Put Me In, Coach….

So yesterday I went for the first time to meet with my executive coaches.  The coaching is included with the EMBA program, and it continues for the duration.

So what is an executive coach?  Here’s a definition from a Fox Business article on the topic:

When it comes to defining coaching, the International Coach Federation (ICF) states that coaching is about “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

I think it’s going to be very helpful.  Actually it already has been.

The first session was mostly an introduction to who I am and we chatted a lot about the five assessments that were a part of the Leadership Challenge.  As they got to know me in the first session, we talked about my expectations.  I have very few expectations so far because 1) I’ve been pretty busy and haven’t thought much about it and 2) before the Leadership Challenge I hadn’t really noticed that there would be executive coaching as a value added benefit of the program.  I’m sure I can raise some expectations later, though.

Here’s a few of the nuggets from what was a low intensity, get to know me, read through my assessments 90 minute visit:

  • When talking about my SDI, it was noted that my style tends to have less patience with people who come with lots of detailed analysis.  Long power point presentations and spreadsheets full of data make my eyes glaze over.  One of the coaches talked about Colin Powell when he first became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.  Slide projector running, generals talking to him and making a presentation he interrupted and asked them to turn off the projector.  “Talk to me,” he said.  Word spread that he wasn’t a fan of slide shows, and it worked to enhance the communication.  instead of getting lost in the details, I can encourage conversation around them without the glossy presentation, and gain a better communication mechanism.  I like it.  So “put down the spreadsheet and just talk to me” is something that will become part of my tool belt.
  • We talked about having a direct report who fails.  I mentioned that there are three things that we always want to look for in failure:  Was the problem a lack of training?  Is the person in the wrong seat/job?  And was the person actually negligent?  They reminded me that there is a fourth question that needs to be first:  Is this the fault of the delegator (me)? Did I effectively communicate the expectation? I think I try to approach it that way, but thinking of it as a fourth reason for failure subtly shifts the thought process in a way that will be helpful.  And yes, 3 of those 4 reasons are outside of the control of the person being delegated to, and considering those first can help people know they’re being treated fairly.  Most failure in the workplace is not a result of negligence, and if it’s treated properly, accountability when it is the individual’s fault is more powerful.
  • We talked about managing change, and I mentioned that one of the questions I had in the Leadership Challenge that didn’t get answered was this:  “once you’ve gotten beyond a change and realize it didn’t go as it should have, what do you do for damage control?”  I’m sure this will come up more later in the coaching, but they offered a nugget now that was helpful.  Have a post-mortem on the change.  Ask three questions:  What went well and what went wrong?  What could we have done differently?  What could we do now to patch the problems?  The first two I already had used in the past (though we’re not as vigilant and deliberate about engaging in a post-mortem after a change as we should be), but the third is one we’ve never asked in that process.  A good rule of thumb going forward.

It was a good session, we wrapped up on time, and I had to head into the office.  Should be lots more to learn in the process going forward, and their coaching should help me as I try to think of my role as more of a coach and a little less as a manager.

Have you ever had a coaching experience (executive or otherwise) that was awful or fantastic?

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