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HR Leaders: To be more strategic, simply follow your own advice

“We’re finally promoting James to VP next week. He’s ready right?”

Looking squarely in his HR director’s eyes, the senior executive questioned her with a mix of urgency and contemplation.

The HR director calmly assured him.

“Of course he is. You know this hasn’t been an overnight decision. But I’d like to invest in an executive coach for him. At least in his first year.”

The executive looked incredulous.

“What?  Why?  If he’s the right guy and this is the right time, why does he need that?  What message would that send about our confidence in this promotion?”

The HR director thought about it for a few seconds. “Well, actually it sends a better…”

He cut her off.  “And even if we looked at coaching, why would we spend money on someone outside?  Aren’t you a coach?  Isn’t that your job?”  

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A closer look at the differences between mentoring and coaching

Throughout the first month of our coaching engagement, I gave my client honest feedback on various aspects of his leadership style.

Now it was my turn to get his feedback. And to be honest, it felt a bit like a needle to a balloon: a quick sting followed by a slow deflation.

You told me to be upfront if I had any issues with the coaching,” he wrote in an email.

So I’ll just be honest,” he continued. “I’m a linear thinker and I need a direct approach. I don’t think we’re getting anywhere with all your open-ended questions.”

The message went on to say,

When I was working with my mentor last year, he suggested an action plan and I was checking off the steps. I feel like you and I are constantly brainstorming and reflecting rather than getting things done.”

Hired by this executive to help him shift perceptions of his approach, I wasn’t completely surprised. I was used to clients initially resisting the self-discovery that effective coaching requires before planning action. But he seemed so sure of what he wanted.

I wondered what I could have done differently. And then I began to understand the real source of his resistance.

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Three ways to better influence and drive action in matrix organizations

Below is a reprint of Nihar’s post on LinkedIn Pulse entitled: “How to Get People to Act When You Have No Authority.”

An executive’s product line captured extraordinary market share growth making it the most successful in his company.

And yet his chances for a promotion looked grim.

A recent 360 review highlighting friction between this leader and his peers in HR, marketing and finance greatly troubled his boss.

The boss asked me to coach the executive on learning to motivate and inspire his team around a shared vision, rather than continue to engage in internal conflict.

I was up for the challenge.  But I soon realized truly collaborative results would require something much more than that.

Buy-in doesn’t equal action

Thought leaders and management experts remind us that motivation starts with clarifying a shared purpose and the “why” behind the work.

But the link between shared motivation and expected action is complicated by human nature and the way authority is set up in today’s organizations.

People are unpredictable. And their behavior is even more unreliable when committing to colleagues outside of their vertical reporting structure.

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The part leader on-boarding plans don’t cover

Business thought leaders have written extensively on the challenges of leading effectively after a promotion. Yet with so much advice and highly detailed 100-day plans available, why is it that 40% of leaders continue to derail in the first 18 months after a new appointment?

Based on my experience in coaching executives before and after transitions, I believe the answer lies in the degree to which leaders are willing to look within as much as they look to lead. Simply put, successful transitions require equal attention to what I call “outer alignment” and “inner alignment.”

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What authentic leadership is – and what it’s not

(Below is a reprint of Nihar’s post on LinkedIn Pulse entitled:  “The problem with personal leadership narratives.”)

From the testy Presidential debates and Trump’s polarizing statements to the recent questioning of Ben Carson’s life story, no shortage of controversy exists in the race for America’s top executive job.

With an executive coaching lens, I watch how candidates present themselves to the people they hope to one day lead. For people on both sides of the aisle, Carson’s approach in particular has been of interest.

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