Transformational Leadership Coaching & Leadership Development Tue, 05 Sep 2017 23:02:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Why You Need Truth Tellers At Work Wed, 23 Aug 2017 19:02:00 +0000 Interracial businesswomen working on laptop.Sally, an executive coaching client, was beaming. She had just done what had been hard for her in past. She had given her direct report feedback that was 80% focused on the positive, and only 20% on what needed to be improved. Sally can see improvement opportunities all around her, and that shows up in how she gives feedback. She had been working really hard to give balanced feedback that builds people up. She was buoyant from the conversation she had had. She genuinely felt great about helping her direct report feel good.

Until one week later.

She found out that the conversation had been very demotivating to her direct report.

We tell ourselves lies all the time. This is why each of us needs truth tellers. After all, we can only see the world from our own perspective. The only problem is that these truth tellers are hard to come by. Who in their right mind would go out of their way and take the time to give developmental feedback to a colleague, let alone a boss?

So, how did Sally find out that the wins she had imagined left her direct report feeling like she had lost? We had been working together in a “Stakeholder-Centered Coaching” process created by executive coach Marshall Goldsmith that has had a 95% success rate. Sally had picked several behaviors as part of her development plan that she wanted to practice more of. She picked six stakeholders and asked them if they would be willing to observe her behavior and give her feeback on these behaviors once a month. As her coach, I conduct a quick electronic survey once a month that gives her feedback and she follows up with her stakeholder circle for additional suggestions. Through the rigor of this process and Sally’s own humility in asking for feedback, her direct report was able to be honest and share her perspective. She would have never done that in the past.

When Sally had the follow-up conversation with her direct report, she understood that even though Sally had spent what she thought was most of the time giving positive feedback, the direct report had heard mostly what could be improved. The tone of urgency and the list of actions that needed to be done made her direct report feel like she was not trusted. This was a difficult conversation for both, but Sally got important information about her impact on others and her listening helped her grow trust with her direct report.

Think back to the last two weeks at work. Did you have a powerful conversation that helped you to grow? Unfortunately, there are not enough of these trust building conversations at work. What’s at stake is our own leadership growth, the engagement of our people, and ultimately whether our goals are met in a rapidly changing environment.

Whether you are working with an executive coach or not, you can take the initiative to create a “Stakeholder Coaching Circle” at work. Here’s a step-by-step way to do that:

• Put your ego aside

• Get clear on why you want to grow (what’s at stake for you)

• Pick a growth area you want to focus on (e.g. be better at influencing others)

• Pick up to three behaviors (ideally, it’s less than three so you can really focus) that you will practice more of to help you in your growth area (e.g. practice active listening, being clear in making requests, helping others achieve their goals)

• Identify several colleagues (three to five) who you trust to observe you in action and give you honest feedback

• Enroll your colleagues to help you by giving you immediate and timely feedback and suggestions (you can also meet with them on a regular basis). Offer to reciprocate.

• Once you feel you have learned a behavior so it becomes second-nature, repeat the cycle from the top.

Our world today is changing rapidly. We can no longer afford to wait to get feedback at the end of a year. We need to adapt quickly to the changes around us, which require us to stay present to our newest growth and leadership opportunities.

So, now time for action. What is one commitment you will make to yourself from what you learned here?

This blog post first appeared in my Forbes leadership blog.

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How To Get (And Be) A Better Boss Fri, 14 Jul 2017 17:33:10 +0000 Your relationship with your boss is arguably the most important work relationship you have. Unfortunately for many people it is also one that is fraught with frustration, awkwardness, or simply lack of sufficient trust. In my executive coaching work, I find that 80% of the time the relationship with the boss can be improved significantly and is strengthened as part of the coaching process.

We often assume that the boss has significantly more power, and often this is the case. But, as a savvy leader, you can use the tool below to create a powerful partnership with your boss. This is not about who has more power in the relationship, but about how powerful the relationship is, and together what it can help you both accomplish. Here’s a great tool-kit to help you.

