jeremy Solomons

Can effective leaders in one region/country duplicate their success on a worldwide level? In this final installment of his three-part series, Jeremy Solomons outlines what’s needed for the new "global competence."

Unwilling Bedfellows by Fiona Eldridge and Dr. Sabine Dembkowski

Extending their earlier analysis of challenges posed by the intersection of the private and public sectors, Fiona Eldridge and Dr. Sabine Dembkowski here explore the importance of collaboration at this juncture—and how coaching can help both individuals and organizations.

Foundation for International Leadership Coaching

Times of extraordinary challenge call for strong, effective, and innovative leadership. Yet, government and international non-governmental organization leaders find sophisticated leadership coaching not accessible.

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Imagination First: Unlocking the Power of Possibility by Eric Liu and Scott Noppe-Brandon

Contending that "innovation cannot exist without imagination,'' this powerful book describes how to shift your thinking from "What is" to "What if" and tap into your inner creative resouces to free your potential as an innovative leader.


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Mindshifting to Mindful Coaching: Managing Your Attention So You Can Think, Focus, and Lead

By Joshua Ehrlich

All of us are running faster and faster as technology shreds our attention. We have confused speed and urgency with impact and productivity. Information overload and fractured attention cost the US economy at least $900 billion a year.1 We desperately need to take back control by learning to stop, reflect, and focus. The discipline of paying attention has an immediate impact on performance and accelerates learning. In this article, I outline how and where to focus in order to learn critical leadership skills, and describe how reflection and mindfulness combine to form a powerful coaching model.

Linda is a senior executive who started her career as an administrative assistant. Her first role was in a branch office of a multinational financial services company. She was a fast learner with a great deal of energy and the ability to get things done. She was steadily given greater responsibility. She began managing the administrative staff in her office, and then took on the compliance and office management functions as well. Her drive and service orientation got the attention of the district manager, who picked her to run these functions for the region. After just a few years she was promoted to headquarters to run administration, compliance, and office management nationally.

I met Linda shortly after she started her role at headquarters. She was scattered during our conversation and would take phone calls and check email every few minutes. She told me she was frustrated and struggling with the huge volume of work. It seemed every employee and compliance issue in the field would bubble up to her because she knew the most and was the best at solving difficult problems. Her days were filled with back-to-back meetings because everyone wanted her time. She began falling behind on deadlines and would often be 20-30 minutes late for meetings. She would apologize profusely, but was not really aware of how destructive her behavior was becoming for her relationships and reputation. As much as she was drowning, she felt like the go-to expert. She enjoyed seeing her own impact and so it was hard for her to delegate real authority to her staff.

As Linda moved from each level to the next, she needed to change where she focused, what she valued, and how she defined her job. These changes can be described as a series of Mindshifts as you go from individual contributor to leader of a large organization. As I coached Linda to step back, reflect, and focus on her behavior, she was able to see how she had become a bottleneck because she was stuck on the first Mindshift, 'Doing to Leading' (see chart below). Ultimately she was able to shift her attention from getting things done on her own to developing her team and facilitating their work. Her job was no longer to assemble the budget and double-check it herself; it was to make sure the right people came together so the budget reflected her whole department's needs and goals.

Linda also became more aware of her impact and better at setting boundaries, including saying 'no' to problems that were not hers to solve. This gave her more time to think about how to improve her department's performance. After a few years she mastered several more Mindshifts and was ready for another opportunity. Linda is now running a rapidly growing business that is central to her company's future.

Practice: Mindshifting Self-Assessment
There are seven Mindshifts to make as you go from managing yourself to managing organizations.2 Moving from left to right along each dimension requires a change in how you prioritize and evaluate your success. First consider the Doing-to-Leading Mindshift:

  1. Place an 'X' where you feel your skills and focus are currently on the continuum.
  2. Place an 'O' where you would like to see yourself in the future given your current role as well as the requirements of future potential roles.
  3. Assess where you are and where you would like to be for the rest of the Mindshifts.

7 Mindshifts

Building a Foundation
The Mindshifts can help you map out a development plan to shift along each dimension. However, you first need to take hold of your attention by learning to stop, reflect and focus.

Practice: Stopping the Action
Our minds need regular rest and reflection. Vacations (from the Latin vacare, to empty) are times to put out our mind's garbage so we can replenish. By temporarily putting aside our daily challenges and allowing ourselves to daydream, we are able to discover new ideas:

  • Daily: stop your action at least once and ask two questions: 'What am I focused on?' and 'What am I learning?' Keep a journal of your answers and look for patterns.
  • Weekly: make time for something creative or nurturing (e.g., take an art class, visit a museum, go to a concert, or take a walk in the woods).
  • Quarterly: schedule a vacation, even a long weekend, and make sure not to fill it with constant activity. Decide how often you need to check your office voice mail/email and communicate that decision to your colleagues.
  • Ongoing: notice how stopping the action positively affects your focus, mood, and energy.

Practice: Leveraging Others for Reflection
We need to ask for help making time to think and taking tasks off our plate:

  • Assistants: If you have or can get an assistant, ask their help creating space between meetings to clear the decks and prepare for important conversations.
  • Delegate: Give away tasks that bog you down. Acknowledge that control only feels safer and let go of the belief that no one can do it as well as you.
  • Thinking partners: Ask colleagues and friends to be your thinking partners. Explain that their job is not to tell you what to do, but to listen and ask questions to help you think through issues. Make this a regular habit and offer to return the favor.
  • Personal Board of Directors: Contract with a select group of trusted coaches, mentors, and advisors you can rely on to give you counsel. Find individuals with diverse backgrounds so you get different perspectives. Mentors provide invaluable insider knowledge of companies, industries, and fields. Coaches offer outsider objectivity and expertise on learning new behaviors and leadership skills. Because it is so hard to see our own behavior clearly, we need objective feedback for our reflection to create accurate self-awareness.

"As a senior executive my time is no longer my own, yet I desperately need time to think. I get my assistant to schedule thinking time and then protect it. I also ask my colleagues to be thinking partners, because as an extravert, I talk to think and synthesize better out loud. It's about being disciplined and creating choice. We have choice if we exercise it." Nicoa Dunne, former SVP Human Resources, Misys Technology.

Mindfulness is both a state of mind and an attitude. The state of mind is present-focused awareness, open-mindedness, and acceptance. It takes great practice and willpower to live in the present, rather than ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. In addition, staying open to new ideas can bring up significant anxiety, and accepting reality can challenge our sense of identity. It helps a great deal to cultivate a welcoming, curious, and gentle attitude towards ourselves and our experience. It is the combination of state of mind and attitude that makes mindfulness invaluable.

Studies show that techniques to develop mindfulness enhance a range of positive emotions, emotional stability, and our ability to read social cues. In addition, mindfulness training increases immunological functioning and life expectancy, and reduces depression and chronic pain. When we can accept reality as it is, we become less frustrated by our situation, less fearful it will change, and less depressed about not achieving our fantasies.

We are just starting to appreciate the power that reflection and mindfulness have to facilitate learning. Research by Ellen Langer at Harvard suggests that individuals who apply reflection and mindfulness are able to learn more quickly, problem solve more creatively, and extrapolate their learning more flexibly across settings.3 The more we can tolerate anxiety and discomfort, the more we can take the personal risks we need to learn.

For centuries, spiritual traditions have explored ways to develop reflection and focus. Techniques for cultivating concentration and contemplation are central to the mystical teachings of Judaism, Hinduism, Shamanism, Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity. Buddhist teachers have developed a range of practices for developing mindfulness, often using breathing as an anchor.

Practice: Mindful Breathing

  • Your breathing is a built-in stress barometer and focusing tool. Take a minute and just watch your breathing. Notice your stomach rising and falling as you follow your breath all the way in and all the way out. See if your breathing slows and your muscles relax without any added effort. Notice if your mind begins to clear. Observe your attitude toward yourself. Try to replace self-criticism with acceptance and gentleness.
  • Next time the phone rings, become aware of how your breathing quickens. Emails and phone calls trigger a fight-or-flight stress response—increased heart rate, blood pressure spike, and shallow respiration. We can reprogram this trigger into a relaxation response. Next time the phone rings, stop what you are doing and turn away from your computer. On the second ring, take a breath. On the third ring, smile. Notice the effect on your attitude. Now pick up the phone.

Reflection and focus are fundamental to developing self-awareness, which is the starting point for developing all leadership competencies. Learning everything from communication and emotional intelligence to strategic thinking and team building depends on our ability to examine our behavior and focus our attention.

Strategic Thinking
Once we can self-monitor and breathe mindfully, we open up the possibility of strategic thinking. Strategic thinking is the ability to see the big picture, collect information from disparate sources, and envision the future. Strategic thinking is one of the hardest skills for leaders to develop. It does not require genius, just focus. There are four overlapping elements:

  • Acquiring a wide range of information about global trends in human behavior, technology, and business;
  • Stopping to reflect in light of the new information (letting the ideas 'percolate');
  • Synthesizing the information into a creative vision of the future;
  • Communicating the vision in a clear and compelling form.

Leaders need to not only manage their own attention, but to capture others' attention. An inspiring strategic vision does this by aligning us around an energizing set of ideals, and by tapping into our needs, hopes, and dreams.4

"One of the chief imperatives of leadership is to have vision. Vision requires a deep understanding of your business and is inspired by out-of-the-box thinking and imagination. Leaders need to make the time to reflect in peace to let their vision come together." Ramesh Singh, former Management Board Member, UBS Investment Bank

Practice: Eliminating Obstacles to Strategic Thinking
The sheer volume of tasks and transactions we face (and take on) each day is the biggest obstacle to strategic thinking (think back-to-back meetings and never-ending email). The stream of alluring details in front of us pulls our attention and we zoom in. We need to break our attention away and zoom out in order to look ahead and anticipate. Anticipation means predicting the potential consequences of our actions, our impact on others, and changes in the business environment.

  • Look at your calendar for last week and think about how you went through your days.
  • How much thinking time did you create?
  • What were the principle obstacles to thinking strategically?
  • Look at your calendar for this coming week and plan how you will approach it.
  • What one or two changes could you make to clear space to think?

