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Why CEOs Don’t Want Executive Coaching

A recent study by the Stanford Business School found that nearly two-thirds of CEOs don’t receive executive coaching or leadership development. And almost half of senior executives in general aren’t receiving any, either. Paradoxically, nearly 100 percent said they would like coaching to enhance their development, as both Bloomberg BusinessWeek and Forbes reported in recent articles.

So, why do CEOs and other senior leaders say they want coaching but don’t seek it?

I think the answer lies in what they’ve learned to think coaching provides, in contrast to what they think they need. Both views create a gap between desire and action. Ironically, that gap is unwittingly supported by most coaching programs, themselves.

That is, most omit or misconstrue the core coaching element that CEOs need to grow their skills and effectiveness: Increased self-awareness, honest self-knowledge, about one’s motives, personality capacities and values. The consequences of this absence play out in ways that diminish the relevance of coaching in the eyes of most senior leaders.

Self-awareness is crucial to leadership and it can be heightened through coaching. To explain why and how, consider the obvious but insufficient explanation for the paradox that CEOs want coaching but don’t pursue it. Stephen Miles, CEO of the Miles Group, that partnered with Stanford on the study, pointed out that to CEOs, “coaching is somehow “remedial” as opposed to something that enhances high performance, similar to how an elite athlete uses a coach.” Moreover, CEO’s say they’re most interested in such skills as conflict management and communication. Yet they put the need for compassion, relationship and persuasion skills far down on their list. They think of the latter as “soft skills,” ancillary at best.

Both views reflect CEOs’ perceptions. But those, in turn, reflect the failure of coaching programs to show that the infrastructure of successful leadership vision and behavior is heightened self-awareness about one’s motives, values, and personality traits. That’s especially true within today’s challenging, fluid environment. Because of this failure, coaching programs unknowingly collude with CEOs’ view that self-awareness is either irrelevant to leadership or of minor importance.

The higher up you go in companies, the more you’re dealing with psychological and relational issues. Successful CEO leadership requires astuteness about others: their emotional and strategic personal drivers; their self-interest, overt and covert. These relationship competencies rest on a foundation of self-knowledge, self-awareness. And you can’t know the truth about another without knowing it about yourself.

Self-knowledge and the relational competencies they’re linked with are central to a CEO’s ability to formulate, articulate and lead a strategic vision for a motivated, energized organization. Self-knowledge builds clarity about objectives; it fine-tunes one’s understanding the perspectives, values, aims and personality traits of others. When that’s lacking, you often see discord and conflict among members of the senior management team; or between some of its members and the CEO.

Power and Empathy

Being able to see, understand and deal effectively with others’ perspectives is key to successful leadership (as well as personal life). That capacity, part of self-awareness, is empathy. Two recent studies show its crucial role. One looked at the impact of power in an organization upon behavior; the other, its impact upon brain activity. Both studies found that increased power reduces empathy.

One study, conducted by Adam D. Galinsky and colleagues at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, found that increased power tends to make one more self-centered and self-assured, but not in a good way: The researchers found that power makes one “prone to dismiss or, at the very least, misunderstand the viewpoints of those who lack authority.” High-power individuals “anchor too heavily on their own perspectives and demonstrate a diminished ability to correctly perceive others’ perspectives, according to Galinsky and his team, adding that, “As power increases, power-holders are more likely to assume that others’ insights match their own.”

The other recent study, by Canadian researchers, found the same thing by looking at brain activity when people have power. They found that increased power diminishes the ability to be empathic and compassionate because power appears to affect the “mirror system” of the brain, through which one is “wired” to experience what another person is experiencing. Researchers found that even the smallest bit of power shuts down that part of the brain and the ability to empathize with others.

These are highly important findings, because empathy, compassion and overall self-awareness are qualities of a developed, mature mind. One that’s resilient to stress, able to manage internal conflicts, experiences interconnection with others, and maintains well-being. And, that therefore stimulates broad perspectives for understanding the problems and unpredictable challenges facing CEOs.

Much research shows that such capacities are essential personal strengths; certainly important to effective senior leadership. Moreover, studies find that you can grow them with conscious effort. The emotionally detached, un-empathic person, unaware of his or her personal motives or truths is not going to be very effective as a CEO or senior leader. We see examples of the consequences from time-to-time, when a CEO resigns or is fired.

Building Self-Awareness

Self-awareness builds from honest self-appraisal about emotional strengths and vulnerabilities; your values and attitudes, personality traits and unresolved conflicts. You’re a total person, not just a set of skills performing a role.

One of Google’s earliest executives, Chade-Meng Tan, teaches a popular course for Google employees that helps build such qualities. It’s demonstrated positive benefits for success and wellbeing. And much research confirms that self-examination is critical for leaders’ positive development. For example, Scott Keller, a director at McKinsey & Company, described the importance of overcoming self-interest and delusion in the Harvard Business Review. He emphasized the need for openness to personal growth and development, because “deep down, (leaders) do not believe that it is they who need to change...” and that “the real bottleneck...is knowing what to change at a personal level.” Self-awareness also expands the capacity to know what not to pursue, not just what to go after, as Greg McKeown, CEO of THIS, Inc., described regarding what he learned from an Apple executive.

Coaching can provide several ways to enhance self-awareness. Here are a few I’ve found helpful to C-level and other senior executives.

Learn From Your Personal Time-Line: Describe key turning points in both your career and personal life, with an eye to what shaped your values, attitudes and behavior; how your career decisions and experiences have affected your personal development. Identify the consequences, both positive and negative. What does this knowledge point you towards, in terms of reclaiming and growing dormant or neglected parts of yourself?

The Capacities-Gap Exercise: List what you believe are your most positive personal strengths, qualities and personality capacities. Describe how each one has become stunted, blocked or deformed in their expression, in daily life. It happens to everyone. For each gap, describe what steps you could commit to taking, to enlarge those capacities and reduce the gaps in your role as a leader as well as in your overall life.

Identify Your Personal Vulnerabilities: All of us tend to develop a “cover story” along the course of our lives - what I called the narrower, “false” self in a previous post - beneath which is our “secret plot” - the real story, including our emotional blind spots, fears and pockets of dysfunctional behavior that can become hidden drivers of our lives. How can you rectify and grow through them?

Needless to say, effective leadership must also include necessary skills, vision and perspectives. For example, sustainable practices for long-term success, as business executive and sustainability thought-leader John Friedman regularly writes about, here. Another is the movement towards joining business success with addressing social needs, as Richard Branson has described, where “taking care of people and the planet are at the very core of all businesses everywhere in the world.” Adding that our current world of transparency and social media demands that “business reinvents itself and becomes a force for good in the world,” he’s leading a new effort in that direction, called The B Team.

Self-awareness and the growth it supports, combined with such business perspectives and practices, can and should be the heart of executive coaching and leadership programs.

Douglas LaBier, Ph.D., a business psychologist and psychotherapist, is director of the Center for Progressive Development in Washington, D.C. and writes the blog ProgressiveImpact.org.

HUFFINGTON POST: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/douglas-labier/why-ceos-dont-want-execut_b_3762704.html

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The 7 Essential Practices of Leadership That Works

The craft of leadership is the art and science of influencing others.  The 21st century is unfolding at an unprecedented pace with exponential complexity. Mastering this craft in the new millennium demands an understanding of both enduring leadership principles and essentialhigh-impact leadership practices .

In my over 40 years of leadership study and experience at world-class global companies – including my tenure as President of Nabisco Foods, my decade as CEO of Campbell Soup Company, and my experience as Chairman of Avon Products  --  I've developed an evolved leadership approach that is tough-minded on standards and tender-hearted with people. And I've learned a lot about what practices actually work in the real world to engage employees and deliver sustainable performance. Now, I’m devoted to sharing that knowledge, and empowering leaders, by championing leadership that works in the 21st century. To that end, I’ve developed a high-impact leadership model that outlines the 7 essential leadership practices you will need to perform in today’s complex world.

The ConantLeadership Flywheel:

The key to Leadership That Works is found in the 7 connected practice areas of the ConantLeadership Flywheel. Each pillar in the flywheel is anchored in trust, which is the foundational element of elite performance; when they are developed in harmony — they are a powerful, self-reinforcing tool for transforming individuals and organizations with everlasting momentum. I'll briefly develop each of these 7 essential leadership practices below. 

