Using Executive Coaching to Grow

How executive coaching can help you in your business

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

learn leadExecutive coaching is a next evolutionary step in the development of leaders. Historically, leadership development was largely focused on participants’ involvement in training programs. These programs were all based upon one completely invalid assumption—if they understand, they will do.

Wrong!

In the United States the diet industry is worth about $59 billion per year, with over 50% of Americans on some type of diet – yet 95% of dieters fail. That means the market just keeps churning: people lose weight, gain it again, and go right back to the diet industry to search for another solution.  Everyone who buys diet books makes the same assumption as everyone who goes to training programs: If I understand how to go on a diet, I will do it.

Wrong again!

You don’t lose weight by reading diet books. You lose weight by actually going on a diet—and sticking with it.  You don’t improve yourself by attending training programs, you only improve by actually applying what you learn on a consistent basis.

Extensive research involving more than 86,000 participants in leadership development programs from eight major corporations found that if leaders attend training programs, but then don’t discuss what they learn with co-workers and follow up to ensure continued progress—they improve no more than by random chance. In other words, they might just as well have been watching sitcoms all day!  Those who do apply what they have learned do get better. Yet many don’t!

Why do so many leaders attend training programs and then end up making no real change? The answer is seldom because of a lack of values or a lack of intelligence. The reason why many leaders don’t apply what they learn in traditional training when they’re “back on the job” is that they are buried in work. Leaders in major corporations today work harder than leaders have worked in the past 50 years. They feel trapped in an endless sea of e-mails, voice mails, and requests. They worry about global competition. The job security that they may have felt in the past is a distant memory. They barely have time to meet the minimum requirements of their jobs—much less focus on their long-term development as leaders.

Executive coaches can help leaders bridge the huge gap between understanding what to do and actually doing it. Your coach is a person who sticks with you over time and makes sure that you do what you know you should do, but have a tendency to “put off until tomorrow”—a tomorrow that (without help) may never come.

So why do CEOs prefer to work with external executive coaches rather than coach their leaders themselves? There are four good reasons:

  1. They don’t like dealing with behavioral issues, so their motivation is very low;
  2. They lack the ability to coach well
  3. They lack time
  4. It is more efficient and effective to have an objective outsider involved, rather than take up a leader’s valuable time which is in short supply

In today’s corporate world, the stakes have gone up, the pressure has gone up, and the need to develop great leaders has gone up. The time available for executives to do this has diminished. Coaching can help high-potential leaders become great leaders! In doing so, coaching helps you to develop the skills, capabilities, and bandwidth of your people to lead, manage and develop others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

4 Questions for Debriefing and Learning

Four key questions by which to learn from your experiences!

We often get so involved in doing the work, that we rarely make the time to review how we are doing in a structured and creative manner that allows us to extend our curiosity into what has happened, and to learn why. In short, we rarely take the time to debrief and when we do so, we generally do it poorly.

Debriefings can help you accelerate projects, innovate new approaches to problems, and hit difficult objectives. More than a casual conversation about what did and didn’t work, a debriefing digs into why things happened.

“Two things are infinite; the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe” – ALBERT EINSTEIN

A debrief should review four key questions:

1.What were we trying to accomplish? Start by restating the objectives you were trying to achieve.

2.Where did we hit (or miss) our objectives? Review your results, and ensure the group is aligned and has a shared understanding of what has happened.

3. What caused our results? This should go deeper than obvious, first-level answers. You need to go beyond the symptoms and get to the underlying causes of your results. A good way to do this is to use the Five Whys Tool.  Here you take the first-level result, and ask “Why did we achieve this result?” This exposes a second-level item. Ask the same question again. You normally do not need to ask this question more than five times.

Example:

Results:  Sales down by 25% compared to the same time last year.

Why? #1 – Because the market is more competitive.

Why is the market more competitive?

Why? #2 – Customer demand for our products is down

Why has customer demand reduced?

Why? #3 – The market price has come down and we are charging a high price.

Why are we unable to sell our quality products for a higher price?

Why? #4 – Because the sales force lacks the skills to sell the value of our product.

Why is the Salesforce unable to sell on value?

Why? #5 – Because we don’t hire the right people with these skills, or develop these skills in our existing sale team.

Solution: to address the fall in sales we need to train, equip and incentivize our sales people to sell on value, not on price.