As an executive coach, I often work with the leader being coached and their boss to help them design a partnership that works for them. This partnership is critical for the success of the coaching engagement as executive coaching requires the person who is being coached to stretch and try new behaviors. A trusting partnership with a boss can create great safety for the leader to take risks and get honest feedback. This process significantly improves the engagement of both the leader and their manager, creating the conditions for greater courage, honest conversations, transparency, trust, and ultimately stronger business performance.

I know personally in my 20-year corporate career, as a boss it was of utmost importance for me to know what engaged and motivated each of my team members, and I didn’t have the tools to have these trust-building conversations. Likewise, I often didn’t feel comfortable initiating these conversations with my boss.

The below are a series of questions that you can each answer and discuss together that clarify needs and expectations in the partnership you have with your boss. If trust is not optimal or has been eroded, it is extremely powerful for each of you to acknowledge that and state your sincere intent to rebuild it. The below tool is also excellent when you have a new partnership that you are creating.

  • What’s already working well?
  • What do we each appreciate or value about the other?
  • What is at stake for each of us to make this a powerful relationship?
  • Share a story of a great boss-employee relationship you had. What made that great?
  • What does a great partnership between us look like? How would we know that we had that?
  • What is the culture we want to create in the partnership? How would we know we had that?
  • How would we want it to feel? (Empowering, supportive, spacious, open)
  • What values are important to each of us?
  • What ways of communicating are important to each of us?
  • How do we want to be and act when things get difficult, or when there is conflict?
  • What routines or agreements would help the partnership flourish?
  • What can your partnership count on from you?
  • What will each of us commit to one another?
  • How do we hold ourselves and each other accountable to our partnership agreement?

It is very helpful to take notes and then summarize them to create a partnership agreement and periodically review and add to this agreement as all relationships are dynamic. It may seem awkward at first to put this down on paper, but it will be definitely helpful to creating robust and trusting relationships.

And if you happen to be a boss, this is a great tool to use for establishing strong partnerships with those you lead. This tool can work great for peer relationships as well.

What other questions will be useful in this exercise for you? Will you take this tool and act on it?

This article first appeared on my Forbes leadership blog.

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Practices To Power Your Executive Coaching Process Thu, 06 Apr 2017 01:53:18 +0000 The good news is you have an executive coach. The bad news is that the process of personal change and transformation is not easy. It requires a great deal of personal commitment on the part of the leader being coached. I’ve found in my work as an executive coach as well as my personal growth work, that most changes we are seeking on the outside (for example to get promoted to the next level, to have greater influence with peers, etc.) require significant changes within ourselves.

The role of the coach is to bring their skills to raise self-awareness, to challenge the leader’s paradigms, to share insight, and to hold accountability. Yet, the heavy lifting is done by the leader. The leader brings their courage to dig deeper to understand themselves, to see how they stand in their own way. They bring their openness to experimenting with new ways of being and behaving. They bring their commitment when the going gets tough.

In my experience, there are three tools the turbo-charge the impact of the coaching process. My ask is that you commit to practicing these tools during our coaching process. As you practice these tools, you create excellent leadership habits that will sustain the behavior change, and also help you continue to lead and grow – well beyond the coaching process.

Daily accountability questions. This is a practice recommended by the renowned executive coach, Marshall Goldsmith. You pick a list of questions you ask yourself every day to hold yourself accountable to your vision of who you want to be as a leader. The exercise takes less than five minutes. I recommend no more than 10 questions that link to your coaching goals. Here is a quick article on this.

Keep a leadership journal. A leadership journal will help you to grow in your self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and sense of well-being. If you’re new to journaling, you can read this article for useful prompts for your leadership journal. You can choose to customize your journal by noting your progress on your coaching goals. If you set aside 15 minutes, you can get great benefits from journaling.

Practice mindfulness. A lot has been written recently about mindfulness and its impact on well-being, emotional intelligence, and resilience. I wrote about my own experience with mindfulness. There are lots of apps you can research. I have used HeadSpace and Calm and found them both useful. My recommendation is that you start with just 10 minutes of mindful breathing.

So now, look at your coaching goals and imagine yourself achieving them. Imagine better well-being, greater peace and joy, a stronger ability to connect with yourself and others, and strengthened resilience. Imagine these practices as gifts you give to yourself to become a more powerful, purposeful, and inspired leader. Will you take these on?

