Book of the Week: Coaching for Leadership

Coaching for Leadership“Coaching for Leadership: How the World’s Greatest Coaches Help Leaders Learn”, edited by Goldsmith, Lyons and Freas.

This is a collection of essays by some of the top executive coaches in the country. It provides a chance to view leadership coaching from a number of perspectives. Some are excellent, and some are little more than ads for a service or product. It took me a long time to work through this book, partially because of its uneven quality, and these notes became a little more discriminating as I went along; I started noting only things that struck me or seemed important. All in all, I don’t recommend the book.

Part One – Foundations of Coaching
Coaching for Behavioral Change by Marshall Goldsmith

  1. Identify important behavioral attributes for successful leaders in the position you are coaching. (Inventories available from Andersen Consulting Global Leader of the Future, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, and the Center for Creative Leadership.
  2. Determine who can provide meaningful feed back to the leader.
  3. Collect feedback – usually in a written, anonymous survey compiled by an outside party into summary report for the leader.
  4. Analyze results – talk about it!
  5. Develop an action plan. Ask the leader to generate alternative behaviors that could help.
  6. Have the leader respond to stakeholders. Should talk with members of her team and gather additional suggestions for improvement in key areas.
  7. Develop an ongoing follow-up process, possibly using a two- to six-item mini-survey to stakeholders assessing change in key behaviors.
  8. Review and repeat quarterly for 12 to 18 months.

Part Two – Role and Identity
Coaching and Consultation: Are They the Same? By Edgar Schein

Dr . Schein is the Sloan Fellows Professor of Management Emeritus at the MIT Sloan School of Management. I’ve noted his HBR article “The Anxiety of Learning” already. To Dr. Schein, coaching is one aspect of consulting. Coaching is primarily one-to-one, but can be done for a team. He identifies three fundamentally different roles:

  1. provider of expert information,
  2. diagnostician and prescriber of remedies, and
  3. process consultant focused on helping the client help herself.

He suggests a coach should be able to move freely among the roles, but should begin in the process mode, and must first establish a helping relationship of trust. Then the coach can help the client establish a set of behaviors that enable new ways of seeing, feeling about, and behaving in problematic situations.

Dr . Schein notes that the goal of coaching can be anything from very concrete skills (learning a new computer system) to very abstract reshaping of mental models (broader strategic vision). He notes that regardless of the concreteness of the skill, the helping relationship must still be established, and suggests that trainers (e.g., for new computer systems), often fail to establish that relationship and thus have no sensitivity to the difficulties particular learners are experiencing.

When Leaders Are Coaches by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner
James Kouzes is chairman emeritus of the Tom Peters Company which specializes in developing leaders. Dr. Posner is dean of the Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University. Together, the have written The Leadership Challenge: How to Keep Getting Extraordinary Things Done in Organizations (1995) with over a million copies in print, and Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose it, Why People Demand It (2d Ed. 1995), Encouraging the Heart (1999) and The Leadership Challenge Planner (1999).

These authors report that their research has shown that the best leaders are caring leaders who:

  1. set clear standards,
  2. expect the best, and
  3. set the example.

Leadership must be heart-to-heart. It must be caring. And part of caring is setting clear standards comprised of values and goals. Values are enduring principles; goals are short-term ambitions that provide a way to measure progress.

The author’s have found that it is the clarity of personal values that makes a difference in the individual’s level of commitment to an organization. Perhaps this is because an individual without clear personal values cannot really be committed to the organization’s values or goals.

Expecting the best includes individual encouragement, but also challenging one’s own and the organization’s assumptions about the capabilities of those involved. Limiting assumptions lead to minimal opportunities to contribute. Enabling assumptions put folks in positions where they can succeed, and helps and supports them in that effort. But, the corollary of being able to succeed is that there must also be the possibility of failure. As noted above, goals provide a way of measuring progress.

Coaches should set the example, and primarily this means investing in the relationship. Leaders must embody qualities and values followers admire, the first of which is credibility. The first law of leadership is “Do what you say you will do.” The second is to make it personal – connect with individuals, give those you lead the gift of personal time. And, finally, set a positive emotional tone; don’t be a downer!

Team Building without Time Wasting by Marshall Goldsmith and Howard Morgan
Both authors are directors of Keilgy, Goldsmith & Company (customized leadership development). Here they present a 14-step process for a team to decide if team building is necessary and, if so, to get it done.

