The one thing you need to have a super-charged career today is – drum roll please – an executive coach. People often ask me: Why do top level, successful executives need a coach? They are already so successful, why would they need to get even “better”? Doesn’t having a coach mean they are not that good?
My answer is simple – think Serena Williams, James Harden, Tom Brady. They are good. Can you imagine that any of them do not have a coach? Of course not! Why shouldn’t successful executives have a coach? They are trying to get better or maybe to develop the next level of leadership and help them get better.
I’m very proud of the fact that how people view coaching has changed over the years. Thirty years ago, no CEO or executive would admit to having a coach. They would have been ashamed! Today, many CEOs share their experience with the world. For instance 27 CEOs endorsed my book Triggers. I coach these 27 people. They are working on getting better and they are not ashamed to state it publicly (in my book).
My coaching process doesn’t just work with the super-successful. My partners and I have trained hundreds of external and internal coaches who work with people at all levels. There may be no correlation between an individual’s standing in the corporate pyramid and what his or her co-workers think of his or her interpersonal skills. Middle managers can be just as arrogant and stubborn as CEOs – or just as open-minded. My target audience is the huge cohort of human beings who are already successful in their own way and want to become even more successful. You may be in this group!
So, say you have admitted you need a coach and your organization supports you. What does coaching look like? This depends on the type of coach you hire. If you hire a behavioral change coach like me, I won’t help you change strategy or business practices. I will help you achieve a positive, long-term, measurable change in your behavior. I’ll help you see that the behaviors and habits that have taken your to your current level of success might not be the behaviors and habits that will take you to the next level of success.
I train people to improve their behavior in the workplace – by enrolling them in a simple, yet challenging regimen. Here are the steps.
First, I solicit 360° feedback from my client’s colleagues – as many as can provide valid information – from up, down and sideways in the chain of command, often including family members – for a comprehensive assessment of their strengths and challenges.
I then let my clients know (in a way that protects the confidentiality of the interviewees) what everybody really thinks about them. Assuming that they accept this information, agree that they have something to improve and commit to changing behavior – I go to work and try to help them get better – at what they have chosen – and as judged by whom they have chosen.
My clients learn to apologize to people concerning any mistakes from the past (because this is a great way to erase negative baggage associated with prior actions) and to ask their co-workers for help in getting better.
My clients then advertise their efforts to change. As opposed to keeping their change efforts a ‘dark secret’, they tell everyone around them what they are trying to improve. If we don’t let people know that we are trying to change – and recruit them in our change process – they may never notice or appreciate what we are doing.
My clients follow-up with all of the people around them to get ongoing suggestions. We have research on follow-up that involves over 86,000 respondents in eight major corporations. The findings from this research are crystal clear, leaders that follow-up in a disciplined way get better, those that don’t follow-up are not seen as changing any more than random chance.
As an integral part of the follow-up process, I teach people to listen without prejudice to what their colleagues, family members and friends are saying – that is, to listen without interrupting or arguing.
I teach people to express gratitude to everyone around them for what they are learning. Learning how to simply say “thank you” without qualifiers or embellishments can make a big difference.
Finally, I teach people the value of feedforward, which is my “special sauce” methodology for eliciting advice from colleagues on how they can improve in the future.
It can sometimes be difficult for super-achievers to get over the hump and admit that they can benefit from changing behavior. If behavioral change can help them become more effective in their role, and if they are willing to stick with the steps in our coaching process and if they are given a fair chance – they will almost always get better – not only in their own minds but, more importantly, in the opinions of everyone they impact.
And, that is the spirit underlying all of my coaching. It is aimed at anyone who wants to get better – at work, at home, or any other venue. It will help anyone who wants to supercharge his or her career!