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Ten Questions for Your Leadership Journal Thu, 06 Apr 2017 01:48:47 +0000 Teddy Roosevelt did it. Harry Truman did it. Want to be an outstanding leader? Keep a leadership journal. As part of my executive coaching work, one of the most effective tools I recommend that powers up the coaching process is a leadership journal. The exercise of leadership is not unlike a sport you play. When you review your actions in the field you learn what worked, what didn’t, and adjust along the way. Leadership guru Peter Drucker said: “ Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action. ”

There are many benefits to reflection.

The biggest benefit of keeping a leadership journal is to expand your self-awareness. Self-awareness of your strengths, your energizers, what challenges you, what can derail you is a key driver of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence (the ability to know and manage yourself and others) is a key driver of success in leadership.

Another key benefit of keeping a leadership journal is to manage stress. Workplace stress has a significant impact on our overall well-being. Journaling about stressful events can help you process them, release the negative emotions, and ultimately enable learning. Our physical and emotional well-being is a key driver of the energy we bring to the workplace. The more positive emotion and inspiration we feel as a leader, the greater the impact on our teams. A gratitude journal has been shown to have significant positive impacts in maintaining a good immune system and wiring the brain for positive emotion.

Effective leaders are able to see what’s happening with a clearer perspective. They are thus able to respond with greater agility to change. They lead effectively because they see effectively.

Ten Questions For Your Leadership Journal

To make your leadership journal a habit, I suggest you block off fifteen minutes on your calendar and make it part of your morning or evening routine. Find a favorite place. Some people choose a beautiful journal to write in so it becomes something they look forward to rather than a chore. For me, writing in my journal is like sitting and having a good cup of coffee with a close friend. I look forward to it.

Often, my coaching clients ask “How do I get started?” The following is a list of useful prompts. Regardless of whether you’re going through a coaching process or want to power up your leadership, you may find these coaching questions useful as prompts to write about in your daily journal. If ten questions are too many, start with one. The key is to start and stay in the practice.

What’s present for me now? This may feel like an esoteric question to start with but it’s a useful one to get present to what’s going on in this moment for you. Take a few deep breaths, close your eyes, and bring awareness to your body. Stretch and release any tension you’re feeling. Look inside yourself. Notice what emotions are present. Often, we rush through our day without checking in with ourselves. This is an opportunity to greet an old friend and see how they are. It will set you up for rich learning in the questions that follow.

What’s going well? What’s creating that? Acknowledging what’s good helps you take a step back from what may have been a very stressful day. It helps you acknowledge yourself and others for the good that’s happening. It helps you learn what’s positive and what’s helping you achieve goals.

What’s challenging? What’s creating that? Acknowledging what’s challenging focuses you on what needs your attention for learning and growth. Often, we start off by blaming others, ourselves, or circumstances for what is challenging. That’s fine and a perfectly human response. You can start there. And I urge you to look deeper within yourself. What beliefs, attitudes, or actions by you contribute to what is challenging for you? This process of taking responsibility (without judgment) is a key driver to feeling empowered as a leader rather than a victim of circumstances. It opens you up to experimenting with other ways of leading that may be more effective.

What needs my attention? This is a great question for scanning your environment, both work and personal. Your quality attention is your most precious asset. This helps you become mindful and choose where you invest it.

What’s meaningful? Finding meaning in each day keeps you fueled. It helps you learn about what values are important to you and then lead from these values. It helps you discover purpose and lead from purpose, inspiring and engaging yourself and those around you. Another question in this same vein is “what am I grateful for”? This helps you focus on what’s going right overall which helps to reduce stress, and improve overall well-being. Keeping a gratitude journal has been shown to clinically improve your immune system. It also increases resilience.

What strengths do I notice in myself? This helps you become aware of your strengths and put them into action. You may also want to journal about values you exercised. It builds confidence, trust in yourself, and resilience.

What strengths and contributions do I notice in others? This helps you appreciate and see what others are contributing. You can then powerfully acknowledge and appreciate them. It helps build productive and trusting work relationships.

What am I learning? Scan your writing. Capture any learning that feels most important.

What am I am committing to? This helps you move the learning forward into commitment to experiment with new perspectives and or new behaviors that will help you be more effective.

