What the New Boss Did

My client (let’s call him Tom) and I had been working together for about 18 months when he was asked to take over the leadership of a department numbering about 800 associates. This department had earned a reputation as being “the place where they send projects to die.” As a result, the previous leader had been fired, and Tom was asked to take over. When Tom met with the Senior Leadership “Team” (N = 7) of his new department, he was not received with open arms. Right or wrong, these seven people had loved their previous boss, and were worried about what the “new broom” might have in mind. Their track record gave them good reason to worry. Fortunately, as you will see, rather than losing their jobs, the seven enjoyed success that, initially, they couldn’t see coming. Tom found the seven members of the group (while they were called…

Looking Up at The Illusion of Power

Bottom line: Your coaching clients tend to over-estimate the power of their superiors. Now the details. And why it matters. Think about the comments your coaching clients make about their bosses or their CEOs. My guess is that the ratio of complaints to positives is high. In other words, your clients are more likely to talk about their bosses’ failures than what their bosses have done well. You are likely to hear comments that begin: “If I were in that job, I would . . .” But if they ever do get in that job, they are likely to bump into constraints on power that are not always evident to others. We see this most dramatically with the President of the United States (POTUS). Candidates for that office are full of statements that begin, “And when I am President, I promise that I’ll . . .” George Bush (the first)…

Thought Experiment: Imagine that you are . . .

Thought experiment: Imagine that you are Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s (yes, there are two y’s at the end of his name) executive coach.  How might you approach this assignment? What are the issues that you would have to think through? What emotions might you experience? And finally, how might your thinking about this assignment inform the way you approach your real-life coaching assignments? For myself, I’d first have to get past the awe I have for Zelenskyy’s courage and accomplishments to date, even before the invasion. Being in awe of our clients rarely serves them well. Emotional Self-Awareness with regard to what we feel for our clients is essential. If we’re not tuned into those emotions, unhelpful ones could lead us astray. My own conceptualization of the problem goes this way: President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people seem to have experienced an initial galvanizing adrenalin rush in responding to being…

Coaching for Resilience

Thanks to COVID, pretty much every organization a coach visits these days has more stress than it did two years ago. Want data? The demand for mental health services is at an all time high. People are acting out their fear and anger in unsocialized ways, including more violence, parents yelling at school boards, political hysteria, alienation based on COVID attitudes, increased traffic accidents, you name it. It is a rising tide floating all boats into treacherous waters. The impact on organizations has been immense, with leaders having to face near impossible questions. “Will we be able to stay in business?” “Should we work at the office or at home?” “When should we go back to the office?” “What policies should we have about vaccinations? Masks? Social distancing?” “Should we fire employees who won’t get vaccinated?” “Do we really have to reconstruct our entire ventilation system?” While case counts are…

Coaches Make a Difference

Sometimes it helps us have the courage needed to do our work as coaches if we remember the value we bring. A 2021 article in the Consulting Psychology Journal by Robert Hogan, Robert Kaiser, Ryne Sherman, and Peter Harms (“Twenty Years on the Dark Side: Six Lessons about Bad Leadership”) provides important data. For those of you not immersed in psychological literature, the Hogan Suite of psychological assessments, which the authors relied on for much of their data, is one of the most widely used suites of assessment tools in business psychology. It is particularly effective in predicting leadership success . . . and its absence. Due to the Hogan’s widespread use, and the authors’ dedication to ongoing research, you can trust that the insights they provide are based on hard evidence. In their article, the authors provide stunning numbers concerning the incidence of bad leadership in modern organizations. For example: “. . .…

Sometimes It’s Not Your Client

The word “coaching” usually brings to mind efforts to help individual clients perform better. Maybe they don’t read people well (low empathy) or maybe they shoot from the hip (low impulse control). Such coaching can have great value. But sometimes the individual is not the right focus. Sometimes it is the organization that needs attention. Picture this: You’ve been coaching someone for a while, a senior leader in a successful organization. It’s gone well. This person is smart, engaged, and a quick learner. In other words, a joy to work with. Let’s call him John. Six to twelve months into your coaching engagement, John says, “I’m worried about my company. We’ve done awfully well for a long time. It is a good company, with good people, as you know. But I see danger on our horizon. What has brought us success for so long is getting outdated. The market is…