3 Reasons Why You Need Executive Coaching

3 reasons why you need executive coaching

Executive coaching programmes can benefit business leaders of all kinds whether you run a small, medium or large company. An executive coach can offer a business owner or senior manager an objective view of their performance as team leaders as well as offering fresh perspectives on their vision for the business and where it is going. Executive coaches don’t tell business leaders how to run their companies but they do give them open and honest feedback that they can use to their advantage to improve both their individual performance and the overall performance of the business. Executive coach John Raftery outlines 3 reasons why you need executive coaching and the role it plays in effective leadership development that benefits the whole organisation.

1. Executive coach as a sounding board
The first reason it works is because to a large extent business leaders don’t get an opportunity to talk in a confidential and safe environment. The key thing is that they can use the executive coach as a sounding board. Just trying to articulate their own ideas can be a challenge for business leaders. To a large extent business leaders live inside their own heads. Then they try to communicate with their staff and it can be difficult for staff to interpret what’s in the leader’s head. Communicating ideas to staff can be challenging. They may be cautious about articulating certain issues or concerns that they might have. So the first thing executive coaching does is it gives people the ability to try and articulate what is going on inside their own heads.

2. Provide feedback
The second thing an executive coach does is provide feedback, and ask challenging questions of the leader as well. It’s important that the executive coach has experience, has some knowledge or background in business so they have credibility with the leader in terms of giving feedback and acting as a sounding board.

3. Inspire action
The third thing an executive coach can do is inspire people to take action or prevent procrastination. A lot of leaders have particular issues that they know they need to address. But as long as it stays in their head they will never get around to actually dealing with it. But an executive coach will listen to you and challenge you and encourage you to take action. To start implementing a plan of action and set deadlines to deal with issues, and be confident that once you deal with those issues you can give further feedback to the coach. You then use that feedback to see how things have gone and decide where to go next.

It’s important to point out that executive coaching is non-directional. It’s a process that allows the business leader to make up their minds and come to their own conclusions. You’re suggesting ways forward, you’re asking the leader ‘what if’ or what are the alternatives. Is there another way of looking at this or how do they feel about approaching a problem in another way? What do they think the outcome would be if they tried an alternative solution? You are not saying to the leader ‘this is what you should do.’ You can offer advice and guide people in a certain direction but ultimately the business decision rests with them, they must come to their own conclusions. So really executive coaching is about providing the space for business leaders to explore options they may not have otherwise considered and then letting them come to their own conclusions. That way they take ownership of their decisions rather than passing responsibility to someone else. They own the decision and if they own it they are far more likely to follow through and implement it.

 

John Raftery is Executive Coach at LEAP

John Raftery

 

 

 

 

Interview by Des Kirby

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Self-Awareness Tools and How to Avoid The ‘Brent’ Factor

David_Brent_111For many decades psychologists and business leaders have observed, practiced and preached about effective business leadership. The result is a wealth of tools and materials to help guide the development of business owners and managers. Here LEAP’s John Raftery explains how freely available online tools can help you play to your strengths, and become a genuine leader as opposed to a David Brent-style caricature.

John, what does self-awareness mean in practice?
The key components of Emotional Intelligence are self-awareness, motivation, self-efficacy, empathy and social dexterity. But in order to develop the other four key factors in emotional intelligence you must start with the foundation which is self-awareness. Without self-awareness you won’t know what issues to address, you won’t know what your strengths or weaknesses are. So the key component in success is to build a high level of self-awareness.

The trouble is that’s not easily achieved; there is no formula or quick fix for building self-awareness. It is something that is developed over time. It’s about reflecting and understanding yourself at a deeper level and that can only be achieved through maturity and growth. We all meet people who have high levels of self-awareness and we meet people with very low levels of awareness.

How do you build self-awareness?
How you build self-awareness is a challenge. One thing you can do is to spend more time reflecting on your behaviour, your day’s output and trying to understand other people. The best way to do it is to devote more time to personal development. That means along with the technical skills that people learn on the job, you’ve also got to do some soft-skills training as well.

