25Apr/130

From Innoventor Engineering = Innovation + Invention

Posted by Stan Herman

by Stan Herman

The Business/The Organization

Company owner Kent Schien founded Innoventor Engineering as a basement start up with only seven engineers. It has now grown to more than 60 engineers with a support staff of 10. Innoventor focuses on inventing and innovating products for an array of industries. Innoventor's strategy of diversifying into military, automotive, energy, and medical markets has served them well in growing their business.

The Partnership

In 2001, Kent began to realize that his company wasn't functioning as well as it could. During an event sponsored by Vistage (TEC) International, an organization which provides a CEO peer advisory board, professional speakers, and business coaching for its members, he met business coach Stan Herman. Kent was seeking a personal growth path that would outpace that of his business. Although coaching was something Kent had never considered, he was intrigued by Stan's thought-provoking questions. Those questions allowed Kent to identify the issues, determine what was at stake and what Kent had done so far, then clarify the ideal outcome and confirm the goals of the coaching process. Options became clearer as Kent and Stan worked together, and their coaching relationship has lasted for more than five years.

The Challenge

Kent had surrounded himself with engineers who were also friends. This presented challenges as the business grew and management demands were shared. Several areas needed attention—engineering excellence, project time lines, and budgets were all slipping. These were the challenges Kent faced:

  1. Kent was an excellent engineer, but an inexperienced manager;
  2. Kent was acting as the technical authority for all engineering problems;
  3. Employee friends were not performing;
  4. Neither Kent nor his executive team had personal development plans;
  5. Hiring practices were focused on technical skill rather than management expertise; and
  6. Kent needed to hire team members who were smarter than he was.

The Approach

Kent's initial coaching sessions focused on a detailed investigation of the precise role that Kent wanted to play in his organization. He completed the DiSC (Dominant, Influencer, Steady, Compliant) and PIAV (Personal Interest, Attitudes and Values) assessments, which increased his awareness of how he works best and what motivates him. How did he want his executives to respond to an increased pace of business decision-making? He knew he wanted them to increase the frequency with which they considered the implications of their decisions (e.g., who will the decision affect, how much time will be involved in its implementation, when should action be taken, etc.). But what did he expect of his management team, and how should the team be held accountable for meeting those expectations? And how should he deal with his feelings regarding his underperforming friends?

Kent and Stan began to explore Kent's vision of the ideal business situation. What does the ideal engineering team, executive team, and customer look like? The coaching conversations helped Kent to identify both an industry mentor and specific issues to bring to his Vistage Peer Advisory Board.

Kent began a formal strategic planning process using Quad Red-VCEO technology. This strategic planning online assessment allowed him to compare Innoventor to today's most successful businesses in 158 best practices areas, revealing the performance gaps between what would be considered excellent performance and what his company was actually doing. This information enabled Kent and his leadership team to address the most critical issues that were impeding his company's performance. Over the last five years, the strategic plan he has developed has served as a compass for his organization. Kent also completed a 360-degree personal assessment, which provided new insights to aid in his personal growth.

In addition, Kent implemented the following action steps:

  1. Defined the CEO's role, both present and future;
  2. Appointed a Chief Engineer;
  3. Hired a Director of Engineering;
  4. Established performance measurements for engineers, and tied those standards to compensation;
  5. Required the executive staff, including the CEO, to implement personal development plans;
  6. Upgraded hiring practices to include personality testing in order to build a more desirable workplace culture;
  7. Replaced underperforming friends;
  8. Recruited and hired a COO;
  9. Increased the frequency and levels of communication; and
  10. Moved underperforming employees to less significant business roles.

Value Delivered

With the establishment of performance expectations, and increased communication around those expectations, the company's engineering costs were reduced by 20%. Revenue grew from $2 to $13 million. A 'can do' culture was created around the newly established company benchmark: "It must be good for the customer, good for the company, and good for the employees." Quarterly Town Hall meetings were instituted as a communications tool for all employees. An 'open book' management style also increased communication opportunities.

To top it all off, competing with more than 100 other candidates, Innoventor was recognized nationally as the Small Business Association subcontractor of the year, receiving the USA Region VII award in 2006. In addition, Innoventor has placed in the St. Louis Top 50 Fastest Growing Companies list for the last four years.

Kent says that he now has a life, and is no longer serving as the resident expert on all engineering issues. As CEO/President of Innoventor Engineering, he says, "Every CEO/owner has strengths and weaknesses that affect the company. Coaching helped me—and will help any leade—to recognize blind spots. Most CEOs are aware of the impact of those traits on their companies. With increased awareness comes an increase in viable options, resulting in the confidence to aggressively pursue execution. A business coach in your corner is an asset every CEO needs!"

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (Spring Issue 2007, Volume 3, Issue 1). Copyright © 2013 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

 

Stan Herman, MBA, CEC, President of Stan Herman, Inc., offers business coaching and CEO advisory services. A Chair for Vistage, he focuses on building better leaders by helping them make better decisions for better results. Read more about Stan in the WABC Coach Directory. Stan can be reached by email at Stan@Staninc.com.

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13Dec/120

Unwilling Bedfellows

Posted by WABC

Learning to Be ONE: The 7 Challenges of Working in a Public-Private Setting
(Part 1 of 2)

What happens when the private sector meets the public? Is it all about private sector efficiency versus public sector values or are other factors involved? Drawing on our experience of coaching in both sectors and coaching people who suddenly found themselves working in an organization taken over by the government, this article raises awareness of commonly occurring themes/challenges. By making the themes clear we hope that executive coaches and their clients can be better prepared for the challenges ahead and thus contribute to raising performance standards in these settings.

Banking is the latest sector to become involved in public-private partnerships; previous sectors include infrastructure and health. The current/recent global financial crisis created many new and unexpected partnerships. For example, in the UK we saw the nationalization of Northern Rock. Almost overnight, bank executives were thrown into cooperation and collaboration with civil servants. They were charged with achieving the best possible solution for the general public through the most appropriate allocation of resources, risk, and rewards.

However, what may sound fine and straightforward in theory is full of challenges for the executives working in these settings. To be successful, they need to understand the new culture in which they will be working and have a healthy appreciation of the themes that will be part of their daily working lives.

Over the last 18 months, during the economic slowdown and subsequent crisis, we conducted coaching assignments across industries and countries. We began to notice patterns and themes emerging. In all, we looked at 30 executive coaching cases. What struck us was the high degree of "convergent validity," meaning great similarity, of the themes irrespective of country or specific organizational environment.

We have grouped the most commonly recurring themes into seven categories. These are:

  1. Different cultures—behaviors and expectations;
  2. Greater complexity of stakeholder groups;
  3. Leadership and management style;
  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 look at the first three of these themes from the perspective of executives coming from the private sector into these new partnerships. In next week's blog we will explore the remaining four themes.

1. Different Cultures—Behaviors and Expectations

One theme that was common to all of our clients, regardless of country or sector, was that they had really underestimated the difference in working cultures and hence the differences in behaviors and expectations. Of course, they were aware of perceived differences between private and public sector organizations, but what they had not anticipated was that public ownership of a hitherto private organization could make such a dramatic and immediate difference. It was an experience that was not only organizational, but personal, and, as with any personal change, potentially a source of anxiety.

For our clients, there were two main elements to the meeting of private and public sector cultures. One is the nature of relationships, and how relationships work differently in the public sector. Relationships up, down, and across the organization can hinder management. For example, the established hierarchy and deference to those in more senior positions can make it difficult for executives to manage their teams if members of the team are used to acting on directives from the top. In addition, different functions appear to have different levels of power and influence.

The second element concerns the ability to act and make decisions. For the former private sector executives, there was much ill-disguised frustration with their lack of autonomy. As one of our clients said, "I'm used to getting the go-ahead from my boss or maybe one other. Now I have to submit a proposal which has to go through several layers and be referred to the project board. What used to take hours now takes days." Intense public scrutiny either via the media or through answering questions to parliamentary committees means that every decision is analyzed and agonized over before action is taken. Particularly in the UK, another new challenge is the responsibility to Ministers, which means that government policy and political imperatives will influence the direction in which the organization is travelling and may impact on priorities so that commercial considerations are no longer the only driving force.

Ministerial relationships provide a particularly interesting challenge as access to Ministers is closely guarded and very much regarded as the "turf" of senior civil servants. This severely impacted the decision-making process as the former private sector executives found that they had less time with the Ministers and therefore found it more difficult to incorporate their views into thinking. This lengthened the process and also meant that contact was brief and limited to crisis situations.

