I recently met with a group of leaders who are struggling in the midst of abundance. While business is going pretty well, most on the senior leadership team are not happy. There are various relationship tangles that they are stuck in, alliances with some and distance or conflict with others. Most are clear regarding their dissatisfaction with the CEO of the firm. This was new information to the CEO, who has been working with some of these folks for many years. Basically, all of the relationship patterns look to me like garden variety relationship problems that are not being discussed by the members of the group. Typical.
What would help a group like this move forward? While there are many strategies that could be helpful, I think the primary factor in the group making any shifts is the level of motivation for change. As an executive coach and leadership teacher, establishing the “coachability” of a client (individual and group collectively) is, in my view, the first order of business. In the past, I tried to help everyone, driven by the belief that everyone could benefit from some help growing themselves. What I realized is that in many cases, I was working much harder on someone’s development than they were. There wasn’t much growth going on, I was getting frustrated and both of us were wasting time that could have been better spent doing something else.
Nowadays, my intent is to be clear with clients upfront that if I’m more invested in their growth than they are, working together isn’t going to be a good fit. It’s not a judgment. I truly believe that people have the right to opt in or out of working on their own functioning. But I’m in the business of helping people work on themselves. If one is not interested in doing so, I respect and accept that. It just means that I’m probably not the guy they’re going to want to hang around with.
What does “coachability” look like?
- Pursuit of his/her own development (No chasing required)
- Responsibility for scheduling engagements for his/her own development activity
- Responsibility for the agenda (what he/she wants to work on in themselves)
- Curiosity regarding unflattering feedback (solicited or unsolicited)
- Open to being challenged
- Willingness to experiment with shifts in own functioning and observe other’s responses
- Growth is a higher priority than emotional comfort
I spend a lot of time paying attention to and talking with clients (potential clients included) about how well their functioning lines up with the above characteristics.
For any leader trying to have a positive impact on the growth of others, take a step back and ask yourself, “Who is working harder on this person’s development, that person or me?” I have come to the realization that before trying to be helpful to anyone, finding out whether or not they are motivated to change is not only important, but a responsible move on my part. The individuals I want to spend my limited time with are those with whom there is no chasing required.Share On: