As a leader, you have the option to work ON your business, proactively shaping the future of your organisation; and, IN your business, reactively handling the day-to-day workload. How you do this is influenced by the qualities of your personality, your temperament, what you value, as well as your skills. How do these elements drive you in the right or wrong direction? What results do and can these elements trigger? Do you want to know or would you rather not know?
Taking the decision to raise self-awareness takes courage, as does doing something differently as a result of exploring feedback. What’s the alternative? To knowingly or unknowingly put your head in the sand which is a great way to stay stuck and leave things to chance. Here is a classic example of leaving things to chance, to fester, for decades:
Research for the magazine Nursing Times suggested there was an NHS attitude of discouraging staff from reporting problems and this was putting patients at risk. The research showed many nurses are afraid of being labelled troublemakers, being side-lined and ostracised by senior staff if they highlight concerns, being bullied and marginalised by their colleagues, and end up feeling ashamed and guilty, as well as concerned their careers are over. There were lots of interesting statistics coming from this report, too many to list here.
Leadership needs attention otherwise weeds will appear. The weeds in an organisation show up in its culture. Sometimes these weeds can be very time-consuming and expensive to treat, and require radical interventions such as for the above scenario.
Executive coaching is the number one way to proactively build positive working habits and prevent performance, career, and culture derailment. To help you make the most of executive coaching, here are my 7 high-value top-tips:
How to make the most of your Executive Coaching Experience
1. Realise that coaching is not remedial. It’s about enhancing performance. Think of Andy Murray, the Wimbledon Champion 2013. He has many coaches and mentors because it’s about building the required performance to get the desired career and business goal. An open mind is ultra-helpful, a commitment to invest in your performance and career, and a commitment to apply learning and actions will help you get the most value out of your coaching experience.
2. Research shows that the more power someone gets, the more likely it is that their empathy reduces. Therefore, they have to work at rebuilding that empathy. Unfortunately someone with high power and low empathy can view the rebuilding of empathy as wishy-washy. This makes it harder to get the softer elements of leadership (the traits that engage others) on the table. If that rings a bell with you, I would encourage you to realise people-related skills such as building relationships are not wishy-washy! Engagement skills build a sustainable leadership career and business. Numerous worldwide and national surveys confirm the need for engagement e.g. The Sunday Times Top 100 Employers. Hard and soft leadership traits need to be in a reasonable balance in order to create a positively productive culture.
3. Realise you’ve got to know yourself before you know someone else. Otherwise, you could be viewing and valuing (or not) the other person through your lens. Understanding others allows you to question and consider your approach, communicate with them better, and motivate them. Not understanding them can create discord and conflict.
4. Get a coach that will take you beyond surface level skill requirements. These are often urgent but often it’s beneath the surface requirements that are really important (the qualities of your personality, your temperament, what you value, and so on). These types of conversations need transparent dialogue – it’s more productive for you. To reassure you, you can expect confidentiality unless you are planning to do something illegal!
5. Realise that increased self-awareness is a result of coaching so expect that. Psychometric testing (profiling) is the ideal way to raise self-awareness. These tests get under the surface to what makes you tick. There are many profiling tools on the market from popular-culture to scientific-based products. Some will be more meaningful than others for you and which you opt for should relate to your situation and requirements. Full-circle feedback otherwise known as 360 degree feedback is very useful to gain an understanding of how others perceive you. These tend to be great for skill development and open the door to a more in-depth and meaningful coaching experience.
6. You shape your business and career. It’s worthwhile getting an executive coach who will support you 100% and also challenge you 100%. It’s the only way to release your potential. Most coaches offer a ‘chemistry’ meeting which is ideal as you get an opportunity to find out whether you could work well together. However bear in mind you don’t have to get on with a coach for it to be effective. Some of my most effective coaches have been very blunt but boy has it moved me forward.
7. Last but not least, don’t become dependent on your coach. Coaching is about setting someone up for success, allowing them to blossom, and not being a crutch.
So, are you currently working IN leadership (reacting out of habit) or working ON leadership (raising self-awareness and modifying behaviour where appropriate)? How you are as a leader shapes the culture of your organisation. How you work is your business.