In my executive coaching work, one of the most important traits that differentiates high potential leaders is their learning agility. In succession planning discussions, organizations identify leaders who are learning agile because these people quickly learn how to be effective in new and different situations. Organizations hire executive coaches to prepare these leaders for challenging and stretch assignments. Based on my work with these executives, I have distilled eight practices that differentiate the coaching clients who made the greatest gains vs. those that did not. Whether you are being coached by your manager or by an executive coach, these practices will make the difference in your learning agility and impact.
“I’ve tried to coach Anne to collaborate better with her peers but she just doesn’t seem to get it”. This came with an exasperated sigh from Mary, one of my executive coaching clients who is trying to get a direct report to improve her peer relationships. “I can’t spend so much of my time cleaning up the mess. Is it time to just find someone else for the role?”
In my executive coaching work, I often help my clients assess their talent. I help them become better coaches for their people. I also do a quick assessment prior to an executive coaching engagement to see whether a leader is coachable. Here are seven sure signs that someone on your team may not be.
Most of us start this time of year picking new year resolutions. For me, they are the usual suspects. Get healthier. Lose those 20 pounds I’ve been trying to lose since the 1990’s. Become a better person. The latter usually entails becoming more patient, loving, and forgiving in my relationships – including with other drivers on the road. Each year, I carefully set action plans to meet these goals. Yet, most of my goals lose steam around mid-February and it’s back to business as usual: donuts and road rage. With some therapy, I have even found some humor at the irony of being an executive coach and not being able to meet my own goals. The fact is 92% of New Year resolutions fail.
Here’s what I’m doing differently this year. It is from Marshall Goldsmith’s best-selling book called Triggers. The #1 executive coach pays someone to call him every morning and ask him 32 questions that help him to be accountable to be the person he wants to be. I decided to give myself the challenge of asking myself ten accountability questions every morning.
As an executive coach, some of the saddest moments I witness is when someone gets feedback…too late. “I was shocked” said one leader to me recently. “It felt like a kick in the stomach coming from someone I trusted”. Her voice cracked as she said this to me and it was clear she was trying to contain her emotion. This leader had been recently asked to take a demotion. Lack of honest feedback is the biggest career de-railer I know of. We each have blind spots and feedback illuminates them.
I am a big believer that we each come from a place of good intentions. No supervisor walks in the office thinking “today I will be a jerk” and no direct report decides “today I will ignore all the signals that something may be wrong”. Yet, this is what I witness all too often: supervisors who don’t give feedback directly enough and direct reports who aren’t paying attention to the cues that something may be wrong. Incredible as it sounds, l see insufficient feedback as an improvement opportunity in 100% of my executive coaching engagements. It costs organizations millions in lost talent, productivity, trust, and engagement. Read on for five steps to get the feedback you need.
I was doing a speaking engagement recently on the topic of leading with authenticity and a woman walked up afterwards. She had a dilemma. She wanted to be able to leverage her network to grow her customer base but felt inauthentic asking her network for help.
A lot of women leaders I meet have good networks but they have a hard time calling on their networks to help them. Why is that? They say it feels “icky”. They feel like if they use their relationships to help them in their business or careers they are being inauthentic. I believe there is a gender expectation that we all need to become more aware of. The gender expectation is that women are supposed to be caring, cooperative and relationship-building – for the sake of relationship-building. Thus, often when a woman wants to leverage her network for advancing goals, it causes her to feel “icky”. On the other hand, many men are happy to use their networks for mutual benefit. They benefit by networking “strategically”. This of course, has nothing to do with authenticity. It has everything to do with the unconscious gender expectations we take on. Authenticity is about connecting with values and a sense of purpose that inspires each of us rather than conforming to gender expectations of who we should be.
So I decided to talk to my good friend Kathy Hatala, SVP at Speakeasy, who is masterful at the art of building and leveraging relationships and doing this with great authenticity. I certainly learned a lot from her in this interview. I hope you do as well.
Most of us know that consciously giving thanks for the big and little things in our lives can benefit us in so many ways—from reducing stress to strengthening our immune system. People who are grateful tend to sleep better and have deeper relationships and a more positive outlook. This is a guest post from my friend Tricia Molloy on three gratitude practices that will change your life.
Do you find yourself in situations where you know what the right behavior is, but are unable to actually act on it? Did you know that your body can actually help you to shift your behavior? I am finding in my executive coaching work that my clients create faster and more sustained shifts in their leadership behaviors when they tap into the wisdom in their bodies. The latest neuroscience research on the mind body connection shows us how much of our leadership behavior is actually embodied. To change this behavior requires us getting in touch with what is happening in our bodies. Yes, all that reprimanding from my mom about “don’t slouch”, “watch your posture”, “smile, it will make you feel better” actually works!
According to this TEDTalk by Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy “Your body language shapes who you are“ our bodies can actually help us change our minds, change our behavior, and significantly improve our leadership outcomes. It’s what I call Whole Body Leadership. In her research, candidates who embodied certain power poses (like those by Wonder Woman) prior to job interviews got the job! I had a chance to interview one of the leading embodiment experts, Richard Strozzi-Heckler of the Strozzi Institute about how we can connect and learn from our bodies to grow in our leadership.
Are you wondering what’s next for your career? I always love it when I get e-mails from our blog community about the challenges they are facing. The e-mail I got recently inspired me to write a blog post on the topic. Jane (not her real name), is someone who wants to really grow her leadership. However, she is not getting development or coaching from her boss. She feels disengaged and stuck. Here is her e-mail and my coaching on five steps to create a great development plan.
Do you have a difficult work colleague you’re dealing with? You’re not the only one. I was speaking at a leadership conference to a packed audience on the topic of how to manage workplace conflict. We discussed step-by-step leadership tools to have the “difficult conversations” that no one wants to have, but are critical to building trust, alignment, transparency, and moving things forward.
A participant came to speak to me afterwards. She is highly results driven and was frustrated that a work colleague was completely uncooperative and thwarting her efforts on a team project. Sound familiar? Our teams, projects, and results get stuck when there is lack of trust in a work relationship. Research shows two thirds of Americans believe most people can’t be trusted. Here are the three steps we discussed to rebuild broken trust:
We all live in a 24/7 world with more things to do than time to do them. In our culture we often confuse activity with productivity – leaving us stressed and frazzled. I will go out on a limb and say that 50% or more of our activity (certainly mine) is unproductive. What if there was a different way? It’s called a leadership journal, and I recommend it to all my executive coaching clients. The Harvard Business Review has quoted research that shows performance improved +18% when people had a chance to reflect on their learning. Here is how to do it in 10 minutes or less.