Tuesday, February 28, 2012

23 Telltale Signs it’s Time to Fire Your Executive Coach

I’ve written about the Executive Coaching industry before. Most coaches are highly qualified and ethical professionals that can help an executive or aspiring executive reach their fullest potential. However, as with any industry, coaching has its share of charlatans, frauds, and wannabes.

Heck, some can even be downright dangerous.

In the absence of a professional license – ICF certification is the closest thing, but not all coaches even think it’s important – how do you know if you’ve hired, or about to hire a dud?

Here are 23 telltale signs, mostly based on the International Coach Federation Code of Ethics:

1. You discover that something your coach provided about their qualifications, experience, testimonials, credentials, certifications, or accomplishments was misleading or outright false.

2. You find out that the coach is taking credit for someone else’s work (i.e., research, articles, models, etc…).

3. Your coach brings bagfuls of their own personal issues to the table that are getting in the way of your coaching relationship.

4. You find out you’ve been a part of a research project or case study and didn’t give your consent.

5. You find the notes from your last meeting at Starbucks pinned to the lost and found bulletin board next to lost kittens and dogs.

6. Your coach has been coaching your biggest competitor without you knowing about it.

7. Your coach starts asking for too many personal and professional favors, to the extent that you’re starting to feel taken advantage of.

8. Your coach makes exaggerated or false claims about what you’ve get from the coaching process. In other words, it sounds too good to be true.

9. Your coach refuses to use a written agreement or contract.

10. Your coach doesn’t honor a written agreement or contract.

11. Prior to or at the initial meeting, the coach doesn’t explain the nature of coaching, the nature and limits of confidentiality, financial arrangements, and any other terms of the coaching agreement or contract.

12. You feel that your physical space is being invaded, despite your tactful objections.

13. Your coach is hitting on you.

14. You coach sleeps with you.

15. You’ve tried to “break up” with your coach, but the coach is aggressively resisting – you feel trapped.

16. Your coach starts pressuring you recommend him/her to other potential clients, including your employees and peers.

17. You coach insists on being called weird names like “Messiah” or “Prefect”, and starts referring to you as a “disciple”.

18. You share information with your coach that suggests you may need other professional services (i.e., psychiatric, legal, marriage counseling, medical), and the coach seems perfectly willing to offer their own “holistic” advice in any and every area of your life.

19. Your coach wants to use hypnosis, meditation, chanting, neuro-linguistic programming, or any other mind-altering technique on you.

20. You find out the coach has discussed the details your situation with another client, your manager, or sponsor without your consent.

21. You coach keeps canceling or rescheduling appointments, not showing up, or showing up late.

22. For whatever reason, you just don’t feel the right “chemistry” with your coach.

23. At the end of the day, you’re not making sufficient progress towards your development goals.

How about you? Are there any other signs that it may be time to fire your executive coach?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Questions to Teach Leadership and Management

Teaching and learning about leadership and management isn’t like teaching or learning math or science. It’s not an exact science. There’s lot of room for interpretation, situations are complex and unique, and context always comes into play. Making sound decisions requires the critical thinking, the ability to deal with ambiguity and paradox, a strong set of values, and a healthy dose of emotional intelligence.

That’s what makes leadership and management development so much fun.

Another thing that’s unique about teaching leadership and management is that it usually involves adult learners. Adults bring a ton of experience, knowledge, and skills to the table. A good teacher/trainer/facilitator knows how to draw that out with good questions.

Here are some of my favorite questions. It's just a start - I stopped at 25, but invite readers to add to the list. All are guaranteed to get a group thinking and talking. Some actually do have clear answers, but most could be answered with the old standby “it depends”. Some are trick questions. Use them for large group discussion, pairs, small groups, or individual journaling and reflection.

1. What is leadership? What’s the difference between leadership and management?
2. Are leaders born or made?
The classic leadership development question. The answer, btw, way is both, but mostly developed. It’s fun to allow groups to get there by themselves.

3. Does a leader need power? How can a leader avoid being corrupted by power?

4. What’s the "best" leadership style?
Trick question, leads to a nice discussion on situational leadership.

5. Think about the best leaders you have ever known. What made them so great? What did they do, or not do?

6. Think about the worst leaders you have ever known. What made them so ineffective? What did they do, or not do?
Questions 5 & 6 build a nice side-by-side list.