Try this exercise out. Bullet-point answers are fine. I challenge you to try it as a gift to yourself for the next seven days. My hope is that it will help you to become a more inspired, authentic and agile leader.

P.S. You may want to check out a leadership journal created by my friend David Langiulli who is also a leadership coach and works with non-profit leaders.

This post first appeared in my Forbes leadership blog.

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Letter to My 18-Year Old About Failure Sat, 01 Apr 2017 19:50:08 +0000 This is the week that high school seniors heard back from colleges about whether they got accepted. This letter is personal. I wrote it to my daughter after she didn’t get accepted at her top choice college. For those of us who are parents, seeing our children disappointed is heart-breaking. Yet, we must also teach them resilience. After I shared the letter with a friend, she suggested that I share it with others. It is about how to handle failure. I hope it serves all of you reading it.

My dearest,

I am writing to you with a heavy heart. I feel tears in my eyes that I fight to push back, even though there is no one here to see me cry.

I feel a mixture of sadness and hope as I write this letter. I know yesterday was a hard day for you and I still feel your hurt. You giggled a little as you shared with me your news about not getting into your top choice college.

The giggle was to perhaps hide the disappointment and sadness you felt. It showed me that even at this young age, you can handle disappointment and not look like you’re taking it so seriously. I’m sad that you couldn’t feel vulnerable enough in front of me to just cry or get angry or express emotion. I guess I taught you that. For that I am both glad and sorry. Glad that you know how to maintain composure for all the times you will fail and need to be composed. There are many places where our difficult emotions are not welcome. Sorry that you felt you had to keep your guard up with me.

What I want to say is that in life you already have and will likely experience many more failures. Failure is simply not getting what you dreamed of or expected or worked hard for. But there is nothing simple about it. It’s damn hard. It’s disappointing. It’s sad. It makes you mad. It comes in relationships, work, and lots of other places. What I want you to know is that experiencing failure does not make YOU a failure.

If you’re going to dream big for yourself, know that you will fail big. I hope you learn how to fully experience failure. What I have learned in my 50 years is that we all have different ways of handling failure. I often avoided failure. I did that by not dreaming big enough. Who wants to handle the disappointment? I took some of the easy classes in college because it was so important to maintain a 4.0 GPA. I was afraid that if I got anything less than that, it would destroy that carefully built self-concept I had of myself (and others had of me) that I was super-smart. It was more important for me to maintain that self-concept than to really challenge myself. I hope you don’t make that mistake.

Early in my life, I didn’t really put myself out there in love either. Who wants to let someone know that you like them? No, it was better to pretend that I didn’t care. That way I didn’t have to deal with the messy emotion of feeling hurt or rejected. In doing that, I shut down that part of me that wanted to express love and wanted love in return. It was safe. I learned later that it was also numbing. You cannot really experience joy if you shut out sorrow. I hope you don’t make that mistake.

Many times, I blamed myself or others for failure. It happened the time I got fired from my job. I first blamed my boss. Then I blamed myself. I assumed I wasn’t good enough and lost my spark. It took me a long time to get it back.

What I want you to know is that this failure thing is hard. But here’s what I’ve also learned in my 50 years. I’ve learned that failure is a necessary part of life if we are going to feel alive. And part of our work in our lives is learning how to fully and directly feel all of the emotions we have. We must experience the sadness, anger, frustration. We can cry, stomp our feet, lick our wounds. What I have learned is that during these trying times, the best way to deal with failure is to fully feel, and give ourselves kindness and love we would a good friend. What we must not do is make up a story about how we are flawed, or someone else is flawed, or life itself is not to be trusted.

Our work is to feel our emotions without making up stories about our own worth, or that of others. Emotions are like the weather. They change. The stories we make up endure. They make us feel safe, but they don’t serve us. Life is a movie, constantly changing with unexpected twists and turns, and the necessary turbulence that wants us to grow, to feel, to learn, to love, to contribute, and to trust. I hope you will learn to trust in yourself, in others, and in the basic design and goodness of life. You have so many gifts to offer – your smarts, your quick wit, your love of bringing people together, your joy, your sense of adventure. You can live fully only when you learn fully how to get comfortable with failure. May you live life fully, love, soar, stare failure in the eye, and keep dancing.

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How To Hold Yourself Accountable to Coaching Goals Thu, 30 Mar 2017 13:20:38 +0000 Behavior change is hard. I see this every day from personal experience, and the effort made by my executive coaching clients. During the course of the coaching engagement, my clients choose certain behaviors that they want to practice more of to grow in their leadership agility and help them achieve their coaching goals. They pick the smallest behavior changes that will help them create the biggest impact to empower their goals.

A great way for leaders to practice accountability is to make it a daily ritual. This practice 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.

Success on the most important goals we set for ourselves involve the long game – practices that we practice every day until they become habits, and eventually part of our very identity, so we can create lasting change. Here are the questions Marshall Goldsmith recommends.

Marshall Goldsmith’s Six Daily Questions

In his book, Marshall Goldsmith describes the six questions he recommends for all leaders. The focus is to hold yourself accountable to doing your best. Did I do my best to:

  1. Set clear goals?
  2. Make progress for achieving my goals?
  3. Find meaning?
  4. Be happy?
  5. Build positive relationships?
  6. Be fully engaged?

My Ten Questions

I recommend you frame your questions based on your own goals and values. Here are my ten questions. They change from time to time based on what’s most important at that time and what I’m working on for my own growth. I’ve created a simple excel spreadsheet. Each day I give myself a score from one to ten on each question as a way to measure how well I feel I did on each question. They are based on the daily practices make me most effective, and who I want to be as a leader. I ask myself “Did I do my best to”:

  1. Make healthy exercise, food, and sleep choices? I know that feeling good in my physical health goes a long way in impacting my positive energy and stress levels. This in turn impacts my ability to coach and lead effectively.
  2. Appreciate the good in myself, others, and situations? There is research on the importance of gratitude in overall well-being and leadership. Focus on the positive helps me have greater patience with myself and others (and the other drivers on the road really appreciate it I’m sure!). I keep a gratitude journal.
  3. Write and progress my three most important goals for the day? This is critical for me to make sure I am sitting down to think and plan for the day and stay focused on the most important priorities.
  4. Build positive relationships? I sometimes struggle with this because it is broad. For me, this is about approaching each encounter with another person with an open and appreciative mind.
  5. Practice courage? In leadership, courage is an important attribute. It helps us to lead from authenticity, have the difficult conversations that we need to have, and make decisions that may not always be popular, but are the right thing to do. In my book, Wired for Authenticity, one of the seven practices of authenticity is “Face The Dragon”. I write about proven ways to overcome fear and practice courage. Courage is a value that is important to me, and it is necessary for the work that I do with my coaching clients and stakeholders in the coaching process.
  6. Find meaning? Meaning can be found every day in the small actions we take. In my journal I simply ask myself, “what was meaningful today?” It’s a great way to reconnect with the good during the day and over time it helps me discover purpose and values important to me.
  7. Stay centered in the face of challenging situations? Most of us experience stress in the workplace or at home and this triggers behaviors where we derail ourselves. For me, it is critical to become aware of when a triggering situation is presenting itself, and to take a deep breath to center myself. It creates the conditions for me to respond rather than react.
  8. Practice empathy? Empathy is one of the core skills in emotional intelligence. I find that I bring empathy to my coaching conversations but don’t always practice this in my personal relationships. I want to grow more in this area.
  9. Practice vulnerability? Influencing others is very hard without connecting with them. As Brene Brown’s famous TEDxTalk which has had over 27 million views indicates, vulnerability is a core driver of connection with others. For me, vulnerability in leadership is about speaking what’s true for you (without blaming others), asking others for help, taking ownership and apologizing when you’ve made a mistake. My ability to be vulnerable myself role-models this behavior for my coaching clients because their ability to be vulnerable empowers the coaching process.
  10. Act in alignment with my values? As a leader, our impact comes not just from what we do, but from who we are – our character. Can we be trusted? Do we act with integrity? The behavior of leaders has tremendous impact on teams and culture. This is a way for me to hold myself accountable to living my life in alignment with my values.

