Imagine for a moment that you are a newly-minted executive coach. Now suppose your first clients were the three most recent U.S. Presidents – Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Now imagine how you would approach each of them. They all possess distinctive and powerful positive strengths and equally compelling weaknesses. There is no single template of executive coaching that would be effective for all three. This is where the consummate skills, experience, and yes, the creativity of a great coach like Marshall Goldsmith become the essential ingredient to successful behavioral change.
When does the generally positive quality of “authoritative” become “dictatorial?” Or when does “collaborative” descend into “indecisive?”
I have written before about Marshall’s excellent book, What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There, but like all great books, it is a continuous fountain of insight as I have moved along my career path. (See link at bottom of post).
Goldsmith has a Ph.D. in organizational behavior from UCLA and over 35 years of experience measuring and analyzing behavior in organizations. He writes: “My job is not to make them smarter or richer. My job is to help them—to identify a personal habit that’s annoying their coworkers and to help them eliminate it—so that they retain their value to the organization. My job is to make them see that the skills and habits that have taken them this far might not be the right skills and habits to take them further. What got them here won’t get them there." “
He trains executives to behave more effectively in the workplace enrolling them in a rigorous regimen. In the discovery phase, he solicits “360-degree feedback” from their colleagues…”as many as I can talk to up, down, and sideways in the chain of command, often including family members—for a comprehensive assessment of their strengths and weaknesses. Then I confront them with what everybody really thinks about them. Assuming that they accept this information, agree that they have room to improve, and commit to changing that behavior, and then I show them how to do it. I help them apologize to everyone affected by their flawed behavior (because it’s the only way to erase the negative baggage associated with our prior actions) and ask the same people for help in getting better. I help them advertise their efforts to get better because you have to tell people that you’re trying to change; they won’t notice it on their own."
Goldsmith continues: “I help them follow up religiously every month or so with their colleagues because it’s the only honest way to find out how you’re doing and it also reminds people that you’re still trying. As an integral part of this follow-up process, I teach people to listen without prejudice to what their colleagues, family members, and friends are saying—that is, listen without interrupting or arguing. Finally, I teach them the miracle of feed forward, which is my “special sauce” methodology for eliciting advice from people on what they can do to get better in the future. “
What has always impressed me with “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There,” is his carefully honed observations about those personality traits that hinder success – like overestimating your contribution to a project, taking credit, partial or complete, for successes that truly belong to others, having an elevated opinion of our professional skills and our standing among our peers and conveniently ignoring the costly failures and time-consuming dead-ends we have created.
So what about creativity? To me, it is the essential catalyst to enhance skills of a coach to adapt to the unique behavioral DNA of an individual. Years ago, I talked with an executive coach who told me, “I know what you do well, tell me about what you don’t do well?”
It may be template question, but it was timed creatively to achieve maximum effect.
Goldsmith’s powerful insight is that a certain level of leadership, it isn’t your skill set that will hinder you, but your personality traits. This book doesn’t belong on a shelf, it belongs in your hands, in your Kindle or ereader, or ultimately in your mind.
My earlier post on What Got You Here, Won't Get You There.
A link to the book on Amazon: