Author Archives: Jeff Lugerner

5 Reasons Your Organization Should Invest in Leadership Development Training

Having a solid leadership group is essential in business, which is why leadership development training is so important.

Companies that lack leadership tend to suffer from higher turnover, decreased productivity, and lower morale. They can also experience issues with absenteeism.

There’s currently a significant leadership gap for companies all over the country. In fact, a 2018 whitepaper put together by the Association for Talent Development’s Public Policy Advisory Group reports that 52% of businesses have leadership and executive skills gaps, suggesting that many leaders don’t have the necessary skill set to be in that position.

The same study notes that 47% of people don’t believe the current workforce has the skills to replace the outgoing generation, and 35% think their companies aren’t investing enough in leadership training.

These numbers are alarming, but organizations can get ahead of things by investing in some leadership development training today.

Here’s a look at five ways this training can benefit your company.

1) Improve Financial Performance

Naturally, the bottom line is vital to every business, and investing in human capital can pay off in a big way.

Having a focused leadership team helps build the capacity to drive new revenue streams, improve customer service, and reduce operating costs, all of which improve the organization’s financial performance.

Leaders with the necessary training also do a better job of keeping employees on task and performing to their potential, which saves money in the long run.

2) Promote Role Clarity

One critical element leadership development training focuses on is role clarity. The gist is that when every team member understands their role within the organization and how it influences the company as a whole, they report better job satisfaction.

Role clarity also limits job overlap, reducing confusion in the workplace and allowing the leadership team to assign tasks more efficiently.

In a well-run workplace, managers should understand every team member’s role, and these employees should know what’s expected of them on a day-to-day basis.

3) Attract and Retain Talent

Solid leadership knows the value of attracting and retaining talent, both of which are invaluable for the organization as a whole.

In fact, a 2018 study by consulting service provider Mercer suggests that close to one-third of all employees planned to quit their jobs in the next 12 months.

Reasons for quitting include a lack of appreciation, an inadequate relationship with management, absence of career growth, negative corporate culture, poor mental health, and feeling burnt out.

You can trace all these factors back to the organization’s leadership. However, leadership training assists managers and executives in treating employees right, ensuring they stick around for years to come and take the company to the next level.

4) Create a Culture of Accountability

Accountability is vital in the corporate world, and it starts at the top. When leadership passes the blame onto others whenever something goes wrong, it creates a culture where avoiding accountability and responsibility is more important than completing the job correctly.

Leadership development training helps create a culture of accountability within the organization where every team member knows their responsibilities and is accountable to their peers, bosses, and themselves when they don’t meet expectations.

The result is a closer-knit community within the office where every team member strives to reach a common goal.

5) Close the Skills Gap

Finally, leadership development training can help organizations close the skill gap within the company. When the company doesn’t have enough leadership or the existing leaders don’t have the skillset to manage the team, it becomes obvious when the group fails to meet expectations.

Closing the skills gap involves elevating the leadership team to the level they need to be while also creating leadership bench strength where every team member strives to become a leader. Leadership bench strength is vital when the current leadership group is preoccupied, moves on to other opportunities, or retires because it makes the changeover far more efficient, as well.

The Leadership Training You Need

Leadership development training can help you set your organization up for success. You’ll also see the education you provide for your managers and executives trickle down to other team members.

The result is a more efficient, cohesive workplace with a culture that attracts talent and keeps them within the organization.

The Leadership Development Institute’s leadership coaches and consultants are some of the most experienced organizational development experts in Silicon Valley and Bay Area. We can assist as you make the changes necessary to take your business to the next level. Contact the Leadership Development Institute for more information on the strategic guidance we provide.

How to Stay Resilient When Working for a Start-Up

How to Stay Resilient When Working for a Start-Up

For many, working at a start-up is a dream come true because they have the chance to help build a company from the ground up while being part of something special. Many start-ups also offer a relaxed workplace and flexible hours, which employees see as positives. The Bay Area where Leadership Development Institute is located and Silicon Valley are some of the most popular areas for high tech startups.

At the same time, start-ups come with a lot of uncertainty and increased workloads, which can bring about stress.

Whether you’re an employee or a manager at a start-up, you’ll want to explore the following ways to stay resilient during the organization’s first few years.

