3Dec/130

Senior Leadership Transitions: What Makes Them Work and What Causes Them to Fail?

By Patricia Wheeler, PhD

Today's senior leaders face high expectations that go beyond being an expert in one primary line of business, principal role, or segment of the organization. In our fast-moving environment of mergers, acquisitions, divestments, and sell-offs, leaders are asked to come up to speed even more quickly as well as influence an increasing number of stakeholders across their organization in order to be successful. Given this climate, how are these leaders faring? And what can coaches do to help?

In 2008, the Institute of Executive Development and the global coaching alliance Alexcel reported results of a year-long market study designed to examine transitions that senior-most leaders (those executives in the top five percent of their organizations) make and to identify what helps them succeed and what causes them to fail. Participants included approximately 150 executives and talent professionals from more than 100 organizations in 12 countries and 21 industries. Participants took an online survey consisting of 18 multiple choice questions, plus a number of deep-dive interviews, specifically on the subject of internal and external transitions, how many failed, and why they failed. Failurewas defined as when the leader failed to meet their organization's criteria for success by the two-year mark. (This did not mean that all leaders who were considered "failing" were fired or moved out of their roles.)

We found that one in three senior executives hired externally failed to meet their organization's criteria for successful performance within two years. This is consistent with and perhaps even more optimistic than results from some other studies, particularly those that focused on the entire executive population.

What was even more noteworthy was our finding that one in five senior leaders taking on new roles within their existing organization failed. The clear message here is that what makes a leader successful in one role in the organization will not necessarily continue to drive his or her success in the next role. We echo Marshall Goldsmith's words (and title of his book), "What got them here won't get them there." Organizations must ensure that they offer sufficient help to leaders making internal transitions.

Why did so many of the senior-most leaders fail to make successful transitions? The top two reasons cited by organizations we surveyed were lack of interpersonal skills and lack of personal skills. (Note: Each survey respondent could choose to cite more than one cause of executive failure.) Only 15 percent of respondents said leaders within their organization failed due to lack of technical or business skills. The highest cause of failure was leadership skill deficits, reported by 68 percent of organizations. Another 45 percent of respondents reported failure due to leaders' poor personal skills, including lack of focus and self-management. The implications are clear: obstacles to success in new roles are primarily due to what many organizations consider "soft" skills, i.e., those that focus on the quality and quantity of relationships that leaders craft and maintain.

So what can companies and executive coaches do to help? We gathered information on what companies are doing and what they deemed effective. Online onboarding and meet-and-greets are helpful for external hires, but clearly not sufficient for senior leaders. With leaders new to a company, mentoring programs and informal networks with other executives were the support modalities perceived as most effective. Customized assimilation plans and executive coaching were also helpful.

For internally transitioning leaders, the supports perceived as most effective were executive coaching and the creation of a customized assimilation plan. This speaks to the importance of creating a network of people that will help leaders differentiate the demands and needs of their old role from those of their new role, and develop more senior-level presence as they move through the leadership pipeline.

What does a customized assimilation program look like? Here is an example from my personal case files:

Mark had been with his organization, a Fortune 100 manufacturing division, for 14 years. He was promoted to a corporate vice president role. In this role (his 12th position in the company), he needed to rapidly form relationships with his new stakeholders, many of whom he knew from afar in his plant manager role but with whom he had never worked closely.

First, we reviewed the 360 evaluation generated for his former position. His strengths included his clear ethics, dependability, ability to collaborate with others, and easygoing manner. His primary leadership challenge was his tendency to be too easygoing with employee communication and feedback; we decided that in his new position, he would focus on giving clear, ongoing feedback (and FeedForward1) to his team and challenge himself to adopt a greater sense of urgency about results.

We crafted an assimilation plan that included an "all-hands" meeting with Mark and two levels of his direct reports. Mark organized and prepared to discuss his thoughts around issues including:

  • Team vision
  • Expected results
  • Key customers
  • First impressions of his role and of the team
  • Expectations of the team
  • Plan for ongoing review of progress.

We gathered anonymous information from the team, including:

  • Important stakeholders
  • First impressions of Mark and the reputation that preceded him
  • Questions for and about Mark.