When we start to shift our attention and think strategically, we are able to make two critical Mindshifts. We can shift our attention from Personal Accountability (monitoring our own work processes, deadlines, and goals) to Organizational Accountability (measuring the whole organization's success via profit, efficiency targets, etc.). We are also able to focus less on Task Analysis (figuring out the best way to get things done) and more on Market Analysis (looking at what business to be in and strategies to get there). Making these transitions depends on our refocusing our attention from narrow to wide. We need to open up our minds, leaving aside self-focused questions like, 'Can I complete this task?' and moving towards holistic questions like, 'Where do I want to take my business?'

Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence (or EI) is the ability to use the information in emotions to make decisions and reach goals. The components of EI are:5

    • Expressing & managing your emotions
    • Understanding others' emotional signals.

These skills are tremendously important for leaders, and underlie the Mindshift from Self-Awareness (knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your style) to Interpersonal Awareness (managing your emotions and behaviors and their impact on others). Interpersonal Awareness allows you to communicate, negotiate, and influence effectively, as well as build strong relationships and create effective teams.

Practice: Empathy and Emotional Attunement
Adopt the perspective of an anthropologist and study the culture of your organization as if it were an unknown tribe whose language you do not speak. Try to intuit what colleagues are feeling and intending by paying attention to their nonverbal signals. Focus on facial expressions, glances, eye contact, tone of voice, mannerisms, gestures, and posture. With people closer to you, take this a step further by asking them if you are right with your hunches. Though every person's signals are to some extent unique, the facial and vocal expressions of most feelings are consistent across cultures.6

Notice the impact of your colleagues' feelings on your own. Tune in to the subtle feelings in your body, particularly in your chest and gut. How do you feel the impact of a colleague's frustration, expressed in a backhanded compliment or sarcastic comment? Can you feel a twinge in your stomach or do you have some other visceral reaction? Record your observations and hypotheses in a journal. Becoming more attuned in this way provides you with information that allows you to anticipate others' needs and behavior.

We know that when we are under stress and emotionally raw we are more prone to be reactive, irritable, and insensitive. This is confirmed by research showing that the greater our stress, the less empathy we have.7 So as stress goes up, EI goes down. Conversely, mindfulness training reduces stress and anxiety, and thus is able to counteract the negative effect of stress on EI.8,9

Mindfulness training increases empathy and the ability to read others' emotions.10 In addition, mindfulness increases compassion and gratitude, along with activity in brain regions associated with positive emotion.11,12 Mindfulness may thus enhance EI via a direct effect on brain function, as well by facilitating our ability to self-monitor and course-correct through greater access to feedback.13,14 When we can accept and ride the waves of our feelings, we can make use of the information contained in emotions rather than avoiding them or overreacting to them.

Mindful Coaching
Combining principles of focus and reflection suggests a model of mindful coaching.

At a macro level, there is a continuous cycle of assessment (seeking understanding) and goal-setting (planning action). This is a common feature of modern coaching and helps clients see pragmatic value because there is progress towards concrete objectives. However, over-focusing on goals and outcomes is a dangerous habit. It can lead clients out of the moment and into frustration and tension where they do not learn. Rather than always checking and worrying about the score, clients need to pay attention to and enjoy the game—in other words, they need to focus on process. Mindful coaching applies intention and attention to this process.

The coach creates a container, a holding environment of mindfulness, within which the client can think, feel, and experience without judgment, and which enables them to gradually reveal and accept themselves.15 The core of this container is silence—an underestimated source in itself, and vital because freedom from interruption and peace of mind are essential for clear and productive thought. The coach also makes the intention to get out of the way by putting aside his or her own ego in the interest of serving the client. This enables active listening where the coach goes beyond what is said to try to understand underlying themes. Focused questions direct the client's attention toward specific cues inside and around them. These questions shift perspective, challenge assumptions, and open the client up to new possibilities.

"Silence used to make me uncomfortable. Now I welcome it and let it do the heavy lifting. Silence gives my client precious room to reflect. In addition, as I listen from silence and quiet my inner dialogue, I have faith the right questions will emerge. I relax into my body and hold any emotions that come up. I feel into the coaching and trust my gut to gauge what is really going on. I can take more risks and challenge my client. Being fully present with silence gets me to the real issues, to the heart of the matter." Crista Salvatore, Learning & Development, New York Life Insurance Company

In brainstorming, the emphasis is on learning over teaching. The coach is active in providing new ideas, tools, models, and potential solutions. However, the coach is careful not to take over the client's choice by telling the client what to do. The coach ensures outcomes and results by asking the client to commit to action and execute a plan. The intention needs to come from the client for momentum to continue. The coach helps the client find the motivation to change and the courage to hold themselves accountable.

In addition to Strategic Thinking and EI, Mindful Coaching facilitates the development of a broad range of leadership skills and related Mindshifts. For example:

  • Reflecting on our values and purpose helps us lead with integrity and authenticity.
  • Paying careful attention to how we listen (listening to ourselves listen) enables us to communicate effectively.
  • Actively changing our perspective and looking at challenges from multiple angles helps us uncover hidden assumptions and generate innovative ideas.
  • Managing team members' attention so everyone is focused on achieving a shared goal is the heart of team building.

I find that coaching this way creates more sustainable change than do behavioral methods. One reason is that simply turning mindful attention to our thoughts, feelings, and behavior helps undo self-destructive habits. In addition to raising our awareness, giving ourselves and our symptoms "accepting attention" is healing in itself. Mindful Coaching also helps us reflect on our own process as coaches and manage the uncertainty and ambiguity of our role. Not being the expert and giving up control are anxiety producing and are central challenges for new coaches and leaders learning to coach.16

Linda's sanity, and my own, depended on my staying mindful during our meetings. When she interrupted herself mid-sentence to check her email, I was tempted to do the same. Instead, I monitored my frustration and observed her without judging. Reflecting back to her what I saw and asking questions about its impact helped her pay greater attention and look at herself with more clarity. Over time, she began internalizing my accepting attention and started to cultivate greater mindfulness to contain her restless energy.

Staying focused and mindful is a tremendous challenge. The exercises are not hard to integrate into our daily routine but the skills take a lifetime of practice. It takes great self-discipline to pull out of our constant swirl of activity and information, and we need a high level of awareness to know when to Mindshift. However, once we sense the power of mindfulness, for both our clients and ourselves, we see there is no higher priority.


1 Basex, Inc., (2010)., accessed 7/22/2010.

2 R. Charan, S. Drotter, and J. Noel, The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership-Powered Company (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001).

3 Ellen J. Langer, The Power of Mindful Learning (New York: Perseus Books, 1997).

4 Warren Bennis, Why Leaders Can't Lead: The Unconscious Conspiracy Continues (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1997).

5 J. D. Mayer, P. Salovey, and D. R. Caruso, "Emotional Intelligence: New Ability or Eclectic Traits?" American Psychologist 63, no. 6 (2008): 503-17.

6 Paul Eckman, "SIOP 2008 Invited Address: Emotional Skills," The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist 46 (2008): 21-24.

7 Jon Kabat-Zinn, "The Science of Mindfulness," Speaking of Faith, NPR, New York, NY. 18 April 2009.

8 Ibid., Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness (New York: Delacorte, 1990).

9 Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy, "Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time," Harvard Business Review 85 (2007).

10 Daniel Goleman, "Finding Happiness: Cajole Your Brain to Lean to the Left," New York Times 4 Feb. 2003, New York edition, sec. F: 5.

11 Matthieu Ricard, "Change Your Mind Change Your Brain: The Inner Conditions for Authentic Happiness," Google Tech Talks. Google Headquarters, 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA. 15 Mar. 2007.

12 S. L. Shapiro, G. E. Schwartz, and G. Bonner, "Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Medical and Premedical Students," Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 21, no. 6 (1998): 581-599.

13 R. F. Baumeister and T. F. Heatherton, T. F., "Self-Regulation Failure: An Overview," Psychological Inquiry 7, no. 1 (1996): 1-15.

14 B. Alan Wallace and Shauna L. Shapiro, "Mental Balance and Well-Being: Building Bridges Between Buddhism and Western Psychology," American Psychologist 61 (2006): 690-701.

15 D. W. Winnicott, Playing and Reality (New York: Routledge Classics, 2005).

16 David Hosmer, "Cascading Coaching: Building a Model of Peer Development," OD Practitioner 38, no. 3 (2006): 17-20.

Joshua Ehrlich, PhD, is the founder of the Global Leadership Council ( He is a leading authority on managing in intense environments and advises CEOs on complex organizational challenges. He is an executive coach, supervisor and accreditor of coaches. Josh is the author of MindShifting: Focus for Performance (Steiner Books).
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Hands-On Coaching for Excellence in One of Mexico's Fastest Growing Enterprises

By Irene (Quiti) Vera

The Business

Founded in 1943, Corporación Moctezuma (CM) is a well-known, respected, and financially solid business whose objective is to supply the construction industry with top-quality cement and concrete.

In the last decade, CM has positioned itself as one of the most highly recognized corporations both nationally and internationally. As a corporation with higher levels of growth than any other company in the cement field, its shareholders have continued to invest in cement production plants equipped with the best technology available worldwide.

The Challenge

Due to its extremely fast commercial growth in recent years, CM found itself working at breakneck speed. Keeping up with and innovating in technology-related areas led, in some cases, to the neglect of strategies and policies associated with the management of the individuals who make up the company's highly effective teams.

The Partnership

In late 2007, CM hired AIAC´s Executive Coaching Team to initiate a comprehensive program with the Budget and Finances Department, the members of which were showing clear signs of exhaustion. CM then contacted AIAC Mexico (Interamerican Coaching Academy) to coach and train several other departments of the company in hopes of devising a plan to address some of the stress-related issues their executives were facing.