What to Expect While Working for a Start-up

There are positives to working for a newer company, but there are also some drawbacks of which you’ll have to be aware. For starters, you can expect to have a heavier workload than usual because there is so much work to get done. In addition, since the company won’t have a bunch of managers overseeing your every move, you’ll be on your own for a lot of it. That type of work environment is a perk for many, but it also means that you’ll have to keep yourself motivated, often while working long hours.

Another thing to keep in mind is the lack of job security. About 90% of start-ups fail within their first three years. Therefore, the numbers aren’t on your side and you could find yourself without a job sooner, rather than later. The lack of security combined with a lower salary than you’d earn when working for a more established company can lead to anxiety for some, making it hard to keep a positive mindset.

How You Can Help Yourself

Of course, you should do everything in your power to stay resilient and keep yourself on track in your new work environment. Start by building and maintaining friendships and relationships by spending plenty of time with family and friends and developing friendships with your new work colleagues. Having relationships with other people who are in the same position allows you to lean on each other when times get tough.

Try to stay positive. While you’ll surely come across some issues when working with a start-up, treat these issues as a learning experience, rather than a significant problem. Even if you make a mistake, it provides you with a golden opportunity to learn from your actions, giving you a better idea of how to react the next time you encounter a similar situation.

Keeping a positive attitude will also help you to avoid turning small obstacles into a crisis. Maintaining the proper perspective and realizing that not every mistake is a life-changing issue will help you to keep an even keel. Your initial reaction to a dilemma can quickly blow the problem out of proportion, so try to stay calm.

Part of staying calm involves not getting too down on yourself when you make a mistake. Errors happen on every job, so try to focus on all of the things you’ve done right, rather than the one thing you’ve done wrong. Once again, it’s all a learning experience, and you’re sure to make fewer mistakes as time passes.

Take the time to manage your stress. You’re going to get tired, overworked, or run down if you don’t give yourself some space to recharge. Allow yourself regular breaks, and try to avoid staying late every evening. It’s always tempting to stick around the office to catch up on some work after everyone has gone home, but you’re likely to burn yourself out if you do this regularly. Also, if you take a holiday, be sure to leave work behind and enjoy your vacation. This time away allows you to recharge and come back with more energy and resiliency.

How the Company Can Help Employees

It shouldn’t be entirely up to employees of a start-up to manage their mental health, as high-ups within the organization should take an active role in the process. If you’re a manager, start by encouraging physical well-being within your workers. Provide healthy snacks, promote bike-to-work weeks, change the workplace culture regarding smoking and drinking, and create an altogether pleasant and psychologically healthy environment.

Managers can also implement an open management style that will breed trust from employees. Being completely transparent about the state of the company and its future can help workers avoid the anxiety that goes along with blindly plugging away at a start-up without knowing where it is heading.

Try varying the workloads of employees, so they don’t get overwhelmed. Seeing the light at the end of a long tunnel of work can provide peace of mind for workers, especially those who see the files continue to pile up on their desks without any break in sight. Training team members in different skills and allowing them to use these skills can also help because it enables them to break away from the monotony.

Finally, make sure you treat your employees fairly, provide them with the space to do their jobs, offer a flexible work environment, and reward them for their hard work, as these small things can encourage loyalty and make the company a better place to work.

If you’re struggling to implement a positive workplace culture that will provide resiliency at your start-up, the Leadership Development Institute can help. LDI’s executive coaching services can teach you how to reduce stress and anxiety in your employees while promoting an attractive office environment.

Team Building with Accelerated Velocity

Building a Team That Executes and Makes Decisions with Accelerated Velocity

The business world is incredibly competitive, and leaders are always making decisions that could make or break a company. When you find yourself up against a deadline or dealing with a decision that could define your year, it’s crucial that you get it right.

But, you’ll also want to make a quick decision so that you don’t miss out on an opportunity.

So, how do you implement a team that will help you with this essential job?

The truth is that it’s multi-faceted, as you not only need to have the right people in the right roles, but you also have to know how to manage them to get the most out of their skills.

In your role, you’ll not only have to build a team to help you make decisions but also pull the right strings to get them to succeed. It all starts with you, so here are some steps that you can take to ensure that decisions are made accurately and with accelerated velocity within your organization.

Assign Clear Roles and Responsibilities

Perhaps the most critical aspect of team building involves assigning clear roles and responsibilities to each member. You could have the most skilled group of employees on earth, but if none of them know their roles or what they should be doing with their time, your chances of success are slim.

