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Executive Coaching

It worked because she realized it was not all about her – it was about everyone else whom she had to lead and she worked at listening, developing her emotional intelligence and letting go.

  • VP, largest division of a major public company
  • Seven direct reports and with numerous external customers
  • Highly successful female executive with liberal arts background, working in a culture of male engineers
1. Coaching Focus:
  • Develop more strategic thinking, transitioning from a tactical, project management frame of reference to developing high potential as a leader
  • Delegate effectively, including decision-making and avoiding tendency to micro-manage
  • Improve staff meeting procedures
  • Gather the facts and respond in a balanced, well-prepared manner, demonstrating leadership
  • Manage time more effectively with less activity and more focus on strategic issues
  • Develop an effective approach to managing up
2. Coachee’s Perceptions of the Outcomes:
  • She worked more effectively with her direct reports, addressing the criticisms raised:
    • Rush to make decisions
    • Unwillingness to listen
    • Lack of self-awareness, self-regulation and empathy
    • Disorganization and poor meeting management (meetings became regularly scheduled and held, far more information sharing. more healthy debate of the issues)
    • Micro-management (a challenge in the culture of exceptional focus on detail, starting with the CEO)
    • Need to become more strategic and focused on leadership behaviors.
  • She significantly improved her ability to manage up effectively to a demanding and imperious division president, who praised her progress, acknowledging the challenge of managing up to him.
  • She disciplined herself not to respond too quickly to situations, focusing on:
    • Utilizing her specialists (rather than herself) to gather the data
    • Sensible push-back on requests for immediate information and details;
    • Care in communicating responses to situations.
  • She extricated herself from operating detail, was able to develop strategic relationships across divisions and became involved in industry-wide issues.
  • She rebuilt relationships with direct reports.
3. Coachee’s Focus Going Forward:
  • Self-awareness and raising level of EI
  • Industry awareness, identifying and working on strategic issues
  • Promoting visibility and relationships at highest levels in the company
  • Slowing down and focusing on priorities
  • Fully delegating, balanced with ongoing accountability from direct reports

It worked because he practiced, he prepared for every meeting, he was thoughtful, he was self-analytical, he got feedback on his progress, he became self-aware. And he was totally committed to significantly improving himself.

  • SVP, General Counsel of a major public company
  • Eight direct reports and with customers across the business units
  • Nationally recognized technical specialist in his field
1. Coaching Objectives:

The coaching objectives were as follows:

  • Improve ability to relate to his staff, motivate them
  • Become an effective coach to direct reports
  • Improve ability to attract, develop and retain talent with benchstrength for succession
  • Become better able to embrace change and lead department through change
  • Complete the transition to highly effective leader and manager

Increasing effectiveness with the first three objectives would improve ability to attract retain, build and benchstrength. More delegation and freedom from unnecessary operational involvement would facilitate focus on the bigger picture and the leadership challenges.

2. Coachee’s Perceptions of the Outcomes:
  • He’s backed off the interrogation style of a lawyer.
  • He’s catching people doing things right.
  • He’s giving positive feedback.
  • He’s been far less picky with unimportant things.
  • He’s allowing his direct reports to be far more prominent in presentations.
  • He’s not correcting his direct reports in front of clients.
  • Instead of telling direct reports what they’re doing wrong, he’s asking them what they think they could have done differently.
  • He is working harder at listening.
  • He is pushing far more responsibility downwards and finding he has more time to be thoughtful and strategic.
  • He’s trying to be more patient.
  • He is working at being more personable.
3. Coachee’s Focus Going Forward:
  • Increasing approachability and being personable
  • Creating ownership and a vested interest in projects
  • Motivating good feeling about what direct reports are doing
  • Providing ongoing feedback
  • Finding development opportunities
  • Not sweating the small stuff

When coaching for success, here are some key points to remember:
  • Do the diagnostics – the homework!
  • Talk to the people – direct reports, peers, manager, and internal customers – and read the most recent 360.
  • What are the derailers? What actions, behaviors or attitudes are getting in the way of success?
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In reflecting on the successful coaching assignments I’ve had over the years, I’ve noticed that there’s a breakthrough moment that occurs during the relationship—typically at the time when I review findings from the 360 interviews and behavioral assessments and work with the coachee to relate them to specific events or incidents. It’s a moment marked by a growing self-awareness and a change in mindset on the part of the coachee toward me and the overall process. Self-awareness is critical since, as Dr. Daniel Goleman points out, this is the “cornerstone of leadership” and progress flows from this point.

