The Importance of Role Models in Business Coaching by Daniel Tuma

Posted by WABC

Members of the Czechoslovakian Chamber of Business Coaches, WABC certified business coaches, often speak about the importance of role models and personal examples in business coaching, especially in applying coaching to leadership and management. In the following paragraphs I would like to present some of my ideas regarding this complex topic.


A role model, example or natural authority of big-name personalities accompany us throughout the life span. Intentionally or unintentionally, consciously or unconsciously, we tend to follow them. As developmental psychologists proved, parents are not the only role models that influence our behavior in later life. The so-called role models that we follow belong to our lives naturally. Well-known artists, successful entrepreneurs, show-business stars, sportsmen or influential authors become role models for almost every adolescent or teenager. We tend to follow models that attract our attention and reflect our dreams and goals. In puberty and adolescence, we dream about life and professional goals and compare them to the achievements of our heroes. Moreover, the culture we live in shapes our expectations, goals and life values. For those who identify with successful business people self-development becomes a central task.


Interestingly, when we asked a few young people, who are students of Made in Czechoslovakia coaching programs and who show a certain degree of business talent, who their role models were or which big-name personality they identified with, many of those young Czechs and Slovaks named our internationally famous models like Paulina Porizkova, Karolina Kurkova or Petra Nemcova or sportsmen such as Martina Navratilova, Ivan Lendl or Jaromir Jagr. As can be seen, young business–oriented people compare business success to the success of famous celebrities or respected sportsmen. Physical strength and beautiful looks are somehow synonymous with success. Greek kalokagathia, the ancient educational goal and outcome of successful socialization, is not only an example of beauty and physical strength, but also of mental health, wisdom and spiritual richness. Its essence is based on authenticity, individualistic critical thinking, multi-perspective and interdisciplinary education, skills development and ethical discipline. People with developed personality are not only intellectually attractive but also influence others in terms of ambition, hard work and creativity. For instance, the achievements of Vaclav Havel or Madeleine Albright, politicians who both have Czech origin, confirm my assumption that successful business people do not regularly compare themselves with others, but follow their values and go their own, unique way. Comparing ourselves with others and evaluating ourselves in relation to our peers or colleagues does not help our self-development. Constant thinking about what we have not achieved yet and what others have does not help either. Searching for what we do not know or what we are not capable of, skilled at or aware of does not serve anything. This does not motivate us. In contrast, successful business people are aware of the need for commitment to believing in their own way without comparing themselves with others. Competent business people commit to an idea that they will create and develop products or concepts that reflect their values and social welfare. If later they become business or leadership icons, it is because they fulfilled their commitment to becoming authentic and original personalities who are aware of the importance of fidelity.


Fidelity plays a crucial role in following any role models and dreams. The psychologist Erikson stated that fidelity is being developed and acquired in adolescence as a key life skill emerging from developmental conflict between identity and confusion. In this age we build a sense of complexity of life. Is it not interesting that it is the role model which plays a crucial role in this age? Role models shape ideas about the way to success and welfare. They show young people what can be achieved. They make them stay focused and committed. Therefore, having a role model is a very important part of personality development. Lack of role models means lack of examples, and meaningful and internalized goals.


Later, for instance, role models may play an important role in leading a team. A leader should somehow be a role model for his or her subordinates. In the context of business coaching, a role model may play an important role in establishing rapport between a client and his or her business coach. If a coach is not perceived by his client as an integrated and inspirational personality, the full success of change and reaching the stated goal cannot be achieved. It is not a question of inequality or disrespect. I am not saying that a business coach should be superior to his or her client. I am only suggesting that all of us probably want to be accompanied by smart people; we all need challenges and role models that inspire us and help us grow. That is why the importance of personality examples and role models in business coaching is inevitable. It gives meaning and purpose to our actions and behavior. For instance, when coaching a leader we should understand his or her role models and know the personalities he or she admires. Also, we should be able to offer our own example, which should be an example of integrated and holistic personality. Therefore, business coaches must work on themselves constantly and be aware of the fact that it is mainly their personality that makes the change for their client. Tomas Bata once said: “There is no financial crisis, there is only a crisis of morality” and: “To lead does not mean to control others, it means to overpower one’s own inner personality”.


Consequently, self-management, self-reflection and courage to accept ourselves are important business coaching competencies. A business coach must challenge his clients to have courage to take responsibility for choosing particular interpretations, giving meanings to his actions and decisions, including personality change or developing social responsiveness. In other words, being able to support others’ development requires being aware of one’s Self. A business coach may be considered as a role model that should inspire clients and teach them that the need for development (e.g. understanding one’s Self and personality) gives us freedom to make decisions, increases creativity and supports autonomy and inner stability.


