The famous mountain climber, Phil Powers, said it best during an interview on NPR’s "This I Believe” segment: “Concentrating on how I move through the world is important. It’s why I reach mountain summits and life goals with energy to spare.”
As a best practice, Powers uses a concept taught to him by his mentor, Paul Petzoldt. Penzoldt recommended a ‘rest’ (i.e., a slight pause) with each climbing step taken. It allows a climber to move swiftly, yet still find a brief pause in every step. The cadence of this sequence creates, in the end, a higher degree of forward-movement with what seems like less effort.
Most leaders dive into leadership without a second thought. I love the optimism that comes when people find themselves suddenly leading people (vs. tasks and initiatives they’ve been responsible for completing). The problem, though, is that most leaders simply don’t see the impact their leadership approach has on those around them (positive or negative). They don’t pause while climbing the mountain of business objectives for a rest step. They don’t give themselves quick moments of pause that allow for slowing just enough to gain the energy to keep moving forward.
Couple this lack of ‘pause’ with how fast everything moves in today’s world. Every motion, every thought, every piece of information we gain in a 24/7 world makes the concept of ‘pause’ seem ridiculous. It can even make us feel unworthy, lost, and unproductive.
Carl Honore, author of In Praise of Slowness, celebrates those who have gotten in touch with their “inner tortoise.” Without reflection, we can’t improve as human beings. We limit our leadership influence that can drive the business results we hope to achieve. The only way to have it all is to challenge yourself to recognize that slowing down is a requirement for anyone who desires to leave a legacy of positive influence. Self-reflection is at the core of this type of legacy. Without such reflection, leaders will operate in a bubble where reality is literally their own version of what’s happening in the world around them. Just as silo mentality threatens a company’s degree of effectiveness, it also threatens individuals who refuse to slow down to face the realities around what they’re doing well and what they could do differently.
And know this: Executive Coaching is about business results. It’s about continuing to learn how to lead people in a way that helps the business achieve the results you want it to achieve. In yesterday’s business world, Executive Coaching was provided to lower performing leaders. In today’s world, however, coaching is much more widely used to support leaders who are already strong.
5 Insights You'll Gain from Executive Coaching
Here are five insights you stand to gain if you give yourself the gift of ‘pause’—the gift of time set-aside to work with an Executive Coach.
1. You’ll Become a Master at Challenging Your Own Assumptions. Because your thinking will be expanded, you will come to recognize the business relevance of slowing down just enough to challenge your own assumptions. You’ll begin asking a new set of questions around clarity (that will help you as well as those around you), you’ll understand the value of different vantage points, and you’ll realize that your truth isn’t necessarily the only truth. Prior Coachees of mine have noted that they’re challenged (and even fascinated) by learning to think about their leadership through various lenses they never before considered.
2. You’ll Discover Your Core. Strengths and Weaknesses—we all have them. We love our strengths so we readily exercise them (sometimes to a fault). However, we tend to ignore our weaknesses. No human being, though, can grow as a person without facing both sides of the coin. Coaching is about validating and then using your strengths as leverage points for working on areas of your leadership that aren’t as strong. Pausing to get in touch with what you naturally do well, as well as with what you tend not to do well, allows you to lead with greater clarity and focus. You’ll begin to see yourself more clearly…and more significantly, you’ll begin to see those around you more clearly. Coaching requires deep personal reflection around (a) yourself, (b) how you’re perceived, (c) your Core Strengths, and (d) your Core Weaknesses. Coaching opens up and validates what you might want to hear; it also opens up the cold, hard truth that others simply don’t know how to tell you face-to-face. Just as a mountain climber has to have a body with a strong core, so do you as a leader.
3. You’ll Become More Effective at Strategic Decision-Making. Coaching is a very personal journey indeed, but it’s also a journey that emphasizes business results. Climbers have a goal to get to the top of the mountain. The climb, though, isn’t without peril. Rocks fall, moments of lost footing cause a stumble (and an increased heart rate!), defeat sometimes seems to win, and beginning again are all common occurrences. Knowing when to quit, when to adjust, or when to simply press on are all moments during most any climb. With Coaching, you’ll gain key insights into things you may already know (but have long forgotten), or you’ll see something from a different perspective, or you’ll recognize that you never slow down enough to fully dissect a strategic situation. You may be more reactive than proactive, or you may be too proactive (jumping every time a shiny object appears), or you may be way too slow when it comes to making a decision (especially a hard decision). Honing your skills around how you think and around the habits you’ve created for yourself will help you grow into better habits that will then lead to making better decisions, faster and with greater precision.
4. An Increased Ability to Make Bold Moves. Pausing to give yourself the gift of Executive Coaching gives you the space you need to talk a current situation through and to gain an outside perspective on options for who to do next. Your own values, beliefs, thoughts, and ideas become clearer through Coaching, as do your fears. It’s your fears (and sometimes your self-talk) that may be holding you back from doing whatever it is leadership is requiring you to do at any given moment. In time, though, Coaching gives you the presence of mind to make bold moves that are aligned with your strategic intent. Understanding what you stand for creates a sense of conviction about doing what needs to be done. A Coach, then, can help you navigate the execution of your strategic intent so you’ll gain in the confidence needed for making bold moves.
5. You Won’t Feel So Alone. A great Coach will increase your skills as a strategic thinker. A Coach will prompt you to create a different level of awareness while helping you integrate what you’ve learned into your daily leadership endeavors. You’ll get clearer about how your leadership can support better business results, while also having a confidante and champion that’s readily in your corner. You’ll learn that the isolation that comes with leadership isn’t something you have to tolerate. A Coach will help you increase your entire skill-set around becoming a more effective communicator, delegator, team builder, and more. You’ll learn the business relevance of growing your own emotional intelligence to a level that, left on its own, will be a magnet because people will want to be around you. People will no longer fear you because of where you fall on an organizational chart. People will become your greatest champions. Even when you slip or fall, they’ll be there to catch you (as will your Coach).
How You Benefit from Coaching
With an Executive Coach you can reach your mountaintop with energy to spare, all while attaining the business results you want to achieve. But like most things in life, learning how to be an even more effective leader is hard work.
To benefit from Coaching, you have to have a sincere desire to grow yourself as a leader. The process itself simply requires that you be a believer in life-long learning. Accompanying this must be a willingness, too, to be receptive to information you may not want to hear. Without the confidence to open up and accept negative information constructively, you simply can’t benefit from having an Executive Coach by your side. Almost all of my Executive Coachees are passionate about increasing their leadership effectiveness. They’re also passionate about growth both for the business and for themselves. This is the landscape that will provide value to the Coaching process.
Finally, Coaching is a process designed around you. A great Coach will work within the framework of your organization’s strategic goals; however, Coaching is still for your growth as a leader. All that’s required is an open heart for the truth, both good and bad.
Embrace the truth and you’ll be set to climb most any mountain.
Photo credits: iStock by Getty Images