Secrets to Maximizing Your Investment in a Executive Coach

I have the honor to coach some pretty sharp people in the corporate world.  It is a special role to serve as their guide on the side on their journey toward leadership excellence in the name of getting great business results.  I get paid to push them out of their comfort zone so that they can grow.  I am successful if they have some self realizations that motivate them to try new things.  I am effective when I can show them new ways to work toward their goals.  I am rewarded when my clients are energized to discover more potential in themselves than they knew before and contribute that to make a difference.

I am always very mindful in my work of the investment a company is making in the clients I work with.  Today,  time is an even more precious resource than the dollars being spent.  Time spent in coaching better be worth it!

Yet too often, I am of the belief, value is left on the table.  I reflect on this when I have had a great session with a client where both me and the client are feeling really challenged, energized and connected.  Why don’t I feel this with ALL my clients?  I want to be soaked for all I am worth – all I have to offer.  This is what I sign up for when I work with a client.  Most clients start off saying they want that from me too.  Yet sometimes, I see that behavior peter out.  The client THINKS they are working hard, but from my seat, they could be doing so much more to maximize the value I can offer.

So I would like to give anyone working with or thinking of working with an executive coach some suggestions for how to make this investment in leadership coaching really worth your while – at least if you work with me anyway.

  1. Know the WHAT: Have some specific, measurable results you can measure your coaching experience to.  We should both be aware of the intended impact you desire to create and keep our sites set on that in every interaction.  If you aren’t getting the results you want – challenge the coach.  Aim for results that are direct and indirect – not just one or the other.
  2. Know the HOW: get focused on a few very specific behaviors that you want to grow and that support your goals.  We can’t change your personality, but we can help you change a behavior if you really want to.
  3. Push the learning envelope: Challenge your coach to fill you with ideas to the extent that you can handle, for how to enhance the behaviors you are working on.  We have a plethera of resources.  Challenge your coach to dig into our resources and find the best – the best book, the best chapter, the best article, the best role model to study,  until you can’t handle the input you get.
  4. Practice: Engage your coach practice new behaviors with you – more than once.  Role playing is one of our best tools for preparing you for a real situation in advance.  It works. Invite the coach to watch you do new skills in real life.  We can give you so much better feedback when we see you in action than just talking about what to do.
  5. Show up: Even if you aren’t prepared for your coaching session, keep the appointment.  There is always a conversation to have that will make a difference.  Of course you are busy and things come up to get you off course.  But the rigor in the coaching schedule that you agreed to upfront was designed to help you stay focused on your goals.  Missing coaching sessions prolongs your route to success.
  6. Be laser focused:  Get to the heart of what is important to you as soon as you can in the coaching session.  An average session is only an hour.  Tell it to the coach like you see it as efficiently as you can.  General updates are helpful, but keep it quick.  We want to get to the meat of the session as soon as you are ready, but we set the pace by your readiness.
  7. Monitor progress: Don’t wait longer than 3 months before you do a review of how the coaching process has benefited you.  Seek feedback from people who interact with you frequently about how they percieve your progress.  Review the results of the What and the How.  If you aren’t seeing a positive trend within 3 months, ideally in both, that you can validate with some objective data, you should change direction, or maybe the coach.
  8. Be courageous: Try new things and sometimes, try some REALLY new things.  There is no better time than when working with a coach to test your limits.  Life is short and our habits run deep.  You and your coach will find it exhillerating to hit a home run in addition to some base hits.

I could come up with more, but these are top of mind when I feel like a client is using me up.  Put some serious rigor in your coaching relationship and get some huge ROI for your investment.

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Venturing Into the Land of Linchpins and New Networking

Tonight I made history!

Maybe you’re already a fan of author Seth Godin or you’ve just heard rumblings about his new book Linchpin, and maybe you were courageous enough to be part of a world-wide meet up event tonight of linchpins. Meetups were organized across the globe, including one in Novi, Michigan that I elected to organize.

I took the reigns to coordinate a local Linchpins are Everywhere (Raise the Flag) Meetup. Linchpin is all about how to make yourself invaluable in what you do in your work, whether you are in a large company or on your own.  With all the economic challenges we face in Michigan, it was inspiring to see a group of people come together because they want to make a difference in their work and help others to do the same.

Almost 800 different linchpin meet up groups had established events – all around the world.  This is the history making point I made at the start of this post. I found out about the Linchpins meetups by subscribing to Seth Godin’s blog, and was inspired to organize one because networking with like minded people has always been a key to my success and a strategy I’ve preached for years to others. Even though only a few of had read Linchpin, the key themes of the book are practical and easy to share.  Seth Godin just made it easy and effortless to organize linchpins so I couldn’t resist joining in!