There is power in asking “Did I do my best to…” according to Marshall Goldsmith. It recognizes your effort, and recognizes that your best effort may vary from day to day and the fruits of these efforts may vary as well. The key that makes this exercise powerful is to stay with it for at least 21 days and not get discouraged.  I have found that asking myself these questions every day actually makes me more conscious of the choices I am making during the day. It helps me pause and ask myself, whether I will stretch to make my commitment. Our power lies in that pause.

What are the most important questions you will ask yourself every day to stay on track with your coaching goals? I welcome you to share your questions with our community and/or find an accountability partner in this exercise for yourself. I welcome you to share this with your team as a great way to build individual and shared accountability.

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How To Choose An Executive Coach Thu, 30 Mar 2017 11:28:38 +0000 As an executive coach, during my first meeting with potential clients, I have found that most leaders don’t quite know the right questions to ask me. When evaluating fit, many people make the mistake of choosing someone that they feel most comfortable with. While chemistry and ease of connection is absolutely necessary, it is not a sufficient factor in selecting a coach. You want to get results in your coaching process. So, ask the right questions. Use the list of questions below to assess fit.

What credentials do you have? You want to make sure that the coach is certified through a certification body such as the International Coaches Federation (ICF). This certification ensures that your coach has the right skills.  Besides their coaching credentials, you may also want to know whether they have experience in your context (e.g. function, level in the hierarchy, industry). In my view, coaching skills are more important than context. Depending on your goals, both skills and context may be important to you.

How do you handle confidentiality? Trust between the leader being coached and the coach is the foundation of a good coaching process. Confidentiality is part of the code of ethics of the profession, but be sure to ask the coach how confidentiality will be handled. This is especially tricky if your coach will be involving stakeholders from your organization in the coaching process. You want to make sure that they discuss with you what they plan to share and get your consent before sharing anything specific.

What’s your coaching experience and success rate with leaders like me? You want to know how long they have been coaching and what kind of success track record have they had with leaders like you. I recommend you share your coaching goals and ask them about their experience in coaching someone with similar goals. You want to listen for confidence but also humility, because no coach can guarantee results. Results depend significantly on your commitment as the leader.

How do you define and measure success in a coaching engagement? This will help you understand how the coach will help you to measure success. In my view, success should be measured in terms of skills and behavior change (e.g. better listening) and the impact of that (e.g. better peer relationships and greater influence in the organization, as demonstrated by getting buy-in to Program X). Success should be assessed not just by the individual being coached but by key stakeholders they want to impact.

What kinds of clients have you had most success with? You want to understand what the coach’s sweet spot is. Many coaches focus on transition coaching (helping people be successful in a new assignment). Others focus at certain levels or skill sets.

What is your typical coaching process and cost? This is the nuts and bolts of what you can expect. How much time commitment will this take? How much will it cost? Do they recommend certain leadership assessments or 360-degree feedback? How often would you meet or talk? How long does the coaching process last? What happens when its not working? A good coach will customize their process to your coaching goals and will educate you in their experience of what works and what doesn’t.

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The HR Tool-Kit For Executive Coaching Success Wed, 22 Mar 2017 00:31:03 +0000 This is a brief description of the tool-kit I have created with input from several HR colleagues at Fortune 500 companies. The tool-kit shares best practices to create an executive coaching program that has impact in your organization.

How Satisfied Are You with Your Executive Coaching Program?

Give your program a rating of 1 (not satisfied at all) to 10 (completely satisfied). Many HR leaders I talk with give their program a rating in the 5–7 range. In fact, according to The 2017 Workplace Learning Report published by LinkedIn, among 500 learning & development (L&D) professionals, less than 25% would be willing to recommend their L&D program to peers. If you find yourself less than 100% satisfied, you owe it to yourself to read this quick guide.

Purpose of this Guide

As an executive coach to senior leaders in Fortune 500 companies, my personal passion is to see these professionals grow into their potential to be transformational leaders. Transformational leaders innovate, inspire, influence, and impact results through the people they lead.

As an HR professional, I know you have that same commitment for growing your leaders. Yet, there are challenges in the process. The purpose of this guide is to help you create greater impact with the leaders in your organization, and to provide you with a simple set of tools to better influence outcomes in the process.