Then we facilitated dialogue between Mark and the team on these areas. My continued role as coach was to help Mark stay aware of his leadership style, leverage his strengths, and navigate around his potential derailers. He created a contact plan to help him identify and reach out to key stakeholders in his new role. We also developed ways for him to hold himself accountable for ongoing FeedForward to his team, boosting both their performance and engagement scores.

Two years later, Mark continues to be successful in his role. Comparing his previous transitions to this one, he credits the plan with saving at least six month's worth of wasted time, false starts, and "water-cooler talk." According to Mark, the work on forming key relationships quickly and creating a platform by which these relationships are maintained and deepened was the most valuable benefit of his assimilation program.

In conclusion, as leaders today must manage more frequent and more complex transitions throughout their careers, it is crucial for organizations and their internal and external coaching resources to take clear steps to help these leaders succeed in their new roles. Making sure that they continue to monitor and develop personal and interpersonal skills is absolutely critical to optimizing performance in new roles, even when they have clear track records of success in their former positions.

Alexcel and the Institute of Executive Development will continue studying what makes senior leadership transitions work and what causes them to fail. We welcome dialogue with organizations and internal coaches who are achieving success in this area, as well as those who are struggling to develop more robust programs for their senior leaders.


1 This process, developed by Marshall Goldsmith, is a quick and proven method for helping successful people be even more successful. The practice of FeedForward requires a disciplined approach to following up with important stakeholders, which research has shown is the key ingredient to successful change. For more about FeedForward, see "Leadership Is a Contact Sport: The ‘Follow-up Factor' in Management Development" strategy + business, Marshall Goldsmith and Howard Morgan, Fall 2004.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide  (June Issue 2009, Volume 5, Issue 3). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.
20Nov/130

Open Your Wallet – Open Your Mind!

Posted by Marshall Goldsmith

Open Your Wallet - Open Your Mind!
by Marshall Goldsmith

My coaching clients are either the CEOs or potential CEOs of multi-billion dollar corporations. Most are men; most are older and most are, by any normal standards, rich.

There is a common assumption that old rich men don't really care about losing small amounts of money.

Wrong!

From my experience, most old rich men don't like to lose any money.

It is not the amount of money that matters. It is the losing that they hate.

Have you ever watched a group of executives play competitive golf for wagers involving small amounts of money? It is amazing how serious and animated they become. Wagers at the race track are another example. One of my friends laughed as he described collecting his two dollar bet after the horse he picked won by a nose. Jumping up and down in his excitement, he spilled his Coke and ruined his hundred-dollar shirt!

As a coach, I use small amounts of money to help executives change behavior. It is astonishing how well this works! For example, if my clients are perceived as stubborn and opinionated, and they want to become more open-minded listeners, I 'fine' them every time they begin a sentence with the words 'no,' 'but,' or 'however.' All of the money that I collect from my fines is donated to the charity of my client's choice. Over the past 30 years, I have raised over $300,000 for great charities by playing this game with my clients.

Why fines for 'no,' 'but,' or 'however'?

The word 'no' means 'you are wrong,' and the words 'but' and 'however' mean 'disregard everything that came before this word.'  A friend once described these as 'eraser words.'

As I was reviewing a 360-degree feedback report with one of my clients, his first words were, "But, Marshall ..." I smiled and replied, "That one is free. If I ever try to give you advice again, and you begin a sentence with 'no,' 'but,' or 'however,' I am going to fine you twenty dollars!"

"But," he replied, "that's not ..."

"That's twenty!" I laughed.

"No, I don't ..." he refuted.

"That's forty!" I continued.

"No, no, no!" he protested.

"That's sixty, eighty, one hundred dollars for charity!" I gleefully exclaimed.

Within an hour, he was down $420. It took another couple of hours before he finally got the point and said, "Thank you. I did that 21 times with you bringing it to my attention. You annoyed me so much that I would rather have died than paid you the money. The words kept coming out of my mouth anyway. How many times would I have done this if you had not brought it to my attention? Fifty? One hundred? No wonder people think I am stubborn. The first thing I do when people try to talk with me is to prove that they are wrong!"