In terms of making decisions, the final choice will come down to one individual, which could be you, but there will be a lot of back and forth before you reach a resolution. To get through the process with accelerated velocity, every cog in the wheel must know the expectations for each scenario.

Before hiring, make sure you’re choosing people who will fit into a role, rather than focusing on their overall skill set. For example, you might be tempted to hire a former decision-maker at a large corporation, but will that individual be comfortable in a role where he or she isn’t making the final decision? Surely this experienced person would be an asset to the team, but it all depends on the assigned role.

Everyone involved in the decision-making process should know where they fit within the team, as this is the only way to come to a consensus quickly.

Ask for Input and Opinions

Part of the decision-making process will involve asking for input from each member of the team you have put together. Rather than doing this in a group setting, it’s often more efficient to ask for data independently. Individual meetings are necessary because every group has several individuals who dominate a conversation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s worth spending the most time listening to their ideas or opinions.

Get input in writing from each member of your team so you can have it easily accessible. Once you’re able to receive feedback from every member of your unit, you can look at what they’ve written and start formulating a plan.

Ask your team members about the goals you’re trying to reach through this decision and how best to achieve them. That way, all of the answers you receive are coming from the same place.

Share Perspectives

You’ll want to have a group discussion about the inputs and opinions of every member of your team. Make sure that you lead this discussion so keep every idea on an even playing field. Once again, different members of your team will prefer varying communication styles, and you don’t want the louder members of the team to dominate the conversation and, therefore, the process.

From there, you can ask members of the team what stands out and what is missing from each idea presented. This step could help you to combine several perspectives into a single plan, hopefully eliminating potential problems from the final product.

Get Employees to Buy-In

Members of a decision-making team might not take kindly to have their input ignored. Egos are always at play, and you want each member of the team to feel like he or she is contributing. For this reason, it’s a good idea to go over your final decision and discuss why you made it and what led to you coming to that conclusion.

In a way, going over your decision will ensure that you include every team member, as you’ll likely take ideas from all of them. Even if you do not, discussing their input is a useful way to keep everyone on the same page and working towards the common goal the next time.

Working at Quickly as Possible

As long as you have the right members on your team, you can improve your decision-making speed by assigning roles and encouraging input from all members of your group. Your team will quickly learn what you expect of them in these situations and will improve their efficiency as time goes by.

Of course, leadership is equally as significant, and if you feel as though you’re struggling in that aspect, you might consider taking some classes through the Leadership Development Institute. The coaching services available through LDI will give you the skills needed to not only choose the right team members but also show you how to get the most out of your decision-making team

Are You a One-Pitch Leader?

Baseball season is around the corner and I couldn’t help but infuse the title of this article with some of the vernacular from our national pastime.

In baseball, the term “one pitch pitcher” refers to a pitcher who is overly reliant on one type of pitch (fastball, curveball, etc.) to be effective. History tells us this approach has limitations and ultimately limited success. They lack the versatility in their repertoire of pitches to solve the many different kinds of situations they face in the course of a game. Experts will tell you that the best pitchers have 3-4 different pitches they can throw at any given time and at any velocity they choose to solve the predicament in front of them.

Now, imagine that you are the leader of an organization and have many competitors who are looking to beat you to market and/or dominate market share. Let’s take this scenario one step further and give you “one pitch capability” and we’ll give your competitors “three pitch capability” to solve all the problems that come your collective way. Now, the bad news, you are not going to win this competition. We’re sorry, we know that one pitch has carried you a long way and you have been successful wherever you have “played”. However the game has changed. The market place is changing daily, the complexity of data coming at you is mind boggling, innovation cycles are becoming shorter and shorter and what once made you successful now has you out of breath.

We can guess with some degree of accuracy what happened to you. Here is a short list of possibilities.

1.  You just don’t like coming out of your comfort zone.

2.  You have over-relied on a set of leadership behaviors that are not too different from each other and were greatly rewarded for this approach. It could be any set of behaviors. For our purpose we’ll choose decisiveness, hard driving and being directive. All great qualities but in the realm of leadership it translates to one pitch….FASTBALL! This is limiting. It leaves you with very little leadership versatility. Your predictable.

3.  You greatly over value one aspect of leadership and strongly under value the opposite behavior. For example you might greatly over value decisiveness and almost completely dismiss consensus building. This could leave you very “lopsided” in this area of leadership and cause you to make a misinformed decision, leave people out of the process and ultimately not gain followership from key stakeholders. You won’t miss or fail a high percentage of the time, but enough to impact your career and your organization.

Here is the bottom line, the executive leadership development field has really never measured/assessed for leaders overusing their strengths. More of a good thing is always better….right? In fact what’s wrong with being decisive, hard driving and directive? Nothing actually, unless you are doing it most of the time with most of the problems you are trying to solve. If you mixed up your “pitches” and at the right time threw in some listening, asked for other opinions, facilitated dialogue between two opposing views from other leaders and called for additional data……well then you would be that more versatile and an effective leader who has 3-4 “pitches” they can rely on to get the best outcome.

So how do you uncover whether or not you have become a one pitch leader?

HERE ARE YOU FIRST STEPS IN THE CHANGE PROCESS:

1. Pull out your most recent 360 review and capture the themes where people have indicated you’re doing too much of a particular behavior.

2. Now, to the best of your ability make note of what meetings and with what people you are over-doing these behaviors.

3. In order to balance out your behaviors and “show up” differently, look to demonstrate behaviors that are at the other end of the behavioral continuum. For example if people have indicated that your point of view tends to dominate meetings you could counter that with several possibilities; that might include a)asking questions to gather more data, b)asking someone else for their perspective or c)even “softening” your point of view with a caveat that sounds like: “I could be off the mark here, but I do think that we need to pursue this path of action…….

4. Ask for feedback. Let someone you know and trust what you are working on and ask them to give you feedback on what they’ve observed.

 

Your objective is to become a versatile leader who can bring the right amount of the right behavior and the right time and be the most effective leader you can be. This is not easily done and perfection is not the goal here. Becoming more versatile in your leadership approach to solving big problems is our objective.

Let’s dialogue about this. Let me know what you have uncovered for yourself and perhaps I can come back to you with some ideas on how to bring more “pitches” to your leadership repertoire with our executive coaching services!

Work Stress and the Type A Behavior Pattern

We have seen a disturbing pattern in our coaching practice over the past 2 years of people in their 30’s and 40’s becoming seriously ill. Everything from heart attacks, cancer diagnoses, auto immune diseases, chronic migraine headaches, etc.

Generically what we’ve witnessed are people who have been under chronic stress with no let up for a period of several years. Specifically what we are very clear about is that the people who have become sick are very much engaged in the Type A behavior pattern(TABP).

Clinical research that has been replicated from all over the globe tells us that there is a correlation between this behavior pattern and the early onset of coronary artery disease. There are two pieces of good news here, not all Type A’s get coronary artery disease and this is a behavior pattern that can be changed. Twenty years ago I led Type A behavioral change research groups for Meyer Friedman, the research cardiologist who co-founded the behavior pattern. During that time we saw many people change the behavior pattern and ultimately have even more work success and a better quality of life.

So the big question here is, are you or those around you chronically engaged in this behavior pattern? Let me share with you a few of the major components and then ask some diagnostic questions.

Major Components of the Type A Behavior Pattern

1. Chronic Sense of Time Urgency – you are always in a hurry even when it is not necessary, consistently racing against the clock, struggling to do more and more in less time.

2. Indiscriminate Competitiveness – you make everything a competition, at work, on the highway and certainly any sports or games you may play.

3. Compulsive Achievement Striving – what you achieve is never good enough and you are constantly striving to achieve more and more…..YOU LIVE HERE!

Are You Type A?

1. As you read this post were you hurrying through it and/or doing something else at the same time?

2. Do you become easily irritated waiting in lines or when stuck in traffic?

3. Do you become easily irritated or aggravated if things don’t go as you think they should?

4. Do you react with agitation over the trivial mistakes of others.

If some of these Type A components seem familiar to you and you answered yes to 2-3 of the questions then you are probably pretty engaged in this behavior pattern in a significant way.

Many men in particular have expressed to us that they are Type A and wear it as a badge of honor in the workplace. They also believe that it is the reason they are successful. What we have seen over the course of 15 years of coaching executives is that this behavior pattern frequently becomes a derailer as they move up in an organization. In essence what was once tolerated and rewarded is now seen as unacceptable at the executive level.

This post will be the first in a series of posts on this topic. We’ll look at how this behavior pattern shows up at work and at home and what you can do to change.

