I was sitting in a CEO’s office’s listening to the plans he wanted to achieve through executive coaching. He had a good grasp of his 360 feedback, had translated it to the needs of his team, and had accepted the responsibility for his development actions. In addition, he was not only fully prepared for our meetings, but often shared the dilemma’s he was wrestling with at the time.
I was thrilled about working with this executive given his commitment to the coaching process, his development and the future of his organization.
Fast forward several meetings. Not only was this executive fully engaged in the process, but more importantly, was walking the talk throughout the organization. Other leaders from the company were sharing examples of how he was leading meetings, communicating difficult news, working with members of his executive team, and thinking about the future.
While this wasn’t the first coaching success I experienced, it doesn’t happen all the time. Executives don’t always walk the talk, but who is really stumbling through the commitment?
I have silently questioned executives and owners I worked with when I worked inside area organizations, even though I greatly respected the organizations and people that led them. Have you asked yourself why they don’t engage or follow-through with your advice?
I believe the first problem could easily be ours, not there’s – as followers of these business leaders we often put them on too high of a pedestal. As leaders who report to them, we expect perfection and close to 100% follow through. I can’t speak for you, but I can’t recall the last time I followed through with 100% success. Is it fair that I expect this of them?
Secondly, as consultants and coaches, we often offer advice that is too general; similarly to when we set expectations with managers or leaders that report to us. We talk about improving communication or performance. What aspect of communication? With what group or person? In what situation? There are so many variables. I still remember working with a Chief Legal Officer who was the sponsor of a self-directed team effort. We finished a meeting when he simply asked, “What three things can I act on to make this next phase of effort a success?” Great question!
Third, missing the importance of follow up does nothing to help our clients succeed – regardless of who told us it wasn’t needed. We take these executives though a nice slide show, offer some training and expect them all to comply. Wow – how’s that working for you? Maybe we should narrow our focus and do a much better job of preparing and helping executives follow through.
Finally, a major failure to help owners and executives walk the talk is that we bring them into the board room, give them the same briefing, expect them to comply and simply forget they are all in a different place, have different people and variables to manage, each possess different levels of commitment, and, finally each learn and change at an entirely different rates.
So, you can understand when I have a client who is engaged, working through his or her issues, and walking the talk, how thrilled I am for the moment. It’s not only a challenge for us as their coach, but for them, as the executive or business owner.
OK, I’m not perfect and neither are you. Can we call a time out, start over and give it another shot?