7. What are the greatest lessons you've learned as a leader? How did you learn them?

8. What are the your most challenging leadership/management challenges facing you today?

9. What are your core values as a leader?

10. Why do you want to be a leader/manager?
Gets at motivations, and can lead to a discussion to help challenge some myths.

11. What are your expectations for your employees? What do you think they expect from you?

12. What’s your leadership vision? What’s your vision for your group/team/organization?

13. When hiring someone to join your team, what talents or qualities are absolute MUSTS?

14. What’s more important in a hire – attitude of experience/skill?

15. What are your beliefs about recognition? Can you ever provide too much recognition? (kind of a trick question) Have you ever received too much recognition from your manager?

16. Can you motivate employees? If so, how?

Leadership & management Dilemmas:
These realistic scenarios are a fun way to bring leadership and management to life.However, be warned, as they involve values and ethics, it takes a skilled facilitator to keep the discussion civil.

17. Is it ever OK for a manager to be friends with their employees?

18. Two of your employees come to you with a complaint about another one of your employees. You’ve never personally observed the behavior they are complaining about. Do you confront the employee? If so, do you mention the complaints?

19. Your manager congratulates you for a brilliant suggestion and hints at a promotion. Your employee gave you the idea. Do you mention this to the manager? Your manager is upset because the sales forecast you gave has errors. You delegated the forecast to one of your sales reps. Do you tell her?

20. You’re reviewing the results of an employee survey and accidentally discover a way to see individual responses and comments. You feel one of the comments crosses the line and is inappropriate. Do you confront the employee?

22. Your employee is going to the drycleaner on her lunch break to pick up her dry-cleaning. She notices a ticket on your desk for the same drycleaner and offers to pick yours up too. Do you accept the offer?

23. One of your employees gives you an expensive birthday gift – at least 5 times more than any other employee. Do you accept it?

24. You’ve accidentally been given access to your employee’s email accounts. You see your name in the subject line of several emails. Do you peek?

25. You’ve “Googled” an employee that you are considering hiring and found an embarrassing YouTube video. Do you watch it?

What are your favorite questions when it comes to teaching leadership and/or management? Please share in the comments section.

If you have your own blog, feel free to select any questions and post your answers (with a link back to this blog). Leave a comment here with a link back to your post and I’ll publish it in the comment section.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Top 10 Excuses for Being a Lousy Manager

Throughout the course of my career in leadership development, I’ve had the opportunity to confront, counsel, and console a lot of bad managers. As an HR manager, I sometimes had to discipline or even fire bad managers. But those cases were the extreme ones. More often, it was as a result of a manager receiving a rough 360 assessment. Or, in the case of developing executives, it may have been a last ditch attempt to save a derailed senior manager by convincing them to work with an executive coach.

The majority of these bad managers were not really bad people. In fact, once you got to know them, they could be sincere, caring, and down to earth. Many of them, when confronted with evidence that their management skills were less than ideal, were shocked. They would need to be coaxed through the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance before they could begin to start working on a plan of improvement.

Some, unfortunately, had a hard time taking ownership for their flaws. And of course, without ownership, there was little chance of improvement.

Don’t let that happen to you! Like they say, perception is reality. Or, if you’ve been called a jerk by more than three people recently, maybe you’re acting like a jerk.

Here are the most common actual excuses I’ve heard from “bad” managers to justify their behavior. Some of them may even sound like good reasons to you – but at the end of the day, they are still just excuses. As an added bonus, I’ve also included my evil twin response for each excuse:

1. “I was hired/promoted to drive change – it should be understood and accepted that not everyone’s going to be a happy camper”.
No, no, you were hired/promoted to lead change, not drive it like a jackhammer!

2. “We have the worst HR/finance/budget/sales processes and policies! My hands are tied; I’m almost forced to act this way!”
In other words, it’s “the system’s” fault, right?

3. “I inherited a bad team, and bad employees make a bad manager.”
Right, and if it weren’t for those lousy HR policies, you could fire them all.