I wasn’t disappointed and will write soon about key take aways.  Stay tuned!

Can We Sustain This Pace?

I was at a meeting last week and a very successful executive with GM made the statement, “we can’t sustain this pace.”

We never got back to discussing this, but the statement has haunted me since.  What will happen if we can’t sustain the frenetic, long hours, and need for hard thinking all the time pace many of us find ourselves in right now?  Like really, what will happen?

That’s why this article in the Huffington post caught me eye on the biological need for our bodies to take a break every 90 minutes.

Now – if we only figure out how to shorten the amount of hours we work or reduce our work loads.  Looking for the next best idea about this!

Courageous Leaders Are Scary!!

Courageous leaders dare to go where others do not.  They have the ability to forge new trails, face the unknown, and act decisively.   It’s not that they don’t feel fear, but they are able to move past it, usually inspired by the potential to do something important for people.  In today’s complex business world, most would argue that we need all the courageous leaders we can find right now.

That is unless you are the boss of a courageous leader and you are accountable for this leader’s results.  Courageous leaders typically do not dwell on doubts about how things will turn out.  That is what helps them be able to act so boldly.  But the bosses job is to mitigate risk for the company and you aren’t sure your courageous leader even SEES risk.

Scariness factors: What if risks are under attended to or unmanaged and I end up looking responsible?  What will top management think of my leadership when she is getting all the attention?

Or,  what about working for a courageous leader and having to follow this leader into battle?  Scary!  Courageous leaders seek battles because they know that is where the action is to change, improve or start something.  They can’t wage big battles alone so call in their team.  If you are on this team, and the initiative you are working on is big, bold and different, it is guaranteed your comfort zones will be pushed and fear will rise up.

Scariness factors: Who will protect me if this project goes bad?  What happens to my bonus or performance rating if I can’t do my part?  Why do I feel like I am going to walk off a cliff?

Courageous leaders I work with face these scenarios routinely.  The successful ones realize they evoke fear all around them and put strategies in place to manage this.  Those who struggle forget to do this and often find themselves in trouble with upper management, dealing with under performing team members, alienating colleagues and numerous other derailers.

What are you doing to manage being so scary?

10 Essential Blogs for Creative Entrepreneurs

10 Essential Blogs for Creative Entrepreneurs.

As the blogoshpere expands by the day, I am finding more and more value in cruising different blogs to get information to bring into my work and share with others. I’ve resisted spending more time on my computer doing this because I spent alot of time already working on the computer to keep my business afloat. But I am challenging myself to get over that paradigm.

I’ve never been an “early adopter’ of technology so this may seem pretty basic to those who are already very blog savvy.  But my hunch is that those are the minority and many executives have yet to embrace how to leverage the blogosphere.

Once I find a blog that has content I find interesting and useful, I am subscribing to it.  I am now getting some worth while content in my in box to stimulate my thinking, inspire me to reflect and that connects me with ideas and resources from around the world.  This is pretty darn cool.  Although I am still trying to find my way through information overload, I am realizing the value of blogs more and more.

I hope you like this one!

Why We Need To Cultivate Relationships in Person

As an Executive Coach, I am not able to reveal information about my clients.  So this reference has names changed to protect their confidentiality…………

I was recently reminded how important face to face interaction is with people you work with.  That sounds pretty basic, but in our virtual and global world, it seems like a luxury any more.

My executive client was visited by his CEO this week, who is headquartered in Europe.  Past conversations with this CEO were nothing like what I experienced him to be like in person.  What seemed like an off-putting style is really warm and engaging.  Email and phone conversations, and not many of either, had formed an impression that this CEO was really a hard-edged, cold person – far from the personable and down to earth person he showed me yesterday.

I KNOW my attitude towards this CEO influenced some of my coaching perspective and if we had not met, likely to a detriment to my client. I can only imagine what he thought about me before meeting me!

Moral of the story – don’t let virtual perceptions be your only information about someone you must work with.  Strive for in-person encounters as soon as you can in the relationship.  It will pay dividends later!

Getting ME Out of My Way

A popular Seth Godin Blog is called Safe is Risky and was recently routed to me by a family member.

I found myself reflecting on Seth’s blog and how fast this year is going – we are almost a quarter of the way through 2010.  As I make my climb toward making 2010, as I inwardly refer to it, as  “My Best Year Yet”, I wonder if I am in fact, still playing it safe or if I am doing what it takes to become what I want to really become, vs. what I think I must do or limited by what I only know to do.

I decided my Best Year Yet would be defined by playing bigger, bolder, smarter, and still having balance, fun, wellness and peace of mind.  My vision includes elements like ………more financial profitability;  challenging new executive coaching experiences that stretch my capacity and make a bigger impact;  10 life experiences I will enjoy telling about years later ……… to name a few.