The better we know ourselves, the more we are able to understand others and help them. In a democratic system, business coaching should also contribute to building democracy and ethics. My own role model, a former president and renowned philosopher Vaclav Havel, once said: “Democracy allows those, who do not have good faith, to do almost everything, but ties the hands of those who have great respect for it”. I think that business coaches may help clients to work with tied hands but with deeper responsibility, respect and business commitment for the growth of democratic society and freedom.



Daniel Tuma, CBC

Business coach, psychologist and organizational counselor managing the Made in Czechoslovakia company, the first company in Central Europe with WABC accreditation for training program in business coaching.

Academic guarantor and author of many workshops,

trainings and coaching programs regarding business psychology, organizational psychology, emotional intelligence, socio-psycho pathology in the workplace and leading positions.

He is specialized in highly influential top-management assessment and in mediating conflicts on the highest business level.


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2 Life-Changing Lessons No One Ever Taught You by Marshall Goldsmith

Posted by WABC

Marshall Goldsmith

Lesson #1: It’s easier to see our problems (let’s call them behavioral challenges) in others than to see them in ourselves. For instance, often when I become self-righteous or angry about some perceived injustice, I realize that the deeper issue is often not with “it”, but in me.

Lesson #2: Although we may deny our behavioral challenges to ourselves, they may be very obvious to the people who observe us. There is often a great discrepancy between the self we think we are and the self the rest of the world sees in us. If we can listen and think about what others see in us, we can compare the self we want to be with the self that we are presenting. Then and only then can we begin to make the real changes that we need to make to align our stated values with our actual behavior.

Let me give you a personal example:

As a Ph.D. student at UCLA in the 70s, I had a self-image of being ‘hip.’ I believed I was involved in discovering deeper human understanding, self-actualization, and profound wisdom. One of my teachers, Dr. Bob Tannenbaum, had invented ‘sensitivity training’, published a popular article in the Harvard Business Review, and was a full professor. I was impressed!

In Bob’s class, we could discuss anything we wanted. So, for three weeks, I did a monologue about how ‘screwed up’ people in Los Angeles were. “They wear sequined blue jeans; they drive gold Rolls Royces; they are plastic and materialistic; all they care about is impressing others; they don’t understand what is important in life.” I ranted. (I’m not sure how growing up in a small town Kentucky had made an expert on LA people, but evidently it had.)

After listening to me babble for three weeks, Bob looked at me quizzically and asked, “Who are you talking to?”

“I’m speaking to the group,” I said.

“Who in the group are you talking to?”

“I’m talking to everybody,” I said, not knowing the treacherous path of self-discovery down which I was being led!

“When you speak, you look at only one person and address your comments toward only one person. You seem interested in the opinion of only one person. Who is that person?”

“That is interesting,’” I replied. After careful consideration, I asked, “You?”

“That’s right, me. There are 12 other people in this room. Why aren’t you interested in any of them?” he asked.

At this point, I decided that digging my hole deeper was better than admitting defeat, so I said, “Well, Dr. Tannenbaum, you understand the significance of what I am saying. You know how ‘screwed-up’ it is to try to run around and impress people all the time. You have a deeper understanding of what is really important in life.”

“Marshall, is there any chance that for the last three weeks all you’ve tried to do is impress me?” Bob asked.

I was amazed at Bob’s lack of insight! “Not at all!” I declared. “You haven’t understood one thing I’ve said! I’ve told you how screwed up it is to try to impress other people. You’ve missed my point, and I’m disappointed in your lack of understanding!”

He scratched his beard and concluded, “No. I think I understand.” I looked at the group and could see them nod and agree.

For six months, I disliked Dr. Tannenbaum. I devoted a lot of energy into trying to understand why he was so confused. Then one day, it clicked! The person with the issue about impressing other people was me. I was the one who had been trying to impress Dr. Tannenbaum. That day, I looked in the mirror and said, “Dr. Tannenbaum was right.”

So, let me ask you: Can you see in yourself what others see in you, or do you see in others what you don’t see in yourself? What are you going to do about it?

Watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LBoiTu-C-U

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Cultural Awareness: Preparing for the Global Workplace By Nerella Campigotto

Posted by Nerella Campigotto

Since global reach is a reality for most of us in our business environment, we are faced with challenges and implications that affect how we communicate, negotiate, collaborate and make decisions. For coaches, trainers and consultants it adds an extra dimension when our clients are dealing with the same conundrum. The global workplace is one where we work in multicultural teams (sometimes virtually), lead intercultural employees and/or deal with customers across cultures. We cannot possibly become experts in the myriad of cultures we touch in our daily lives. So how can we best prepare ourselves to meet this challenge? The key, I believe, is to build awareness of the cultural nuances that surround us. To do this, we must ask ourselves three questions:

1. What Is Culture?
The first step is to examine what exactly we mean by 'culture.' Not an easy question to answer, but culture is certainly more than just traditions, customs and etiquette. Ultimately, the culture of a particular group is defined by the 'values' of the people who form the group. This has developed over centuries, if not millennia, and is based on history, politics, religion, ethics, class distinction, regional differences, hierarchy...the list goes on. Furthermore, culture isn't just how members of a particular society live, but also how they view others in their respective cultures. The concept of culture is essentially a subjective one, adding to its mystique.

2. Do You Know Your Own Culture?
Analyzing your own culture is often the best thing to do in the quest to attain awareness, especially when viewed through the eyes of someone from another culture. In doing so, we must take into account not only our own ethnicity, but the influences of others that have touched our lives and continue to do so. Most societies are impacted by the increasingly fluid movement of people across the globe and the instant information supplied by the Internet.

3. How Do Cultures Differ?
There are numerous studies that look at the characteristics of various cultural groups, but the work of Geert Hofstede is perhaps the best known among students of cultural diversity. His research concluded that there are five major areas of cultural variation. These essentially assess attributes such as tolerance of hierarchy, individualism versus collectivism, masculine versus feminine traits, the need of formality or rules, and long-term versus short-term orientation. Of late, there has been some criticism that the cross-cultural training industry emphasizes differences and stereotypes, thereby aggravating the challenges encountered in the global business environment. There may be some truth to this, or is this criticism perhaps driven by a sense of political correctness that may itself be a cultural trait of the West? For many people it may be easier to seek understanding by focusing on the similarities found in other cultures as a starting point. After all, we are dealing with human nature and many traits are shared by all cultures. In my experience however, I have found it easier to deal with cross-cultural conflict and challenges once I have accepted that there are attributes and characteristics that differentiate us. I personally welcome the differences found in various societies, and I am particularly interested in the nuances between similar cultures. What a boring world it would be without these differences!

If you are interested in learning about a particular culture, or more about your own, I would suggest you visit the website for the Centre for Intercultural Learning (part of the Canadian Foreign Affairs Department) at www.intercultures.gc.ca. Government sites such as this will often have ample information intended for people doing business in foreign countries. To find out more about Hofstede's work and analysis of each country he studied, see www.geert-hofstede.com. Of course, another great way to learn is to simply ask others about their culture.

Clearly, culture is a complex matter that is best understood through intercultural dialogue; the challenges it brings are best met by being flexible, open-minded and aware.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (October 2008, Volume 4, Issue 1). Copyright © 2011 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

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Unwilling Bedfellows (part 2)

Posted by WABC

Learning to Be ONE: The 7 Challenges of Working in a Public-Private Setting (Part 2 of 2)

By Dr. Sabine Dembkowski and Fiona Eldridge

What happens when the private sector meets the public? We draw on our experience coaching both sectors and coaching people who suddenly found themselves working in organizations taken over by the government. We hope to raise awareness of commonly occurring themes in order to better prepare executive coaches and their clients for the challenges ahead.

In Part 1 (WABC's blog December 13, 2012), we grouped the most commonly recurring themes into seven categories and discussed the first three themes or challenges:

1. Different cultures-behaviors and expectations;

2. Greater complexity of stakeholder groups;

3. Leadership and management style.

In Part 2, we explore the remaining four themes:

4. Process versus purpose;

5. Depth and breadth of subject matter know-how;

6. Murkier measures of success;

7. Language and vocabulary.

4. Process versus Purpose

For some of our clients, a key difference stemmed from the public sector's apparent focus on process, i.e., the way things are done rather than the achievement of objectives. Previously they had been very task/objective focused, emphasizing the ‘what' without much thought to the ‘how.'

In the public sector environment, things seem to have to be done in the ‘right way.' For example, one client was looking for sign off for a purchase. In his old world he would either have just signed off on his own authority or simply asked his direct manager. In the new role, he was told that the chief executive of the agency would have to sign. When he went to ask the chief executive, he said that he could only sign after the expense had also been approved by procurement. A further week elapsed before the form came back from procurement and was then passed on to the chief executive. Finally, nearly five weeks later, our client was able to place his order.

In our coaching assignments, we soon recognised that our clients had to learn how to understand the need for process, which is so much a part of public-sector culture. We worked with them to develop new strategies and to ensure that they built in allowances in their project plans for the necessary time delays that have become part of their everyday life.

