Leadership through Eyes of a Coach...Alan Booth

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Being present enough in conversation to pick up subtle cues from the other person is one of the most difficult skills of leadership.

Take the case of my CEO client, George and his COO Stan. George is an outgoing, passionate leader who expects his staff to be inspired to action when he speaks. Stan is a “thinker” type who is deliberate and patient when dealing with his staff or his manager, George.

Stan feels George has his own agenda and rarely listens to his ideas that he offers to improve the business, develop more effective strategies or deal with the crisis of the day.

In observing Stan and George in one of their weekly meetings, I notice that after a reasonable period of Stan listening to George, he begins to nod his head; which in turn, causes George to wind down his monologue of enthusiastic pep talking.

George’s complaint about Stan (that caused me to be engaged) is his agreement to act on specific ideas but never to follow through to completion.

So I decided to ask Stan about why he is agreeing to George’s passionate request to do things and never act. The response: “I do not always agree with George…in fact, I usually disagree because he never listens to me and my ideas.”

I then realized that the nodding of the head from Stan is a learned behavior that causes George to stop talking, preaching and pep-talking.

By helping George to occasionally take a breath and actively engage Stan on his ideas, things did get done (last year they achieved a 12% increase in revenues).

This all happened when George understood what the head nodding was all about. A simple cue that directly impacted achieving business goals!