  1. Team members confidentially answer: “On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being ideal), how well are we doing in terms of working together as a team?”
  2. “On a 1 to 10 scale, how well do we need to be doing in terms of working together as a team?”
  3. Score. Discuss results, and decide if team building needed.
  4. Ask “If every team member could change two key behaviors that would help us close the gap between where we are and where we want to be, which two behaviors should we all try to change?” Record on flip chart.
  5. Help team prioritize and, by consensus, pick two.
  6. Each team member has five-minute dialog with every other team member during which each partner in the conversation asks the other to change two additional behaviors that will help the team close the gap.
  7. Each team member reviews the list of suggestions she received, and chooses two. All team members announce their two key behaviors for personal changed. Encourage team members to ask for five-minute monthly “progress reports” from all other team members on their effectiveness in demonstrating the two key behaviors common to all team members and the two key personal behaviors, with specific suggestions for improvement if needed.
  8. Four-months in, conduct post-card sized mini-survey for each team member on the two common and two personal behaviors. The effectiveness of the team member in these behaviors can be rated from a -3 less effective through 0 for no change and +3 for increased effectiveness, with options for “No Change Needed” and “Not Enough Information.” Also provide a spot to rate efforts to follow-up and suggestions for the team member to become more effective.
  9. Have an outsider calculate the results for each item for each individual and a summary for the team, and prepare a confidential summary report for each member on the team’s perception of his personal increased effectiveness in demonstrating desired behavior, and the team’s summary.
  10. Hold a team meeting for each member to discuss key learnings from the mini-survey and ask for further suggestions in brief one-on-one dialog with each member.
  11. Review the summary results. Facilitate discussion on how the team is doing in improving effectiveness on two key behaviors. Acknowledge accomplishment and encourage continued effort.
  12. Team members continue monthly progress report sessions. Re-administer mini-survey at eight months.
  13. At one year, re-administer mini-survey and conduct summary session. Rate where we are and where we need to be again and compare to original ratings. Recognize improvement, and have each team member in brief one-on-one dialogs recognize each colleague for improvement.
  14. Ask if more work on team building needed during the next year. If so, repeat process. If not, declare victory and work on something else.

Becoming a Coach for the Teams You Lead by Thomas G. Crane
The author’s belief, as expressed in the title of the book which develops the concepts in this article, The Heart of Coaching, is that the mind-set of leader’s must change from “boss” to “coach” for an organization to achieve its highest levels of performance.

A number of beliefs can prevent a leader from adopting a coaching outlook, including fear of failure, fear of the personal connection and self-revelation that’s part of coaching, fear of losing “control”, a belief that short-term results are more important than the long-term development of team members, and that coaching isn’t “real work.” And, although it’s not mentioned in this book, I suspect that some strength sets (Now, Discover Your Strengths) adapt to coaching more readily than others.

Mr. Crane suggests that the coaching mindset is one that recognizes that the work gets done through the team and that the leader does not have all the answers and that team members will be more effective if allowed to discover answers for themselves. Coaches should have a significant amount of knowledge, skills, and experience from which to share, but they aren’t the sole source of any of these.

Coaching, of course, focuses on change. Coaches assume that their folks are capable and want to contribute, that mistakes and failures are rarely intentional and should be treated as opportunities to learn, and that each team member’s own beliefs about themselves and their capacities may limit them from full effectiveness.

Coaches support team members in their own efforts to change into better, more effective people – and such change is never limited solely to work. Its effects flow into all aspects of the team members’ lives. So, for those who find assistance and support for their own growth at work, those “non-work” benefits support the change process at work.

Coaches also recognize the resistance all of us have to putting someone else in control of our lives. And, we accept input and support only from those we trust. Once that relationship is established, we can accept and even seek the clear feedback we need to improve.