The significance of this is especially highlighted in an election year. In Germany, 2009 was a major election year with voting in local, state, and national elections. This means that issues which were at the heart of public attention, e.g., the state of banks and their stability and what was happening to state guarantees, emerged as key topics for politicians. The elections promised to bring a fundamental shift in Germany's political landscape, causing civil servants to slow or put off decisions until after the election in anticipation of changes in their political masters, and hence priorities. This in turn led to further frustrations for the former private sector executives. The situation in the UK is similar with a general election approaching in 2010. The government, and hence civil servants, have gone into a period of "purdah" where no new initiatives or schemes can be announced to prevent the current government from gaining advantage by announcing attractive policy changes. Again this will slow decision making.

The degree to which the new arrangements affected our clients depended on a number of factors, including how the civil servants responded to them personally. For us, it was initially difficult to find a way to discuss with our clients the cultural differences in these new organizations. We eventually used Geert Hofstede's cultural framework1 to discuss it in a more systematic manner. In this way we were able to help them gain an understanding of their own and the other culture and the impact this had on behavior and expectations. This enabled them to target their messages much better and proved to be an excellent preparation for negotiations.

2. Greater Complexity of Stakeholder Groups

The different culture of a public sector organization also involves a much wider stakeholder group. One executive from a private organization said he used to think it was "complex" when a private equity company entered the matrix structured organization he used to work for. Now that he is on the board of a bank where the state has given a guarantee and invested millions of taxpayers' money, he truly understands, "for the first time in my life what ‘complex' really means."

He described that his "mind was blown away about the arguments that were floating around in a meeting when different people described what they will have to consider before coming to a decision." In fact, at times the factors were so diverse that it really was impossible to satisfy the needs of all stakeholders and situational alliances had to be created to ensure that certain objectives were achieved. Whilst this is "normal" in a board setting, it was particularly delicate here and scorings about who does what for whom and when were carefully monitored and guarded.

A key stakeholder is the general public that is both customer and, indirectly, investor. Private sector executives are used to working within organizations that are very customer focused, but come from a background where the chief interest of the investor is usually the bottom line. Clearly there is still a major imperative to deliver value, but it is value derived in both monetary and social terms.

We found that what helped our clients most was a visual display and a very sound stakeholder mapping. Based on this, we developed strategies for specific people and/or target groups. From feedback we understood that clients felt that this provided them with a more solid foundation that led in turn to feelings of greater security and self-confidence.

3. Leadership and Management Style

Talking to our clients, it has become apparent that there is a move toward more collaborative leadership in their new environments. It would be simplistic to blame individualism and command-and-control approaches for the current economic situation. However, it is clear that working in partnership requires a much more cooperative approach where shared responsibility and accountability are embedded in the culture. Collaborative leadership is a process used in situations where there is a diverse group of stakeholders to find solutions to complex problems that affect them all. Inevitably, this also involves systemic change.

In both public and private settings, it has become increasingly common to use this more team-based approach to problem solving. Collaborative leadership requires people with differing backgrounds and perspectives to come together, discuss issues openly, and put aside their self-interests.

To achieve this type of leadership in their organizations, our clients found that they needed to use negotiation, persuasion, and patience to even greater degrees to see their ideas put into action.

It can take time to create alignment. Getting all parties on board requires time and patience. Our clients commented on the length of time required for decision making in the new environment. Of course, this is one of the fundamentals of the democratic process—making decisions collectively. However, for those new to the process, it can seem to be overly complicated and very, very slow.

From the analysis of our coaching cases and the feedback we received, we understand that the key strategies that helped our clients were to step back and "walk in the moccasins" of the other person, i.e., to take on the perspective of the other party. Once this was done, they then thought about how to incorporate this into their own arguments. The second strategy we identified was the skill to create and use alliances.

In the next issue, we will discuss the remaining four themes/challenges we discovered that people face when private meets public.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2010, Volume 6, Issue 1). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

1 For a brief synopsis of this framework, please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geert_Hofstede.

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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25Oct/120

Sustainability—The Impossible Dream

Posted by WABC

By Jeffrey L. Balash

All of us are attempting to fight one of the key laws of nature in both our business and personal lives: its life cycle. This process of birthing, growing, maturing, and dying applies to everything in the universe-including our own sun. So when our leaders, in both business and government, refer to "sustainability," they are to be applauded for attempting to lengthen the life cycle. However, they still can't repeal this essential law of nature. This note explores the reasons why these life cycles occur as well as some brief thoughts about how to extend them.1

1. Inability to Persevere in Doing Things That We Don't Want to Do

We all talk about staying in shape and watching our weight to enjoy and to extend a healthy lifespan. However, obesity is epidemic in America. As a Hall of Fame tennis player explained to me: "I've trained hard for 20 years. I'm done and going to enjoy life." This world-class athlete had become obese and completely out of shape.