4. “My manager taught me how to manage like this, and he learned from his manager.”
So it’s Mom and Dad’s fault? You inherited your bad management skills?

5. “Honestly, I really don’t care.”
Really?! I mean, seriously? I could never really get my head around that one.

6. “I’m new, and have never had any training.”
OK, good point. Organizations that don’t provide management/leadership training are going more likely to end up with bad managers. New managers in particular tend to make a lot of naïve mistakes. But still, in addition to formal training, managers need to take ownership for their own development.

7. “This isn’t the real me – the job makes me this way.”
Then why aren’t the rest of the managers in your department having the same issues?

8. “They’re all just jealous – I got the job and they didn’t.”
Maybe a few employees were, but you’ve had plenty of time to win their respect. Also, not everyone wants to be a manager. In fact, since they’ve been working for you, none of them do, so good luck getting promoted with no successors.

9. “I am what I am, and people should just accept me for what I am. Whatever happened to valuing diversity? ”
Sorry, but we value leadership. Leadership isn’t some inherent trait; it’s a skill that can be developed through hard work. Great leaders come in all shapes, genders, and colors.

10. “There are a lot of other managers who are worse than me!”
Hmm, that’s what my kids used to try to tell me, and I never accepted that low standard.

How about you? What excuses have your heard for being a lousy manager, and what would your response be?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Don’t Let the Pebbles Cover the Rocks

Guest post by Great Leadership regular contributor Beth Armknecht Miller:

One of my five top leadership mistakes is the vicious spiral many leaders get sucked into: the urgent taking over the important on a continual basis.

This spiral leads to goals that are unmet or have slipped past their deadline. It causes a lack of focus for the organization as people begin to question what the real priorities are for the company. And ultimately, the success of the organization is held back and performance is limited because employees are focused on putting out fires and not preparing for the future because the future is so unclear. And, often changes are taking place externally in the market that are missed providing competitors with the advantage in the long run.

So what are the important things a leader should be focused on? And when the urgent hits you in the face, which it does to us all, what process do you have to quickly get back to the important items, which will make the difference between your company surviving and thriving?

The Important

A leader's ultimate job is to move her organization forward towards the company's long-term vision. So the important things to a company are those projects, decisions, meetings, employees, and external influences that will impact a company in getting to their long -term vision.

And we all know the urgent, an employee crisis, a problem with a customer delivery, a vendor not meeting their commitment, a key prospect requiring a quick proposal turnaround, and the list goes on and on.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with many business leaders who were very effective at managing the important versus the urgent and what I have found is three things that have made them effective.... delegation, time management, and emotional intelligence (the ability to be calm and not over react).

Effectively delegating urgent issues requires a level of trust that the person being delegated to, can be trusted to perform in a timely manner and has the necessary skills to deliver quality work. If you find yourself consistently taking on specific urgent issues, for example customer issues, then this probably means you either don't have the right person managing customer relationships or you need to develop the person so that you can offload more customer issues. Or, it may be that you have trouble letting go of control. It this is the case, ask yourself "How will I be able to grow the business if I continue to fear letting go of the comfortable and non risky tasks?"

Coaching Tip: Start documenting the type of urgent issues that are derailing the important work and look for trends. Once the trends have been identified determine who and how you can offload the urgent.

Time Management is the next critical skill to stay out of the trap of being stuck in the urgent. Many of you have heard the story of the "big rocks", I'm not sure where it originated but I first heard it from Verne Harnish of Gazelles Inc. The point of "big rocks" is that if you keep tackling the small things, the sand and pebbles, and not the important strategic items, then your pot will be full of sand and pebbles with no way of inserting a big rock. The urgent really aren't the rocks; they are like pebbles, which get caught in a bicycle's gears, which can derail a company. As a leader-manager your time should first be focused on the big rocks, and when the pebbles pop up and try to derail you spend time to reprioritize so that you can get quickly back on track to address your big rocks.

And finally, having the skill to manage your emotions in times of the urgent is critical to leadership success. Many leaders forget that they are "on stage". Their employees are always looking to them for emotional and behavioral cues. So when something or someone becomes that pebble, you need to kick up your level of emotional intelligence. Step back and think before you react.