The Approach

After several meetings with some of the directors who were in charge of the program and holding an initial round of interviews with those who had been selected to participate, our AIAC team drew up a four-stage plan:

  • Stage I—Introduction: Kick-off event, series of workshops with the team based on an experiential model designed to usher in the program, establish the context for coaching, and create an environment of trust and openness. First round of 360 evaluations.
  •  Stage II—Coaching Sessions: Assignment of personal coaches for all involved, with the intent of strengthening them individually through a series of 12 coaching sessions (in the span of 10 months). Second round of 360 evaluations, and 2-3 coaching sessions to analyze the results and set up personal and work-related goals throughout the following stage.
  • Stage III—PLC: Implementation of the PLC (Programa Líder-Coach), a one-year in-house coaching course aimed at providing executives with coaching tools and skills to be incorporated into their daily interactions as team leaders. The staff who imparted this course included master coaches and instructors from Mexico, Spain, Argentina, and Peru.
  • Stage IV—Team Coaching (still underway): This stage is crucial as well as different in that it treats a team as a system, building on its strengths as a dynamic organism. It includes a series of monthly sessions (during real-life executive meetings) which allow a self-regulating space for positive feedback leading to more effective teams and team leadership.

The Value Added

Allow me to introduce you to Jorge Gutierrez Trejo, Corporative IT General Manager of Corporación Moctezuma who participated in the program. Jorge hadn´t had any previous contact or experience with coaching.

"I would like to share how I feel the coaching process has helped me personally in performing my duties and in my work relationships with other people in the company, as well as the impact it's had on personnel in the finance area, where this effort was originally initiated.

Before the coaching program started, the atmosphere between the different departments in the area was too "hostile" and the culture that prevailed was one of "looking for the guilty parties" rather than finding solutions. Unfortunately, such dynamics were the norm not just in the finance area, but in the entire corporation, and they hindered people from having a more open attitude towards improving in every area. In the long run, it dampened motivation among the personnel.

During the program, a gradual change could be felt in everyday interactions, as each one of us began to acknowledge these opportunities from our perspective and we started to change the way we related and interacted with one another. We began to generate a better working atmosphere that eventually permeated all the other levels, as our interactions are now more amiable and understanding. This change has brought about greater openness and willingness to improve, to perform better, and therefore, to achieve better results.

I believe I'm not only speaking for myself when I state that the change has been remarkable, and that, as just one area, we've made a difference in the rest of the corporation. It hasn't been easy, as we're the ones spearheading a process that is as foreign to most people as it was to me before we began. Nevertheless, I feel that it's essential to spread this culture towards all the other areas so that, as a company, we will be able to work in an atmosphere that promotes innovation, teamwork, and improved service levels, both internally and externally.

Thank you for having given us this new vision and the means to help us improve, not just as co-workers, but as human beings and in our personal lives."

Irene (Quiti) Vera is a seasoned bilingual WABC certified business coach (CBC) and AIAC Master Coach with 12 years of experience in various countries. Her activities range from coaching senior executives, to designing and facilitating experiential workshops, to actively participating in the training of new and upcoming professionals as part of the Interamerican Academy of Coaches. Irene is also Director of AIAC Empresarial, a company that provides intensive in-house coaching programs focusing on the skills and techniques required to coach personnel in the workplace to achieve peak performance. Learn more about Irene in the WABC Coach Directory.
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Quit Selling and Start Coaching

By Tim Ursiny

The Business

Wells Fargo Advisors is the third largest full service retail brokerage firm in the US. With 1.1 trillion in client assets as of December 31, 2009, the St. Louis based firm provides investment advice, investment and retirement planning, and advisors nationwide. Wells Fargo Advisors, formerly Wachovia Securities, was acquired by Wells Fargo & Company in December 2008.

The Challenge

At the start of the coaching engagement, Vince Madden's goal was to be a top recruiter within a year. A secondary goal that was developed as we worked together was to be promoted from a Branch Manager to a coveted position as a Market Manager. His ability to recruit was one of the many factors that leadership would look at in deciding if he got the promotion.

The Partnership

At the time of our meeting, Vince was a Branch Manager for Wachovia Securities and I was visiting the Wachovia Securities home office presenting a program on coaching skills for managers. Vince was at the home office because he was attempting to recruit a financial advisor from another firm to join the company (a common practice in financial services firms). I didn't know Vince at the time, but a mutual acquaintance asked me to come to dinner with them. I am always up for good food and wine and I also thought it would be interesting to see how they went about recruiting an advisor over dinner.

There were five of us at the dinner: Vince, two other Wachovia Securities employees, the recruit, and myself. I watched with great curiosity as Vince and the other employees spoke about all of the strengths of the company, the great culture, the focus on the advisor and the client, etc. However, I noticed that in 30 minutes of conversation the potential recruit did not utter a word. He listened attentively, but he was not engaged fully in the conversation. When a lull presented itself in the conversation, I simply asked the recruit, "How do you feel about being here?" He opened up a little bit and then I asked subsequent questions like, "What attracts you to this company?", "What are your biggest hesitations or concerns about Wachovia?" and "What do you really want to accomplish if you move firms?" These were simple curiosity questions, but the recruit started sharing very genuinely and I could see Vince's eyes watching with intrigue. After the dinner Vince came up to me and said that he heard things that night from the recruit that he had never heard before. He then asked for my card. Two months later he called me and asked if I could coach him to become a better recruiter.

The Approach

Our first step was to analyze Vince's recruiting approach and habits. He had many strengths when it came to recruiting, but we discovered two areas for improvement. The first area was in terms of his discipline in developing consistent daily, weekly, and monthly actions for sourcing, warming, and landing recruits. These were fairly easy to develop. The second area concerned how to distinguish himself from all of the other managers from rival companies who were also attempting to recruit advisors. Vince was drawn to a coaching approach to recruiting and we started working from my book, Coaching the Sale (2006).

Vince quickly adapted to the identity of a coach in the recruiting process. This required several shifts from his previous approach including:

  • Asking questions and listening rather than talking.
  • Changing his focus from recruiting the advisor to being a catalyst to help the advisor self-discover if coming to Wachovia Securities was right for him or her.
  • Mastering a process of coaching from the advisor all of their blocks and motivations (instead of selling the advisor on the firm).
  • Working out a clear three-point message of his value proposition (both personally and the company) and comparing that to the advisor's needs.
  • Actually turning advisors away if it wasn't a good match for THEM.

With these shifts, Vince differentiated himself from other managers who were still engaging in the old style of selling advisors. He earned the reputation as someone who really cared about the recruit and would help them discover the right decision for themselves.

The Value Added

Within one year, Vince significantly improved his standing. With this dramatic increase in his ability to recruit, his improved dedication to his work, his increased ability to coach advisors at his firm, and other areas of growth, Vince beat out his competition and was promoted to Market Manager for Wachovia Securities, now Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC.

I still work with Vince as we are currently planning his next level of achievement and growth. I always get a smile on my face when I see his name on my schedule because I know I am going to have a session full of genuine passion and drive and we also have a lot of fun! We both feel that our lives are better for knowing each other.

Dr. Tim Ursiny, Ph.D., RCC, CBC, the founder of Advantage Coaching & Training, Inc., is the author or co-author of multiple books including, Coaching the Sale: Discover the Issues, Discuss Solutions and Decide an Outcome! (2006); The Confidence Plan: How to Build a Stronger You (2005); and The Top Performer's Guide to Attitude: Essential Skills That Put You on Top (2008). Learn more about Tim in the WABC Coach Directory.
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Overworked and Overwhelmed

By Tom Heinselman

In 360º surveys, a typical observation is that many leaders overcommit. If that is a valid conclusion about leaders, then it is reasonable to assume that leaders, in turn, create an environment for others where they feel overworked and overwhelmed.

The following factors are commonly mentioned as contributing to being overcommitted, overwhelmed, or overworked (or the perception of being so):

  • It is the result of the shrinking economy and subsequent downsizing, where people are being asked to do more with less;
  • Businesses are becoming more complex with a corresponding increase in inter-dependencies across functions. These multiple accountabilities are competing for scarce time and resources;
  • Cycle times and response times are getting shorter and becoming more critical to competitive advantage;
  • Performance expectations continue to increase in order to stay competitive;
  • Everything seems to be urgent;
  • Business targets and strategies change quickly and more frequently than in the past.

There is a reality that must be interjected at this point in the discussion. Leaders often can do little or nothing to change the volume of work. If a department is responsible for a certain type of work, it's unrealistic to think that the department leader is going to say, "My staff is really busy right now, so I'm going to decline this assignment." The work must be done and you're it. Even so, the first attempt by the leader should be to manage work volumes to a reasonable level. Here are some suggestions:

  • Get a clear sense of direction and priorities from your manager. One of the emerging distinguishing characteristics of the effective leader of the future is an ability to focus on the vital few. It is critical for an effective leader to know the most important task and do it first. It is becoming impossible to do everything. In managing work volume, at least ensure that you're covering the critical issues first.
  • Become suspect of every existing process, task, meeting, and report. Perform a zero-based analysis of these time-consuming activities to ensure they are adding value.
  • Take a risk and make some personal choices regarding assignment of work. It is not always possible to get a clear sense of direction and priorities from one's manager.
  • Negotiate the scope, quality, and/or delivery date of the work. If accepting a piece of work will throw the department into a whirlwind, try to negotiate. Propose delivery of certain parts on the initial date and the rest at a later date. Propose a lower level of quality that will be sufficient for the intended purpose. Propose delivery of the work as presented but at a later date.

Assuming a leader has done everything possible to manage the workload, the next area for focus is the manner in which work is assigned. There are people who express a sense of being overwhelmed with their amount of work and, in fact, do seem to be overloaded. However, there are situations where the actual amount of work may have little to do with an individual's perception of being overworked. A leader can positively impact perceptions about work simply by managing the "social dynamics" around the work. Here are some suggestions for assigning and engaging others in their work:

  • Ideally, in advance, involve people in the decision about whether or not to accept an assignment. Discuss time requirements, scheduling, personal commitments, vacation plans, and the scope of the project. Armed with more information, go back and negotiate the scope, quality, or delivery date as discussed earlier.
  • If you can't involve people in the decision, consult with them before finalizing the commitment. You may still accept the work, but at least you will understand its impact on them. This may appear to be simply a courtesy, but it will reframe how they see the commitment. People will appreciate that you respected them enough to at least discuss it before committing. Listen to people. Hear their pain. Be sympathetic.
  • If you can't involve or consult and it's a done deal that your team must accept the work, at least inform people as soon as possible of the new commitment. People will appreciate as much advance notice as possible. This allows them to prepare themselves to accommodate the request. The worst situation is for people to have a few days notice when the leader has known for weeks.
  • When communicating additional work, especially when you have no wiggle room, offer a thorough "social accounting" for why this is the best outcome you can manage. Be honest and upfront. Take responsibility. Avoid blaming others for the situation.
  • Check in with people periodically and get a sense of how they're doing. Understand how hard they're working and how it is impacting their personal lives. You may uncover a concern where your involvement could make a difference. Perhaps you find an area where you could run interference and relieve some of the pressure. Perhaps you decide to help with some of the work yourself or hire some temporary help. At a minimum, show concern for the person and demonstrate your willingness to help. It won't always be enough to simply show concern: along the way, you must occasionally find real ways to help relieve some of the pressure.