Be a Better Meeting Facilitator

We all spend more time in meetings than we would prefer to and for most of us they are energy depleting and at best moderately productive. Here are 3 simple suggestions that might improve the quality of the meetings you facilitate.

1. Give Each Agenda Item an Objective

Essentially what are we trying to accomplish with each agenda item? The objective for each agenda item can be provided by the meeting owner or the person who asked to have a particular item on the agenda. To get a bit granular for the moment we would even propose that the Objective for each agenda item be printed right next to it. This gives people a visual reminder of what they need to focus on and what they’re here to get done.

There are generally 4-5 Objectives for typical agenda items in a business meeting:

  1. Make decisions
  2. Share information
  3. Advance the thinking on a specific issue
  4. Create buy-in
  5. Obtain input

When meeting facilitators have implemented this technique we have observed a much more focused discussion with a clearer sense of purpose.

2. Bypass the Two-Person Meeting

The most prominent thing we see in meetings today is two people going one on one with each other while others sit outside of this process and observe. Sometimes it is a healthy discussion, in most cases it a debate driven by a healthy dose of egos. More often than not it includes the meeting facilitator and someone else. Getting drawn into this kind of extended exchange has happened to all of us at one time or another.

Here are some ideas on how to shift things in the moment:

  1. Remind yourself that your job is not to win a debate
  2. “Go to the balcony” – a mental model that let’s you become an observer of your own behavior  for a moment and helps you to self-correct
  3. Leverage the brain power in the room – call on others to weigh in with their perspective
  4. Create a mental metric – once you’ve heard yourself say the same thing twice let that be a cue to step out of this non-productive exchange

Navigating meetings as the meeting owner can be treacherous at times. Keep in mind that by their very nature meetings are imperfect and you too will sometimes be imperfect.

3. Make Asks of People

We hear less and less ASKS being made of people in meetings. Good asks drive results, bring greater clarity, commitment, engagement and infuse more vitality into meetings.

Here are some ASKS that can bring more of the elements mentioned above:

  1. Ask for someone to weigh in
  2. Ask for a different perspective
  3. Ask for someone to play devils advocate
  4. Ask for someone to provide guidance
  5. Ask for a commitment
  6. Ask for someone to follow up
  7. Ask for buy-in

The list of Asks is endless and we hope we’ve sparked your thought process here.

Meetings are hard. We “live” in meetings. These are some ideas we hope you find helpful. Please share your ideas with the rest of us.

Jeff and Karen

A More Effective Way to Look at Succession Planning

Time marches on, and with it go corporate leaders. Everybody retires at one time or another, and to maintain solvency in the leadership ranks, companies must know in advance how they’re going to deal with these departures. The traditional way of addressing this is with succession planning.

It’s important to have a plan in place to make the changing of the guard for executive management positions smooth and uncontroversial. The plan itself, however, is not as important as what the plan mandates: development of personnel who are ready, willing and able to assume top spots such as chief executive, chief of operations, chief financial officer, chief technology officer and others.

Succession planning – or succession development?

A lot of companies are big on planning but not so great on development. Where succession planning is concerned, this is often simply a problem with how the process is viewed. Planning is a system with so many aspects, it can seem to go on forever and grow to the point where nobody really understands the plan anymore. Development is quite different.

If you think “succession development,” then you’ll be starting out on the track that will lead you to the results you want. Common sense tells you that in leadership succession, the goal is to prepare future leaders, not to plan. You already know what’s going to happen – new leaders will replace retiring leaders or those who leave for other reasons. The key is to make the “plan” simple and concise while focusing the majority of efforts on developing these future leaders.

Where will your future leaders come from?

Aside from executives you may hire from without, all your future leaders will come from within your own ranks. Assume it’s your CFO position that’s in question. Your succession development activity will launch around questions such as:

    • Who in our company has demonstrated a desire to remain with us long-term?
    • Among these, where are they on the management ladder at this point?
    • Which potential candidates regularly show critical management skills such as personal responsibility, leadership, team-building, delegation, etc., – or, in which candidates could these skills be developed with proper guidance?
    • Which candidates’ resumes show a solid background in finance – both academically and in the work history?
    • Will the candidate(s) we target be able to pass the scrutiny of those who will select the new CFO? That is, will there be any conflicts between the candidate and the selection committee members?

Personnel fitting these and other crucial criteria may be found in a number of departments, performing under a variety of job titles. The current leadership team must know their employees well enough to be able to determine three things:

  1. Who could possibly be a good fit as CFO
  2. What these individuals need to add to their skill sets in order to be successful in this position
  3. How long this development will take

If your CFO is slated for retirement in three years and one of your candidates would need more than three years to acquire the skills necessary for that position, that candidate is not a candidate. This is where the actual planning comes in. Company leadership must be able to “groom” candidates in time for them to replace retiring executives. In some cases, you may have 10 years to work with, so your candidate pool will be larger. In other cases, you may have less than a year, which is why ongoing succession development is so important.

At the end of the day, the most successful companies are those that make leadership development an integral part of their operations. Nothing can take the place of preparation, especially when it concerns the replacement of current leaders with new leaders for the future.

New Website Launch

Today is the official launch of our new website and we are excited to share it with all of you.

We are also beginning our 15th year of business here in the Bay Area.

Our passion and vitality for our work seems stronger than ever. Much of this has to do with our continuous learning during the last 18 months.

First we engaged with Phil Sandahl and his staff at Team Coaching International(TCI) where we went through their unique team coaching certification. TCI’s team assessments are the best in the business and gives us and the teams we work with an immediate and incisive look at how teams see themselves and how their stakeholders see them as well. This output has translated to us helping teams get immediate traction and acceleration in moving toward their goals. Please check out these tools on our Team Assessments page.

Next we got involved with Bob Kaplan and Rob Kaiser authors of The Versatile Leader and the accompanying 360 survey called the Leadership Versatility Index (LVI). In all the years that we’ve been doing leadership and executive coaching nothing has impacted our thinking and approach to coaching more than this concept of leadership versatility. No longer do we think in terms of deficits or focusing only on strengths, but rather building versatility into a leader’s repertoire of leadership behaviors. If you’re interested in reading more about this concept please go to our Coaching Philosophy page on the website to download several articles.

We then became certified in the Birkman Method a personality assessment that is steeped in 60 years of research. The Birkman essentially tells us how we are going to show up at work. What we prefer to do, what we have little or no interest in doing, with whom we will have challenging relationships and what we will need to do to make it work. There are many applications in utilizing the Birkman and we are already leveraging it with some of you.

Last but not least we went through a certification process with the Denison Consulting Group, the premier firm in leading culture change. Their model and research (bench marked against 1076 companies) shows the impact company culture has on revenue and profitability. To get a glimpse of the Denison Model please click on the Leading Culture Change page on our site.

Thanks for catching up with us through our new blog.

We promise that future posts will be shorter!

 

Our best,
Jeff and Karen

What to Expect from an Executive Coach

A rising athlete relies on a good coach to provide the insight and direction that lead to greater skills. In the same way, smart business leaders tap into the proven expertise of executive coaches to help them develop the leadership and personal power needed to rise to the top of their fields. What’s it like to work with an executive coach? Why are these coaches so beneficial?

Most of us have watched sports coaches in action. In nearly every case, we know that the coach’s athlete or team is much better at the sport than the coach. Think John Madden, Tommy Lasorda, Phil Jackson. None of these epic coaches could possibly match up against their world-class players. So what good are they?

The answer is simple: They have specific knowledge about the game that the players don’t have, and they can see things the players can’t. This is exactly why an executive coach is so valuable to the career paths of individuals in leadership roles who wish to grow at a rate that would be impossible on their own. Let’s take a look at some of the elements of a well-rounded executive coaching program.

Time frame and objective

Unlike with athlete coaching, which can last an entire career, executive coaching programs usually last for nine months to a year. If the coaches are seasoned high-performers, this is sufficient time for the executive client to learn necessary skills, un-learn bad habits and embed the new knowledge through practice and analysis. Coaching or training programs lasting weeks or just a few months are normally less thorough and less effective.

What are the expected outcomes of an executive coaching program?
Whether in sports or in business, no coach worth his or her salt would launch a program without first establishing the goals and objectives to be met through coaching. Working with their clients’ unique situations and understanding their specific needs, executive coaches aim for desired outcomes such as:

• Versatility in all aspects of the executive’s job performance
• The ability to develop and communicate a shared vision throughout an organization
• Solid leadership proficiency
• Skills in generating followership and building teams
• Becoming a strong influencer
• Learning how to develop individuals and bring out the best in them
• The ability to manage conflicts with an eye on ideal resolutions

Each of these skills and abilities is critical for today’s executive. It would be nice if a person could just read that list, decide that they will acquire each skill and then go out and acquire them. Unfortunately, the development of these abilities requires practice and guidance, and that’s where an executive coach and his or her methodologies come into play.