Components of the Tool-Kit

The following are components of the tool-kit:

  • Challenges for the HR leader in the executive coaching process
  • The Top Five Derailers of an executive coaching process
  • Executive Coaching Check-List – Creates the optimal conditions for success in each coaching engagement
  • Executive Coach In-Take Form – A form for you to capture a coach’s info that will help you gauge best fit
  • Ten Ways to Improve Impact of Coaching Engagements – A check-list that helps you get maximum impact
  • The Coachable Leader’s Assessment Tool – A tool for each leader to assess whether they are ready to commit to coaching

My mission is to have every HR person use this tool-kit to improve the outcomes of their coaching process. Please reach out to me if you are interested in receiving the tool-kit. My contact e-mail is

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To Get An Executive Coach or Not? Eight Essential Questions Tue, 21 Mar 2017 16:11:23 +0000 Should you get an executive coach or not? “Well, we don’t have enough money in the budget to do executive coaching, so perhaps a training program may work” I heard an HR colleague say recently. Executive coaching is a significant investment for organizations relative to other options to grow leaders. Organizations also offer less costly mentoring, training, and leadership programs. When is the right time to invest in executive coaching for yourself or someone on your team, and when will training or mentoring be enough?

Here are eight questions I advise my clients to ask themselves to decide whether executive coaching is the right option:

Is the leader someone who is considered high potential or in a high-impact role? Generally, organizations offer executive coaching selectively at the Director, VP-level and above. As individuals get promoted to executive levels, developmental feedback becomes even more important, more infrequent, and less reliable. After all, who wants to tell the emperor they have no clothes? An executive coach can provide much needed truth-telling and impartial perspective that has no agenda other than the growth of the leader to fulfill their mission in the organization.

Does the leader need customized development? Executive coaching offers the opportunity to work one-on-one on issues that are unique to a leader. Each leader has a different set of growth opportunities that will make them more effective in their role. The one-on-one conversations allow for deeper discovery of unique strengths and derailers and development customized to the leader.

Is the leader coachable? At higher levels in organizations, leaders are often stretched for time. They may have a hard time being vulnerable or open to developmental feedback. It’s important to have the conversation with the leader about whether they are willing to be coachable before making the investment in an executive coach.

Does the development need require a sustained change in behaviors? Executive coaching is highly recommended when sustained behavior change is required. Sustained behavior change requires a shift in self-awareness, taking responsibility for your impact as a leader (vs. blaming others), experimentation with new leadership behaviors, and eventually the creation of new neural pathways in the brain that create new leadership habits and different results. This process takes time. A skills-based training course or mentoring does not offer the deeper self-awareness or accountability that a coaching engagement can.

Is the leader’s environment changing significantly to require a step-change in leadership? When there is significant organizational change (restructuring, merger or acquisition, significant market changes or competitive threats, significant changes in peers or manager), the leader can benefit from coaching. They need to step back and reflect on what success looks like in this new environment, and discover the key stakeholders they need to connect with, learn from, and influence. Coaching helps them become self-aware about both the strengths they will bring to being successful in this new environment as well as what can derail them. It also helps them develop new skill sets required and become more agile to change.

Is the leader going through or being prepared for a significant change in responsibilities? Coaching can be helpful if there is a significant shift in responsibilities (people, budget, geographic scope etc.) where new competencies need to be developed. Often, the greater the scope of a leader’s responsibility, the greater the complexity of stakeholders that need to be managed. Strong vision setting, alignment of people and resources, listening, delegating and influencing skills are required.

Is the leader new to the organization or function? Failure to anticipate and adapt to a new culture is the number one reason why otherwise smart leaders derail in new roles. Executive coaching is useful when leaders are going through a stretching transition to a different organization or function. In this case, coaching can help them create a systematic plan to assimilate to the different culture, people, and context they will need to lead in. Often these leaders are brought in to create change in organizations. They may need to develop new skill sets in listening and influencing, or become mindful to the pace of change the organization can absorb.

Is the leader at risk of derailing? Sometimes otherwise high-performing leaders can be at risk of derailing because of a change in their personal circumstances or the business context. In this situation, this leader may not even accept the fact that they are failing because they are used to being a high performer. They may have been given feedback but have been unable to change their behaviors. Executive coaching can help the leader gain self-awareness of their derailers in a new context. It can help them to take responsibility, manage their stress behaviors, or as a last resort, make and own their choice to leave the organization. The leader’s act of taking responsibility from a place of self-awareness can ultimately be useful to the organization and the individual leader.