It is a reality of our time that expectations are high, people are pressed to the limit, and competition is the toughest it's ever been. It's also true that we are creative people who solve the world's most difficult and perplexing problems. Leaders can make a difference in this issue of overcommitment. It is not sufficient to simply throw work at people. It requires sensitivity to people, a deliberate and sincere attempt to deal with the pressures, an openness to alternatives, and a willingness to try some new approaches.

Tom Heinselman specializes in the development of leaders and teams at all levels through the use of workshop experiences, assessments and coaching.
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Don't Leave Them Standing in an Empty Room

By Trudy Triner

As all corporate trainers know, there are very few leadership training activities that have an absolutely predictable outcome. But as I traveled around the world for a large Boston-based training and consulting organization, there was one activity that did. I referred to this activity as a "thrilling" experience as I introduced it to groups in France, Mexico, Hong Kong, and Hawaii. In truth, it was probably more thrilling for me to watch than for them to participate. But the learning was always profound, if sometimes frustrating and even a tad annoying.

Here's the activity. A class is divided into two groups: one is Management, the other is Staff. They are told that, working together, they must solve a physical challenge. That challenge requires Staff to complete a series of physical moves with their bodies, much like a Chinese checkers game. However, only Management is given complete instructions for the task. The two teams are in separate rooms. Only one person from Management can enter Staff's room at a time. And the activity begins.

Here's what happens time and time again. Management works diligently to solve the problem on paper in their room. They sweat. They try options. They even try moving pieces of paper or sugar packets or pencils to represent the Staff. Meanwhile Staff members wait and wait and wait. They begin to conclude that Management is trying to trick them or make fools of them. As time goes on, they begin to get angry. They disengage. Some start to read the newspaper. Others plot revenge and vow to do nothing Management asks. When a Management person finally appears, they usually have paper and pencil in hand, scribble a few notes, totally focus on the task, ignoring the people, and retreat to share their findings with their Management team as they continue to struggle to solve the problem. And so it goes, most often until the allocated time expires. The problem remains unsolved. Staff is frustrated and sometimes angry. The debrief is rich, but often emotion-laden. "Why did you treat us so badly?" Staff will ask. "We were just busy trying to solve the problem," Management says – truly surprised, and somewhat hurt, that their efforts weren't more appreciated.

The secret to success in this exercise, which is almost never discovered, is for Management simply to explain the problem to the Staff and ask for their help in solving it. Staff members become intrigued. They become engaged. They try alternative moves with their bodies and within a few minutes, they solve the problem. They are proud. Management is impressed and relieved. Everyone wins. And it almost never, ever happens!

I was reminded of this activity and its vivid demonstration of the futility of management trying to solve important problems without engaging staff when our Senior Leadership team asked for a training program that would help managers understand the need to engage employees in solving some of the most important challenges in our health-care organization. They wisely understood that without that engagement, it would be very difficult to meet the challenges in store for health care in the coming years.

We partnered with Richard Axelrod, co-author of You Don't Have to Do It Alone: How to Involve Others to Get Things Done, and designed a half-day program for our 650 leaders, managers, and supervisors. We called the program, Engaging Staff to Lead, believing that the ideal was to have staff become so involved, they actually led the improvement effort themselves. And it worked. We saw dramatic improvements in service scores and other important metrics.

After the training effort, the coaching and reinforcement began. During coaching sessions with managers who might be having trouble with staff engagement, I asked them, "How are you learning what's important to your staff?" "How are you supporting them in reaching their goals?" "What do you do to demonstrate your understanding of the world from their point of view?" "How are you demonstrating your appreciation for their efforts?" "Are you providing as much feedback as they feel they deserve?" And, "Are you providing a motivating challenge and empowering them to solve their own problems?"

A light bulb often goes off as managers answer these questions because these are the types of management behaviors that lead to staff engagement. I love those forehead-slapping moments when they realize they've neglected one or more of those elements of engagement. And they love walking away with a plan to engage their staff more fully and avoid all the negative ramifications of leaving staff standing in a room waiting for management to solve all the problems in another room. That is truly a lose-lose situation to be avoided at all cost.


Axelrod, R. H., Axelrod, E. M., Beedon, J., and Jacobs, R. W. 2004. You Don't Have to Do It Alone: How to Involve Others to Get Things Done. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishing.

Trudy Triner is a writer, speaker, and leadership consultant who has helped people be more successful in their work for over 25 years. She is also the author of a popular blog and a soon to be published book, Make Mom Happy By Mail, which encourages us all to connect with our parents in a meaningful way while the fleeting window of opportunity to do so is still open.
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Connecting to the Invisible - Social Networks Are About What You "Can't See"

By Dean R. DeLisle

The craziest thing to comprehend about social networks is that a bulk of their value comes from what we actually cannot see! What do we mean by that?

The Numbers
Let's take LinkedIn for instance, which has produced a higher number of leads, appointments, and proposals for our coaching clients than all other social network sites combined. Think about the numbers. With over 65,000,000 active members and approximately 3,000,000 users joining per month, that number alone is hard to digest. However, keep in mind that the typical user has, on average, about 240 trusted connections, and those connections are then one degree from over 35,000 trusted connections, and two degrees from over 3,200,000 trusted connections! Now we use the term "trusted connections" loosely with regard to the relationship of your direct connections, then to that second level of millions of connections. Now, if you think about all the people you know who are truly trusted connections without even using LinkedIn and do the same math-you too will be amazed.

Trusted Connections
So what does the term "trusted connections" even mean in the eyes of LinkedIn? Well if you play by the rules (and believe me LinkedIn makes you play by the rules!), most of your first- and second-tiered connections know each other at some level. Maybe not on a first name basis or recognizable on the street, but they have a common interest or connection through their networks. Even if you take a 30% error factor on what you think are bad connections, the numbers are still staggering. So because LinkedIn enforces the fact that "you should know" your connections, we can assume these numbers to be even 70% true and therefore trusted. Based on how we train and coach our clients, we find this to be accurate.

My Numbers
I wanted to test this system myself and started mapping out my network without LinkedIn. I went into our CRM system and under my name there are exactly 2,038 first-level connections with whom I have directly cultivated and maintained some level of relationship over the past five years-either by newsletter, blog, or social networking. Now we can conservatively cut that down by half to include only those people whom I have actually encountered or had a truly trusted relationship with, which puts us at about 1,000 (working with round numbers). If the average person connected to those people, each of whom has 200 contacts (the average) in their system of trusted connections, and then those connections each have 200 people, the total unseen trusted network reach without LinkedIn is roughly 40,000,000 people! Could that be true? If I had the money and the power to reach all of my connections (through writing columns, blogs, newsletters, and social network posts) and all of their connections and their connections.could I really reach 40,000,000 people?

Your Numbers
Try this simple exercise. Count the number of people in your Outlook, gmail or contact manager. Then take the people from your phone and any other easy-to-count sources. As we have shown that the average person knows 200 people, do the math twice. Is it realistic to say that, if you were strategic with your networking and social networking, that you could reach a fair percentage of those people? What's the number of your reach?

Now See the Invisible
Now put on your magic glasses. If you have a head start on this social networking site and already have a hundred or so connections on LinkedIn, then click on 'Network Statistics' as shown below and start networking with what you can now see! If you have not started yet, then we invite you to participate in the many complimentary webinars that the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches (WABC) has been so kind to sponsor for its members.

Dean R. DeLisle has proven his ability to accelerate contacts, business development, and operations with sound business practices, the ever-evolving power of technology, and his consulting, coaching, and training skills over the past 25 years. Learn more about Dean in the WABC Coach Directory.
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Coaching Great Leaders
The Inertia Predicament

By Marshall Goldsmith

When I ask people, "What really matters in your life?" answers based on the following five themes are generally given: health, wealth, relationships, happiness, and meaning. While in the past I have focused on relationships, my focus of late is happiness and meaning.

It's  interesting to me that as much as everyone claims to want happiness and meaning, there is a paradoxical catch that blocks us at every turn. Here it is:

  • Our default response in life is not to experience happiness.
  • Our default response in life is not to experience meaning.
  • Our default response in life is to experience inertia.

In other words, our most common everyday process—the thing we do more often than anything else—is continue to do what we're already doing.

Don't believe me? If you've ever come to the end of a TV show and then passively continued watching the next show on the same channel, you know the power of inertia. You only have to press a button on the remote (an expenditure of less than one calorie of energy) to change the channel. Yet many of us cannot even do that, much less turn the thing off. We continue doing what we're doing even when we no longer want to do it.

Inertia is the reason I can say the following with absolute certainty about your immediate future: The most reliable predictor of what you will be doing five minutes from now is what you are doing now. If you're reading now, you'll probably be reading five minutes from now. The same is true for almost any other daily activity. If you are drinking or exercising or shopping or surfing the Internet now, you will probably be drinking or exercising or shopping or surfing the Internet five minutes from now. Take a moment to let that sink in and weigh the statement against your own life.

We carry that bad mood from our work to our home. We carry that bad mood from our home to our work. Inertia is an incredibly reliable short-term predictor of future behavior.

Once you appreciate this predicament, you will become aware of its paralyzing effect on every aspect of your life, not just the mindless routines of eating or watching TV, but also things that really matter—such as the level of happiness and meaning in your life—and you will become more thoughtful about turning things around.