The positive change in this executive, who was then the COO and is now the CEO of the company, was amazing. Within a couple of years, he was perceived as much more open and receptive to new ideas—and much less stubborn and opinionated—by all of his direct reports, his co-workers, and even his family members.

I also fine my clients when they say, "That's great, but ..." or "That's great, however ..." These eraser words end up destroying the value of recognition. They make sure that the receiver knows that the 'great' part doesn't count for much.

A few years ago, I was teaching a class at the headquarters of a major telecom company.  I mentioned the 'That's great, but ...' problem and my use of fines to change behavior. I predicted that many members of the class would continue to say these words—even after hearing my lecture, and even knowing that I was going to fine them.

One of the men in my class mocked me when I made these statements. He thought that such a simple behavioral request would be easy for him. He was so sure of himself that he offered to donate $100 to charity every time he did this—and boasted that he would never have to make a donation.

I made a point of sitting next to him at lunch. When I asked him where he was from, he told me that he lived in Singapore.

"Singapore?" I said.  "That's a great city."

"Yeah," he replied, "it's great, but ..."

He gave me a very chagrined look, chuckled and paid the money.

The next time you want to help your clients change minor behavioral 'tics' that are annoying everyone around them, try fining them small amounts of money, and then give the money to a great cause.

It may create a win for your clients—and, at the same time, it will create a win for the world!

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (2007, Volume 3, Issue 2). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

Marshall Goldsmith, MBA, PhD, founder of Marshall Goldsmith Partners LLC, 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. The most recent of his 22 books is What Got You Here Won't Get You There (Hyperion, 2007). Learn more about Marshall in the WABC Coach Directory. Marshall can be reached by email at Marshall@MarshallGoldsmith.com.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.
2Oct/130

Coaching for Results: Behavior Change or Strategy Realization? By Dave Ulrich

Posted by Dave Ulrich

Coaching has become one of those catch-all phrases like strategy, quality or process. Because of its popularity, coaching has sometimes been misused. Those who use coaches sometimes are more excited about the prospect of being coached than about changing. To overcome such generalities and misuses, coaching needs to move from platitudes to greater professionalism.

Making coaching more professional requires clear definition of the desired results of coaching. Coaching is not merely about a process of finding someone with whom to confer, but should have clear results that define the outcome of the engagement. There are two general coaching results: behavior change and strategy realization.

Behavior change means that the executive being coached has behavioral predispositions that get in the way of being an effective executive. When specific behaviors are identified, examined and modified, coaches help executives change.

Strategy realization means that the executive being coached needs guidance in clarifying and focusing the business strategy to help the business achieve financial, customer or organization goals.

Coaching for Behavior Change

Changing behavior is not easy. Research shows that about 50 percent of an individual's values, attitudes and behaviors come from DNA and heritage; the other 50 percent are learned over time.1 An implication of the 50/50 nature/nurture, born/bred debate is that while the past sets conditions on our behavior, our behavior is not preconditioned. Any leader can modify behavior through effective coaching. Below are some of the hints for doing coaching that produces behavioral results.2

Know Why. Until there is a need for change, change will not occur. Once clients understand why they should change they are more likely to accept what they should change.

Collect Data. Often single events or observations from single individuals are episodes, not patterns. Coaching should be about patterns. Generally, people can identify their strengths more than their weaknesses; collecting data from more objective others can help clients better face reality. For instance, leadership 360s provide a marvellous source of data.

Prioritize. Not everything worth changing can or should be changed. In behavior coaching, it is critical to identify the one or two key behaviors that most need to be changed and that will have the most impact.

Be Behavioral. Abstract goals will result in abstract changes; specific behavioral goals will result in specific changes. Sometimes the results of interviews are generic, e.g., "she is not a good people person." In these cases, it is important to go deeper and identify specific behaviors that result in that conclusion. Deeper probes generally focus on situations: "Can you think of a situation where she treated people poorly? What specifically did she do? What could or should she have done differently?"

Focus on the Future More than the Past. Coaching is not therapy. In cognitive or psychoanalytic therapy, the therapist works to identify underlying causes of a behavior. Coaches do not need to be therapists to focus on behavior change. Behavior coaching identifies what behaviors are causing dysfunctions, then focuses on the future and how to promote different behaviors.

Go Public. Commitment goes up when we go public and become personally transparent with our intentions and desires. When an executive has identified an area to improve, it is helpful to share this commitment with others.

Find Support. It is hard to clap with one hand and it is hard to change by oneself. Almost every executive I have seen who has made behavioral change has had enormous support from trusted advisors, including assistants, non-work friends, spouses and children.

Start Small, Keep Going. Most large change starts with small steps. Once executives have picked a behavior that they want to change, I have found four "threes" a helpful way to embed the behavioral change:

Three hours. In the next three hours, what can you do to exhibit the new behavior?

Three days. In the next three days, what can you do to demonstrate sustained commitment to the new behavior?

Three weeks. In the next three weeks, make sure that the new behavior change shows up in activities and relationships.

Three months. After about three months of working on the new behavior, if you continue with it, it begins to become part of your identity and others treat you accordingly.

Learn. Learning should be less an event and more a natural process. The best learners are inquisitive, self-reflective  and adaptive. They are constantly asking what works and what does not, then trying to put those insights into a future context. In time, coaches should be replaced by self-observation.

Follow-up. Finally, behavior coaching needs indicators of progress. Re-administering a 360, re-doing interviews, or debriefing the behavior change process enables an executive to monitor progress. If behavior change did not occur, the coach did not fulfill his or her assignment.

Coaching for behavior change changes behaviors. The end result is that the leader personalizes a new set of behaviors, and as learned behaviors become natural acts, leaders change their identities and reputations.

Coaching for Strategic Results

Strategic results coaching focuses more on helping the executive gain clarity about the results he or she hopes to accomplish and how to make them happen. It is less psychological and more organizational. It also builds on the philosophy of trust, relationship and collaboration, but focuses this philosophy on helping the executive clarify and reach goals.

In my strategy coaching, I have adapted the following steps depending on the situation:

Step 1: Clarify Your Business or Organization Strategy
Coaching in the context of strategy assures that the executive has a clear sense of what he or she is trying to accomplish and sets the criteria for being successful.  A strategy is a succinct statement of what the executive hopes to accomplish and how resources will be applied to that purpose.

Step 2: Describe Your Personal Style
Every executive has a style, or way of getting things done. This style is based on dozens of choices about how the executive makes decisions, processes information, treats people and prefers working. Each style may be modified by identifying and changing behaviors that lead to the style.

Questions to address managerial style:

  • What is your managerial identity? How are your known by others? How would you like to be known by others? What is your leadership brand?
  • What are you managerial strengths and weaknesses?
  • How do you generally treat others, make decisions, handle conflict, manage information?

Step 3: Define Stakeholders

Every executive gets work done through, with, and by others, termed stakeholders. These stakeholders may be identified by asking the executive who he or she must interact with to get the job done.

Questions to define stakeholders:

  • Who must you interact with to reach your strategy?
  • Who is affected by the work that you do?
  • Who would you turn to in order to define your managerial style?

Step 4: Specify Goals for Each Stakeholder

Stakeholders have an interest in and impact on an executive's success. To reach a business strategy, each stakeholder must provide something.

Questions to specify stakeholder goals:

  • In the next period of time (3, 6, 12, or 24 months), what do you want to accomplish with each stakeholder?
  • What does each stakeholder contribute to your reaching your strategy?

Step 5: Prioritize Each Stakeholder and Goal

Executives need to prioritize stakeholders based on how central they are to achieving business strategy. Also, strategies are time-bound and the key stakeholders for the next three months may be different than the stakeholders for the succeeding, or preceding, three months.

Questions to prioritize stakeholders and goals:

  • How important is each stakeholder for reaching your goal?
  • Rate each stakeholder 0 to 10 for the next period of time
  • Divide 100 points across the stakeholders to prioritize their impact on your strategies.
  • Rank the stakeholders (from high to low) in terms of impact on your strategies

Step 6: Allocate Time

Where executives spend time communicates what matters most and sends signals to others about what they should do. Coaches can help leaders spend time wisely by focusing on what executives can and should do with each stakeholder.

Questions to help leaders allocate time:

  • How much time in days do you think you should spend with each stakeholder given the priorities you have set?
  • What specific behaviors and actions can you take with each stakeholder to accomplish your goals?
  • How would these actions show up in your calendar? Remember that your calendar should probably be 30-40 percent unscheduled as events arise that merit attention, but the other 60-70 percent can be structured to ensure that you accomplish what matters most.
  • How will you track your return on time invested?

Step 7: Determine Success

The desire to succeed turns into success once it is measured. Coaches help determine measures of success that executives can then track on their own.

Questions to help determine successful measures:

  • How will you know you have succeeded in your overall strategy and in your goals with each stakeholder?
  • How will you monitor your progress?

Conclusion

Coaching for results can focus on either behavior or strategy. Knowing one's own approach enables the coach to better align with the client to make sure that coaching works. As a result of good coaching, leaders develop personal brands that distinguish them for all stakeholders-employees, customers, investors and communities.


1 A review of this work was presented at 21st Annual SIOP (Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology), Dallas, Texas, April 2006, in a paper by Richard D. Arvey, Maria Rotundo, Wendy Johnson, Zhen Zhang, & Matt McGue entitled "Genetic and Environmental Components of Leadership Role Occupancy." The nature/nurture debate is also dealt with in:
Bouchard, Thomas J. Jr., David T. Lykken, Matthew McGue, Nancy L. Segal, & Auke Tellegen. 1990. "Sources of Human Psychological Differences: The Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart." Science, Oct 12: 223-228.
Harris, Judith Rich. 1998. The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do. New York: The Free Press.
Harris, Judith Rich. 1995. "Where Is the Child's Environment? A Group Socialization Theory of Development." Psychological Review. 102 (3), July: 458-489.
McGue, M., T., J. Bouchard, Jr., W. G. Iacono, & D. T. Lykken.1993. "Behavioral Genetics of Cognitive Ability: A Life-span Perspective." In Nature, Nurture, and Psychology, edited by R. Plomin & G. E. McClearn. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association: 59-76.

2 The list of behavior coaching tips come from observing, listening to, and learning from great colleagues who have been my mentors and advisors, including Wayne Brockbank, Ralph Christensen, Bob Eichinger, Marshall Goldsmith, Francis Hesselbein, Steve Kerr, Dale Lake, Paul McKinnon, Bonner Ritchie, Norm Smallwood, Paul Thompson, Warren Wilhelm, and Jack Zenger. It is difficult to attribute any one idea to any one person, but I am indebted to each of these colleagues for these ideas.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (February Issue 2009, Volume 5, Issue 1). Copyright  2011 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.
7Feb/130

The Unconscious Leader in You

Posted by Jacquie Nagy

By Jacquie Nagy, Founder and WABC Certified Business Coach, Holistic Directions Inc.

Watch a pre-verbal baby, snuggling in his mother’s arms, and notice the unwavering intensity of their shared gaze. As the mother’s smile increases, the baby breaks the rhythm of feeding, pauses briefly, and something magical happens...he cracks his first smile. Without any conscious thought, you find yourself smiling too!

This is an example of an exquisite exchange of love – as well as a highly primitive cognitive phenomenon known as unconscious ‘modelling’.

How is it we accept this deeply neurological connection between humans to understand how babies learn to ‘walk and talk’, form values between right and wrong, and acquire cultural and generational influences -- yet we are slow to acknowledge this same ‘transfer of neural data’ is ubiquitous between mature adults - whether in the home, the social scene or the corporate office?

The answer to this question is waiting in the shadows – about to be revealed.

Propelled by vast advancements in lab and brain imaging technologies, the field of study known as neuroscience has exploded in the past decade. An audacious discovery of how humans are unconsciously connected via what is now known as the brain’s ‘mirror neurons’ was substantiated in findings published by Rizzolatti (1996) .

Studies done in the early 1990’s first using monkeys and more recently human beings, showed how certain neurons in several parts of the brain are discharged both when a monkey (or human) performs a certain motor act (e.g., grasping an object) and when it (monkey or human) observes another individual performing that or another similar motor act.

