11Apr/130

An Integrated Approach to Strategic Business Coaching

Posted by WABC

By Ernesto Olascoaga

In 1983, Volkswagen devised the concept of an IT company that functioned as an internal service provider. In 1998, VW-GEDAS became gedas, a separate business entity and one of Germany's leading system integrators, serving clients inside and outside the VW Group.

In 2006, under the direction of new CEO, Federico Casas Alatriste, coaching was used by gedas Mexico as an integrated approach to redirect efforts toward three major business imperatives: Exploring new markets, targeting new clients, and improving strategies and work methods. At the time of the coaching process, gedas was in the process of merging with T-Systems to become gedas, a member of T-Systems.

The Partnership

Laura Ceballos, human capital manager, and María Eugenia Díaz Mercado, organizational development coordinator, conducted a 360-diagnostic process to identify the leadership competencies required for the company to become more competitive in the global marketplace. They then partnered with business coach, Dr. Ernesto Olascoaga to design and implement the change process, which had two major goals. First, that all managers understand the company's strategic imperatives. Second, that they work as a team to implement efforts to grow in a competitive market.

The Challenge

With three main clusters of needs, the first revolved around the business imperatives. The second related to developing the coaching competencies of top management, and the third to developing leadership and management competencies in middle management. Detected in the 360-diagnostic were a lack of both teamwork and entrepreneurial attitude. In addition, business results were below annual goals.

The Approach

Design Principles

The coaching process was designed according to the following principles:

  • Communicate key business imperatives to all participants
  • Gain commitment from stakeholders
  • Develop awareness and link significant action to each coaching intervention
  • Include follow-up
  • Review and celebrate progress in a formal closing
  • Define next steps with follow-up commitments

Top management agreed to lead the process using the collaborative research approach suggested by David Coghlan, in which each learning cycle follows four stages: Diagnosis, planning, action, and evaluation.1 Awareness of relevant issues is encouraged during each cycle, which affects four subsystems: Individual, interaction, team, and organization.

Strategic Initiatives

Top managers identified the initiatives that they considered most critical to the business imperatives. These were then plotted against the list of middle managers. For each of the eight initiatives identified, a top manager was designated as its team sponsor and members of a small group of middle managers were assigned as team members. The coaching process was designed to drive the development of required competencies and to provide support to each team.

Kick-off Meeting

In June 2006, during the kick-off meeting, the CEO explained his vision for the company and the implications of the three imperatives. Then, each sponsor presented the main objective and expected deliverables for the respective initiative. An open discussion followed these presentations, and it became clear that deliverables for each team should include a detailed analysis of the current and desired situation, as well as an action plan.

The coaching process and objectives of the process were then explained to all teams. These were:

  • To develop the coaching competencies of top management
  • To develop the leadership and managerial skills of middle management
  • To practice the new skills in the strategic initiative teams
  • To achieve the deliverables in each initiative with the result that the company would align and move towards the business imperatives

The Coaching Process

The coaching process considered the interventions of both the top-management team and middle managers.

The Top-Management Team

The top-management team participated in both group and individual coaching. The Caliper Profile was used to help each sponsor understand his/her motivators and behaviors and to devise an action plan for consolidating strengths and managing behavioral opportunities.

Each sponsor had four individual coaching sessions with the business coach. These were built around the individual's development plan. The team profile was used to help team members understand the opportunities they had to improve and to provide support to the sponsors of each initiative. During several sessions feedforward was used. This methodology emphasizes future opportunities rather than rehashing old events.2

Middle Managers

Using the 360 diagnosis, five competencies were identified that were important for the middle managers to develop: Alignment to strategy, leadership skills, service orientation to clients, development of high-performing teams, and change management. A one-day workshop was structured for each of these topics.

The Coaching Model

The chart below shows the coaching model.

The Value Delivered

Coaching Process Follow-up

Each team met as necessary to work on the initiatives. The sponsor was available as needed and functioned as the team guide. Each sponsor had several individual coaching sessions around his/her leadership, which included improving support for initiative team members. Sponsors also provided coaching to their teams.