How do you break the cycle of inertia? It's not a matter of exerting heroic willpower. All that's required is the use of a simple discipline, and it comes in the form of an experiment I want you to try.

As you go through your day, I want you to evaluate every activity on a 1 to 10 scale (with 10 being the highest score) on two simple questions:

  1.  How much long-term benefit or meaning did I experience from this activity?
  2.  How much short-term satisfaction or happiness did I experience in this activity?

Simply record the activities that make up your day, both at work and at home, and then evaluate each activity by applying these two questions.

There is no "right" answer. There is no acceptable range of scoring. No one else can answer the questions for you. It's your experience of happiness and meaning. Give it your best shot. Don't "think it to death." Just take a couple of seconds and record your scores. At the end of the day you will have a chart that tracks your experience of happiness and meaning.

If you do this, you may end up with much more than a score.

This simple ‘two question' method can be applied to any activity. Imagine that you're about to attend a one-hour, mandatory meeting. Your initial mind-set is that the meeting will be a boring waste of time. But on this occasion, you flash forward an hour into the future and ask yourself two questions: How much long-term benefit or meaning did I experience from this activity? How much short-term satisfaction or happiness did I experience in this activity? Remember, it's your life. If the meeting makes you feel miserable and empty, it's your misery and emptiness. So try to make the best of the situation rather than defaulting to the role of victim. You have two options: Option A is to attend the meeting and be miserable (and probably assist other attendees in being miserable too). Option B is to make the meeting more meaningful and enjoyable. You might be able to do this by observing your colleagues more closely than ever, or by asking the attendees a question that you've been dying to ask, or by creatively generating an idea that becomes the inspiration for future progress. Your options are not as limited or limiting as you think. But you may never even consider these options without first posing the two questions.

All you're doing is changing how you approach any activity. You are changing your mind-set. You're no longer defaulting to inertia—i.e., continuing to do what you've been doing. You're electing to be more mindful, more alert, and more awake. Remember, this is how you can overcome the pernicious effects of inertia, or mindless activity. This is how you can solve the predicament of inertia. This is how you can regain control of your future and create positive change.

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 Mojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It, and How to Get It Back If You Lose It. Learn more about Marshall in the WABC Coach Directory.
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On the Sunny Side
Contracting the Relationship and Setting Boundaries

By Dr. Sunny Stout Rostron

Coaching can help business executives to fine-tune skills that are crucial within today's economic and market constraints. These include, for example, the ability to exert influence across organizational boundaries, to manage conflicts, and to create and articulate a vision. Coaching has also been shown to help leaders develop a clearer understanding of their roles and responsibilities. But perhaps most importantly, coaching can help new leaders deal with the aspects of transition, transformation, and change (Stout Rostron, 2009:61).

In order to make this happen, it is important for coach and client to carefully set out the boundaries for how communication is to take place. Developing the habit of both formal and informal contracting is one of the first steps in beginning to understand the dynamics of forming a coaching relationship and setting boundaries. The coach and client agree to conditions of time, space, fees, confidentiality, and goals. In contracting, the business coach agrees to a specific set of conditions.

Contracting the Relationship

The purpose of the contract is to open up the potential for trust between coach and client that is essential if the client is to trust his or her own self-exploration. As the agreement lays the foundation for the relationship, it must be adhered to in action for trust to develop.

The contract between coach and client sets out which services have been agreed upon and delineates all fees as well as the outcomes and deliverables that can be expected. The contract sets out ground rules for the coaching relationship so that both parties are aware of their obligations. This helps prevent future misunderstandings and provides a firm basis to deal with disagreements. The contract describes the relationship between the coach and multiple parties, such as the individual client, the client organization, the HR unit, and line management.

Objectives for the individual executive and for the organization need to be clarified, with boundaries made explicit in terms of confidentiality, fees, cancellation, and termination of the contract. Often in coaching, the contracting process is linked to the generation and fulfillment of outcomes. Contracting usually deals with the management of the process, roles being played, evaluation of the process, learning and outcomes, and exit clauses.

Another important aspect of contracting is the review of the contract when necessary, including termination or renewal. In any business contracting process, it is important to draw up the "marriage" and the "divorce" papers at the beginning: a bit like a prenuptial contract. It is important to specify the boundaries and parameters of the entire coaching intervention, i.e., how the process will proceed from beginning to end and how to terminate the process, whether at the contracted termination point or sooner if required by either party.

For example, last year one of my clients terminated the contract prior to the agreed upon period for the coaching intervention suggested by her organization. She and I verbally re-contracted together how she could manage her exit from the coaching process, how she would defend this position to her line manager and sponsor, and how she could negotiate re-entering the coaching process in the future when she felt more ready. This was made very transparent to the sponsoring organization. It is important that your contracting allows for this type of flexibility, yet keeps you within the bounds of your agreement with the third party or sponsor.

Defining Coaching in Your Contract

It is useful to include a definition of coaching within your contract, specifying how coaching differs from other helping professions. For example, "the services to be provided by coach to client are designed jointly with the client. Coaching, which is not advice, therapy, or counselling, may address specific personal or professional projects, business issues, or general conditions in the client's life or profession."

In our organization we use the following clause in our coaching contracts:

Throughout the working relationship, the coach will engage with the client in direct conversation. The client can count on the coach to be honest and straightforward in asking questions, making interventions, and facilitating the setting of goals. The client understands that the power of coaching is in the relationship between client and coach. If the client or the coach believes the coaching is not working as desired, either client or coach will communicate this.

Your Model as a Contracting Structure

A model is a metaphor for the entire coaching journey, yet embodies a structured process. The Purpose, Perspectives, Process model developed by David Lane within the scientist-practitioner paradigm (Lane and Corrie, 2006) can help you in three ways: to contract with the client, to structure the entire coaching journey, and to guide your coaching conversation. Out of the specific conversation about process can emerge the client's purpose; the way your perspectives fit together can help clients to achieve their purpose; and the process within which you will work helps you both to achieve the outcomes desired.

Essentially, to contract the overall journey, coach and client discuss the overall aim of coaching for the client (purpose) and what each brings to the relationship (perspectives). Coach and client then discuss and contract how the coaching will take place: timing, boundaries, fees, the tools and techniques to be used by the coach, and the way the client would prefer to work (process). They also discuss the overall results and outcomes the client hopes to achieve from the coaching intervention, results that need to be visible to the organization, including thinking, feeling, and behavior that the client would like to change (outcomes as a result of process).

As a rule, I start the coaching conversation with perspectives: "Where are you now?" "What's happening with you?" "What's informing your thinking?" "What are your reflections on your current (or specific) concrete experience?" We move on to identify purpose: what they want to talk about, what their needs are for today, and what key outcomes they want to achieve. Once we have identified what needs to be worked on, we agree on the process we will work with using whichever question frameworks, tools, or techniques are relevant to that process. At the end of the session we summarize actions, learning, and outcomes that have resulted from the coaching conversation.

Any model that you use for your regular coaching conversations can help you to define a structure and process and set boundaries for working with your client. However, the name of the game is flexibility and working to the client's needs, so anything prescriptive will only be for your needs. Remember, the conversation is about them.

Often when things go wrong it is due to poor practice on the part of the coach, perhaps from not setting proper boundaries (Ting and Scisco, 2006:19). Contracting and relationship building are crucial to the outcomes of any coaching intervention. Contracting is complex as it determines in what areas, and how deeply, the coach can work with the individual client, the team, and the organization in a holistic, integrated, and systemic way.


Lane, D.A., and Corrie, S. 2006. The Modern Scientist-Practitioner: A Guide to Practice in Psychology. Hove: Routledge.

Stout Rostron, S. 2009. Business Coaching International: Transforming Individuals and Organizations. London: Karnac.

Ting, S., and Scisco, P. 2006. The CCL Handbook of Coaching: A Guide for the Leader Coach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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 is President Emeritus of COMENSA (Coaches and Mentors of South Africa). Learn more about Sunny in the WABC Coach Directory.
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Based on the Evidence
What Makes Mastery? Research as the Virtuous Circle

By Dr. Annette Fillery-Travis

One of the joys of writing this column is that it gives me the excuse to pause and reflect upon my recent learning about research and practice and to consider how it may be of interest to you, my readers. Over the last month or so I have been particularly taken by what it means to be a master practitioner and how research can help us attain that level of practice. It started with my recent move to Middlesex University (England) as Director of Programs for their Professional Doctorate Program. The candidates in this program undertake a doctorate in and through their own practice. Unlike the conventional doctorate where the focus is on academic knowledge, this doctorate's focus is on practice itself, including all the messiness of real life and context. Within my new role, I have the opportunity to work with senior practitioners from a range of professions and talk with their professors and senior academics. It is fascinating to note that we are all intrigued by the question, "What makes mastery?"

All of us are struck by the great similarities between different disciplines–it seems that the process is the same, although the technical knowledge may be vastly different. For example, I had the delight of working with Dr. Susan Melrose, a professor of the performing arts, and I loved her perspective–to quote: "Disciplinary mastery is always relational: it is undertaken somewhere, by and for someone, with reference to (and thereby rearticulating the terms of) one or another disciplinary tradition"–this has a resonance for me when thinking about coaching. As we meet with our clients we are co-constructing a 'performance' with them. As we seek to probe what mastery really looks like and how it can be acquired, we are in the same realm as the performer seeking to construct a depiction of Hamlet or Sleeping Beauty which communicates and explores anew some aspect of what it means to be human.

The question of mastery has real power for coaching when we consider where we are as a profession. If we are to construct the boundaries of what constitutes our body of knowledge and practice, we need to be able to articulate in a clear manner what it means to be a master practitioner in our field. Here we differ from a performance artist in that we need to differentiate ourselves from other related disciplines. The academic requirements, i.e., the amount of stuff we need to know, are relatively straightforward. They are not easy, but they are straightforward. There may be differences in the focus of some courses depending upon the preference of the professors teaching them–but the amount and depth of study are monitored by the university accreditation boards and audited against the standard of a current body of knowledge in the area. However, with all due respect, we know that passing a master's degree is not indicative of mastery in a profession. A master's degree identifies that you have the required technical knowledge, NOT that you have the required professional knowledge and skills. For this we need to develop–through practice--the professional know-how and 'gut feel' indicative of a seasoned practitioner. This is the elusive but necessary ingredient of mastery.