I have my plan, a support team stoking me to perform in weekly “possibility” calls, and am knee-deep in action. I would give myself an “A” for effort and some glimmer of results.  Then, I reread this excerpt from Seth:  “

You have more freedom at work than you think (hey, you’re reading this on company time!) but most people do nothing with that freedom but try to get an A.

I have a nagging feeling that I am working harder at getting an A than exercising my freedom to REALLY choose things that REALLY light me up AND propel me towards My Best Year Yet, heck, the best life ever!  It’s so easy to get in a groove of comfortable choices, and fall back on ways of being and doing that I am used to.  Or, is it easier said than done?  Probably a little of both.

I think the way to realizing my vision is going to be because I do some game changing things.  This blog was meant to be one of those and yet, my last post was over a month ago.  What happened?  Why did I stop?

After spending a weekend with my social media guru sister and owner of Story Teller Productions, I recommitted to my vision of playing bigger in the blogosphere.  This should, according to my sister and other authorities in social media like the best-selling book Crush It, by Gary Vaynerchuck, help me spread my value to others in new and bigger ways, and potentially lead me to amazing adventures beyond my wildest imagination.  If I don’t stick with it, I’ll never know what this new phenomenon of social media can do to support me in achieving my goals.

The biggest thing in my way, is ME.  Now – on to surfing other blogs to post some comments!

Paradigm Shifting: Can’t Get Enough in Today’s Dynamic World

I LOVE creativity like this and I hope you do too!  How simple!  How profound!  How can you turn something you are working on from ho-hum and business as usual, to something provocative that really gets the brain working?
I’ve got some ideas.  What are yours?????
View more presentations from Tara Hunt.

Domino’s Changing the Game – Great Strategy for New CEO

Domino’s is getting pretty good reviews for having the courage to face the feedback from their customers that their pizza crust tastes like cardboard and the sauce has no flavor.  That’s not what interests me the most about this new marketing campaign.  Check it out and then read on.  Domino’s turn around.

What many people may not realize is that this is the first big leadership move for Domino’s new CEO who happens to be following in the foot steps of two giant leaders – Dave Brandon and before him, Tom Monahan.  What a way to promote the brand of the company AND the new leader in a big, innovative way.

Taking advantage of social media, new CEO Patrick Doyle has already claimed his own change strategy to all the world.  This is not small feat for someone who has been an ‘insider’ to Domino’s since 1997.  And he hasn’t even  taken the reigns. I know I will be sharing this with my transition coaching clients for months to come as we watch how things pan out for Doyle.  I think odds are in his favor.

Some might argue that this strategy works for a consumer-based company.  I would argue that  C-level leaders taking a new role could take some lessons from Doyle and watch how innovative communication strategies can be powerful ways to gain followership and some quick, early wins.

Managing Feedback: Do You Have The Guts To See Yourself As Others Do

For many executives, January is the time of year to refocus your organization on the goals ahead for a successful year.  A fantastic strategy to set the foundation for a high performance organization is to look at the past year and evaluate what worked, what didn’t go so well and how things could be changed to do better.  360 degree feedback is a powerful tool to assist with that analysis, and as an Executive Coach, I support leaders with this process very frequently.

When used properly, gathering feedback about how others percieve you, can be a game changing experience.  Several clients I am working with right now have me worried however.  It seems likely that although they were willing participants or initiators of the feedback gathering, they are treating the data that has come back with a teflon shield and letting the learning value roll right off their backs like water on a duck.

One leader is on the cusp of being fired and this feedback process is being offered to him to help him turn things around.  When reviewing stakeholder feedback with him, I didn’t get one impression he is willing to accept others perceptions as possible realities.  He had an explanation for everything vs. taking ownership that his actions cause some negative reactions – especially with his boss!  Avoiding the reality of how others experience him is likely going to turn him OUT of his company vs. turn his career IN his company around.

Another executive I am working with has just been promoted to heading up a mid-sized company.  Strong feedback has been shared with him about some of his leadership characteristics that either annoy others or cause people to tune him out.  His credibility is on the line which could affect followership and executive sponsorship.  My bet is he will work hard to manage this perception, but it won’t be as easy as he thinks to change his style.

Both leaders are praised for their technical acumen.  Yet both leaders are not considered as successful as they could be and others want them to be because of leadership behaviors that not aligned with company expectations.  Quality feedback is on their doorstep.  It’s up to them what they choose to do with it. I’ll update you in the days ahead how things go for each of them.

For suggestions on how to give and receive feedback, here’s a great article written by the Management Research Group, a global assessment company I use in my coaching practice.  It’s titled:  Accepting Feedback, Altering Behavior: The Achilles Heel of Human Development