How to Make the Most of the Coaching Relationship for the Person Being Coached by Don Grayson and Kerry Larson
Drs. Grayson and Larson, both experienced coaches, identify six common pitfalls for the person being coached:

  1. Failure to commit: possibly stemming from a perception of suggestion of coaching as punishment, distrust of the boss’s motives, or lack of understanding or acceptance of the reason for coaching. Failure to commit can result in aggression or a game-playing ritual of going through the motions. The opposite of failure to commit is perception of coaching as an opportunity to learn and to prepare.
  2. Unrealistic expectations: including a belief that behavior change will be easy, quick, can be accomplished for multiple behaviors simultaneously, and will result in specific organizational rewards. Rather, patience, focus, persistence, and a pursuit of growth for its own sake set the stage for the most successful coaching experience. A good discussion of objectives and expectations with the coach can help.
  3. Defensiveness: in the form of rationalization, blaming, and denial. “For coaching to be successful, the person being coached must be brutally honest about his or her strengths and limitations.” P. 124.
  4. Passivity: kills growth. Coaches don’t do the work; they guide the person being coached in doing the work. Personal change takes personal effort.
  5. Playing it safe: based on fear, either of the requirements of change such as openness with the coach or of the change itself, can lead to self-limiting actions such as picking improvements too easily achieved, while leaving the fundamental problem unresolved. For example, someone who resists delegating because of a fear of honest, even confrontational conversations with team members might select time management as a skill to improve rather than facing the issue that is causing the overload. Note that the suggestions in some of the other chapters about getting feedback from others in the coaching process might make it more difficult to ignore the most important issues.
  6. Failure to involve others: keeps the input mentioned above, the feedback on change they could give, and their support out of the process. Embarrassment or a belief that the suggestion of coaching is a form of punishment can cause the person being coached to hide the relationship from team members. But, if coaching is an accepted, expected, and virtually universal part of the culture, then some aspects of this problem go away.

Starting Smart: Clarifying Coaching Goals and Roles by Robert Witherspoon

Four types of executive coaching

  • For skills (e.g., new accounting system) “I need to sharpen my skills for ….” “I know how, but don’t always do it well.”
  • For performance (current job) “There’s pressure to improve.” “I need to do a better job at …. “I’m not aware of my impact on ….” “I haven’t made a commitment to doing it well.”
  • For development (future job) “I’m being groomed ….” “I’m being promoted to ….”
  • For executive’s agenda (personal or organizational) “It’s lonely at the top.” “I need a talking partner for ….” “I’m facing a big challenge at ….”
  • Core Values: Valid information, Informed choice, Internal commitments

Part Three – Moments and Transitions

Leadership Transition

  • Work with outgoing leader if possible
  • Internal and external, and personal (family, friends, community)
  • Articulate needs and importance of stakeholders
  • Prioritize, schedule, and address needs
  • Combined response where possible
  • Specific behaviors

Engage team in strategy, priority and planning right from the start

  • Outside facilitator
  • Works with team to
  • Generate questions for you
  • Provide information about themselves
  • Outline key challenges
  • Facilitator briefs new leader on collected feedback
  • Meet with team and facilitator to respond to feedback
  • Immediately after, leader and facilitator review commitment made and actions to be taken
  • Six months later, leader asks team to provide facilitator with an assessment of its functioning as a group, how leader is fitting in, what leader is doing best, what she should do more or less of, and what she’s not doing but should start. Meet with team and facilitator and respond.

Leadership Development Process

  • Assess
  • Instrument
  • 360 degree feedback
  • coach-conducted interviews
  • Plan
  • One or two high-impact areas
  • Leader-selected
  • Identify benefits for leader
  • Public Announcement
  • Except for rare situations
  • May best be informal, but explicit
  • “I plan to work on …. Do you have any suggestions?”
  • Implement
  • Developmental activities
  • Seek informal feedback every 60 days or so
  • “Have you noticed any progress…?”
  • Assessment
  • Same or different
  • Usually no sooner than six months

Re-Grooving Critical Behavior by David Allen

Goal: Automatic performance under pressure

  • Unconscious Incompetence: don’t know that you don’t know
  • Conscious Incompetence: know what, not how
  • Conscious Competence: know how, can, but must focus
  • Unconscious Competence: mindful only of absence, automatic

Career Development – Anytime, Anyplace by Beverly Kaye

  • Signals:
  • Demonstrates new skill
  • Seeks feedback
  • Thinks about change
  • Poor job fit
  • Has looked (frustrated)
  • Verbalize Support:
  • Would you like to do more?
  • Specific awareness. How does it feel to you?
  • Give information. Ask about interest.
  • Ask about his or her perceptions.
  • Is that something that would really interest you?
  • Mobilize Employee:
  • Suggest more applications or enhancement of skill
  • Suggest further contribution in that area
  • Point to more info or request proposal
  • Offer to work for better fit somewhere
  • Suggest progress steps

Part Four – Practice and Techniques of Coaching

Situational Leadership and Performance Coaching by Paul Hersey and Roger Chevalier

The authors categorize “followers” in four groups according to “readiness” for a task:

  1. R4: Able and Willing or Confident
  2. R3: Able but Unwilling or Insecure
  3. R2: Unable but Willing or Confident
  4. R1: Unable and Unwilling or Insecure

They recommend leadership styles for these categories:

  1. S4: Low Relationship, Low Task
  2. S3: High Relationship, Low Task
  3. S2: High Relationship, High Task
  4. S1: Low Relationship, High Task

Otherwise, this chapter is mostly an encouragement to seek out products with which the authors are associated.