A solid executive coaching program consists of many elements designed to empower the executive in a variety of areas. Here are a few of them.

Necessary tools

Coaches share with their clients the right information and tools needed to acquire specific skill sets now and in the future. An executive coach sees the bigger picture and knows what the client will need to learn in order to succeed.

Leadership observation

While the definition of leadership is simple to understand, acquiring this trait doesn’t happen automatically. Executive coaches watch their clients in work settings, looking closely at how the clients’ actions and decisions affect the team and/or the business as a whole. Coaches then share their observations with their clients and define where leadership is strong and where changes are necessary.

Simulations

When a tennis player has a match with a practice partner, the coach is able to watch every aspect of the player’s performance and determine where slight – but possibly costly – errors are being made. It’s the same with the executive coach, who puts the client into roles and circumstances typical in the executive’s work life in order to monitor how the executive manages them.

Meeting analysis

All great leaders in business are masters of the meeting. With the right abilities, an executive can run a meeting that imparts information and garners feedback in the most effective and time-efficient manner. Executive coaches observe their clients’ skill at handling meetings and then provide analysis of what was done well and where improvement is called for.

Best Practices: Enhancing the Manager/Direct Report Relationship

We have noticed a trending in the last 5 years between managers and their direct reports that concerns us a great deal. Managers have become less accessible, conduct fewer staff meetings, schedule infrequent one-on-ones and communicate downward less and less. We believe this growing trend is being driven by three particular things: managers being asked to manage and be individual contributors, more matrixed organizations that require significant cross functional collaboration and thus a greater time allotment and managers not being acknowledged or rewarded enough for developing their people.

This is not an attempt to bash managers but rather an explanation for what has distracted them away from best practices for the manager/direct report relationship. Managers are literally in the middle between the demands being placed on them by their leaders and the responsibility of managing a team.

So what outcomes do we see due to this dilemma? In our executive coaching and team development work we see less “bench strength” being developed in organizations, fewer career path discussions taking place and diminishing morale as people begin to feel more like worker bees than employees who are making a contribution that has an impact on the organization.  The only way managers can get back to enhancing their relationships with their team members is too make a greater commitment to making development a priority.

Carve out the time on your calendar and don’t cancel time with your people/ team unless the building is burning down or you have a million dollar deal on the table! The ultimate “you are not important’ message gets sent to your reports when you cancel meetings with them on a regular basis or don’t schedule them at all.  While it may seem harmless at the moment that you decide to cancel a one-on-one when you certainly have other important things you need to accomplish, the consequences are further reaching than it might appear at first glance.

Our list below of best practices, while not comprehensive, is certainly a good start back on the road to building that very important manager/direct report relationship.

Mentoring

  • Carve out time on a weekly basis 30-60 minutes, to meet for coaching/mentoring.  This is your highest priority.  Don’t ever cancel unless someone is sick.
  • Together, with your employee, identify strengths and skill gaps.
  • Together create a development plan.
  • Encourage, navigate, help them win.
  • Provide constructive feedback on a regular basis.
  • Ask questions.  (“Tell me what motivates you?” “How can we make our team meetings more effective?”)

Motivating

  • Tell them what they’re doing well.
  • Provide them with challenges and responsibility in line with their ability.
  • Give recognition for initiative and personal responsibilities taken on.
  • Provide learning opportunities.
  • Create opportunities for the employee to provide leadership by helping others overcome a challenge.

Communication

  • Find out what they need from you to be successful.
  • Let people know what you expect from them.
  • Tell people when they’ve hit a home run and when they have missed.
  • Keep your people informed of the big picture.
  • Err on the side of over-communicating.
  • Be a truth teller who communicates with compassion.

Clarifying roles and responsibilities

  • Let people know what they are responsible for.
  • Be clear about what their role is in the organization.
  • Communicate what you see as their highest priorities.
  • Identify the business results they need to generate to be successful.

Recognition

  • Acknowledging effort beyond normal day to day responsibilities.
  • Recognizing team collaboration over individual effort.
  • Finding out how your people like to be recognized.

Our experience tells us that with a little time and effort spent developing your employees, employee retention will be at an all-time high, morale will increase and you will develop a loyal following as your people learn that you are invested in their success.