Dr. Olascoaga held three sessions with each sponsor and his/her team to review progress on both task and team process issues. During the sessions, teams discussed the learning experience, and identified practical applications of included concepts and exercises. They reviewed their progress, identifying possible improvements for the next workshop.

Comments and suggestions from middle managers and sponsors were analyzed during top management sessions, and two-way communication was encouraged between top and middle managers.

Coaching Process Evaluation

In addition to session evaluations, a final evaluation was included at the end of the last workshop. Most teams reported improvement. The following table shows the average results from each team.

Issue

Level of improvement

Trust

37%

Support

41%

Open communication

32%

Listening

30%

Strategic goals understanding

35%

Commitment to goal achievement

26%

Conflict management

26%

Use of skills and competencies

32%

Follow-up of action plans

42%

Commitment to quality

27%

Image projected to co-workers

27%

Achieved results

38%

 

During the last team coaching session, participants analyzed which expectations were achieved and which were below their expectations.

They recognized improvements in the following:

  • Satisfaction for participating and delivering results through a strategic project that challenged their assumptions
  • Awareness of leadership strengths and weaknesses and learning process for competencies development
  • Interdisciplinary team performance
  • Change management
  • Market understanding
  • Customer service orientation
  • Strategic thinking
  • Commitment to explore business alternatives
  • Global potential
  • Celebration of initial results
  • Clarification of implementation plans

Expectations not met included the following:

  • Participation of some team members
  • Co-ordination and support from some sponsors
  • Some projects did not achieve the required level of results
  • Time spent on each project

Suggestions for improving the learning process included the following:

  • Clarify objectives of strategic initiatives earlier
  • Develop common vision for each project
  • Identify resources required for each initiative
  • Identify empowerment levels required to speed up the change process
  • Increase the interaction among top management and middle management

Celebration

Top management suggested keeping track of the level of progress and making a formal evaluation of each team in order to award a symbolic prize to the best team. This helped organization leaders reinforce awareness, feedforward, and recognition skills, and team members appreciated and enjoyed the process.

Follow-up

Though the merge with T-Systems affected the expected implementation, most teams are applying their strategic initiatives according to the action plans. Top management will initiate the next collaborative research cycle and has identified specific coaching needs for 2007. The plans have been approved to reinforce the needs of key leaders and teams in order that they continue acting on the strategic imperatives.

Coghlan, D. 2001. "Putting 'Research' Back into OD and Action Research: A Call to OD Practitioners."Organization Development Journal, 20 (1), 62-65. See also, Coghlan, D., & Brannick, T. 2001. Doing Action Research in Your Own Organization. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Goldsmith, M. Feb. 2003."Feedforward" Executive Excellence; 20, 2; ABI/INFORM Global pg. 15

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (Fall Issue 2007, Volume 3, Issue 3). Copyright © 2013 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

Ernesto Olascoaga(Mexico), is the founder and CEO of Grupo Visión Global (GVG), a consulting firm since 1976. With more than 30 years of experience as a business coach and consultant, Ernesto specializes in strategic change management, leadership development and process redesign for collaborative work systems. Read more about Ernesto in the WABC Coach Directory. Ernesto can be reached by email at eolascoaga@gvg.com.mx.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.
14Feb/130

What Helps Leaders to Be Effective on a Global Level…and What Doesn’t – Part II

Posted by WABC

By Jeremy Solomons

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

In the first column in this three-part series (WABC's Blog, December 6, 2012), 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.

She could begin to become more globally competent through the “behavioral approach” of learning what to do and what not to do in different countries. Then she could move on to the “national values approach” of understanding whypeople behave the way they do in different countries.

But both approaches are limited in how far they can help because they only embrace some of the factors that affect human behavior and can easily lead to misleading stereotypes, e.g., “Mexicans are more interested in family, relationships, and security than in getting quality work done on time and moving up the career ladder” or “the Chinese are always avoiding conflict and will never directly own up to a mistake.”