1. What should we start, stop, or continue doing? Given the root causes uncovered, what should we do next, now that we know what we know?

Debriefing provides you and your team with a structured learning process that allows you to continuously evolve plans while they’re being executed in the light of your experience and results.  This helps you to learn quickly in rapidly changing situations and to address mistakes or changes quickly and effectively.

Remember, no plan goes to plan – never. We need to learn to adapt, and we need to adapt to survive, and we need to survive if we are to thrive.  Debriefing is an ongoing process that needs to be built in as a core part of your work, not something that is ancillary to it.

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Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

So, What Do YOU Think?

How to get your people to engage with you.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Bill Marriott, chairman of the Marriott Hotel Group, shared this useful piece of advice.  He explained that as a young officer in the US Navy he was responsible for the stewards who served in the officers’ wardroom.  New to his role, and being in a military organization he told them what to do.  They ignored him.  He ordered them.  They ignored him still.  He came to realize that, even though he was in the military he could not command people to follow him as a leader, they had to want to follow him. For them to follow him he had to engage them.

So what was the lesson from this?  It was four simple words – “What do you think?”

As a leader, by asking this, you are getting your ego out of the way.  Leaders cannot and do not have all the answers, nor do they know everything.  By asking people for their ideas, their input and their insights several things will happen: firstly, your people will see that you care about them and are interested in their opinion; secondly, you will learn something you did not know before; thirdly, you can make better and more informed decisions which your people can buy-in to as they have participated in the process  By engaging with others they can engage with you, but it starts with you reaching out first.

What do you think?

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

The 4 Foundations for High-Performance

The Four Components of Human Performance

There are four key components that need to be in place for people to perform, and for organisations to prosper.  What are they and what can we do to ensure they are in place? 

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions Human Performance

Performance is about people, and people can be fickle.  Organisations are under pressure to do more with less; organisations are becoming flatter which, in turn, is extending the scope and responsibility of managers and leaders, increasing the number of reports and reducing the time that manager and leaders can spend with them.

So what do we need to do to ensure that we have the right building blocks in place so that people can perform effectively and efficiently?

Andrew’s Four Building Blocks

There are four building blocks which form the foundation for performance.

4 Components of Human Performance

1.  Desire to Work – people need to want to work.  It is not about just satisfying their monetary or security needs.  People want the opportunity to apply their skills and talents, to gain gratification from doing so, and to receive recognition for doing so.

2. Adequate Skills– if people have the desire but lack the necessary skills they will be unable to perform, they will be frustrated, and the organisation will be negatively impacted.  Certain skills are essential for success.  Employees may already have these skills; they may need to be trained in them, or to develop these skills experientially on the job.  At the same time, especially with “knowledge workers”, the necessary skills and expertise may erode or even become obsolete (how many rotary telephone repair people do you know?  Or typewrite repair experts?)

3. Right Attitude – if you hire nothing else, hire enthusiasm.  Hire energy, hire excitement, and hire passion.  These are not teachable.  You can teach people your content and the skills required. The adage, “hire for attitude, train for aptitude”, has never been truer.

4.  Right Behaviours– if people lack the right behaviours, even though they have the desire to work and the necessary skills, you will find poor performance. How many times have you gone out for a meal, which was excellent, but marred by slovenly, slow or disinterested service?  How are you clients experiencing your people? Behaviours have to match the job results expected.

Look at your organisation and ask yourself how are you doing in each of these areas?  Are you recruiting people with these four components from which you can build a foundation from which to build high-performance? Are there are weaknesses or gaps in your business, divisions or departments? Are these gaps areas which you can influence or are they areas which are in the domain of the employee?

All four components are required for human performance and measurement, but only some of them can be built by the employer, although all of them can be nurtured by the employer.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

The 5 Challenges Leaders Face

What are the top 5 challenges for leaders globally, and how can you deal with them?

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

Leaders are under increasing pressure having to deal with more, with less, whilst having to handle the 5 challenges of the modern business world.

This article looks at each of the five major challenges in turn and identifies the key strategies that leaders need to develop to meet these challenges and, in doing so, become great leaders in turn and to develop leaders within the business at all levels.