What are the self-realizations by the coachee that I’ve found lead to success? Here are my TOP TEN:

  1. I want this coaching assignment to be successful. I see it as a unique opportunity in my professional development, and for my growth and continued success.
  2. I am willing to recognize key areas for improvement or refinement.
  3. I am committed to change my leadership/management style and my behaviors as a result of this opportunity.
  4. I need to be aware of the impact of my moods, actions, words and behaviors on others (I need to be self-aware, emotionally intelligent!).
  5. I will identify those experiences or situations that resulted in unfavorable outcomes and share them objectively with my coach. I will also discuss awkward or challenging situations in which I’m currently involved to ensure I’m best prepared to manage these effectively.
  6. I will report back to my coach on what is working and what isn’t so we can determine the actions and behaviors required to do it differently and more effectively.
  7. I will be open with my direct reports that I am working with an executive coach and will share the key things I’m working on. I’ll also ask them to let me know when I’m not getting it right and give clear indicators that it’s safe to do so through my responses.
  8. My manager needs to be part of the process and to reinforce the lessons learned. This should continue after the assignment has ended.
  9. After the assignment, my coach needs to check in from time to time and ask the tough questions to keep me on track.
  10. Bottom line, I’m going to change!

Based on your own experiences, whether as a coach, coachee or having engaged coaches for direct reports or others, I’d like to know what you think about my TOP TEN list.

One of the more challenging and rewarding services PSG provides is in the area of executive coaching. Each assignment is unique, requiring creativity in approach and a recognition that answers often lie beyond the obvious.

Recently, we were asked to help a group controller in a large international company save his career. He had a brilliant financial mind and his rise through the ranks had been meteoric. Responsible for the preparation and analysis of quarterly reports to the CEO and Board of Directors, part of his job required him and his department to work with the business units in processing 47 different sets of financials.

Diagnostic discussions revealed that executives at the business units perceived him as an ambitious, driving and self-serving, single-mindedly focused on his own advancement to the exclusion of all others. They also experienced situations where they were blindsided and caught “doing things wrong.” In short, there were no relationships and no collaboration.

At the same time, we found a man bored with the mundane and, in his mind, ten steps ahead intellectually of his colleagues and direct reports. There was also no recognition of the need to provide customer service to the operating units that supplied the quarterly numbers. The resulting attitude of his department was demanding, critical and uncompromising.

His management style and attitudes were poisoning the work environment, and it was obvious, without intervention, his future with the company would be derailed.

Our findings required a shift from the more conventional coaching role related to management style to the broader spectrum of issues. The outcomes were as follows:

  • The controller’s recognition of the issues and his wholehearted commitment to move rapidly to address them;
  • Successful efforts to build collaborative relationships with the presidents and staffs of the business units;
  • Resolving system problems in the department;
  • A shift in focus by the department to provide quality customer service and facilitation, as opposed to demands;
  • Increased focus on the basics of performance management in terms of reporting and accountability, ongoing feedback and coaching, and addressing issues raised by direct reports and department professionals.

Following an extremely intensive coaching relationship, there was a dramatic turnaround in the perceptions of colleagues, including the HR department which was tracking progress.

The impact on the controller? While the changes are still a work-in-progress, this coaching initiative has put his career back on track with favorable implications for the business units and prospects of greater effectiveness, efficiency and improved morale within his own department.

There are numerous similar situations in most companies in various functional areas. It doesn’t have to be in accounting. If you’d like to chat about these kinds of challenges, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

In recognizing the significance of emotional intelligence, Daniel Goleman’s pioneering work, Working with Emotional Intelligence, has spawned an industry of consultants and coaches. This is appropriate! Research has shown that productivity and performance increase dramatically in control groups where managers or front line supervisors are trained in emotional intelligence skills.

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