At the forefront in the study of human potential is the field of NLP – Neuro Linguistic Programming. In the early 1970’s, more than twenty years before mirror neurons were known to exist, NLP co-creators Richard Bandler and John Grinder explicated patterns of human functioning through a process of unconscious (mirror neuron) uptake of the excellent performance of several people that were considered to be genius’ in their field of endeavour. While they didn’t have scientific evidence for what they were doing back then, they created a process, now referred to as ‘Real NLP Modeling’ that can be understood explicitly based on Rizzolati’s neurological findings.

The earliest models in NLP, originally applied as approaches within the field of therapy, were designed for establishing and maintaining deep rapport between individuals and to calibrate unconscious physiological responses. For it is through the establishment of an ‘unconscious connection’ – outside the awareness of the individual – that deep rapport exists, much similar to the rapport between mother and child.

So knowing this, what happens when the behaviours and actions of leaders are being modelled by the people closest to them via the unconscious activation of mirror neurons? How easy is it to mimic the behaviours of other humans? Observe a busy social bar scene and you’ll find ample evidence.

Most people can cite examples where they were affected by another person’s ‘mood’ or ‘state’. In environments where people are operating in close proximity (and have established rapport) the transfer of one person’s ‘energy’ can happen in a flash. What if the boss’s day isn’t going as planned? Unless the boss has developed the skills to quickly shift their internal state, unconsciously they will be sending out mirror neuron generating ‘vibes’ that can quickly impact the performance of the entire team. And like a row of dominoes, once an unresourceful state is activated it can be a challenge to ‘shake it off’.

So, if our brains are hard wired to map behaviours of another person without us even knowing - how can we stop it? And how self aware are we of the type of vibes we’re sending out to others?

In our rapidly advancing society, a lack of self awareness is no longer an accepted excuse for not changing one’s behaviour. Employers are beginning to understand the impact of the lack of self awareness, and the ability to monitor one’s own performance is readily becoming a highly sought after skill.

Interest in holistic self management tools is growing rapidly. A recent model, New Code NLP (by co-creators Dr John Grinder and Carmen Bostic St Clair) is designed specifically for autonomous self coaching. A foundational principle is a connection with the unconscious to tap into tacit skills and knowledge stored below conscious awareness. With an ‘attention to intention’; change at the level of state; and identifying pre-conscious triggers as choice points for new behaviours - New Code NLP is highly effective and ecological. This is encouraging news for anyone seeking tools to monitor their own performance, for autonomy and continuous self improvement.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Leaders can learn to develop unconscious rapport, get clear about their intentions, and by ‘modeling’ the performance they want from others, ‘be the change they want to see’. Excellent people near to them, whether they are paying attention, or not – will mimic the desired performance under the radar, via their mirror neuron connection.

Sources

Mirror neurons: from discovery to autism, Giacomo Rizzolatti · Maddalena Fabbri-Destro, Published online: 18 September 2009 © Springer-Verlag 2009

Coaching with Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), by Bill Phillips and Alessandro de Vita Zublena of ADZ Conseil Coaching for Leaders, and The International Coaching Group based in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Whispering in the Wind, by Carmen Bostic St Clair and John Grinder. ISBN 0-9717223-0-7

Jacquie NagyJacquie Nagy is an International Training Academy (ITA) Certified Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) Trainer and Coach (ITANLP-Dr. John Grinder, Carmen Bostic St. Clair, Michael Carroll of the NLP Academy, UK.), WABC Certified Business Coach , Certified Adult Educator (CAE) and has over 25 years experience as a successful corporate and private business leader and trainer. She is the founder and owner of Holistic Directions Inc. based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her ‘BE YOURSELF’ coaching and leadership courses provide resources for autonomous, self-directed personal growth. Workshops are designed so learning is experiential leading to a higher sense of self awareness, authenticity, more resourceful actions, and clarity of outcomes and intentions - so you can take control of your personal and professional development. Take the first steps to your bigger and better life now. Visit www.holisticdirections.com for more information.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.