You have to look at personal development like communication, negotiation and listening skills, personality profiling and understanding the various personality profiles. There are lots of different tools out there. ; some are free tools and can give you information relating to your personality type. You can learn a lot from them if you reflect on the results and take things on board. If you complete a number of these tests you may begin to see a certain consistency which helps you to articulate who you are more effectively.

There are lots of good books out there too. A lot of good work has been done by Martin Seligman about authenticity and identifying what the drivers are in our personalities, and trying to achieve success in life and re-prioritise what we regard as success. His book is called Authentic Happiness and he’s been a big influence. Daniel Goleman’s book on emotional intelligence is also a very powerful one in terms of trying to understand yourself.

HR Managers and Profiling Tools
A lot of HR managers use Myers-Briggs for personality profiling. What I’m saying is that self-awareness is about reflecting on your behaviour and trying to understand yourself better, and there are tools and reading materials available to help you do that.

But business leaders and managers can take it to another level. Tools like performance management systems have in-built behaviours to help you develop your capabilities as a manager or leader. Tools like the 360 degree feedback can be useful in understanding how other people view you. Sometimes there is a disconnect between how other people view you and how you see yourself.  People often view themselves one way but present themselves to the world another way, and that indicates there is a problem. It indicates a low level of self-awareness.

Is there a danger of someone reading personal development books forcing themselves to act a certain way according to what they’ve read, but the ‘act’ is at odds with their authentic self?
Yes that’s a big issue. It reminds me of the character David Brent from The Office, that’s exactly what he represents; somebody who has a very low level of self-awareness. He has an image of himself as being very smart and clever. He has obviously swallowed all the management development books but it’s come out all wrong, and that’s why we find Brent so funny. He actually does represent that type of character that believes one thing about himself, but behaves in quite the opposite way. So that is a danger of course, we’ve all met those Brent types in our working lives.

But we also meet very genuine and authentic people. There is a difficulty here in defining someone who is authentic, orto give a formulaic answer to the question of what is authentic. But when we meet genuine people we know instinctively that they are genuine people. The greatest compliment you can pay someone is to say that they are genuine. One of the biggest insults is to say someone is harmless. It means they are ineffective, they have no influence or authority as they go through life.

Genuine and Authentic Behaviour
But in relation to genuineness, another word for it is congruence, where your behaviours fully reflect how you view yourself. So if you view yourself as trustworthy then you are absolutely trustworthy. But sometimes we behave in opposite ways to how we see ourselves. To be consistent in your behaviour, regardless of what situation you’re in, is really the sign of being genuine and authentic.

When the pressure is on you don’t suddenly revert back to type. You don’t dispense with proper behaviour, you don’t decide that manners are no longer necessary because you’re in a rush. Your behaviours have to be consistent irrespective of the environment, because the environment changes all the time. To be authentic means you stick to your beliefs and that your behaviours, and your view of yourself, are totally consistent. That’s how to build trust, you do what you say you will do. Self-awareness is key to all that.

John Raftey, executive coach, LEAP, leadership

John Raftery
Executive Coach

 

 

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Interviewed by Des Kirby
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5 Key Factors in Personal Development for Managing Directors

5 Key Factors in Personal Development for Managing Directors

In the business world, managing directors face a variety of challenges when trying to develop their companies into successful and profitable enterprises. As business leaders they need to arm themselves with a set of skills and traits that will allow them to maximize their own potential and the potential of their staff, and thereby maximize profits. But how do successful business leaders get investors, employees and consumers to trust their vision and ideas? The answer is through effective leadership and at the heart of that lies the concept of personal development. There are no magic formulas for success but as LEAP’s John Raftery explains, there are 5 key factors in personal development for managing directors that can influence your company’s bottom line.

