Leadership through Eyes of a Coach...Alan Booth

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Recently an executive at a private equity firm asked me about my experience with CEO's of mid-market companies who come from management positions of Fortune 500 size companies.

He related how the performance of such CEO's are consistently below his expectations - because of their outstanding success at GE, IBM, Goldman Sachs, etc. So what is the solution [besides lowering expectations]?

A sample of CEO's interviewed suggests we should pay attention to:

  1. More targeted interviewing around "success factors" specific to what is required of leadership to achieve in the given company

  2. Identification of potential weaknesses during the interview process - that can be a focus of future coaching when joining the new firm

  3. A structured on-boarding process that helps the newly landed executive develop trusting relationships before invoking change initiatives; structured dialogue around style and expectations of both the new executive and his/her team

  4. Focus on the skills to change the company's culture to better support execution of strategy

  5. Frequent feedback around progress, not only of goal achievement, but of the leadership required to accelerate achievement

One of the biggest barriers to a leader's success that I have observed involves the PE operational executives who either turnover an executive too quickly (and repeat the same problems of hiring and on-boarding) or their pride prevents them from asking for help at the first sign of leadership weaknesses that impact business results.

Coaching can make a difference but my personal preference is to help create the systems and skills that result in better interviewing-selecting-assimilation.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


There is no doubt that the majority of successful leaders have developed strong relationships throughout their organization - a skill that got them to "climb the ladder".

As I coach to a high potential manager just coming out of an extensive leadership development program, I need to remind myself that this skill is rarely understood. As my previous post states, 'It's all about them' to start a better relationship. She said, "But I need to sound genuine..."

Good point. One needs to genuinely care about what others do, why they are successful, how they got to where they are and their challenges. Any conversation that even hints of a motive to use another for political purpose simply does not work. That's a big challenge for eager, smart, impatient and passionate managers.

What does the "right" way sound like?

"Bob [two levels above], I keep hearing from your team that you are one of the best people in our organization to work for. I am dealing with a couple of management challenges that I would respect your insights in how to approach. Can we meet?"

This does not need start with a compliment.

"Mary, at the company-wide meeting yesterday, I sensed some frustration around how we are reacting to market pressures. Any advice on how I might step up with my group?"

Monday, July 11, 2011


The answer: start every conversation about them - not what you want them to do.

This is the first step in strengthening relationships which results in greater trust which results in people wanting to take action. Oh! That is called "motivation".

You might know Bill who has placed one of his key employees on notice for an attitude that interferes significantly with her being successful with her internal clients. Here is how he has started meetings about her performance: "You know how critical this is to your job security?" [Nice threat, Bill, but won't inspire her to change]. Attempt #2: "Tell me how you are making progress..." [Bill, you know she will tell you what she thinks you want to hear...'doing just fine']

Third meeting: Bill relates how as her manager, he simply does not understand why she comes across as she does - "what goes on in your head that causes you to be firm with people in a way that they feel you are not understanding them?"

Her eventual answer: "Throughout my career I have struggled with developing relationships with people who I feel know more than I, as a lawyer, do. I need to work on this and would appreciate your help."

So you want to inspire others to action? Make your conversations about them, get to know them better and build enough trust so that they want to tell what's really going on in their head when you challenge them. Then you can truly exercise leadership in helping them succeed.