Similarly, as corporations grow and become successful, complacency sets in. The culture changes from the quick, lean culture of the initial employees to a much larger group who are attracted because the firm is a successful enterprise that offers potential for wealth and security and an "easy" job with an "entitlement" to all of the associated benefits.

So the "tough stuff" of watching costs, changing the business model to preserve market leadership, and being "paranoid", in the words of Andy Grove, are no longer done—or acceptable.

Potential solutions: The CEO and his/her team need to concentrate on maintaining the culture of the company through A) hiring only those people who will adapt to the culture and embrace it, and B) structuring the proper incentives to motivate employees to maintain that culture. They must recognize that employees who excelled at a particular position may not have the skills to operate optimally in that same position as the company grows and matures.

2. Inability to Recognize That the Game Has Changed

Andy Grove also observed that he was the last to know things as the CEO. Because senior management and government leaders are typically far removed from the "front lines," it's difficult for them to identify critical changes as early as possible. Similarly, many employees aren't creative thinkers. They merely carry out orders. Those who sound the early warning alarm are frequently "shot" as messengers of bad news.

Potential Solutions: Structure a fairly flat organization where information can flow to the top quickly. Establish a separate email address for each member of the senior management team that is different from his/her primary email address, so that rank-and-file employees can send emails directly and allow the sender to screen his/her email address, if desired. In this way, the sender will know that no reprisals will occur. An intranet employee chat room, once again allowing for anonymity, will let employees interact quickly on line so that new ideas can be exchanged and issues can come to the surface quickly. It will also allow the senior management team to learn how the company and themselves are viewed by employees.

3. Inability to Change Strategy Tactics Even Though the Change Has Been Recognized

Professor Clayton Christiansen of Harvard Business School has done exhaustive research in this area and in the area described above.2 Organizations are typically a prisoner of their own business models. To effect the necessary change is painful, requiring the adoption of an entirely new paradigm, which may entail reengineering, retraining, and restructuring (including layoffs). Most firms don't have the will to do this.

Potential Solutions: Accept the fact that "you need to do it to yourself-or it will be done to you." A company can either be a victim (as in the Big Three automakers) or a survivor (as IBM has expanded its business into the services area instead of continuing to concentrate primarily on hardware manufacturing). This not only demands a tough "look in the mirror" on a periodic basis and the will to do what has to be done; it also requires significantly different management talents and styles to maximize the profits of declining businesses. (These can remain high for a long period, if appropriately operated). These talents and styles are different than those operating in growth businesses or mature businesses. A company needs to have all three types of managers on its "pitching staff" (e.g., starter, middle relief, and closer) and to establish the appropriate incentives for each group.

4. Loss of Flexibility and Nimbleness as the Bureaucracy Grows

As a firm achieves ever greater success, it grows larger, less nimble, and more bureaucratic. Rules and procedures tend to be inflexible rather than adaptive. The behemoth can't move as quickly as the fox. When Intel switched from DRAM (dynamic random access memory) as its principal product to microprocessors, it took a year for Gordon Moore and Andy Grove to gain managerial acceptance of the new strategy.

Possible solutions: Organize the company to operate in smaller units, allowing it to be more nimble in its responses to challenges and change, as well as to attract and retain entrepreneurial managers. Delegate decision making downward, so that the decision chain is shortened and response time is improved. An interesting example is Johnson and Johnson, which permits its key managers to run their businesses on their own, except that they must get all significant capital expenditures approved by the CFO.

This note is brief of necessity. It can't possibly address all of the issues and potential solutions. I also don't have a monopoly on knowledge. Therefore, I would encourage comments, suggestions, and criticisms by the reader, which is how I learn and adapt to the changing environment as well.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2010, Volume 6, Issue 1). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.


1 For a very thoughtful discussion of how our human "health span" can be maximized, please consider: Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy Until You're 80 and Beyond by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge and the successor book: Younger Next Year for Women: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy - Until You're 80 and Beyond by Chris Crowley, Henry S. Lodge, and Gail Sheehy (both, Workman, 2007). The strategies and tactics articulated in these books can frequently be mapped into business situations.

2 Christensen, Clayton M. The Innovator's Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business. Collins Business Essentials: 2003 (1997).