Coaching Tip: Explore your stress triggers, what causes you to react emotionally versus logically? Once you know your triggers you can learn to manage your approach and reaction to the triggers.

So if you are tired of spending all your time fighting fires and not focused on the future, take the tips from executives who have been able to free themselves of the vicious cycle: delegate, manage your time and your emotions. And, in turn have enjoy continued growth, success and less stress.

Training tip from Dan: For an effective time management training exercise, try demonstrating the "rocks and pebbles" concept to your participants. All you need is a large jar, 3-4 rocks, a cup of pebbles, cup of sand, and bottle of water. Or, you can animate the metaphor on a PowerPoint presentation.

Beth Armknecht Miller, of Atlanta, Georgia, is Founder and President of Executive Velocity, a leadership development advisory firm accelerating the leadership success of CEOs and business leaders. She is also a Vistage Chair and Executive Coach. She is certified in Myers Briggs and Hogan leadership assessment tools and is a Certified Managerial Coach by Kennesaw State University. Visit http://www.executive-velocity.com/ or http://executivevelocityblog.com/ or follow her on twitter at SrExecAdvisor.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How to Survive a Meeting with the CEO

Most employees NEVER get to have a meeting with the CEO of their company. So if you do, it’s a one-shot deal that you don’t want to screw up. After all, exposure is a double-edged sword, and many CEOs and senior executives have short attention spans but long memories.

This post isn’t written for the seasoned executive or middle manager who has regular interactions with the CEO. These managers have already earned their scars through the school of hard knocks, and are now completely at ease using the executive restroom.

Rather, it’s written as a way to provide some mentoring assistance to the early career rising stars.

Follow these tips, and you’ll not only survive, you’ll thrive!

1. Study your audience.
Prepare like you would for a job interview. Learn everything you can about your CEO ahead of time. Read the information provided on your company website – often found under “About”, or “For Investors”. Do a Google search, including recent news, in order to get an external perspective. Read or view any recent speeches. Talk to others that know the CEO, and have had meetings with him/her.
You may not end up using any of this information, but it will make you feel more prepared and comfortable. And who knows, there may be an opportunity to make a personal connection or informed comment, or at least prevent you from putting your foot in your mouth.

2. Give yourself permission to BE an expert.
Yes, you are meeting with the high ranking person in your company. However, CEOs can’t possibly be experts in every little aspect of the company. That’s YOUR job, to be their expert in your area. If you’re not, you have no reason to be at the meeting.

3. Appreciate the CEO’s perspective.
Imagine a 12-16 hour day where you are in back-to-back meetings ALL day, every day. Each meeting has a vastly different topic. In the eyes of each person you are meeting with, it’s the most important thing in the world to them, and you’re expected to be interested and make a high level decision. That’s day of a typical CEO. Understand and appreciate that perspective as your prepare for the meeting and set your expectations realistically.

4. Be clear on what would be a “win”.
Ask yourself what you’d like to achieve as a result of this meeting? Are you looking for approval, and if so, is that a reasonable expectation? Or are you looking for interest and a definitive next step? Being clear and realistic on what would be your “win” will increase your chances of getting what you’re looking for.

5. One page.
No multi-page reports or PowerPoint presentations! Bring a ONE-PAGE executive summary. The one-pager gives the CEO something to take notes on and a take-a-way reference document. Anything more will be ignored and discarded.
However, bring all of those reports and supporting documentation with you, in case you need them to respond to a question.

5. Honor thy Executive Assistant.
The CEO’s Executive Assistant can be your best friend or worst nightmare. When requesting and setting up the meeting, approach her (not to be sexist, but it’s usually a high ranking her) with the utmost respect. Don’t make the mistake of getting too casual. Explain your reason for the meeting, and ask for 30 minutes of the CEO’s time.
If you are offered a choice between an early or late meeting, take the early one, as there will be less chance of it being rescheduled. Send your one-page summary in advance, as most Exec Assistants will print and provide a briefing package at the end of the day for the next day’s meetings.