Coaching Leaders with 3X3 Feedback by Bert Decker

Give feedback in 3X3 structure:

  • 3 strengths (keepers)
  • 3 weaknesses (targets for improvement)

Note that the author phrases weaknesses feedback as observational statements of behavior, e.g. “E-mail and computer skills are poor” or “Often interrupt meetings to answer phone calls.” While this is symmetrical with the behavioral observations share for strengths, it strikes me as the equivalent of “You’re dropping your bow arm” instead of “Push your bow hand through the target until the arrow hits.” Mr. Decker suggests three key characteristics of leadership: Communicate, Competent, and Caring.

  • Communicate: Listen. Speak with confidence and certainty. Show energy. Smile. Listen.
  • Competent: Focus. Set goals. Specific, physical, time-oriented, and measurable. Repeat the vision, mission goals. Repeat. Act … collaboratively!
  • Care: Spend time with people. Listen. Know names.

Interpersonal Techniques for Leaders by Judith Bardwick

Dr . Bardwick discusses how eight interpersonal counseling skills can help address issues with significant emotional content for either party.

  1. Establish Rapport and Stay Calm
  2. Listen and Ask Responsive Questions
  3. Open up to all sources of information
  4. Focus on current behaviors and feelings
  5. Emphasize choices
  6. Be open to emotions
  7. Opinions, not judgments
  8. Be honest

Coaching Others to Accept Feedback by Joe Folkman

Four key points:

  1. First, many higher level executives have trouble hearing feedback because it was their very ability to ignore the doubts and questions of others and forge ahead that got them promoted to their current positions.
  2. Second, many times when feedback is solicited from the peers and subordinates of an individual, the behaviors most often mentioned will not be key drivers of performance. The feedback is about what bothers them and what had a chance to observe, and generally in the order they come to mind. (Note that this is in contrast to Decker’s 3X3 feedback above where he suggests that the most obvious points are just fine; work on them, and then pick others. Of course, he is talking about a coach observing and individual event.) Mr. Folkman notes that changing behaviors requires significant effort and times, and that expending resources on a behavior that doesn’t affect performance is likely to discourage further efforts. He suggests that key objectives and expectations for the position be clarified, and then the behaviors prioritized for those that would most obviously affect performance. He gives the example of a manager who received strong feedback about his cynicism. However, changing this did not seem likely to affect the performance of his group. So, he decided to simply keep his cynical thoughts to himself and focused on involving others in decision making and keeping them informed.
  3. Third, the individual must be involved in choosing the behavior to change. If the client doesn’t have a passion, commitment, or some excitement about the change, it won’t happen. Also, look for “quick wins”. Things are easiest to change (new systems, tools, office arrangements, etc.). Basic skills and knowledge are next. Personality traits are hardest. Might be a good idea here also to remember the suggestions from Now, Discover Your Strengths: focus on maximizing strengths, and simply find ways to cope with weaknesses.
  4. Fourth, make it happen. “I’ll try to do better,” doesn’t cut it. Set a specific goal, and picture change clearly and simply. Get others involved, and plan for follow-up and follow-through.

Part Five – Expanding Situations

Coaching in the Midst of Diversity by R. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr.
The author suggests that diverse organization cannot allow coaching, mentoring, and sponsoring to be implicit, and informal. Rather, they must be explicitly sanctioned by the organization and formally encouraged. Otherwise, social allegiances, concerns by minorities about appearing to seek preferential treatment or by white males that offering coaching, mentoring or sponsorship would be seen as either preferential treatment, insulting, or both.

Further, only explicit sanctioning can help minority or women members receiving coaching to believe that efforts to change in difficult, challenging ways will be well-received by the organization. Explicit sanctioning can also reduce fears of the intimacy. The author suggest his book, Redefining Diversity for help in identifying action options for coping with diversity.


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