 Jeffrey L. Balash has created over $4 billion in value across five continents in different industries as an investment banker, strategist, operating executive, and investor. His experience includes seven startups. Contact Jeffrey.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.
9Aug/120

Coaching Models for Business Success: The Nested-Levels Model

By Dr. Sunny Stout Rostron

Coaching as an Experiential Learning Conversation

One of the core areas where coaches work with clients is that of learning. However, the conversation with your client centers on what is meaningful to them. If significance and relevance are to emerge from the coaching conversation, it doesn't matter what is relevant to you; it matters what is relevant to them. It is therefore important to be aware of your own assumptions about what the client needs.

If you are guiding, directing, and giving your clients all the information they need, it will be difficult for them to ever be free of you. It is helpful if the client embodies new learning personally and physiologically; you can't do their learning for them. What you do as a coach is to help them reconstruct their own thinking and feeling to gain perspective and become self-directed learners. At the end of each coaching session with my clients, we integrate their learning1 with the goals they have set, confirming what action, if any, they are committed to:

  1. Vision-Refine their vision: where is the client going?
  2. Strategy-Outline the strategy: how is the client going to achieve their vision?
  3. Outcomes-What are the specific outcomes that need to be accomplished in the next few weeks in order to work toward achieving the vision, putting the strategy into action?
  4. Learning-Help the client summarize what was gained from the session in order to help underline self-reflection, continuing to help the client understand that they are responsible for their own thinking, their own doing, and their own being.

Nested-Levels Model

Although models create a system within which coach and client learn, it is essential that models are not experienced as either prescriptive or rigid. If the model is inflexible, it means it is fulfilling the coach's agenda, rather than attempting to understand the client's issues.

This nested-levels model was developed by New Ventures West (Weiss, 2004), and introduces the concept of horizontal and vertical levels in coaching models. The nested model works first at the horizontal level of "doing," eventually moving into deeper "learning" one level down; reflecting about self, others, and experience at a third "ontological" level where new knowledge emerges about oneself and the world (Figure1).

In her article, Pam Weiss talks about the two different camps of coaches. In jest, I call them the New York versus the Los Angeles camp. The New York camp says, "I'm the expert, let me fix you," while the L.A. camp says, "You are perfect and whole and have all of your own answers." Joking aside, each of these camps comes up short, even though coaches often fall into one or the other. The role of coaching is actually about developing human beings. It is not really about "I have the expertise" versus "you already have all your own answers."

The Expert Approach

Contrary to what experts might think, clients are not broken and are not in need of fixing. Clients may be anxious, stressed, nervous, overworked, and even narcissistic—but they don't need fixing. They are mostly healthy human beings going about their jobs and lives, experiencing their own human difficulties. Your job as coach is to help the clients learn for themselves, so that when you are no longer walking alongside them, they have become "self-directed" learners (Harri-Augstein and Thomas, 1991) and do not need you anymore. The second view about "expertise" also has limitations. The role of expertise is that, as coach, you are an expert; but coaching is not about the coach giving all the answers; that tends to be the role of the consultant, i.e., to find solutions for the client.

The "You-Have-All-the-Answers" Approach

The "you have all the answers" assumption is partially true, but there are several limitations. The first one is that we all have blind spots, and it is your job as coach to help the client to identify their blind spots. Secondly, it's perhaps a bit of "mythical" thinking that the client has all of the answers already; the flip side of that argument is that, if it does not work out, the client assumes blame and fault. In other words, "If I have all the answers, I should be able to do it myself without help." If that is not the case, they could feel, "Oh dear, if I am not able to do it myself, then perhaps I'm a failure."

Both of these approaches are "horizontal," i.e., they skim the surface of the work you can do with the client. Both help people to maintain the lives they currently have. The expert "New York" approach helps the client to do it better, faster, and more efficiently, and the "Los Angeles" approach may withhold key insights and observations from the coach that could help build the client's awareness of their blind spots. What is important, rather than "fixing" the client, is the skill of "observation" on the part of the coach. There is no problem in helping the client to do it better, faster, or more efficiently—that is often what the organization hopes for in terms of performance improvement. However, it is important for the client to gain the learning they need to address blind spots and to build their own internal capacity and competence.

Learning Level

If you continue to help people accomplish tasks, achieve goals, and keep on "doing," they risk falling into the trap of being "busy" and possibly overwhelmed. They may not, however, necessarily get the "learning" they need to develop self-awareness and self-management. I know all too well about this trap of being excessively busy. If we keep "doing" without reflection, we eventually burn out. To keep individual executives performing better and better, they need to work at one level lower-at the level of learning. They need to learn how to "do the doing" better. As soon as an executive begins to work with a coach, they begin the possibility of working at one or two levels deeper.

