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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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!

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

Developing Future Leaders in Environment & Energy

One of my highlights from 2009 was heading up Paragon Leadership’s Environment & Energy Epprentice Leadership Experience.  A nice summary is posted on one of our non-profit partner’s web sites, the Michigan Municipal League.

One of the coaching strategies we utilized, often referred to as ‘action learning’ put a diverse team of energy professionals and students to work on a real world challenge.  And while they worked through their ‘green’ challenge, I was their guide on the side, helping them to bring forth their best ability to influence and lead – individually and as a team.

The rigor was intense, therefore the learning opportunity was also.  By not telling the team what to do, but helping them with coaching tactics such as:  offering ideas, providing a structure for giving feedback to each other, stopping the action and giving them time and questions to be reflective, participants can decide for themselves the best way to approach leadership.  Learning by doing is one of life’s best way’s of teaching.  Most of us wouldn’t have learned how to ride a bike if not for this.  I consider the role of a coach to be helping the new rider beside the bike until they have the feel of balance and can zoom off on their own.

In today’s fast paced world, there is a need more and more for people who can think and act quickly to get things done and bring people together to solve problems.  By doing this for emerging leaders who are impacting our environment, it is truly rewarding, all the way around.

Resolutions vs. INTENTIONS. Is there really a difference?

Intention defined: A course of action that a person intends to follow; The goal or purpose behind a specific action or set of actions  en.wiktionary.org/wiki/intention

Intent defined: The purpose of something that is intended; The state of someone’s mind at the time of committing an act; Firmly fixed or concentrated on something; Engrossed; Unwavering from a course of action en.wiktionary.org/wiki/intent

Resolution defined: a decision to do something or to behave in a certain manner; ordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

Resolute defined:

  • firm in purpose or belief; characterized by firmness and determination; “stood resolute against the enemy”; “faced with a resolute opposition”; “a …
  • unhesitating: characterized by quickness and firmness; “his reply was unhesitating”
    wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

Under closer examination, I don’t see much difference between intentions or resolutions.  Before exploring these differences, and because New Year’s Resolutions have a bad reputation, I decided to start my year off with intentions instead.  It always seems cool in yoga when we have to ‘set an intention’ for the class. I love the way forcing myself to get focused for that hour makes me feel during the class and how I carry that with me the rest of the day.

But really, isn’t the key not what we call them, but rather what we do with them? Both intentions and resolutions require conscious action which is what I am committing myself to in 2010 and what I hope to contribute to those I interact with as well.  Whatever I am doing, my goal is to be fully present so I can make the best choices possible for what I do and say.

That’s it. Plain and simple – to be awake for 2010 with intention and resolution.

No going through the motions just to get through something;  reduce the time I spend behaving on autopilot and stay on manual drive where I consciously choose the way I act and carefully measure the words I use; be aware of ALL that surrounds me not just what is in front of me.  I know from past experience that when I do this – I am a better and happier person.  I know from my executive coaching practice that when my clients do this, new possibilities emerge and better results get accomplished.  The tough part is doing it most of the time vs. some.


Conscious action:  I think I will call this my ‘ intentsolution’ for 2010.


Hello 2010 and Why I Finally Decided to Start Blogging

I saw Tom Brokow on a recent year-end interview commenting about what he thought the theme of this new decade would be and it really resonated with me.  He said he thinks the world is in need of ‘resetting’ itself and that if we choose to work together, we can take the challenges facing us and really create some positve and better conditions for people and our planet.  The choice is ours.

So as I embark on resetting my outlook and behavior this first day of 2010 (and the decade I’ll spend in my 50’s which I am sure will come up from time to time in my blogs as I approach that big milestone in October), I couldn’t think of a better theme to begin my journey into blogging with.

I have resisted this for some time.  But now, I can’t resist.

I’m not one to crave attention.  Blogs feel very showy to me and for people who need the limelight and public praise for who they are.  This may be true for some,but surely not all who blog are ego maniacs.  Anyone keeping up with trends, which I like to think I do, knows that blogs are becoming an integral means to branding, marketing and selling products and services.  Social media is here to stay so I am surrendering to this cultural phenomenon.

And beyond business purposes, blogs are a fantastic tool for having a say in the world, using our voices to make an impact on whatever is important to us. Now THIS part of blogging gets my attention and ties right into why Tom Brokow’s comments hit home with me.

I have alot to say about things like leadership in today’s world drawing upon my work in executive coaching.  Living with a chronic disease such as Mulitiple Sclerosis which I’ve had for 11 years.  Parenting two daughters, ages 17 and 21 and preparing them for a world far different than the one I was raised in.  Living in Michigan – soon to be one of the poorest states in the country. And these are just a few of the many things that intend to blog about.

I already feel different about this year.  I can’t help but think that being part of the global dialogue on issues I care about will help me reset some ways I think and act.  Since I help my clients to do this as an executive coach, it can only be good practice for me to challenge myself too.

This was fun.  Talk to you soon!

PS – thanks to my sister Kathleen, head of sales for Storyteller Productions in Minneapolis.  She was my inspiration to get this going.  They do this for lots of clients and getting some free advice sure was a bonus!