6. The arrival.
If you are traveling, allow LOT’s of extra travel time – plan for the worse. Arrive at the office five minutes early, and then expect to wait. Don’t be surprised if your meeting has to be rescheduled (especially if you got one of those late meetings).
Introduce yourself to the CEO’s Executive Assistance, but don’t hover around her desk making small talk. It’s not her job to keep you and every visitor entertained, and if she did, she’d never get any work done.

7. First impressions.
Wear a suit (when in doubt, overdress), watch your posture, speak clearly and confidently, and greet the CEO with a smile and firm handshake. Wait to be offered a seat, or until the CEO sits down first (they often have a favorite chair).

8. Small talk?
If you’ve done your homework, you’ll know if it’s better to start with small talk (Hey, I see you’re a Fighting Irish fan – so am I!”) or get right to the point. However, don’t assume – let the CEO set the tone. Be prepared to introduce yourself and answer questions about your background, role, etc…
CEOs are people too - it might even be a welcome relief to spend time with a "regular" employee for a change.
Depending on his/her style and mood, this could eat up most of your time if you’re not careful. Be patient, but after 5-10 minutes, make a tactful transition to the meeting topic.

8. Get to the point and expect questions.
Both in meetings and one-on-ones, CEOs are notoriously quick studies and action oriented. Don’t try to make a case and gradually build up to what you’re looking for – state it right up front. Then, present your background and rationale, and be prepared to be interrupted and have to think on your feet. Assuming you’ve done your homework, this shouldn’t be a problem. When asked a question, make sure you understand the question before you answer it. Then, answer it directly and succinctly. If you don’t know, DO NOT attempt to bluff your way through it. Just say “that’s a good question, and I don’t know, but I’d be glad to get the answer and get back to you”.
If challenged, and you disagree, don’t automatically back down and agree. Remember, you’re the expert. If you back down too readily, you’ll lose credibility. However, don’t be stubborn – know when to back off and drop that bone.
Take notes, but don't write down every word like a court stenographer.

9. End early if possible.
If you’ve achieved your win, and there’s still 10 minutes left, close your notepad and offer to give that 10 minutes back to the CEO. They will either thank-you, or invite you to stay. Either way, they will appreciate the gesture, as will the next person waiting outside for their turn.
Thank them for their time, and thank the Executive Assistant on the way out.

10. You own the follow-up.
A wise mentor once told me “never leave an executive with a long to-do list”. For one thing, it may not get done. But more importantly, the CEO will appreciate your respect for their time and your willingness and ability to get things done on his/her behalf.
After the meeting, send a brief thank-you, meeting summary, including any decisions and next steps.

How about you? What advice would you give to someone who’s going to meet with the CEO for the first time?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Leadership Development Carnival – Super Bowl Edition and 2012 Schedule

The big game may be history, but the February 5th, 2012 Leadership Development Carnival is still in overtime!

This month's edition is hosted by the extremely talented team of bloggers over at Talented Apps. Thanks to Mark Bennett for leading the effort.

You can find it right here - there's over 20 recent game-winning leadership posts from an all-star cast of Carnival regulars.

2012 Carnival Schedule and Submission Information:

I'm hosting the March 4th edition back here at Great Leadership. If you'd like to submit a recent (within 2 weeks of Carnival publish date) leadership development post, please send me an email (danmccarth at gmail dot com) with your name, blog name with link, post name with link, and a brief introduction to the post, by March 3rd.

If you would like to be included in a blind copy Carnival reminder distribution list that I maintain, just indicate that in your note and you'll get a regular reminder one week before each edition.

Here's the schedule and host blogs for the rest of the year:

March 4: Great Leadership

April 1: QAspire

May 6: Great Leadership

June 3: Working Girl

July 1: Great Leadership

August 5: HR Bartender

September 2: Great Leadership

October 7: Management is a Journey

November 4: Great Leadership

December 2: The People Equation

Friday, February 3, 2012

How to Find a Business Mentor Who'll Help You Achieve Your Leadership Goals

I often get asked for advice on how to find a mentor. This guest post by Rene D. Petrin provides a nice 8-step approach:

Back in December, Dan talked about "10 Big Development Goals for Leaders in 2012." Goal #7 in the blog post stated: “Find a mentor and/or hire a coach.” While a formal mentoring relationship – meaning one that takes place in a monitored program within an organization – is the ideal, sometimes an informal mentoring relationship is what’s available. The question is how do you go about making it happen?