As coach, you will be asking questions to help clients reflect, review, and gain useable knowledge from their experience. In the nested-levels model, the higher levels don't include the lower ones, but the lower levels include the higher ones. So we need to help clients address their purpose one level down, at the level of learning. At this level you may ask questions such as, "How are you doing? What are you doing? What are you feeling? How are your peers/colleagues experiencing you/this? What is and what isn't working? What is useful learning for you here? What needs to change and how?"

Ontological Levels-Being and Becoming

The third and fourth levels of the coaching intervention using this model are that ofwho the client is and who the client wishes to become in terms of thinking, feeling, and being. Your questions move from "what do they need to do" and "how do they need to do it" (doing), to "how does their style of learning impact on how they do what they do; what do they need to learn in order to improve thinking/behavior/feeling/performance/leadership" (learning); to questions about "what do they need to understand and acknowledge about themselves, who are they, how do they be who they are, and what needs to change (being and becoming)?"

So what assists people in getting things done? Above all, it is about clarifying goals, creating action steps, taking responsibility, and being accountable. In order to perform more effectively, we need to help clients shift down a gear to learn how to work with competence (a set of skills) rather than just learning a specific new skill.

Learning

Your job as coach is to help the client be open to possibilities of learning something new, and to help them relate to themselves and others at a deeper level. To use the nested-levels model, you could ask questions such as:

  1. What is it that your client(s) want to do? What is their aim or purpose in working with you?
  2. What do they need to learn in order to make the change? What in their thinking, feeling, and behavior needs to change in order to do the doing better? How can they use their own experience to learn what is needed?
  3. How do, and how will, their thoughts, feelings, and behavior impact on how they "be who they are" and "who is it that they want to become"? In this way, we work at horizontal and vertical levels. At the end of the day, the client's new attitudes, behaviors, motivations, and assumptions begin to impact positively on their own performance and their relationships with others.

Our aim with this model is to shift any limiting sense of who the client is so that they can interact and engage with the world in new ways. As clients begin to shift, it has an impact on others with whom they interact in the workplace. It also means addressing issues systemically, from a holistic perspective, whether those issues revolve around health, stress, anxiety, performance, or relationships with others. Our task as coaches is to widen the circle, enlarge the perspective of the client, and help them learn from their own experience how to reach their potential.

A great way to start any coaching intervention is to ask your clients to tell their life story. The coach begins to understand some of the current issues and presenting challenges, and begins to observe patterns of thinking, feeling, and behavior. Because we work with Kolb's theory of "understanding experience in order to transform it into useable knowledge," this model helps us to determine the context in which the client operates, where individual and systemic problems may be occurring, and how organizational values and culture impact on individuals and teams. It is at this level that the coach's ability to observe, challenge, and ask appropriate questions can be most transformational.

In Conclusion

Coaching models help us understand the coaching intervention from a systems perspective, analyzing the "structure" of the interaction between coach and client. This series of articles takes a practical look at how coaching models are constructed, and how they can help you to flexibly structure the overall coaching journey as well as the individual coaching conversation with your business client. In my next article, we will explore the use of the U-process model, sometimes known as the "process of transition," typically represented in Scharmer's U-process.

This article is adapted from Business Coaching Wisdom and Practice: Unlocking the Secrets of Business Coaching (2009, Johannesburg: Knowledge Resources).Business Coaching International will be published mid 2009 by Karnac, London.

Resource Materials

Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Stout Rostron, S. (2009). Business Coaching Wisdom and Practice: Unlocking the Secrets of Business Coaching. Johannesburg: Knowledge Resources.

Stout Rostron, S. (2006). Interventions in the Coaching Conversation: Thinking, Feeling and Behaviour. Unpublished DProf dissertation. London: Middlesex University.

Weiss, P. (2004). "The Three Levels of Coaching." Available at:http://www.newventureswest.com/three_levels.pdf.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2009, Volume 5, Issue 2). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.


1 "Learning conversations" refers to research into learning conversations and self-organized learning, developed by S. Harri-Augstein and L.F. Thomas (1991:24).

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 founding president of COMENSA (Coaches and Mentors of South Africa). More about Sunnyin the WABC member directory. Contact Sunny.
If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.