Leadership through Eyes of a Coach...Alan Booth

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Do You Know Randy?

Senior leaders I have known for years thought I should think seriously about publishing my coaching experiences as they would learn from them. So here is my first "case study":


Randy, the top executive at his company, called me because “the lack of accountability of my people is impacting our growth…and causing me growing stress”.

Do you know Randy? He is a passionate hands-on leader, highly directive with little patience for discussions that attempt to change his mind about how to grow his company.

The paradox trap: the harder he works to get his people more focused on priorities (his), the less the results. Emphasis is on “his” priorities, not necessarily those of his team!
Causing Greater Individual and Team Accountability

So…to increase accountability, is the solution around “them” or is it “me”? In the end, Randy discovered that he was as much a part of the problem as his people were! What we did:

[1] For Randy to understand what it is like to work for him, we interviewed each of his direct reports around 10 leadership qualities and asked, “To achieve your goals, what one thing do you need from Randy?” Two feedback points:

■ He proudly accepted being labeled a micro-manager
■ Being classified as a card carrying poor listener caused him to admit that maybe “I don’t know what I don’t know”

[2] Facilitated discussions with his direct reports around accelerating growth, surfaced issues never put on the table before…but critical to causing greater accountability and action. Some of Randy’s progress:

■ “When I reject new ideas, I might be too quick to think through, needing to hold on to my own strategies. I now understand why this can stop ideas from coming to me”
■ “Meeting participation is less than productive because I take 80% of the voice time…I can change that.” Actually I strong armed him to stop attending certain meetings.

Post meeting debriefs gradually helped Randy recognize: to get what he wants, he needs to also change, especially in modeling what he wants from his people.

So he ended up with more time on his hands…and more time for golf is a good thing when key customers are teeing off (and not being teed off as before!). And 15% annual growth to boot.
Alan Booth – Gilman Performance Systems, Inc. 203.454.3502

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Why Not the Truth Be Told?

This is the truth...it happened last week.

A departmental meeting I was facilitating involved the different styles people use in communicating with others. "How do you recognize one's style with the four choices described?" I asked. "Let's work together with a simple technique, attempting to profile our leader's style...remembering this is based only on what we observe...no judgments."

So I continued by asking the group of 20 people various questions such as what words, eye contact and use of hands denote where on the assertiveness scale the leader usually is.


Mary speaks up, "The silence you hear is because our boss is in the room...duh!"

After the meeting I approach Mr. Leader and asked what it felt like having his people be uncomfortable talking about what they are observing about him…even after the heartfelt permission he expressed.

“What I really worry about is [1] the really important ideas and challenges they restrain from talking to me about and [2] what I do that causes my people to hold back on the truth when invited to do so.”

“I believe I am seen as an open person who does not criticize others or use a lot of negative consequences. Maybe I need to ask better questions, listen better and watch for the cues that tell me there is more that needs to be said.”

Finally I ask Mr. Leader, “is your relationship with your manager trusting enough that you can tell him the level of truth he is asking or even demanding from you?”

Stay tuned for Chapter 2. The story line on truth suddenly changes!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I woke up a 4:30 AM this morning because of stress...thus this entry.

While attending the NHMA meeting of business owners last week, my name tag that listed my expertise as STRESS seemed to have started a lot of discussion! And in introducing myself to the 50 attendees as an executive coach who helps business excutives deal with the stress of growing their businesses, I was totally surprised that the room broke out laughing...but not in a humorous way.

What I learned from these successful people: [1] stress no doubt impacts ones performance, even if it is not prolonged or severe, [2] executives tend to think 'it comes with the territory' rather than take action to deal with it, and [3] stressors tend to be those things we think we don't have control over...especially other people, direct reports, customers, regulatory agencies, etc.

What they learned from me: to determine the real cause(s) of stress, followed by a strategy to make changes within one's self and in key relationships, can be achieved through the help of a coach. Exercise can reduce the symptoms but finding the source takes help from others one can trust.

My experience includes:
  • A business owner who had his wife in his business [solution involved a generous severance package]
  • The paradox of not delegating authority to others as a way to get more control [solutions involve designing delegation of tasks that are less significant to business outcomes to prove the paradox is true]
  • The inability to provide honest feedback to others (including customers) [solution is changing the words, timing and tone with the intent of mutual wins...realizing both parties want honest feedback]
  • Being a "tough boss" who is too busy to provide direct feedback, but really doesn't hold others accountable because their methods do not seem to work [solutions involve facilitated meetings]

Here's to a stress-free day...for you and those around you!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

How Does Your Mindset Impact Profits?

I am not talking about attitudes but mindsets, the actions and behaviors that can be seen in the way people approach doing their work.

Bob Ebers has coined the terms "OWNER-RENTER-VISITOR" mindsets and these can be quantified in a way to predict their impact on a company's ability to generate profits.

Take the case of a newly appointed Senior Vice President who took the risk to find out where his people landed in this mindset scheme and then have them meet as a group. Would you predict most of his VP's had an owner mindset? If you did, you are dead wrong. Most were renters. Fortunately none were found to be visitors...but some were close.

Here's a twist on reality: in some groups we found that the VP was a renter but their direct reports were ranked as having an owner mindset. Could this be the case of managers being too hands on, poor delegaters, micromanagers or focused more on improving people without a good old pat on the back once in awhile?

Whatever the labels, virtually all managers in this group agreed that they could all become more "owner" in their mindsets AND discovered ways they could help their people move from renter to owner. Best of all, the numbers back up their new strategy...and the increased profits that were forecasted would directly impact take home pay!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Coaching for Profit Growth

I almost became a believer when Jim [potential client’s manager] said he is looking for a coach for one of his managers…”but nothing touchy-feely because we have business to do here.”

As a formally trained scientist, I need proof before believing…either research or my own experience.

The question I wanted to ask [but did not]: Does touchy-feely erode profits, either directly or indirectly? Show me and I might believe. Of course the unspoken message was, “I am not comfortable with talk about feelings…that’s for other people.”

Beware of Coaches at Parties

“What do you do for work?” asks the woman I am standing next to at a 4th of July celebration party.

I reply, “I am in the helping profession and I would like to help you…enjoy this party and stop thinking about work. Are you in a particular crisis or is this the norm for you to be a bit preoccupied about your work…or lack thereof?”

When you are in a “helping profession” like coaching, picking up the cues is fundamentally important. Then, how you connect the cues creates a story unknowingly revealed by the coachee (in this case a coachee candidate).

Could sound threatening to the executive wishing to not be figured out so quickly, but the best candidates are those who really do want to be figured out, understood and within a trusting relationship.

So at the next party or even at lunch, don’t believe for a minute that a good coach can’t begin to understand what kind of day you are having!