So what might it be? The literature shows us a variety of perspectives and comes up with 'practice wisdom' and 'expert intuition,' both of which try to identify the process by which a practitioner produces a decision or constructs a flexible innovative intervention within the context they find themselves, i.e., their particular client or situation. It is relational, as Susan Melrose says. Let us take a moment to reflect: When was the last time you surprised yourself in practice and thought, "I wonder where that came from? Why did I do that? It worked but where did I get it from?" Probably quite recently! Your expert intuition was in full flight. You probably rationalized your decision or design AFTER the event, but it arrived like magic at the time. As Schön1 would have said, you were 'knowing in action.'

We are starting, as researchers, to get some sense of what is happening in practice wisdom so we can help practitioners attain the holy grail of mastery. It is not appropriate to call it 'intuition' --expert or not--as this is a catchall phrase suggesting it is innate and without rational basis. My own view is that we are working with a kaleidoscope (I thank one of my students, Steve Wigzell, for this metaphor), each color contributing to the pattern is one aspect of what we are bringing to the interaction. For instance, we will bring technical knowledge from various disciplines: learning theory, change management, etc., but also our knowledge of context, the pragmatics in operation, our own values and beliefs, our experience in similar situations, etc. All these and more are part of the color spectrum we have in our kaleidoscope. For each client and situation, we rotate the kaleidoscope again to produce a pattern unique and specific to that client and situation.

The creation of each new pattern has to happen fast and effortlessly 'in the moment' through 'reflection in action,' and, as such, is the result of using images, examples, and understandings achieved through practice. A person's performance nearly always uses several kinds of knowledge (technical, experiential, etc.) in some integrated form and is influenced by both context and feelings.

What recent research has shown is that the transition from novice to competent practitioner can happen when one or two areas of work are mastered. The transition from competent to master practitioner needs the practitioner to not only be using a broad and deep knowledge base, but also to be actively creating knowledge by applying their expertise in new arenas. To create new knowledge, experts must be well versed in the problems and methodologies of the field in which they work and actively engaged in problem finding. These experts are posing questions and instituting investigations that push the boundaries of their work.

So there we have it–if you want to develop expertise and be a Master Practitioner, you must be a problem finder and hence a researcher!

Enjoy your problem finding!


1 D. Schön, The Reflective Practitioner (Basic Books: New York, 1983) An old one but a good one and well worth a read!

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 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.
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Moving Swiftly with Focus & Flexibility
The #1 Job of Business Leaders

By Holly G. Green

If you were to compile a checklist of attributes for great leaders, it would probably include the following:

  • Visionary: John F. Kennedy's powerful statement, "We will put a man on the moon by the end of this decade," is a classic example of great leadership through a compelling vision.
  • Great communication skills: Ronald Reagan's ability to inspire others through passionate oratory earned him the moniker "The Great Communicator."
  • Focus: During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln saved a nation (and changed the world) with his relentless focus on keeping the United States whole.
  • Courage under fire: When things looked their bleakest for England in the early days of WWII, Winston Churchill rallied the country with his personal courage and bulldog tenacity.
  • Charismatic: Despite his other character flaws, Bill Clinton had a charm and charisma that attracted people to him in droves.
  • Strategic thinker: The business landscape is full of great strategists who have guided their organizations to positions of market leadership. Steve Jobs of Apple and Gordon Moore of Intel come to mind.

If you asked people which of these attributes is most important for a business leader to have, most would probably say "strategic thinker." With so many competitors in every market and with change happening in the blink of an eye, it takes a great strategy to come out ahead. It takes someone who can look around, make new connections, and connect the dots faster.

But creating a winning strategy is only half the battle. In fact, it may be the easier part. Leading effectively in today's business environment requires the ability to think strategically and to implement according to that strategy. And that's where many leaders and entire organizations are falling short.

The #1 job of today's business leaders is to focus on both strategy and implementation. This represents a huge difference from a generation ago, when it often took several years for a good strategy to unfold. These days, speed, the rapidity of change, and universal access to information have created a whole new set of demands that require daily attention to ensure that the strategy unfolds properly.

The challenge for business leaders is finding a way to balance their energy and attention across both strategy and execution. You can you help your clients by coaching them to develop tools that will create the same sense of urgency around strategy and focused implementation that they normally devote to putting out all the "emergencies" that occur throughout the day.

These tools can be as low-tech as a sticky-note reminder or as sophisticated as an automated "task ping" from their PC or laptop – anything that keeps them focused on the activities necessary to turn their plan into reality.

To develop more focus around implementation, encourage your clients to pause for a few minutes and plan out their time for the week ahead. Segment it into separate activity blocks, such as collecting data on strategy X, hands-on work on initiative Y, feedback sessions, customer meetings, communication events, etc. The goal is to get them thinking about where they are spending their time and how much of it correlates to actually achieving their strategy.

Next, have your clients review the percentage of time they allocate to each activity block and ask: Does this align with getting us to our destination? Am I ignoring or missing critical areas? Are there areas taking up too much of my time for the anticipated return? Of all the activities I am doing right now, what will have an impact a year from now?

Spending all their time contemplating the future might work for think tanks and ivory towers. But in the business world, it's the day-to-day actions (communicating, providing feedback, realigning behaviors, recognizing others, etc.) coupled with strategic thinking and doing that equates to success.

Many leaders can come up with a winning strategy. It's the follow-through and focus on getting the right things done that separates the great leaders from the good ones. Don't just run, run in the right direction!

Holly G. Green is a consultant, bestselling 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 (Pompton Plains, NJ: Career Press, 2008).
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Global Leader Development
Becoming a Global Leader-Part III

By Jeremy Solomons

As business becomes more and more global, many organizations are asking themselves if effective leaders in one country or region can duplicate their success on a worldwide level?

In the first two columns in this three-part series (February and June 2010 BCW), we looked at how Lucia Mannone–a 38-year-old, Italian, senior marketing officer for a German medical instrument company with little global experience beyond Europe–could help her company expand in the key markets of Argentina, Brazil, China, Japan, Mexico, and South Korea.

We identified different ways she could become "globally competent":

  • By understanding and comparing the different countries' values and behaviors;
  • By taking into account the organizational culture of her own company–in both its headquarters and its offices around the world–and that of its key clients;
  • By drawing the best from each person's professional culture, whether they are marketers, doctors, or operations people.

But there is still one "culture" that stands out above all others if Lucia or anyone else wants to be successful globally.

And that is "individual" culture.

Even though anthropologists maintain that culture is a group phenomenon, we all carry around our own individual culture, molded by both Nature and Nurture.

On the Nature side, our "culture" is formed by such things as our genes, our personality, and our character.

On the Nurture side, we are shaped by our family-of-origin, the community around us, our education, and our opportunities for different kinds of life-altering experiences, such as spending six months between high school and college on a kibbutz in Israel (as this columnist did).

Together, they help build our understanding of who we really are and why we behave the way we do.

Across borders, this means that before even attempting to interact with someone from Korea or Mexico, budding global leaders really need to ask themselves some very searching questions about their own "individual" culture.

These questions might include:

  • What does it mean, in a general sense, to be a truly global leader?
  • What does it mean to me personally to be a truly global leader?
  • What do I hope to achieve?
  • How will it enhance my career, my work, and my personal life?
  • In what ways might it actually impinge on my career, my work, and my personal life?
  • What natural strengths, learned talents, overarching passions, and core values do I already possess to be a global leader?
  • What gaps do I have and what hot buttons and blind spots do I need to be aware of?
  • How can I best overcome my shortcomings through meditation, stretch assignments, travel, studying, coaching, etc.?
  • What else do I need to be successful on a global level?

Once these questions have been addressed and future global leaders are much clearer about the who's, what's and why's of branching out across the world, then they can start to learn more about the individual cultures of the key counterparts with whom they will be interacting.

This is obviously easier if colleagues or counterparts have the chance to spend time together both in formal meetings and informal activities over a period of time.

The CEO of a successful US consumer goods company would spend one week a month visiting different corporate offices around the world to hold town hall meetings and get to know the people he was leading.

Another global energy company has a standard practice of launching any new virtual project by bringing all the new team members together in one place for two weeks. It has continued this practice even after 9/11 and during the recession, believing it important for team members to get to know each other before they start working together across distance. And it has paid off again and again.

When colleagues and counterparts don't have the chance to spend significant face time together, it can be much harder to get to know each other's individual culture. But it is not impossible. They just have to make a more concerted, conscious effort.

Technology and advances in social media networking can really help nowadays.

For example, a newly forming global team can easily set up an internal website–Facebook-style–with team member profiles, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, photos, videos, etc.

Each team can then co-create a communication charter, accommodating individual preferences for face-to-face, phone, email, text and/or IM interchanges.

Just because an East Asian colleague is always available at 11:00 p.m. for a multipoint conference call, don't assume that this is what he really wants.

He may actually prefer to speak in the early morning, which would mean his colleagues in the Americas will have to stay up late once in a while when call times are rotated in order to "share the pain."

These are just a few of the many specific ways that global leaders can understand who they are working with and how to get the best out of them without being neglectful or manipulative.

Traditionally, the best piece of advice about how to be successful globally relates to the Golden Rule that is common to many different religions and cultures: treat others as you want to be treated.

It seems very logical and fair, but across cultures, there is a fundamental flaw.

You are assuming that others are like you and, as such, want to be treated like you.

As we have seen in the last two columns, there is a whole host of cultural factors–geographical, organizational, professional, and individual–that can make a seemingly familiar person be very different from you.

So this columnist would strongly urge you to practice the Platinum Rule instead: treat others as they want to be treated.

This way, you are acknowledging the potential differences between you and then gradually, as you get to know the other person by spending time with them and asking appropriate questions, you can actually find that he or she is not that far away from you and that you do have a lot in common.

By acknowledging the differences and seeking the commonalities, any leader can reach out and not just survive in a global context, but thrive and leave the world a slightly better place.

Enjoy the journey!


Adler, N. 2007. International Dimensions of Organizational Behavior. Florence, KY: Cengage Learning.

Hofner Saphiere, D. et al. 2010. Cultural Detective Online Learning Series.

Hofstede, G. 2001. Culture's Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions, and Organizations across Nations. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Hofstede, G. 2005. Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind. Revised and expanded 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Jeremy Solomons is the UK-born and USA-naturalized founder and president of Jeremy Solomons & Associates, which helps current and future leaders to connect and communicate effectively across all cultures-national, organizational, professional, and individual. From his base in Austin, Texas, he coaches, consults, designs curriculum, facilitates, and trains in many areas of leadership.
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Unwilling Bedfellows
The C Word—Collaboration at the Interface of the Public and Private Sectors

By Fiona Eldridge and Dr. Sabine Dembkowski

In our earlier two-part article (BCW, February and June 2010), we looked at the challenges of working in new public-private sector organizations following the banking crisis. Since we began this series, the need for individuals and organizations to work together in new relationships has increased. For the first time in decades, the British government is a coalition and governments across Europe are called upon to work together to help out other European Union countries in crisis. Within countries, individual organizations from both the public and private sectors are having to work together. So what are the challenges of the C Word (collaboration) and how can coaching contribute to developing the key skills necessary for it?

As we outlined previously, our experience and research suggest that the key challenges are:

  1. Different cultures--behaviors and expectations
  2. Greater complexity of stakeholder groups
  3. Leadership and management styles
  4. Process versus purpose
  5. Depth and breadth of subject matter know-how
  6. Murkier measures of success
  7. Language and vocabulary

In this article, we explore the skills/behaviors required to address these challenges and describe how coaching can help executives at the interface between public and private organizations develop and enhance these skills.

Putting aside the professional skills required for specific posts, we have identified seven core requirements for roles at the interface:

  1. Strategic thinking
  2. Communicating
  3. Negotiating and influencing
  4. Adaptability
  5. Planning and organizing
  6. Personal resilience
  7. Teamworking

To illustrate how coaching can support individuals in responding to these challenges, we have provided short case examples. These are based on real cases but some details have been changed to preserve anonymity.

1. Strategic thinking

Working at a high level in any organization requires the ability to think and act strategically. However, for executives working at the public-private sector interface, its importance is magnified because of the political imperatives and potential social and economic consequences of actions. Anyone entering a leadership role in such an organization needs to be able to take a broad view of the issues and challenges the organization faces, anticipate the future, and develop a strategy for achieving goals. In commercial organizations, executives are used to developing a vision for the business and then a plan to accomplish that vision. For organizations under public control, the vision may be determined externally by political imperatives and executives have to determine how to deliver it. At times of governmental change, the whole direction of the organization may also change, creating a need for fleetness of foot in strategy development.

In addition, the executive has to scan the political and economic environment and understand the wider context in which the organization operates. For executives coming into contact with the public sector for the first time, the need to understand political drivers and implications is likely to be a new experience. Working collaboratively includes developing an understanding of how the different cultures of the various sectors may affect priorities and impact organizational goal achievement. One key way in which different cultures impact upon strategy is that the public sector is used to taking a four- or five-year approach (linked to government term of office). In contrast, private-sector organizations, although they do make medium-term plans, are more likely to be working to short annual cycles to satisfy shareholders.

Case example:

When Sophie joined her organization, she experienced a steep learning curve. She had had some experience of the public sector while working as a consultant, but had not really appreciated what it would be like to live the complexities on a daily basis. Some early errors with quick decisions--creating adverse media comment--led her to seek our assistance to develop alternative approaches that would balance external and internal stakeholder needs. Her coach worked with her to produce an impact-analysis approach which she could apply to major decision making. For each stakeholder group, she examined the likely impact and its severity. At the end of the exercise she had developed greater awareness for the specific needs of each stakeholder group. This enabled Sophie to adapt strategies to mitigate, as far as possible, against severely adverse consequences for any stakeholder group. She also had a better understanding of the impact her behaviors had on each group and the behaviors and actions she could display in the future to achieve a more desired impact.

2. Communicating

We have already commented that one of the challenges for our clients has been the difference in language and vocabulary between the private and public sectors. It is therefore doubly important that executives are effective communicators. They should be clear and precise both when speaking and writing, and check the understanding of others. They must also be able to think about situations from the perspective of their different audiences and tailor their language and tone accordingly.  

Case example:

Kurt's working world changed dramatically with the intense media scrutiny surrounding his organization after the banking crisis broke. Suddenly he was working with new colleagues from the public sector as the government stepped in to run the bank. Kurt became acutely aware that, as a manager, it was not only what he said but how he said it that was important with both internal and external audiences. He worked with his coach to identify his communication challenges, including communicating with colleagues from very different backgrounds, as well as adverse customer and wider societal reactions. By planning and thinking about the impact of each message he had to deliver, Kurt was able to anticipate potential questions/challenges from his audiences. He also matched the method of delivery with the nature of the message--not delivering bad news by email. His coach also worked with him on personal presentation so that the way he put across his messages exuded competence and confidence.

3. Negotiating and influencing

In a situation where executives are working at the interface of public and private organizations, it is probable that they are in a position where there are many conflicting agendas. In these circumstances, and to achieve organizational objectives, it is essential that they identify the key players, understand where the real power lies, sell the benefits of their proposals, and tailor arguments to the specific needs of the other party. In essence, they need to be able to persuade another person or group. Executives also need to be able to bring supporters onboard and create alliances before entering a specific setting. It may at first seem that with a hierarchical structure it might be easier to identify the key players in public-sector organizations. However, it is not that straightforward, as different functions and different organizations have different degrees of influence.

Case example:

James is a recently appointed Director of Resources for a large UK public-sector organization with an overall budget of over £400 million. Previously he held a senior position in an organization providing IT solutions. Since the recent elections, emails have been arriving daily from central government announcing the cuts required to begin to address the budget deficit. With less money, James still has to ensure high-quality services for both internal and external stakeholders. It is clear to him and others in the top team that this cannot be achieved without working with partners. However, many of those he now needs to bring onside have spent the last few years arguing and blocking what his organization has been trying to achieve.

James wanted to work with his coach on making the great variety of “partnerships” he had to forge as effective as possible. The approach was to help James identify stakeholders for his area. Once he had done that, he mapped all the interrelationships between the groups and his coach suggested that he use his team to help provide background on who really held the power in each group. Visualizing the relationships on a chart really helped him see where his leverage points might be and also understand the complexities of his new organization's situation. Having identified the power holders, James then decided to organise one-to-one meetings with them. This gave James invaluable insights into their concerns and preferences. Working with his coach, James then decided what approach to take with each individual to sell the benefits of the partnership. The next step will be for James to ensure that he has other champions for his preferred approach before the next key meeting.

4. Adaptability

It is an often-quoted truism that 'change is the norm.' However, in the current climate the need to be flexible and adapt to changing priorities has rarely been so important. For executives in public-private settings, new directions and new imperatives are flowing on an almost daily basis. Organizations that were set up under one political regime have to adapt to new political masters--some have a change of focus, some are being phased out completely, and others are charged with merging with other organizations. Those leading the organizations have to be adaptable both on a personal and an organizational level and need to tailor the speed of their change strategy to the situation.

Case example:

John joined a public-private organization after spending his entire career in private-sector industry, where he had proved himself in three large-scale change initiatives. In fact, he was chosen for his current role specifically because of his experience. He could bring to the table a particular approach he developed and compiled while working with different consultancies in the previous change projects. He felt well prepared. However, three months into the change initiative, he found himself isolated, could report limited progress, and had failed to achieve several milestones.

In our coaching sessions, we reflected on all that had happened since he joined the organization and John became aware that he had failed to change himself. He had a plan, applied the methodologies and tools that worked so well in the past, and treated this initiative as “business as usual.” During the coaching process he became aware that, at times, for his new colleagues, he moved too fast, did not involve all crucial stakeholders, and communicated too little with his team, who were not used to his methodology. As often occurs, spending time with his coach provided John with the space to see where things were not working and allowed him to develop an action plan to adopt new strategies for the change process.

5. Planning and organizing

Bringing together partners from the different cultures of the public and private sectors requires executives to provide very clear leadership so that all involved know the objectives of the organization, who is responsible for what, and the timescales in which objectives have to be achieved. In a complex situation with a multiplicity of stakeholders, executives also have to develop robust systems to monitor personal and organizational performance and be prepared to challenge actions and activities that do not contribute to an effective and efficient organization.

Case example:

Following a surprise resignation, Tim was suddenly promoted to a temporary Chief Executive role. He had many years of experience at a senior level in the public sector, particularly within his professional field, but had never led an entire organization. His top team was relatively new and included people from both the private and public sectors. The government department responsible for the organization set very demanding financial and performance targets. It was made clear to Tim that he was expected to deliver financial breakeven by the end of the year.

A few months in, and after a particularly painful meeting with departmental officials, it was clear that the organization was failing to deliver. Tim used his coach as a sounding board to provide a challenging independent view of what was happening and to consider what he could do to turn things around. In essence, Tim was failing to stay on top of things and was allowing his directors to take advantage of his inexperience by being disingenuous and not giving full information if Tim did not ask the right questions. He did not drill down into the detail of their reports and was overlooking inconsistencies and inaccuracies of data until it was too late. Through not planning carefully or differentiating between 'business critical' and other activities, the organization was lurching from one near crisis to the next, attracting the unwanted attention of departmental officials. Clearly there were several areas where Tim needed to develop his skills, but he identified that providing clear direction through effective planning and organizing would be a key first step in turning the organization around. With his coach, Tim identified the immediate priorities and began working with the individual directors to develop clear plans to achieve the targets. Tim also recognised that he was not yet ready for a full Chief Executive role and did not apply for the permanent position.

6. Personal Resilience

Undoubtedly, it is easier to lead an organization which is mature and successful and when the prevailing climate is stable both politically and economically. However, in the current climate, executives in all organizations, particularly those at the interface of the public and private sectors, need to have the skills to develop personal resilience to withstand the buffeting they receive on a daily basis. People both within and outside of their organizations look to the executives to make difficult, and often unpopular, decisions and to remain in control even under conflicting pressures.