Andrew’s 5 Challenges for Leaders

1. Dealing with the New Business Reality

2. Paradoxes Moving from “Either/Or” to “And”

3.Restore Confidence & Trust

4. To Collaborate & Empower

5. Building Individual & Organizational Resilience

Challenge 1: Dealing with the New Business Reality

The world for leaders is changing, and the rate at which this is occurring is increasing exponentially whilst its effects are being seen, and compounded, in 4 different areas:

  1. Volatilitythe increasing rate, amount, and magnitude of change
  2. Uncertainty – the amount of unpredictability inherent in issues and events
  3. Complexitythe increasing amount of dependency and interac­tive effects between multiple factors and driver.
  4. Ambiguity the degree to which information, situa­tions, and events can be interpreted in multiple ways.

For further information on this see How to Manage Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity – Part 1

To deal with these factors, leaders need to develop on an integrated basis, the following:

  1. Vision – having a clear picture of the purpose of your business and where you are going.
  2. Understanding – the leader takes the time to stop, look and listen to what is happen, this is beyond their functional expertise and beyond just their business.
  3. Clarity – the leader needs to spend the time and effort in deliberately working to make sense of the chaos that exists.
  4. Agility – the ability to communicate openly across the organization and to move quickly to apply solutions, the rapid prototyping of ideas & actions to develop solutions.

For further information on this see How to Manage Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity – Part 2.

Challenge 2: Paradoxes Moving from “Either/Or” to “And”

Leaders are having to make decisions and deal with increasingly juxtaposed areas: for example, do we mass produce or customise our offerings, do we focus on the short-term or the long-term etcetera. Usually this has been treated as an either/or choice or, at best,  achieving a blend between the two and effecting a compromise.  Either of these two ways are often sub-optimal and limit the future opportunities.

FROM

5 challenges for leaders - pic01 Leaders need to manage these paradoxical situations and to meet both sets of demands simultaneously to survive and thrive.  Leaders need to achieve a balance between multiple sets of demands, requiring them to be able to quickly weigh and evaluate the situation and to obtain multiple perspectives from others to incorporate in the development and execution of the appropriate strategy.

TO 5 challenges for leaders - pic02

Challenge 3: Restore Confidence & Trust

Research from Sirota has shown a steady decline over the last 5-6 years in the level of people’s confidence in their business, their leaders, and the future.

This is reflected in the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer, with nearly two-thirds of people 5 challenges for leaders - pic03only believing what is said by companies having heard it three to five times.  This reflects both the high level of skepticism and the fact that messages need repeating to get through the ‘noise’ of the environment.

Leaders need to restore confidence and trust in themselves, the business and the future.  This needs to extend to include the external stakeholders, not just the only internal stakeholders (e.g. employees).  In doing this leader need to provide clear direction, clear and consistently understood the message, and that everyone is aligned with this by ensuring the core values are commonly understood and applied throughout the business.  This needs to ensure that the systems & processes and reward systems actively support this.

Challenge 4: To Collaborate & Empower

To lead in an increasingly challenging environment requires leaders, counter-intuitively, to loosen controls to gain more control.  Being able to adapt and anticipate to the new business reality requires leaders to review and refine their goals, and to create an inspiring vision which is clearly articulated and understood to all levels of the business empower-network-leverageinternally, and to external stakeholders.  In doing these leaders need to be open to new ideas and perspectives, and to extend their networks of relationships. They also need to ensure that the business has the right core values and that these are actively supported and built into how business is done.  This creates a strong, pervading culture that aligns people and what they do.

To drive better communication and coordination between departments, and to reduce internal turf-fights and conflicting objectives, the vision needs to be shared and cascaded appropriately at each level.  Furthermore, in doing this, leaders across the business and at all levels need to be empowered with the responsibility and authority to achieve their goals, to be equipped with the necessary skills and capabilities to carry them out, and enable them to perform by providing the necessary support to actively developing both their skills and potential as leaders and those of their reports.

Challenge 5: Building Individual & Organisational Resilience

In dealing with new business reality leaders need to help their people and their organization to build resilience and agility.  This includes the ability to move quickly, decisively. effectively and proactively whilst capitalizing on existing strengths, developing new strengths and identifying current strengths which may become weaknesses or liabilities as the business and market environments change,

resilience pictureThe importance of developing people resilience, including engaging people emotionally whilst growing and developing them, and providing them with a sense of purpose and belonging, is reflected in the findings of the 2012 American Psychological Association Workplace Survey reported.  In this, it reported that 41% (over two out of every five employees) of employed adults feel stressed out during the workday.

