Long before I was a professor, I was a top manager for many years at a fast paced entrepreneurial organization. So, I know what it is like to be responsible for others in an organization and feel the weight of that reality on your shoulders. At the time I wanted to be a better leader, but I needed help! I found that leadership help was hard to come by and I lacked resources to find that help. Now I am in a position to help other leaders. I want to be more involved with those that want to do better, lead better, and perform at a higher level. My passion is to see leaders change their leadership behavior in positive ways through a clear and powerful process. Not so the coach looks good, but so the leader makes important and long-lasting changes in their behaviors which benefit themselves and others in the organization. These growth changes should help achieve business goals for the individual, team, and organization. But I find that personal goals are also achieved as well.
Executive education and seminars are great, but I found that those didn't really focus on the meaningful changes that many leaders wanted or needed. Rather than settle for this, I decided to look into what the research had to say about developing leaders. The evidence was clear that good coaching resulted in more meaningful and long-lasting change than any kind of weekend seminar or 10-week class.
I learned that developing leaders is not about delivering content, it is about changing beliefs and behavior! You can read every book, attend every seminar, and earn every kind of credential, but that will not necessarily make you listen better, trust more, or hold others and yourself more accountable. What works is a process where the leader commits to a goal, involves others in the process, and tracks results. When you add in consistent follow up and follow through with humility, courage, and discipline you get powerful results. This is accountability. This works.
What is coaching?
Coaching is really the process by which another person facilitates the process of improvement for others. I don't really like the word "coach" but it resonates with most people familiar with executive or leadership development. I am more of a leader development expert who helps others become better leaders. That requires some skills related to coaching, yes, but it also taps into my expertise as a scholar and professor as well as a former manager. Whatever you want to call it, my role is to help facilitate the process by which you will verifiably become a better leader.
How is this different from other coaching methods?
There are a number of great coaching approaches out there which might be a better fit. What I can say is that I chose this process because first, it focuses on behavioral change; and second, it focuses on behavior changefrom the perspective of others. This means that while you might think you have made progress in some area, what really matters is whether others see it or not. For example, there is a difference between thinking you are good listener and actually being a good listener. Third, this process is inclusive and expands the scope and responsibility of coaching to the organization, particularly the people who work with and benefit from the leader's success. The coaching engagement is not simply confined to an office where one on one conversations take place between the leader and the coach. It involves other people in the organization who take on a coaching role, providing insights, suggestions, and encouragement to the leader.
There are some popular tools and surveys which give information on your strengths, values, personality, "color" or "letter." I have and do use some of these in my work. These can be helpful and valuable tools. We can learn about ourselves from using these approaches (although, I find most people are not very surprised by the results). We can learn about others through these tools as well, which is probably the most valuable benefit. However, one thing they tend to lack is perspective--how others see and experience us.
A big part of undergoing change is the realization of how others perceive us. This matters a great deal. Often, we filter information through our lens of self perception: we are successful, bright, kind, reasonable, creative. But, what if we have the wrong lens? Who are we to others? How do they experience us? My process of coaching aims at getting at and answering these questions to help leaders become more successful.
Can't I do this myself?
Yes! We are all capable of undergoing a rigorous, challenging, and meaningful process of behavioral change by ourselves. The reality is, if we haven't done it already, we're unlikely to start anytime soon.
Having a coach provides some clear advantages. First, external coaches offer an outside perspective not readily available within most organizations. Second, the coach provides a customized program focuses on the activities that will result in the greatest impact on success. Third, the coach provides realistic and proven methods for lasting change in leadership behaviors. Fourth, the coach is an expert in the coaching process and will not be afraid to ask tough questions and offer support along the way. In my case, the coach offers world-class expertise on leadership development and organizational behavior.
What is Stakeholder Centered Coaching?
SCC explains it this way:
Stakeholder Centered Coaching (SCC) is a practice that is based upon the principles and practices of Marshall Goldsmith, a world authority in helping successful leaders get even better – by achieving positive, lasting change in behavior: for themselves, their people and their teams. As the business world becomes more complex with changing technology and global endeavors, the role of a leader is also growing in complexity making it more difficult to efficiently and effectively dedicate time to developing oneself.
SCC is a simple methodology that is neither time consuming nor difficult to understand. The method is based upon years of working with successful leaders who were willing to do what it takes to becoming even better leaders in their future. Without question, anyone who follows the Stakeholder Centered Process will improve in his or her leadership.
In its simplest form, the SCC practice is about an understanding that we are all successful largely because of ourselves and also in spite of certain aspects of how we behave. A recurring theme is that we are successful because of certain beliefs and in spite of those same beliefs. Consider for a moment, one of the natural beliefs of successful people – I am successful – in other words, they have a high degree of self-confidence. Now consider how self-confidence can be an aid – it gives you the courage to apply your ability and strengths – while at the same time, it may cause you to have difficulty accepting validity of feedback inconsistent with your self-image. A CEO of one Fortune 100 Company (who has had many “ups and downs” on the admiration scale) says this:
“Success can lead to arrogance. When we become arrogant we quit listening. When we quit listening we stop changing. In today’s rapidly moving world, if we quit changing, we will ultimately fail.”