Please comment and share what are situations not discussed above where executive coaching may be needed. Are there other forms of development that grow leaders that address the issues above?

If you are part of an organization that hires executive coaches, reach out to me for the “Tool-Kit for Executive Coaching Impact“. It helps HR leaders optimize the impact of their executive coaching program.

This post first appeared on my Forbes Leadership blog.

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Seven Commitments Great Bosses Make to Empower Coaching Sun, 05 Mar 2017 15:39:03 +0000 A big part of the success of any executive coaching engagement is the coachability of the leader being coached. The skills of a coach are important too in overcoming the resistance to change that comes up in any coaching engagement. One critical role that is often overlooked is the importance of the boss in empowering impact in coaching.

Often the boss is a busy person with lots of demands on their time and energy. Most likely, they have tried to coach the leader and have not gotten the results they were looking for, so they are happy to delegate this work to the coaching process. Sometimes, they may even be frustrated because they have tried to give feedback and change behaviors and it may not have had impact.

Yet, in the best coaching outcomes I have seen, the boss plays a pivotal role in impacting the outcome of coaching. In the ideal coaching process, the coach, the leader, and their boss are all partners in supporting the growth of the leader. Here are seven powerful commitments a great boss makes.

The Seven Commitments

1) Set the stage for coaching. The boss sets a great stage for coaching success when they let the leader know that their company wants to invest in the leader’s growth and impact. Setting up the coaching as an investment in the leader’s growth rather than an attempt to “fix” behaviors opens up the leader to the learning process, rather than creating fear or defensiveness. The boss asks what support the leader needs from them. They come to a mutual agreement of what each person needs from the other to empower the coaching. Trust grows in the relationship when this happens.

2) Clarify goals. The boss takes the time to think through what the goals of the coaching process are from their perspective. They identify both what the leader does well, as well as what specific two to three behaviors will help the leader be more impactful. They share this upfront with both the leader and the coach.

3) Support the leader to experiment (and learn from failures). The process of growth and experimentation is hard and the leader who is going through coaching has to exercise courage and take risks in trying new behaviors. Like any new task, it may be sloppy before the leader becomes skilled at it. It is the boss’ job to notice the effort, to value the experimentation, and to create a safe space for the leader to experiment and learn from their failures. The best bosses I have seen also share with vulnerability their own failures, growth process, and challenges. They create a safe space for discussion when they do that. They continue to build trust in the relationship.

4) Continue to find reasons to believe in the leader’s success. As the leader is going through the coaching process, the boss speeds up the learning when they catch the leader doing something right! They notice progress, rather than focusing on perfection. New learning happens much more in a supportive environment. It creates further trust and willingness on the part of the leader to stretch outside their comfort zone.

5) Engage other stakeholders. The boss lets other stakeholders (peers, direct reports, HR) in the organization know about their support of the coaching process. They praise the effort they are seeing in public. They also get informal feedback from others about the leader’s growth process, and encourage others to support the leader in it. The stakeholder-centered model is a great way for the boss to support the leader’s growth and encourage stakeholder engagement.

6) Give honest feedback. The boss gives honest feedback (in private) to the leader. They take the time on a monthly basis with 1-on-1’s for the leader to brief them on progress and to provide feedback on what they see working well, and what needs to continue to improve.

7) Create a sustained coaching relationship. At the conclusion of the coaching process, and through the boss’ involvement in it, the boss has now become a more effective coach for the leader, and for others in the organization.

When the boss takes an active role in the coaching process for a leader, the entire organization benefits. The boss creates a learning and coaching culture. Stakeholders start to notice and support the culture and the growth of the leader. And the leader can grow and pay it forward for their people.

Time for a self-assessment. Which of the seven commitments are you willing to make to empower the coaching process? Will you commit to these and share your commitments with the leader being coached?

If you are part of an organization that hires executive coaches, reach out to me for the “Tool-Kit for Executive Coaching Impact“. It helps HR leaders optimize the impact of their executive coaching program.

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