Case example:

Petra knew that the 'streamlining' proposals for her organization would cause tremendous uncertainty for employees and users of the organization's services. In addition, she was being asked to collaborate with private-sector organizations to look at new partnership models of delivery. She wanted to work with her coach on ways of developing strategies to remain calm, in control, and rational even in the face of difficult emotional issues and her own uncertain future. She was aware that if she did not acknowledge the emotional side of the situation, she would be perceived as uncaring, but equally, she could not shoulder everyone's emotions. It would be all too easy to get caught up in the growing anxiety and to make quick decisions under pressure.

Petra worked with her coach to identify potential crisis points, as well as key areas of focus for her work. In her sessions, she was able to rehearse reactions to different scenarios and then plan her potential approaches to particular meetings. This provided an opportunity for her to examine her own reactions and to think about how others might respond. We also worked with Petra to develop strategies for 'recharging her batteries' through a planned program of nonwork activities. Equally important was the identification of the types of situations which had led, in the past, to her reacting inappropriately to events (such as becoming slightly aggressive and shouting). By becoming aware of those triggers, Petra could then plan to break the chain of events by using a different behavior, such as taking a walk around the block before responding to an email or voicemail.

7. Teamworking

At the core of working collaboratively at the interface of the public and private sectors is the ability to develop strong working relationships between people and organizations from different backgrounds to deliver shared goals. It involves the executive being able to help all those involved to see each other's perspective and help break down barriers, real or perceived, between different groups. An executive demonstrating teamworking skills will help develop an organization that does not let hierarchy determine how effective the organization is, but rather has encouraged groups of people to work together in partnership to solve problems. The executive will also develop a network of contacts in influential positions across the organization with whom he or she can work in order to deliver organizational objectives.

Case example:

David is in charge of a cost-cutting initiative spanning several departments within the Civil Service. His unit has been brought together specifically to perform this role, and when he first asked us to work with him, he outlined a number of challenges he was facing.

The first was that his individual unit members did not know one another and appeared to have nothing in common other than being asked to work on this pan-government initiative and being experts in their own areas. Secondly, and perhaps the biggest issue, was that the unit could not easily get the information they needed from the departments, who saw providing the information as putting them in the category of “turkeys voting for Christmas”! The information that the unit needed would lead to major decisions about budget cuts, reorganization, and redundancies. There had also been little or no communication to the various stakeholders about the role of the unit. Frankly, David did not know what to tackle first. He was operating in an environment of suspicion and miscommunication--some people feared that just talking to the unit would put their jobs on the line.

We worked with David to help him build the relationships he needed to achieve the unit's objectives. The first step he took was to start communicating with all stakeholders to replace the rumors and speculation that were in circulation. This helped break down barriers and put the unit's work in context so that stakeholders began cooperating. We also worked with David to plan a meeting with his unit members--ostensibly, this was to agree on a form of questions and communication messages for each member to use when visiting stakeholders. A secondary and equally important objective was to work out vision, values, and operating methodology for the unit. David put together a simple framework which helped the unit to answer:

a) What are we doing?
b) Why are we doing it?
c) How will we do it?
d) How will what we do be consistent with what we believe to be fair?
e) What has worked so far?
f) What has not worked?
g) What does best practice look like?
h) Are we all prepared to sign up to deliver this tough message?

David also helped his unit see that it was important that all communication should be free of 'management speak' and tailored for each stakeholder group. Now the unit still has to deliver hard messages, but at least it has its stakeholders onside.


The skills and behaviors needed by executives to address the challenges of collaborative working at the interface of the public and private sectors are rooted in (1) the ability to scan the environment and see and understand the big picture, and (2) well-developed people skills. Coaching can really contribute in both of these areas, as the independence, challenge, and support provided by an external executive coach can assist individuals to assess their current skills and then develop action plans to improve performance, both personal and organizational.

Fiona Eldridge is director of The Coaching & Communication Centre. Much of her work centers on supporting leaders across the public sector. Previously she was Head of Leadership and Coaching at Veredus. In addition to her work for The Coaching & Communcation Centre, she is non-executive Chairman of Teaching Personnel and was, until recently, a non-executive Director of NHS Professionals, a special health authority set up to manage the supply, cost, and quality of the temporary workforce within the UK's National Health Service.
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Dr. Sabine Dembkowski is founder and director of The Coaching Centre in London and Cologne. Together with her colleagues, she supports members of boards, executives, and high-potentials in Fortune 500, DAX 30, and leading professional service firms across Europe. Before she established The Coaching Centre, she was a strategic management consultant with A.T. Kearney and Monitor Company in London. Learn more about Dr. Dembkowski in the WABC Coach Directory.
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Imagination First
Unlocking the Power of Possibility

By Eric Liu and Scott Noppe-Brandon

Summary by Lynne Haley Rose, Business Book Summaries

Imagination is an immensely powerful tool; when tapped, both individuals and companies have almost limitless access to creativity, innovation, and competitive advantages. In Imagination First, co-authors Eric Liu and Scott Noppe-Brandon examine imagination from every perspective to offer individual and group strategies for unlocking its infinite power as a driving force in business, politics, education, and the arts.

Individuals with strong imaginations are able to create and innovate—vital ingredients to a growing economy and world leadership. The future of society relies on imaginative leaders, and as a result, educators must train students to think in terms of What if... rather than What is.

The following "Capacities for Imaginative Learning" are ways for people to access their imaginations:

• Noticing deeply
• Embodying
• Questioning
• Identifying patterns
• Making connections
• Exhibiting empathy
• Creating meaning
• Taking action
• Reflecting and assessing

Imagination First offers 28 ½ Practices for exercising the imagination on a regular basis:

Make Mist—cultivate imaginative stimulants
Leave the Campfire—explore the dark
Flip What’s Foolish—be a fool
Make Way for Awe—seek inspiration
Reinvent the Wheel—look again
Think Inside the Box—use restrictions
Hoard Bits—collect
Mix Your Metaphors—form new analogies
Renew Your Narrative—reinvent yourself
Untie Your Tongue—eliminate jargon
Swap Bodies—role play
Make A Gap—invite collaboration
Finish the Story
Chunk It—make it manageable
Don’t Blink—look
Cloud Appreciation—play
Spotlight Off, Lantern On—broaden perceptions
Play Telephone—adapt and revise
Help Out a Boobonian—problem solve
Teach Non-Zero Math—expand to divide
Microexperiement—test theories
Rewrite History—ask "what if..."
Design for the Hallway—foster creative conversation
Routinize Randomness—plan for surprise
Ride the z-axis—explore dimension
Challenge Your Challenges—inspire imagination
Break the Hand—try new methods
Yes, and...—be expansive
Fail Well—learn from mistakes

Imagination First speaks not to individuals but to a collective audience, which is where imagination is most effective. Co-authors Eric Liu and Scott Noppe-Brandon conclude that "the goal for any healthy organization is to create epidemics of imagination."

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The More Things Change...

By Kathlyn Hyatt Stewart

As we move into fall and our final issue of Business Coaching Worldwide (BCW) for 2010, I find myself reflecting on all the changes over the past year and anticipating those yet to come. The biggest of these, personally, has been assuming the helm as editor of BCW, and it been a thrilling ride! I am grateful to have finally "met" so many of you whom I have only been peripherally exposed to in the past as copyeditor on your articles. I want to thank you profusely for your friendly correspondence, the quality of your writing, and your timeliness in getting everything in under deadline! You have made my job so much easier, and it's been a real pleasure!

The articles in this issue echo the theme of past and present, looking back and moving forward. In our Feature Article, "Mindshifting to Mindful Coaching," Josh Ehrlich expertly shows how to bring ancient Eastern practices of mindfulness to 21st-century coaching. In our Success Story, Irene (Quiti) Vera relates how a traditional business in Mexico has grown and thrived under skilled coaching. In a special addition to this issue, our second Success Story by Tim Ursiny explains why a coaching perspective can enhance your skills at recruiting. Marshall Goldsmith addresses the problem of being stuck in  a rut and reveals how to escape in "The Inertia Predicament," while Annette Fillery-Travis (Based on the Evidence) describes the synchronous relationship between "problem finding,'' research, and becoming a master practitioner of coaching.

In "Contracting the Relationship and Setting Boundaries," Sunny Stout Rostron emphasizes the importance of firm, but flexible, contracts in guiding the coaching relationship, while Holly Green, in "The #1 Job of Business Leaders," describes why focus (again, mindfulness) and implementation are so critical to success. In the conclusion to his three-part series on Global Leader Development, Jeremy Solomons explains how to develop "global competence" as a 21-st century leader by invoking traditional skills and values, and in their regular column Unwilling Bedfellows, Fiona Eldridge and Sabine Dembkowski take on "the C-word" in public-private sector interactions.

In Social Media Mania, Dean L. DeLisle examines the hidden dimensions of social networks and their value for coaching, while Tom Heinselman offers detailed and valuable advice on how to avoid becoming "Overworked and Overwhelmed." Trudy Triner's Hot Topic offers cogent suggestions for managers on how to most effectively engage their staff in problem solving.

I hope you enjoy reading this issue as much as I have enjoyed putting it together!

Kathlyn Hyatt Stewart is a long-time freelance writer and editor with a Master's degree in Forensic Sciences and BS degrees in English and Psychology. She created her online used book business Gargoyle Books in 1999.
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Letters to the Editor

We Want to Hear from You!

"Benchmarks Are Dangerous" (BCW, June 2010) by Howard Morgan and Cathy Swody is a well thought through article. However, it reflects a narrow view of benchmarking. I have worked with organisations to identify the need for benchmarking and which company is in our view, the best in the area we are interested in.

There is also a decision about whether we need performance (numbers that compare how well we are doing) or process benchmarking (how others achieve their great results). I know benchmarking can help an organisation to make more progress than if it relied only on internal comparisons. I support a challenge to accepting the results of industry-wide benchmarking without first articulating what you want it to do and then selecting a really useful benchmark.

The role of a leader and coach becomes obvious.
- Joseph Ogbonna

What did you think about this issue? Were there any articles that stood out to you? Do you have a question? We want to hear from you!