The top 5 sources of stress were identified as:

  1. Low salaries
  2. Lack of opportunity or growth or advancement
  3. Too heavy of a workload
  4. Long hours
  5. Uncertain or undefined job expectations

Furthermore, less than half of employees reported:

  • Being satisfied with the growth and development opportunities offered by their employer (46%)
  • Being satisfied with the employee recognition practices of their employer (48%).
  • Feeling they are receiving adequate monetary compensation (48%).

The importance of having employees who feel valued is also important:

  • Employed adults who report feeling valued by their employer are significantly more likely to report they are motivated to do their very best for their employer (93% vs. 33%).
  • They are also more likely to report they would recommend their workplace to others (85% vs. 19%).
  • On the other hand, those who do not feel valued are significantly more likely to report that they intend to seek employment outside of their company next year (50% vs. 21%).

Summary

In dealing with these five challenges leaders need to have an integrated and disciplined approach.  At its essence is the ability to empower, enable and equip people and leaders at all levels in the organization.  Critical to doing this is building the necessary skills and capabilities into their day to day work.

To develop the necessary individual, team and organizational agility and flexibility leaders need to develop and embed the skills into how they work, allowing experiential learning to occur as they learn and apply the new skills in addressing and gaining traction with key challenges and opportunities.  Providing the on-going support to help the teams and individuals is essential to this, and by enabling people to teach what they have learned to their peers, team members and reports they can gain mastery and continue to deliver sustainable results.  This produces not only in-house skills and capabilities but creates leadership bench strength and an on-going leadership pipeline on which the organization can draw to meet current and future needs.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

How to Find People with the Right Fit

How attitude is a good predictor of prospective employee success, and how you can identify those with the right attitude for your business.

by  Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

Attitude - Churchill Quote

The top challenge for CEOs according to a survey from the Conference Board (January 2013) is Human Capital – the ability to develop and acquire the right people, with the right skills needed to take to the business to the next level.  But skills alone are not enough.

“Hire for Attitude, Train for Aptitude”

This is an old mantra which, if ignored, can be costly.  Companies I have worked with have found that recruiting people with the right skills can be costly if they do not have the right ‘attitude’, where there is a lack of ‘fit’.  This is reflected in a study by Leadership IQ of over 20,000 new hires over 3 years which found that 46% of the people about to be hired will fail within the first 18 months on the job. And they won’t fail for lack of skills but rather for lack of attitude.

Top 5 Reasons for Why New Hires Failed

The following are the top areas of failure (i.e., were terminated, left under pressure, received disciplinary action or significantly negative performance reviews):

1. Coachability (26%): the lack of ability to accept and implement feedback from bosses, colleagues, customers and others.

2.  Emotional Intelligence (23%): the lack of ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions, and accurately assess others’ emotions.

3.  Motivation (17%): insufficient drive to achieve one’s full potential and excel in the job.

4.  Temperament (15%): attitude and personality not suited to the particular job and  work environment.

5.   Technical Competence (11%): functional or technical skills required to do the job.

Top 5 Reasons Why New Hires Failed

The key point from this is that when new hires fail, and 46% of them will, 89% of the time it’s because of attitude and only 11% of the time because of skill.

As such, the key predictor of a new hire’s success or failure is their attitude, not their skills.  As such we need to be clear on what attitude we are hiring for. To do this requires two steps:

  • Define the Specific Attitudes – what are the attitudes that make your business different from the rest.  This is both in terms of what is good (which you want) and what is bad (which you want to avoid).
  • Adapting the Hiring & Interviewing Process – you need to makes sure that you focus on these attitudes, so adapt how you do this as appropriate.

How Do We Do This?

1. Define the Specific Attitudes

Attitudes in themselves are not visible or tangible.  Where they are made apparent is in people’s behaviours.  How people behave is an active display of their attitudes.  Their behavior should also be a reflection of the business’ core values which provides guidance to people in the business.  A good example of how the core values are made tangible, and the expected behavior (and hence attitudes) is shown below.

The US Marine Corp

The US Marine Corps has Core Values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment.  The concept of these core values runs throughout all aspects of Marine life, beginning in recruit training and continuing into combat. These “warrior ethos” provide guidance to Marines in difficult ethics situations and as a reminder to provide good order and discipline. These values are defined as:

  • Honor – integrity, responsibility and accountability.
  • Courage – do the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons.
  • Commitment – devotion to the Corps and my fellow Marines.

US Marine Corp Values Card

 

2. Adapting the Hiring & Interviewing Process

Too often, when interviewing, we focus on prospective employees’ technical skills and competencies.  Why?  They are the easiest to assess but, as we have seen, they are a very poor predictor of the success or failure of a new employee.

When you look at jobs being advertised the experience, skills and qualification that are detailed it can be seen that the business advertising the position has the expectation that a perfect candidate will apply.  This is about as far from reality as you can get.  Realistically, there is no ‘perfect candidate’ and, as such, there can only be attitudes that are right for your business – they will never be perfect.

Tests for Finding the ‘Right’ Attitudes

1.  High Performers’ Test – what are the distinguishing attitudinal characteristics of your top performers.  List up to 10 responses that reflect your business.  For example:

  • They own the problem.
  • They always see problems as opportunities.
  • They are great listeners and communicators.
  • Etcetera.

2.   Low Performers’ Test – what are the distinguishing attitudinal characteristics of your low performers.  List up to 10 responses that reflect your business.  These are not just the opposite of the attitudinal characteristics that make a high performer. For example:

  • They avoid responsibility and are quick to blame.
  • They focus on themselves rather than others.
  • They do the bare minimum work required.
  • Etcetera.

Once you’ve got your two lists, conduct a quick assessment to make sure every point is on target. This can be done by asking yourself the following two questions about each attitude listed:

  • How does this attitude add value or competitive advantage to this organization? (If the attitude brings no benefit to the organization, it doesn’t belong on the list).
  • Who cares about this attitude? (If the attitude doesn’t bring benefit to your customers, it doesn’t belong on the list)

Doing this provides insight into both what you want and what you don’t want in the terms of attitudes and the associated behaviours.  It then helps you to prepare for the interview by focusing on how they respond to questions around both these areas.  However, how the questions are phrased is just as important as what the question is.  You need to develop the question with the kind of response that you are looking for in mind.  But that is a separate article.

Summary

In summary, be clear on what values, attitudes and behaviours you want in your business, and which you want your new employees to exemplify in what they do and how they do it.  Get clarity by distinguishing the attitudinal characteristics of both your top and low performers – this helps you to identify what you want from a potential employee, and what you don’t want.  Around this then adapt your interview and hiring process to ask the kind of questions that will help you elicit answers which will help you determine the prospective employee’s values, attitudes and behaviours.  Take this into account when you look at their technical skills, as it is their attitude that is a predictor of their skills – not their technical skills and competencies.

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Answer At Your Own Risk!

How executive coaching can help you in your business

Leaders and managers often need to give feedback to their teams and staff. Usually it is in the form of advice rather than feedback. Why is this? Advice can be packaged more easily, especially when you are dealing with a sensitive situation and/or individual, rather than feedback which is often perceived as being more critical in its nature. So how can we improve.

The Pixar Story

Virtually everyone knows Pixar , the animation studio that made Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Cars, A Bug’s Life, and which grossed more than $6 billion, and has won 24 Academy Awards. Here is the question for you – how many flops has Pixar produced? The answer is none!

One reason for it is that within Pixar they give brutally honest feedback.

Brutally honest feedback

At Pixar, when a director hits a snag on a film, they immediately call in the “brain trust.” This is a group of brilliant senior filmmakers who come in, look at the film in progress and give brutally honest feedback for about two hours.

Normally this is an uncomfortable process and, at best, only partially effective. But it works for two reasons:

  1. No authority – the “brains trust” has no authority over the person to whom they are giving feedback. It is up to the recipient of the feedback to do something or not. As such they are not under any obligation to take the feedback, and because of that they often do.
  2. No advice – people do not tell others what to do, they don’t offer advice; they offer experience. As such the recipient can learn from others, and can choose what to do or not.

As such, the less authority and power you have the greater the influence you can bring to bear. And the lower the requirement to act on the experience shared, the more likely people are to do so. This creates the opportunity for learning, development and innovation. Counter-intuitive? Yes, but it works. Share your experience – but remember we don’t have to learn from it, but then we probably will!

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.