5. Depth and Breadth of Subject Matter Know-How

Traditionally, senior civil servants have had a career pathway that has taken them through several different government departments, which gives them a consummate skill in policy development and a deep understanding of the process of government but, frequently, a lack of professional expertise in specific subject areas. Obviously there are exceptions to this, such as government scientists, but in general, civil servants' backgrounds are in stark contrast to the bankers working alongside them.

Certainly this has been the case for many of our clients, who come into these new partnerships with a background steeped in banking and finance at the highest levels. We found that our clients experienced much frustration with having to explain terms and procedures that were second nature to them and then having to incorporate new, seemingly bureaucratic processes before decisions could be acted on. What helped our clients was to analyze the causes of their frustration and to recognise and acknowledge the different types of expertise held by them and their civil servant colleagues.

6. Murkier Measures of Success

In private-sector companies, the measures of success (both organizational and personal) are relatively clear. Measurement is connected to the bottom line and return on investment.

In the public sector, measures are less clear -- this is not to say that finance is not important, it is just that the organization is not profit driven. For our clients, this cloudiness created some challenges both in terms of their own performance and in developing metrics for their teams. Another difference is the wider group of stakeholders for whom performance monitoring is important. In general these are:

  • General public (both as individuals and representative groups);
  • Clients, consumers, users, and customers of the services provided;
  • Individual politicians;
  • Government -- central and local;
  • Regulatory, inspection, and audit agencies;
  • Managers within the organization;
  • Employees within the organization.

Success tends to be measured in terms of impact, public perceptions, and outcomes, as well as obtaining value for money and coming in on budget. For example, some of the indicators against which success is measured for the UK Treasury include:

  • Achieve an improvement in value for money in public services year by year;
  • Increase employment over the economic cycle;
  • Make substantial progress toward eradicating child poverty by reducing the number of children in poverty by at least a quarter by xxx;
  • Increased policy cost-effectiveness;
  • Impact of policy measures on taxpayers;
  • Trend growth in output per worker (productivity) over the economic cycle.

These indicators illustrate one of the key private-public sector differences highlighted by our clients: success depends on a multitude of interrelated factors and is often out of the direct control of the individual or organization being measured. For this reason, for some of our clients, stress levels had become so high that their key goal was simply to work hard to enable their bank to "pay the money back asap" and to then "get on with business as usual and do the work we are trained to do."

7.   Language and Vocabulary

One of the challenges of moving between public and private sectors is the difference in language and vocabulary. This is commonly experienced when joining any new organization, but is more marked when moving between the sectors. One client told us how she had been given a file containing literally hundreds of acronyms when she joined the organization.

There is also an expectation of understanding  phrases and a need to build a common vocabulary if misunderstandings are to be prevented. As one UK manager commented, "I was told that there was a ‘yellow file' on my desk. I thought, that's nice but...." What she later learned was that this was an important document containing a ministerial question which needed a quick response. Another example from the UK comes from the National Health Service. Here the term ‘overperformance' is frequently used. For the unwary, this might seem to be a good thing, but it actually means that the organization is overspending and is likely to be in financial difficulty.

Clearly, the common usage of phrases and acronyms is not confined to the public sector. The banking world has its own terms and phrases such as ‘structuring derivatives' which mean little to the outsider. There is a need for both sides to learn the language and to ask for clarification when something is not clear.

Our clients ended up by creating their personal vocabulary books which helped them to learn and make use of the new language and vocabulary. This, in turn, strengthened their level of confidence and their position in meetings and negotiations.


Coaching is about change and moving into a new public-private setting is a fundamental change in an executive's career. One of the key roles that coaching can fulfill is to provide support and structure. Working with a coach can help the executive to identify the fundamental differences in his or her new situation and then to develop options and action plans for both adapting old behaviour and acquiring new knowledge and understanding.

It takes time to get to know a new sector, but by making the specific themes and challenges transparent, we hope that executive coaches can begin to understand some of the challenges their clients face. In addition, we hope that this might also help bring about a more rapid improvement in management performance so that better results can be achieved in crucial public services.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2010, Volume 6, Issue 2). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.


Dr. Sabine Dembkowski is founder and director of The Coaching & Communication Centre in London, Cologne, & Frankfurt. 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. Contact Dr. Dembkowski. More about Dr. Dembkowski in the WABC Member Directory.

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 & Communication Centre, she is non-executive Chairman of Teaching Personnel and 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. Contact Fiona.

Sabine and Fiona (along with Ian Hunter) are the co-authors of The Seven Steps of Effective Executive Coaching published by Thorogood in 2006.

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