So what are the other factors that may be influencing individual or group behavior?

Additional Factor 1

This columnist revisited the first stereotype, about Mexicans being family- and relationship-oriented, etc., while doing some recent values work for two teams at the central Mexican subsidiary of a large German company.

Although most of the members of each team were Mexican nationals who had never lived outside that country, they expressed a clear preference for such values as personal achievement, getting the job done, risk-taking, individualism, and egalitarianism, values that would not be considered as typically “Mexican” according to the research of Geert Hofstede and others.

Neither would these values be considered typically German.

So what was going on here?

Beyond national culture, it seems that organizational culture was at play.

These Mexican employees had deliberately chosen to work for an innovative, hi-tech, global communications company that happened to be headquartered in Germany and have a subsidiary in their hometown.

As this company expands across the world, it is developing its own unique value system and way of doing things, which may have little in common with the traditional culture and values of Germany or any other single country or region.

So, for example, if Lucia Mannone is now trying to develop a new strategic partnership with a large Korean chaebol (business family or conglomerate), she should probably spend a lot more time learning about that company’s values, history, traditions, and culture rather than focusing on those of Korea as a whole.

Additional Factor 2

Let’s go back to the oft-quoted lament that “the Chinese are always avoiding conflict and will never directly own up to a mistake.”

While this may be true in some cases, it is certainly not true in all of them; even if it does appear to be true in a particular case, it may be masking a much larger issue.

For example, a US-based hi-tech company was noticing that many of its software engineers, including all of the East Asian ones, were grossly underreporting errors in responding to monthly questionnaires.

It would have been easy to zero in on the East Asian engineers and try to deal with issues of national “face,” honor, and pride.

But then managers noticed that they were getting similar omissions from engineers at their offices in other parts of Asia, Europe, Latin America, and even North America.

Maybe the corporate culture was becoming too “success oriented” and employees were reluctant to report mistakes for fear of letting down their colleagues and harming their future career prospects?

But that was not the case at this organization, which did not have a hyper-aggressive, punitive culture. It was well understood that occasional errors were part of the learning process.

So what else was going on?

From careful analysis and many interviews, it seemed that the underreporting had more to do with the professional culture of the software engineers, for whom an “error” is like an admission of incompetence and failure.

So the managers decided to eliminate all mention of “errors” from the monthly questionnaires and instead they asked the software engineers for their lessons learned, best practices, and suggestions for improvement.

Suddenly, the managers starting getting a flurry of invaluable insights and ideas from the previously reticent engineers and, not coincidentally, errors were drastically reduced.

By recognizing the value and power of professional culture, global leaders can actually help their colleagues find a new way of connecting across the world.

In Lucia’s case, this may be a good way for her to build trust and rapport with her marketing counterparts in Tokyo or Buenos Aires, as they may well have studied exactly the same textbooks as she did in university, just in Japanese or Spanish.

Unfortunately, professional culture can sometimes work the other way if two “experts” butt heads over who knows best about some arcane technical issue.

But it is certainly something to bear in mind when trying to develop relationships and build business around the world.

Additional Factor 3

As any budding global leader can now see, it is a lot more than national customs and values that explain why someone behaves the way they do halfway around the world.

Like a “cultural detective,” a competent leader must try to decipher how behaviors are influenced by geographical, organizational, or professional culture…or a mixture of all three.

Even then they may not have the whole answer, because they also need to understand the “individual” culture of each employee, i.e., that created by their social background, family, race, ethnicity, education, sexual orientation, thinking style, character, personality, etc.

Just as Lucia Mannone may not be typical of her country, her company, or her profession, anyone she meets with around the world may well be similarly unique.

Given this complexity and uncertainty, how can a global leader possibly be effective with counterparts he or she may have never met nor ever meet?

We will explore this and related issues in the third and last Global Leader Development column to be published in the weeks ahead.