Equipped with this understanding, clients will employ a 7-Step process that offers dramatic results in developing themselves as leaders. To succeed you will have to follow a disciplined practice. While this practice is simple to understand, it is at the same time difficult to perform. The disciplined practice used in SCC will be of value to anyone whose goal is a positive, long-term improvement in his or her own leadership behavior.
Is this the right coaching process for me?
Great question! One of the most important. In truth, I don't know. This process requires courage, humility, and discipline. Courage to ask others what they think. Humility to listen and internalize what they say. Discipline to actually make changes in your own behavior.
Below are a set of questions to get a sense of your readiness for coaching. Read through then and ask your self how willing you are to do each.
Readiness for SCC Coaching Survey
Answer each question from 3 and 1: "Yes, I am completely willing!"  "I'm not so sure about this"  or "Not ready for this!". Then average your answers within each topic to get a sense of where you are ready and where you might need more encouragement.
Readiness for Stakeholder Centered Coaching Survey Copyright Frank Wagner, Chris Coffey, and Marshall Goldsmith Courage 1. Communicate to others what you are working on to improve as a leader? 3 2 1 2. Ask others for personal feedback/suggestions regarding your own behavior? 3 2 1 3. Avoid procrastination or waiting for a better time to try out new behaviors? 3 2 1 4. Honestly look at what behaviors you would benefit from stopping, starting, or changing? 3 2 1
Humility 5. Ask others to “help you” while working on your personal growth as a leader? 3 2 1 6. Truly “listen” to feedback and suggestions about your leadership? 3 2 1 7. Show genuine appreciation for feedback/suggestions on your leadership by saying “Thank You” 3 2 1 8. Keep your “ego” from getting in the way as you work to improve your leadership skills. 3 2 1
Discipline 9. Stick to a monthly routine of following up with others you asked to support you as you develop new behaviors? 3 2 1 10. Refrain from any defensive reactions when others point out what have not done well or what you could do better (i.e., making excuses, getting angry, disagreeing)? 3 2 1 11. Spend the needed time to change a behavior, even if it is not comfortable for you? 3 2 1 12. Spend a few minutes every day reviewing a checklist of actions you are implementing from your plan to improve? 3 2 1
Average each of the answers for Courage, Humility and Discipline. If you come out at a 2 or below, give some though to why. Explore some resources here.
What if my stakeholders just want to criticize me?
A concern that I hear is that stakeholders will use the feedback and feedforward process to complain or criticize the leader. The first thing I think when I hear this is why do you think others will criticize you? What do you think they will say? And if you believe that others will criticize you, why haven't you done something about that already? Successful people don't shy away from these things, they embrace them. Avoiding truth only prolongs the agony of being found out and exposed. Fear of others is the first sign that a person lacks support, courage, and humility. SCC is a process which encourages and builds support, directly and immediately. When a person sincerely asks others for help in improving, it is amazing how even the most cynical person softens up and supports the leader. More often than not, support from stakeholders is universal and positive. But, keep in mind, the leader chooses who the stakeholders will be--if someone is "out to get you" they might be a bad choice as a stakeholder.
In addition, the belief that others will be critical often comes from fear, not reality. We are all anxious about others "judging us". However, this is not a performance review! The coaching process is not designed to evaluate you as a person or an employee. It is firmly designed to help you improve your leadership behaviors. This fear of feedback is a great place to start working on your leadership! Often, the criticism we imagine in our heads is much worse than reality.
If you are scared about what other people might say about you, that often goes to a deeper and more systemic problem with the organization. Healthy organizations have productive and frequent feedback loops where issues are discussed, solutions are found, and relationships are maintained. If there is a culture of fear in your organization, it might not be a good fit. On the other hand, it might be exactly what the organization needs: a brave, humble, disciplined leader to "lead" the way to a more positive and product culture.
I have a coach, why should I switch?
Most of the time, you should not switch! If something is working, and you see value, don't stop and change directions. You might be getting a lot of value from your current coach. Great! If you want to try something different in the future, maybe SCC is the right way to go. That is your choice. However, if something is working for you and you and those around you are seeing real results, stay with it.
My boss will never go for this, what do I do?
This is certainly a possibility. First, have you asked? Most people assume what their boss will say without ever asking. You might be surprised. Second, ask why or why not. The reasons might not be what you expected. It could be money, or time, or maybe the organization is working on an internal process. It is always a good idea to know the reasons. Third, let them know we are happy to talk to them with zero obligation. At first, the coach is the best resource to explain the process--but we find that the leader becomes an expert as well!