Four Key Factors for Successful Change

As part of my graduate studies (aiming for a Master’s of Science in Executive Leadership from University of San Diego’s School of Business), I have been a student in a class called “Leading People Through Change.” As a coach, I am an advocate for change. A large part of what we do in coaching is support people as they lead and move through change.

As a leader, I am humbled by the mistakes I have made in getting others to follow my change initiatives. Even though as a coach I support people through individual change, as a leader I support change at the organizational level.

Individual change is difficult. Organizational change is almost impossible and more often than not, fails.

Do you have any changes you are currently working on in your organization? Do you have one you are about to launch? Are you having success? If not, I challenge you to sit back and reflect on why you are not getting the results you want or expect from changes you are trying to implement. Throughout the class I was exposed to some great thought leaders on change, including John Kotter, Chip & Dan Heath, Daryl Conner, Jeffrey Hiatt and our facilitators, Dr. Patricia Zigarmi and Robert Glaser.

After all the reading and discussions, at the end of my class, I sat down and synthesized what I need to remember when facilitating the changes needed in my organization:

Create the Business Case – Some vital questions include:

  1. What is the gap between where we are today and the result we need tomorrow?
  2. Why do we have to change?
  3. What is in it for me?
  4. What is in it for the business?
  5. What will happen if we don’t change?

 There needs to be a sense of urgency that drives people to take action.

Involve People in the Change – Easily the biggest take away from this class, is to involve others. Regarding change, the old saying, “none of us is as smart as all of us” is true. When managing change, don’t expect to hold all the answers. Involve people, including the resisters, advocates and key stakeholders, who will help you create the questions, the answers and pave the path for change.

Pay Attention to the Advocates for Change – The advocates are your best sales people for change. Advocates are often ignored and under-utilized because we take them for granted. They can best address those people who are not on board. Remember to leverage your advocates, and be sure to reward them when they speak and walk the change.

Create the Environment for Change. This has always been a strong belief of mine, and, I often forget it. Creating the environment includes:

  1. Building a strong infrastructure for change
  2. Walking the talk by being a role model for change
  3. Creating a visible and attractive rewards system.

The change will have a higher likelihood of success if the environment supports people doing things differently. If the environment does not constantly encourage and nurture the change, people are going to have trouble doing things differently.

I am working on a few changes at work and this class has me stepping back to assess how I can do a better job at creating the business case, involving people, working with my advocates and creating the environment to support the changes I am leading. If you are expected to be a leader of change, try them too.

Key Factors in Coach-Client Relationship

When I tell people about the business I am in, the next question is, “What is coaching?” My response: “Coaching is a deliberate process using focused conversations to create an environment that results in individual growth, purposeful action, and sustained improvement.” The key words we focus on are growth, action and improvement. All of these require a change in the person being coached.

Since we are in the business of providing coaching services to organizations that pay for coaching of multiple clients, we need to take it a step further. We need to clarify the key factors in order for clients to have a successful coaching experience.

Factors that ‘must’ be present in a coaching relationship include: confidentiality, client-driven growth, facilitated improvement and action-focused. Let me explain from the client perspective.

Confidentiality – a client must be assured that what is discussed with his/her coach will be held in confidence. In coaching, we want leaders to stretch outside of their comfort zone. This is not easy and requires a leader to discuss concerns and assumed constraints. To do this, confidentiality must be present in the coach-client relationship.

Client-Driven Growth – The client must decide and initiate the focus topics for coaching. In order to get clients to engage in change and growth, they must be the driver of it. When a boss comes to us and says, “I want my leader to work on these particular areas,” the first thing we ask is, “What is the leader’s commitment to working on these things?” Motivating a leader to take action on something she doesn’t fundamentally want or believe, doesn’t work. The client must be in the driver seat of the change and growth.

Facilitated Improvement – This is a process of helping clients to discover for themselves the actions/behaviors needed in order to move towards the changes they want to make. Facilitated improvement is the true value of what coaching can provide. I believe this is why coaching has become such a success. Instead of giving a leader consulting/advice, the coach draws out from the leader the appropriate thinking or action needed in the given situation. We tell leaders, “I don’t live in your environment, and you know best what is needed.” It is the job of the coach to ask the high yield questions to move the client toward discovering new answers. By having the client discover the answers, it also increases the chance for new behaviors to happen, because the ideas have come from the leader.

Action-Focused – Focusing on action means the leader is constantly taking action between the coaching sessions. If coaching is going to be successful, it must to move beyond good conversation into improved action. The leader must commit to taking action and then follow through.

How do we make coaching successful? These are some of the key success factors.

What is YOUR legacy?

In a recent conversation, my client was strained to come up with a coaching focus. She has had a successful career thus far (managing a high volume of employees, exceeding company goals, etc.) and in times of need used her boss as her coach. When I mentioned “what do you want as your leadership legacy?” A long silence followed by “interesting you ask because I recently heard a speech from a board member who challenged our leaders to consider the process of achieving results and not just the end result.” How many executives focus on getting the job done and at the same time reflect on the process they use to get there? If you quit your career today, what is the legacy you would leave behind? What will you be remembered for? What will the people you worked with and for say about you when you are gone? What do you want as your legacy? My wish is for executives to take time to think about the impression and impact they have on others. Those who do will likely have a legacy they will be proud of.

get what u negotiate

I recently attended a class as part of my graduate studies in Executive Leadership. I have always thought of myself as a decent negotiator and this class expanded my thinking on the topic. As Leigh Thompson says in her book, The Truth About Negotiations, “any time meeting your goals requires the cooperation of others, you must negotiate.” Negotiation happens on a daily basis and I hope my take-aways from negotiations class will be useful to you as a leader and/or a coach:
1. Think of “others” alternatives versus merely focusing on self. When entering a negotiation conversation, we often think about what we have as alternatives (i.e. what will happen if I don’t get what I am negotiating for)? Next time you are negotiating, put yourself in the shoes of the person you are negotiating with and ask yourself, “What are their alternatives? Why might they be interested or not in what you are negotiating for?” The key here is to put yourself in “others” shoes and consider their perspective in addition to your own. This will give you more to mull over when preparing for a negotiation.
2. When considering “others” point of view, think about their interests versus their position. What are their motivators, desires, needs and fears? It is these interests that help define the problem and the position. By separating the interests out it opens the door for bigger possibilities. A position is typically singular versus interests are multiple.
3. Always tell the truth. Apart from the obvious moral and ethical reasons for telling the truth. The worst position you can be in when negotiating and lying (or exaggerating the truth) is having the other side call your bluff. There is too much at stake; like your reputation.
4. Preparation is key. Perhaps the greatest learning for me is to prepare and over prepare when negotiating. As Fisher and Ury describe in their book, Getting to Yes, you need to figure out: interests, options, standards, people and alternatives for every negotiation. The main benefit in preparation is the psychological support you get from coming to a negotiation conversation prepared. Whether the negotiation is simple or complex, it requires confidence. Preparation builds confidence.
We joked in our class that “negotiation” should have just as many credits (hours) as “finance” does in our master’s program because to be able to negotiate and get your interests heard and supported in the organization will steer your success. I believe negotiation is a skill that all leaders should continue to master.

Executive shifts focus from business to leadership

I recently interviewed an executive who had just completed a year of coaching.  This executive is a President and in addition to receiving coaching, he also utilized our coach to help him with his leadership team doing team chartering among other things.  One of the learning’s that came from the coaching was his shift in development focus.  He said, “I have always been a student of ‘business’ and it’s probably one of the contributors to my success.  I am now a student of ‘leadership’.  I realized, through coaching and working with my team, that as the President of my company, I need to focus my time on how I am leading others and it’s through leadership that I will be successful.”  We are in the people development business and to see an executive have this kind of shift is really gratifying.  For years Ken Blanchard has been talking about the research that proves that it is inspiring ‘people’ and engaging others to perform that make leaders successful.  Do you think all successful leaders truly believe it?  I meet many who don’t, but I do hope that they in time begin their journey of being a student of ‘leadership.’

Boss’s Feedback During Executive Coaching: Pro or Con?

Asking a manager to provide feedback to shape the coaching focus – is it always necessary?  Some clients would dispute and others would agree.  What do you think?

We recommend managers come to a coaching session early in the coaching relationship and share their thoughts and perceptions about the person being coached.  It can be something as simple as sharing what this person should start, stop and continue in their role as a leader in order to be successful in the organization.  We state this as a best practice and we leave it to the person being coached to drive this to take place.

Regardless of whether this takes places, ultimately the manager has the ability to impact salary, promotion, and more and why not give the manager the opportunity for input into the coaching? After all, the organization is paying for it.  What do you think?