In the meantime, if you want to discuss any of the points raised in this column, please email Jeremy Solomons directly at the email listed below.

 

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2010, Volume 6, Issue 2). Copyright © 2013 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

Bibliography

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

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

Hofstede, G. (2005). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (revised and expanded 2nd edition). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Hofner Saphiere, D. et al (2010). Cultural Detective Online Learning Series.http://www.culturaldetective.com

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. Contact Jeremy.

 

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.
3Jan/130

Benchmarks Are Dangerous

Posted by WABC

By Howard Morgan and Cathy Swody

As leaders and coaches, we recognize how important it is for people to understand how they are performing. To increase understanding, we encourage the use of assessments and 360-degree feedback as tools for providing insights into leadership. Progressive clients even use employee surveys to inform leaders how well they are engaging their teams. We hope that these tools will provide a better understanding of the current situation in an organization and form the foundation for positive personal/organizational change.

Regardless of the type of assessment or feedback process, leaders frequently want to know how their scores compare to everyone else's scores. "Is this a good score?" "How do other people typically rate here?" These questions come as no surprise to any of us. People want to compare their results to a known standard or benchmark. Basically, we are all competitive and like any other competition, we want to perform at the highest level.  As companies, or individuals in companies, we want to know how good we are doing compared to the competition. But do we really want to know? If we do, relying on benchmarks from other companies to interpret a person's results can be problematic. In our own experience, we have seen the following three pitfalls in making these dangerous comparisons:

1. Benchmarks are ambiguous.

Uncertainty about what benchmark numbers truly represent limits their value. Benchmarks, in many ways, are a "black box." What goes in the box? The selection of companies represented in the benchmark is often biased. Benchmarks are not necessarily the best companies.  Rather, benchmarks typically reflect a sample of convenience-the best clients of a particular consulting firm, for instance. Even if details such as the industry, geographical location, and organizational size are supplied, the benchmark may not be a useful referent point. Such factors as the type of instrument and the commonality of the questions can also be challenges in uniquely different companies. Many times, it is unclear when the benchmark information was collected. For example, leaders are comparing their current performance to how other companies performed years ago. When it is unclear who exactly is in the benchmark andwhen the information was collected, making fair comparisons is nearly impossible.

2. Benchmarks are in the eye of the beholder.

When leaders score better than the benchmark, we have found that the benchmark serves as a "pat on the back" rather than a catalyst for better performance. Scoring lower than the benchmark is not a recipe for motivation either, as leaders often then criticize the validity of the benchmark. This draws away from the important question: How am I doing against my fullest potential?

3. Benchmarks distract people from real work.

Leaders do not improve by virtue of knowing how others leaders are doing. A focus on how everyone else is performing takes attention away from pursuing real results. Benchmarks add noise and are not actionable by themselves. Benchmarks don't offer solutions. They don't explain how to improve performance. At best, benchmarks encourage people to catch up with competitors, but not surpass them; benchmarks encourage mediocrity, but not superiority. This is similar to "teaching to the test" rather than fostering real learning.

Moving Beyond Benchmarks

If leaders and their coaches avoid the trap of benchmarks, what can be used instead to help leaders understand their results and motivate improvements? Our advice is to simply focus on information that provides real value. Within an organization, the best comparison numbers are inspirational. How does the person compare to the best leaders in the organization? What do scores look like in the parts of the organization with the best business results? Comparisons like these can provide leaders with context and help them understand their relative performance.

More importantly, it's time to remind ourselves why leaders ask for feedback from the people they work with. People ask for feedback as a way to hold a mirror up and see themselves as others see them. Let's forget about how leaders at unnamed companies were rated years ago. It doesn't matter. Instead, let's focus on the behaviors we see in the mirror and make the changes necessary to be successful.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2010, Volume 6, Issue 2). Copyright © 2013 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

Howard Morgan and Cathy Swody are with the Leadership Research Institute. They specialize in helping leaders see the connection between their behavior, their efforts, and business performance metrics. Contact Howard and Cathy.

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