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.”
Powers uses a concept taught by his mentor, Paul Petzoldt, as a best practice. 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 suddenly lead people (vs. tasks and initiatives they’ve been responsible for completing). The problem, though, is that most leaders simply don’t see their leadership approach's impact on those around them (positive or negative). They don’t pause while climbing the mountain of business objectives for a rest stop. 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, and 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, and some senior leaders aren't wired to slow down to speed up. Senior leaders learning the skill to stop to think and focus on long-term strategy is a massive part of their leadership development. Executive coaching and the coaching relationship are good ways to hold yourself accountable for developing these new habits.
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 required 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 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 succeed. In yesterday’s business world, Executive Coaching was provided to lower-performing leaders or those who were newly promoted. In today’s world, however, coaching is much more widely used to support leaders who are already strong and to make them better. This investment in leadership coaching is highly effective to the bottom line as it makes all team members that report to him/her better, multiplying your investment and building a bench of future leaders. Executive coaching results come from the coaching insights an experienced coach can provide; we provide 5 of the top insights below.
Coaching Insights: Executive Coaching Goals and Examples
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 a professional CEO or Executive Coach to help you crush your leadership goals
You’ll Become a Master at Challenging Your Assumptions.
Because your thinking will expand, you will come to recognize the business relevance of slowing down just enough to challenge your assumptions. You’ll begin asking a new set of questions around clarity (that will help you and those around you), understand the value of different vantage points, and 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 considered. The coaching conversation is one of the most valuable ways to address challenges and should be included in any development program. To fully reach your high potential, you'll need to hire a coach to expand your thinking
You’ll Discover Your Core Strengths and Weaknesses
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 and with what you tend not to do well allows you to lead with greater clarity and focus. You’ll see yourself more clearly…and more significantly, you’ll 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. A good coach will help you better understand your strengths and weaknesses.
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, adjust, or simply press on are all moments during almost any climb. With executive coaching, you’ll gain key insights into things you may already know (but have long forgotten), see something from a different perspective, or recognize that you never slow down enough to dissect a strategic situation fully. You may be more reactive than proactive, or you may be too aggressive (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 the habits you’ve created for yourself will help you grow into better habits that will make better decisions faster and with greater precision.
An Increased Ability to Make Bold Winning Moves
Pausing to give yourself the gift of Executive Coaching gives you the space to talk a current situation through and 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 leadership requires you to do at any given moment. In time, though, Coaching gives you the presence of mind to make bold moves 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 to gain the confidence required for making bold moves. It will improve your goal setting for yourself and your team, to get the team to expand what they think is possible.
You Won’t Feel So Alone with a Strong Network of Similar CEOs and Executives
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 more transparent about how your leadership can support better business results while also having a confidante and champion who’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 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). Coaching sessions can help dispel negative thoughts about seeking help to overcome your business challenges.
How You Benefit from Executive Coaching
With an Executive Coach, you can reach your mountaintop with energy to spare while attaining the business results you want. But like most things, learning to be an even more effective leader is hard work. So before you undertake a coaching engagement, ensure you are ready to put in the work; don't just check it off a list. Go into the engagement with a clear set of executive coaching goals you share with your coach.
To benefit from Coaching, you must sincerely desire to grow as a leader. The process itself simply requires that you be a believer in life-long learning. Accompanying this must be a willingness to be receptive to information you may not want to hear. Without the confidence to open up and constructively accept negative information, you simply can’t benefit from having an Executive Coach. All my Executive Coaches 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 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, as coaches focus on both to help you grow in your work life.
Embrace the truth, and you’ll be set to climb almost any mountain. Learn about our executive coaching programs.
Photo credits: iStock by Getty Images
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Rhythm Systems is based in Charlotte, NC, and provides executive coaching in Charlotte, NC, and across the United States with our team of experts who have worked with hundreds of clients, many backed by private equity.
Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images