Inspire Trust

Earn the confidence of all stakeholders.

Trust  is the foundation upon which all other leadership behaviors depend. Your actions must be anchored in trust or the flywheel ceases to function properly and the momentum comes to a halt. As you work to develop your craft — you must continually inspire trust at every step along the way. You really have no choice.

To Inspire Trust:

  • Honor all stakeholders.
  • Declare yourself and do what you say you are going to do.
  • Develop and display character and competence – consistently.
  • Uphold high ethical standards.
  • Model the behavior you expect from others.
  • Acknowledge mistakes.
  • Consistently meet performance expectations.

1. Clarify Higher Purpose

Craft an inspiring ‘calling’ that resonates with all stakeholders and delivers economic and social value.

A higher purpose guides your work and provides a reservoir of vitality that invigorates the effort. This practice area must be attended to first – both at the individual and organizational level. An inspiring calling will govern your leadership, tether the work to shared meaning, and ensure you continue on the right path in the face of adversity.

To Clarify Higher Purpose:

  • Craft an aspirational calling that resonates with all stakeholders and delivers economic and social value.
  • Champion the higher purpose with intentionality, passion, persistence, and humility.
  • Ensure the higher purpose governs the direction of the organization.

2. Create Direction

Develop a competitively advantaged direction for advancing the agenda.

To advance the agenda and realize the Higher Purpose – you must collaboratively develop a clear and compelling plan for achieving agreed upon goals. This practice area is essential for building a clear-eyed approach that unmistakably points you in the right direction.

To Create Direction:

  • Confront the brutal facts facing you or your organization, question assumptions, challenge paradigms.
  • Build an aspirational but achievable plan for advancing the agenda while honoring all stakeholders.
  • Dispel ambiguity – make sure the expectations of the plan are clear to all.

3. Drive Alignment

Organize and leverage all resources to advance the agenda in a quality way.

Once you have clarity of Purpose and Direction you must organize all the resources at your disposal to bring the planned agenda to fruition. This practice area is crucial in developing a system that enables the right work to be done with speed and focus – and ensures you are properly positioned for success.

To Drive Alignment:

  • Organize resources (people, finances, time) to deliver the plan, task, or goal.
  • Establish a self-sustaining process that enables everybody to work towards the plan with agility.
  • Confirm all stakeholders understand their roles and responsibilities.

4. Build Vitality

Motivate all to be fully engaged in advancing the direction in a way that honors all stakeholders.

It is unrealistic to expect extraordinary effort and performance without creating an environment in which people feel extraordinarily valued. This practice area requires you to give people the energy to do their best work while also challenging them to do better. Leaders must work to engage all stakeholders and to create a high-energy culture.

To Build Vitality:

  • Energize all to be actively engaged in delivering the desired performance.
  • Celebrate achievements and acknowledge shortcomings.
  • Challenge all to do better through swift and constructive feedback.

5. Execute with Excellence

Assure the direction is executed with excellence — course-correcting as needed.

All the strategic planning and good intentions you can muster do not amount to leadership that works. In the real world, strong execution is foundational and mandatory to leadership success. This practice area demands that plans are vigorously attended to, that results are tracked and measured, and that progress is not waylaid by obstacles.

To Execute with Excellence

  • Implement plans with disciplined task management.
  • Act decisively.
  • Measure progress and adapt as needed.

6. Produce Extraordinary Results

Meet or exceed performance expectations.

A plan can be executed to the letter and still not produce the agreed upon outcome. But leadership is about getting things done. You must be unmistakably focused on delivering the desired results in a quality way. This practice area pushes leaders to be ever-mindful of their commitment to performance — and to evaluate every effort with a view towards meeting or exceeding expectations.

To Produce Extraordinary Results

  • Deliver.
  • Embrace a results-oriented mindset
  • Attend wisely to the near-term and the long-term.

As you become more proficient in the practice areas of the flywheel, I encourage you to explore your unique leadership perspective. Use this resource as a starting point that sparks a journey of self- discovery. Ultimately, you can use these principles to inspire the creation of your own robust leadership model that is rooted in your personal experience and point of view.

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How Great Companies Think Differently

It’s time that beliefs and theories about business catch up with the way great companies operate and how they see their role in the world today. Traditionally, economists and financiers have argued that the sole purpose of business is to make money—the more the better. That conveniently narrow image, deeply embedded in the American capitalist system, molds the actions of most corporations, constraining them to focus on maximizing short-term profits and delivering returns to shareholders. Their decisions are expressed in financial terms.

I say convenient because this lopsided logic forces companies to blank out the fact that they command enormous resources that influence the world for better or worse and that their strategies shape the lives of the employees, partners, and consumers on whom they depend. Above all, the traditional view of business doesn’t capture the way great companies think their way to success. Those firms believe that business is an intrinsic part of society, and they acknowledge that, like family, government, and religion, it has been one of society’s pillars since the dawn of the industrial era. Great companies work to make money, of course, but in their choices of how to do so, they think about building enduring institutions. They invest in the future while being aware of the need to build people and society.

In this article, I turn the spotlight on this very different logic—a social or institutional logic—which lies behind the practices of many widely admired, high-performing, and enduring companies. In those firms, society and people are not afterthoughts or inputs to be used and discarded but are core to their purpose. My continuing field research on admired and financially successful companies in more than 20 countries on four continents is the basis for my thinking about the role of institutional logic in business.

Institutional logic holds that companies are more than instruments for generating money; they are also vehicles for accomplishing societal purposes and for providing meaningful livelihoods for those who work in them. According to this school of thought, the value that a company creates should be measured not just in terms of short-term profits or paychecks but also in terms of how it sustains the conditions that allow it to flourish over time. These corporate leaders deliver more than just financial returns; they also build enduring institutions.

Rather than viewing organizational processes as ways of extracting more economic value, great companies create frameworks that use societal value and human values as decision-making criteria. They believe that corporations have a purpose and meet stakeholders’ needs in many ways: by producing goods and services that improve the lives of users; by providing jobs and enhancing workers’ quality of life; by developing a strong network of suppliers and business partners; and by ensuring financial viability, which provides resources for improvements, innovations, and returns to investors.

In developing an institutional perspective, corporate leaders internalize what economists have usually regarded as externalities and define a firm around its purpose and values. They undertake actions that produce societal value—whether or not those actions are tied to the core functions of making and selling goods and services. Whereas the aim of financial logic is to maximize the returns on capital, be it shareholder or owner value, the thrust of institutional logic is to balance public interest with financial returns.

Institutional logic should be aligned with economic logic but need not be subordinate to it. For example, all companies require capital to carry out business activities and sustain themselves. However, at great companies profit is not the sole end; rather, it is a way of ensuring that returns will continue. The institutional view of the firm is thus no more idealized than is the profit-maximizing view. Well-­established practices, such as R&D and marketing, cannot be tied to profits in the short or long runs, yet analysts applaud them. If companies are to serve a purpose beyond their business portfolios, CEOs must expand their investments to include employee empowerment, emotional engagement, values-based leadership, and related societal contributions.

Business history provides numerous examples of industrialists who developed enduring corporations that also created social institutions. The Houghton family established Corning Glass and the town of Corning, New York, for instance. The Tata family established one of India’s leading conglomerates and the steel city of Jamshedpur, Jharkhand. That style of corporate responsibility for society fell out of fashion as economic logic and shareholder capitalism came to dominate assumptions about business and corporations became detached from particular places. In today’s global world, however, companies must think differently.

BY Rosabeth Moss Kanter

http://hbr.org/2011/11/how-great-companies-think-differently/ar/1

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Develop Strategic Thinkers Throughout Your Organization

In study after study, strategic thinkers are found to be among the most highly effective leaders. And while there is an abundance of courses, books, articles and opinions on the process of strategic planning, the focus is typically on an isolated process that might happen once or twice per year. In contrast, a true strategic leader thinks and acts strategically every day.

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Good Leaders Get Emotional

By Doug Sundheim. First Published by HBR on August 15, 2013.

Much of what comes out of people’s mouths in business these days is sugar-coated, couched, and polished. The messages are manufactured, trying to strike just the right tone. Genuine emotion stands in stark contrast. It’s a real person sharing a real feeling. When we hear it, we’re riveted — for one because it’s rare, but also because it’s real. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable and a little messy. But that’s what makes it powerful. No one is trying to hide anything.

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