1. Self-Awareness
“The key factor that dictates success in any endeavour, whether it’s in a business, a family, social settings or in a community, is emotional intelligence. The concept has been around for years, but essentially the most successful people in all walks of life are people who have high levels of emotional intelligence. What defines emotional intelligence more than anything else is self-awareness. There are lots of techniques to develop it such as psychometric tests and personality testing, but essentially what you need to do is devote a lot of time to reflecting on your behaviours, your attitudes and emotional responses to situations. It’s about questioning yourself and trying to reflect as much as possible in order to build up self-awareness. The reason why self-awareness is fundamental to emotional intelligence is because without it you won’t know what needs to change, or what issues need to be addressed in the way you behave. Self-awareness is the foundation to good personal development and making an impact on the world around us. Without it we are lost and it’s a never ending quest. We can spend our whole lives developing and honing self-awareness.”

2. Motivation
“There are two types of motivation; intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. By intrinsic motivation I mean you are motivated internally, by something you want to achieve or gain for yourself in order to find personal fulfilment. Extrinsic motivation is where you are motivated by external factors such as status, money or power. Both internal and external motivation can be quite strong and lead you to achieving huge success, but ultimately intrinsic motivation is the stronger of the two because that always remains with you. And linking that back to self-awareness; the more awareness you have, the more you can tap into your source of motivation to drive you on.”

3. Self- Efficacy
“The third element is one of the more important ones. Self-efficacy is the ability to control your responses and your emotions without being stoic or frigid in your responses. In other words you give the appropriate response in appropriate situations. You can decide what your response is in a particular situation and you can control your behaviours. That includes behaviours relating to alcohol, exercise or diet and more importantly having control over your emotional responses. It means accepting you are in control of your emotional responses.”

4. Empathy
“The fourth element is the one that is most lacking in the world today. Essentially empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes, to see things from their point of view. All conflict comes from a lack of empathy, from major conflicts to minor ones. People who are psychopathic have no empathy at all so they can’t feel another person’s pain. They can’t relate to other people. People with high levels of empathy can tune into other people and read situations better. They are better at reading the emotional responses of the people they’re trying to manage, or motivate or develop or relate to in some way. They are much better listeners than talkers, and by listening more you learn a lot more. There’s an old truism that God gave us two ears and one mouth and we should use them in that proportion. Listen twice as much as you speak. Allow others to speak without interrupting. Often when we are in conversation we are thinking about what we are going to say next rather than listening to what others are actually saying, and being inquisitive about what others are saying to us.”

5. Social Dexterity
“The last thing is what I call social dexterity which, at its most basic level, means interacting with other people. Basic things like shaking people’s hands, how you look them in the eye, and what your body language says about you. How confident are you in certain situations? How assertive are you? How do you relate to others in your network? How do you communicate with people? Can you actually lead teams or teams of teams? Can you lead an organisation? Can you relate to and manage large numbers of people? Social dexterity is something we try to develop in our children; we try to make them socially comfortable. We try to get them to relate to their peers, to get them to develop leadership skills through sport and so on. Ultimately this is the foundation that should lead people to greater levels of social dexterity further down the line. It’s one of the key components of leadership. I believe if an individual can develop the five key areas of self-awareness, understanding motivations, develop high levels of self-efficacy and empathy, and are comfortable and assertive in terms of social dexterity, then you’re looking  at an individual that can have a great  deal of influence on the people they come into contact with.”

John Raftery,
Senior Partner and Business Advisor at LEAP

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Interviewed by Des Kirby. We appreciate your feedback. Feel free to leave a comment in the box below.

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Leadership Development is About Developing The Right Habits

Leadership development is about developing the right habitsIn 2000 Mike Gaffney, along with co-founder Tricia Cunningham, established LEAP as a leadership development and management training consultancy. Armed with twelve years experience working at Nortel Networks he embarked on a new role as an executive coach. Over the past thirteen years he has developed substantial leadership programmes for owners of Irish and international companies.  Mike’s philosophy is that leadership skills can be learned like any other skill.  Here he discusses why leadership development is about developing the right habits, which ones have served him best as managing director, and the person who influenced him in his role as an executive coach.

You’re a business leader Mike. What leadership habits have helped you the most?
I think the most important thing I’ve learned in my journey is to be self-aware. It’s crucial to be aware of how you behave and keep that awareness to the forefront of your decision making, particularly in interactions with your team and with your customers.

Can you give an example of self-awareness as a business owner and leader?
I learned a valuable lesson one August a number of years ago when I came back into the office after getting some business from a new client. My team asked me ‘who is going to deliver the work?’  I said I talked to the client and I volunteered myself after having sat down with them for a couple of hours and gone through their challenges. One of the team then said to me:  ‘Mike , we have a problem. You don’t trust us.’ I got on my high horse, I was annoyed at the comment. Of course I trust you! But they were right. When push came to shove I didn’t trust anyone else in the business to do as good a job as I could do.  As I have since learnt: Ego is a poor Amigo. 

What was the leadership lesson learned there?
As a leader, I had to stop thinking that if I don’t do it, it won’t get done properly, because that’s not leading a team. I’m just playing the role of the hero with the hundred helpers, which is unfair on the helpers, and it hugely limits the capacity of the business to grow. So that myth I was telling myself, that if I don’t do it, then it doesn’t get done properly, had to stop. Unless I found a way to leave that out and move beyond it, I could not grow LEAP as an organisation. You have to be willing to trust your team, that’s the lesson.  As Harry Truman put it so eloquently: “If you don’t mind who gets the credit, you can achieve great things.”

So self-awareness plays a key role for leaders when growing a business?
It’s critical. Without it you keep making the same mistakes. Particularly if you are successful, the skillset that made you successful will need to be fine-tuned to get you to the next level. Take sport for example. What drives a team to win their first All-Ireland will not work second time around. They will need something more if they want to win back-to-back, because the same hunger won’t be there. They need to frame their challenge in a new way and they need to tap into new approaches in themselves to make that work.

The same thing applies to a business leader who wants to grow the organisation. The skills that get you to succeed initially in the start-up stage can be the same skills that hinder you as a leader. Your own drive to be successful – doing it your way -may work in the early stages, but that can hinder you in the later stage in the context of managing a team and growing the business. The challenge as a leader is to let your team be themselves identifying areas where th ey can apply their strengths, which is where their contribution can be maximised for the company. Then give them space and support.

What are the skills that you have developed that have served you best as a business leader?
For me it’s being creative. We are a consultancy service in leadership and management for businesses, so providing creative and practical solutions for our customers is a good selling point. That’s a natural flair I have that has served me well as a leader.

But I think behaviours are more important than skills and a key behaviour is persistence. In times of recession there are going to be challenges but the longer you stay in the ring the better chance you have of landing that knockout blow, and maybe more importantly you are still standing.

What trait as a business leader has served you well?
Persistence; to keep going when it looks easier to give up and it feels like you’re pushing a stone up a hill, to trust in yourself and your team and keep going and keep looking to improve.

What leaders have influenced you, who are the people you admire?
I had a very good friend who passed away last year: Tom Touhy. The two of us coached rowing in the NUI,Galway for 14 years. He was the recognised front man and rightly so. I learned from Tom how best to support the leader, and advise him and steer him (when needed) and that has stood me in good stead.  I was becoming an executive coach without realising it.

Being the leader is a lonely place, having someone who can eye-ball you and call a spade a spade, is a great help. My time as a rowing coach has helped equip me with a framework to work with business owners and leaders in an unobtrusive and supportive manner. This enables them to be themselves, while having someone to question them in a constructive way regarding they’re thinking and decision making.

In interview with Des Kirby
Are you a company owner or team manager? What are the leadership traits and skills that serve you best. Leave a comment in the box below.

LEAP’s Make Leadership Happen Programme was designed by Mike and his team specifically to support company owners in growing their business and helping them get the most out of their teams. Contact us to find out how we can help you take your company to the next level.

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