Here are eight steps to follow:

Step #1: Identify one or two specific leadership skills you feel that you could improve through mentoring. Is it your ability to make strategic decisions in a quick and decisive manner? Is it your ability to recognize and develop talent to improve the success of your department and yourself? Something else?

Step #2: Now assess what style of leadership is best suited to you. (As you know, not everyone leads in the same way.) Are you more collaborative as a leader, working through consensus? Or are you a decisive type of leader who makes the decisions and motivates others to follow those decisions?

Step #3: Determine whether you want a mentor who mirrors your leadership style so that you can improve upon how you lead…or decide if finding a mentor with a different leadership style might challenge you more and help you grow as a leader by adding new dimensions to your own personal style.

Step #4: Consider the type of person you want as a mentor. For informal mentoring to work, you have to have focus. The first three steps have provided you with this focus. But the other important component needed is the relationship aspect. Think about the personal qualities and/or communication styles that you respond to. Do you want a mentor who is more sociable than business-like? Or one who is more of a thinker than a doer? Perhaps you respond better to warmth and friendliness rather than someone who is more aloof, despite his or her success.

Step #5: Now make a list of potential leaders who you may want to approach as mentors. These people could be in your company, but they could also be elsewhere, such as an alumni organization or networking group. Don’t forget to ask colleagues for recommendations as well. An important point: this may be obvious, but it's worth saying: only put leaders with proven track records on your list.

Step #6: Approach and interview the candidates. Have a conversation with at least three of the leaders on your list to evaluate if the person would be the right fit for you. Approaching potential mentors and eventually asking "the winner" to be your mentor are the hardest steps in the process. Remember, it's how you approach the person that makes all the difference. Here's one strategy for doing just that:

• Make contact via phone or email introducing yourself and indicating that you are working on self-improvement in the area of leadership and that you would welcome input from an experienced leader who has been successful in this area. Would this person have 30 minutes or so to have a discussion with you on your goals and how best to approach these? Maybe you could do this over lunch, as you would also like to thank that person for his or her time.

• If you feel the person might indeed be a good fit, ask him or her (at the end of the meeting) if you could stay in touch with any follow-up questions. The person's response – and HOW he or she responds – will be a good indicator as to whether your assessment is on target. Does the person sound welcoming and enthusiastic about staying in touch? Or does the person sound noncommittal?

• Send a handwritten thank you note. In a pinch, an email will do, but nothing beats a personal note of thanks. (Note: you should still send a thank you, even if you've ruled the person out as mentor.)

Step #7: Decide and ask. After interviewing several candidates, you are now ready to ask the person you think is best if he or she will be your informal mentor. Before you do this, it’s important for you to be prepared to specifically state what you're looking for and how you want the relationship to work. Since you’ve already had one or more conversations, your prospect has an idea of what you're seeking, but now be clear and as specific as possible. In addition, you should be prepared to discuss setting some guidelines for your mentoring relationship. Here are some to consider:

• How often will you meet? Weekly is ideal, and once a month is the recommended minimum.

• Will your meetings take place face-to-face, over the phone, through Skype, or combination of these?

• How will you approach confidential issues?

• How will you communicate to one another if something isn’t working in the relationship?

• How long do you want to meet before you re-assess the need to continue or end the relationship? Note: in formal mentoring programs, the relationship typically lasts nine months to one year. We suggest a minimum of four to six months for an informal relationship.

• Discuss concerns you both have about engaging in this type of relationship.

Step #8: When your chosen mentor has agreed to the informal mentoring relationship, then congratulate yourself for finding someone who will be strategically important to your career and to your growth as a leader. To succeed, make sure you keep to the guidelines you’ve agreed to in Step # 7.

Here's to your leadership success in 2012!

Rene Petrin is the founder and president of Management Mentors, a company that has been designing and implementing business mentoring programs since 1989. You can connect with him on LinkedIn and Facebook.