A Coaching Power Tool created by Prem Kamath
(Executive Coach, INDIA)
My coaching practice is primarily aimed at senior level leaders, typically CXOs or managers one level below. They come with a lot of experience but have been recommended by their sponsors, either their boss or the HR department head, for coaching because their leadership effectiveness needs improvement. While I have been a coach for many years before I enrolled for this ICA Course, and took on coaching assignments based on gathering knowledge and my experience, it is only now that I have realized the significance of developing a power tool that leverages my clients’ experience to achieve on the job effectiveness.
The dictionary defines these two terms very simply, as follows:
The knowledge and skill of some event gained through the involvement in or exposure to that or similar events.
The capability of achieving the desired result.
Thus prima facie, considerable experience must lead to greater effectiveness in a leadership position…then why do managers and leaders derail?
Effectiveness is often confused with ‘Efficiency’ and this may provide the answer. Peter Drucker and other management gurus have stated the distinction between these two terms very simply and memorably as follows:
Efficiency is doing things right whereas Effectiveness is doing the right things!
The understanding of this subtle difference is what makes an efficient manager become an effective leader…. managers are expected to do things right whereas leaders are expected to do the right things.
Effectiveness is all about the optimal (or best) delivery/ achievement of the vision, goals and objectives of that position and the organization at large.
Timothy Galway, in his series of books entitled ‘The Inner game of Tennis, Golf and Life’ puts it succinctly that “Performance = Potential minus Interference”. To be effective is to perform at one’s highest potential (or capacity/ capability) and it is the interference (or obstacles/ hurdles) that we face that prevents us from this.
Coaching is about making the client effective and realize his/her full potential. But even if the client is able to make that quantum leap at a personal level, the leader in him/her can not be effective unless the team is effective. TEAM stands for ‘Together Everybody Achieves More’ and a lot has been researched and written about how to make teams effective but since teams are composed of individuals, the collective effectiveness of individuals decides the effectiveness of the team.
As an important corollary, I quote a saying by a Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu that
A true leader is one whose followers, on the successful completion of the task or mission say, we did it ourselves.
Why then is experience, and a lot of it, an interference (or obstacle) to achieving effectiveness. As each executive moves up the corporate ladder, he/she acquires a lot of relevant experience both at work and in life. What distinguishes an effective leader from an ineffective one is the ability to recognize the strengths of each team member and leverage it in ways to create synergy (where 2+2=5,6,7 etc) and dynamic (as opposed to static) energy. Such a team then takes the right action every time to achieve the goal.
Soccer World Cup matches highlight this aspect and the country that has won the trophy in a given four year period (and almost always it has been a different country each time, except Spain of course!) has done so not because they have the players with the greatest experience (or skill) but where the synergy of the team has been the best. During every break in a match the coach huddles with the team to create a new strategy for scoring (achieving) more goals than the other side (who also huddle with their coach).
So who wins…the team with the best game strategy or the one that leverages the strength of each member of the team? Similarly in the corporate world, coaching helps develop the client’s sensitivity and self awareness to leverage the collective experience and degree of effectiveness of his/her team.
Each time I coach a CXO, I spend the first session or two getting my client to recount their long experience and effectiveness that has brought him/her to this upper level of the organization. Due to my long experience in a corporate career, I am also able to share my experience that supports or complements my client’s experience. This establishes the platform for a better appreciation of each other’s strengths and a sharing of stories and anecdotes about how we overcame challenges by converting them into an opportunity.
I then get my client to describe the experience of each member of his/her core team (the team that they work with the most). We do a ‘Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats’ (SWOT) analysis of each person in the team and I also get my client to describe an instance when a team member was effective and did the right things. We discuss the difference perceived by my client in a team member being efficient versus being effective.
We then visualize what could be an optimal state of effectiveness in the team and watch a short video of a few World Cup matches provided it can be weaved into the coaching session naturally. The superb coordination that helps the person best placed to score a goal is discussed and parallels drawn with the executive team’s performance in achieving an ambitious task.
We examine if by juggling too many tasks (each of which may demand a different experience based solution) it is an impediment (interference) to effectiveness and relate that to Timothy Galway’s observation quoted earlier. We then examine different interferences (obstacles) faced by different team member and draw up an action-plan so the team could really work together to achieve more.
We end every session by revisiting Lao Tzu’s observation and what my client needs to do to empower his/her team to be self-managing and autonomous. We then end the session by celebrating what we have achieved between ourselves; that the coaching session itself has been effective in arriving at an action plan for the client to be more effective in his/her role.
We agree that unless it is well synergized, experience can lead to misplaced ego, whereas effectiveness always leads to enhanced energy and the successful achievement of the goal. The use of this power tool has helped me to establish a high level of commitment by my clients to recognize what is hindering their effectiveness and which aspects (strengths) of theirs can be leveraged better.
The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Galway.
Quotations of Lao Tzu (a translation from Chinese)
Wikepedia and Oxford Dictionary
World Cup Soccer videos on YouTube.
Organizational Effectiveness by Bud Bilani et al
Make the most of your potential from Development Solutions (Google)
The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge
The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker