Leadership through Eyes of a Coach...Alan Booth

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


The most frequently heard dilemma I hear from managers in my NYU Leadership class is creating accountability of their direct reports. My coaching and consulting clients agree and describe the challenge around getting others to step up their performance...to think creatively, lead change with greater initiative and deal proactively with people issues rather than ignore them.

Yesterday a CEO called me for help with his VP Marketing, describing disorganization and weak time management that could risk millions in lost business. In over one year nothing has changed. So, where is the ownership of this problem...with him or his VP?

The question I ask is: "How can we create an owner mindset with this person?"

My experience with the past 10 clients I have worked with this year shows that leaders & managers do more to NOT create "ownership" but cause the opposite: a dependency bordering on a "permission" relationship.

Second is the observation that leaders are not clear enough communicating their expectations, not only the measuable results but the actions most critical to achieving those results.

The test: ask any of your people what they think you expect of them, this week, month or quarter. Their response will provide the kind of feedback that will guide you to being more clear, more frequently and greater commitments on both sides...witch will begin to shift the accountabity to where it belongs.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Why Managers Need to Coach

I had a surprise last week when I was asked to be an instructor at NYU Graduate School of Leadership & Human Capital Management…perhaps more surprised when I learned they wanted me to teach one of six courses on Coaching.

The class comprised of a group of Gen X/Y and Millenials. Why are they interested in learning coaching skills? Because their experience in being managed in traditional ways has taught them that as managers themselves they need new ways to motivate, inspire and support their people to be satisfied and productive contributors.

But a series of graduate level courses on coaching? Blew me away that what I have been teaching and preaching for over 30 years has come to this. Now that I think about it, When I was working on my MBA we were taught “coaching” but it was then termed Theory “X” and Theory “Y”.

Not much, then, has really changed. A predominate number of mangers get appointed because of their technical expertise and manage others based on how they were (are) managed. Just like becoming a parent!

So I am delighted to have the opportunity to really help managers understand new ways to be instrumental in causing greater success in others.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Do you remember my client, Randy? [My History with Randy]

He is the high assertive CEO who struggles with the paradox: "the harder I work at causing accountability with my people, the less they seem to deliver".

At a December meeting, he said, "You should know that you went down a different path than I wanted you to." Gulp. "With all of the work you have done with my VP's you got me to realize I also had to make some changes; and that is really hard work!" Whew!

We laughed, but not for long. Randy wanted me to help turn around his Operating Executive, Tom. This is "code" for "I need more coaching but working my challenges through your work with Tom will be easier for me." This is one reason why I always involve the coachee's manager.

Why is Tom a challenge for Randy? As direct as Randy is, Tom is indirect; slower paced, less demanding of his people and more tolerant of performance gaps.

So how can we deal with this situation - opposite styles and lack of accountability?

  1. Coach Randy to tone down his assertiveness
  2. Encourage Tom's confidence

This process seems to be working:

  • 1:1 meetings with Tom are boosting his confidence
  • We are moving him away from full staff meetings to short one-on-one weekly meetings where he works on his people's commitments for action
  • We are teaching him the language to deal with broken commitments
  • Randy-Tom-Coach meetings around key business issues where my role is to prompt Randy when his assertiveness causes Tom to withdraw. For example, a simple glance at my watch is the cue to stop talking and ask Tom his opinion.
  • Immediately after meetings with Tom, Randy and I debrief by playing on Randy's competitiveness. The winner is who can recall all of the situations where Tom was not meeting Randy's expectations -- and why!

Results to-date? Sales are up 5.4%