Leadership through Eyes of a Coach...Alan Booth

Thursday, October 23, 2014


In the process of advocating for top executives and acting as their confidant, the people below are not viable for my practice:

1.    People who do not think they have a leadership problem [even though their staff feels differently].  These people tend to defend their status quo
2.    Those pursuing business growth with no plan or strategy.  Helping them might have a negative effect on their company.

The only exception is executives who are well defended in the ways above but deep down know they need help!


The subject line is a fact that keeps growing...more interruptions, loss of focus, less patience to think things through.
Busy Bob Jordan, an executive client in a fast growing investment firm told me he is overwhelmed with work. He says "All of my staff need to become more productive and knowledgeable. I am getting exhausted."
I ask where he might start to resolve this heavy workload.  He says: "Delegate more"!
No, Bob!  Think this through.
You are the cause of this problem.
Nice guy Bob responds [reacts] to his staff's daily requests for help when they could be challenged to getting that help themselves. Enable/motivate your people to do that.
But why are his people so dependent on him?  He enables them to be dependent in his role of their Chief Problem Solver.
The significance of this stress?   Deteriorating focus on what is important.
Stress that is internalized or outwardly visible is the most frequent characteristic causing my clients to reach out for help.

Monday, September 29, 2014


From my own experience consulting senior executives, I have found that leaders need to build better trust so that their staff can feel safe enough to tell the truth about your expectations...those that you think are not being met.

Here is a sample of what your people are thinking but not talking to you about:

¨ They don't know how to do it…but think they do
¨ They don't know why they should do it

¨ They think something else is more important

¨ They don't really know what they are supposed to do

 ¨ They think your way will not work as well

¨ They think their way is better

Next step?  stop talking and really LISTEN to your people!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


As I engage senior executives, I track trends so I can become better alert to why people act the way they do.

After my past 37 conversations with Presidents and CEO's, I have found 82% who reveal a lack of confidence in some aspects of doing their job.

You might not see this because executives are well defended around those weaknesses or blind spots. So how do you engage executives in your organization [or clients] who have a good chance of lacking confidence?

My first response is strengthening trust. What is yours?

Monday, September 22, 2014


"I do not feel I am getting through to my manager." A frequent statement I hear from client's staff and employees.

So how to you get your voice heard? A few suggestions...

"Hey boss, I would respect your insights on how we can better communicate around ideas I have. Willing to set an appointment to discuss?" 

"I could be misreading you: when I offer my ideas and I don't sense you support them, perhaps your expectation is just to move forward and you have no concerns."

"What I really need is your validation that my ideas are viable and your are willing to support them...or even have suggestions how I could best put them into action."

Note to self:

Am I seeking validation because I need my bosses approval of myself?  Well, self validation is the best way to become more motivated to do what you think is right!

Thursday, July 10, 2014


In the past 10 years, two deficiencies of my peer consultants I have observed:
  1. Clarifying the specific outcomes expected ["How will we know when I should leave?"].  The greater this is clear, the shorter the assignment because of a sharp focus on these outcomes and deliverables are of higher quality!
  2. Getting to the primary cause of the challenges the client presents. Intense listening through dialogue needed to get to the primary cause of challenges the client wants the consultant to deliver.
Example: When I am asked to improve the efficiency of a sales process, I need to determine is this a process problem, skill deficiencies, motivation or something else?
However, a number of both sales management and sales professionals I have dealt with present with needing greater recognition and a stronger sense of self. This creates a different approach to impact sales than the "usual", does it not?
So in selecting a consultant, get convinced that the individual or firm first gets to #1 with you.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


So sorry that the "FIRE ALL THE MANAGERS" link was broken in my message yesterday.

Here is the Harvard Business Review [HBR] short story:

How essential is it to have
layers of executives supervising

Managers are expensive, increase the risk of bad judgment, slow decision making, and often disenfranchise employees.

et most business activities require greater coordination than markets can provide. Is there a way to combine the freedom and flexibility of markets with the control of a management hierarchy? Economists will tell you it's impossible, but the Morning Star Company proves otherwise.

It has been managing without managers for more than two decades. At Morning Star, whose revenues were over $700 million in 2010, no one has a boss, employees negotiate responsibilities with their peers, everyone can spend the company's money, and each individual is responsible for procuring the tools needed to do his or her work. By making the mission the boss and truly empowering people, the company creates an environment where people can manage themselves.

Are you interested in not firing all managers but how the manager's role should change?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


This is the title Gary Hamel used is this HBR article.  He says that there are four reasons why management as we know it needs to dramatically change.

One is that with greater levels of management, the greater the risk of bad judgment.

"In the case of G.M., the crucial insight was that a faulty ignition switch could cause vehicles to lose power and deactivate the air bags. The link between the ignition and the air bags was not a secret; it was an intentional goal of the design, to protect people in parked cars from being injured by air bags that were deployed mistakenly. " NY Times June 8, 2014

“Senior decision makers are basically isolated from safety information,” If companies did not have a culture in which individuals took responsibility for problems and alerted superiors to them, then big failures would follow.

Virtually all of my clients exhibit Hamel's four reasons why we need to relook at the role of managers.

G.M. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/09/business/gm-report-illustrates-managers-disconnect.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3As

Thursday, April 24, 2014


OK, the people I am referring to HEAR you as you speak, but are they really listening?

Case in point

A business acquaintance I have met several times before today's breakfast, is a great story teller with lots of experience in our trade.  He might be a good person to introduce me to clients.

After 20 minutes of talking about how good he is in listening, he said to me, "I don't know what you really do."

I could not believe he meant that.  But he did.

One year and four meetings later, I am at a quandary to know how to be heard better by people who have a need to speak but really not to "engage".  In fact, I would tend not to introduce him to my clients for that reason alone.

Reminds me of some of the executives I advise.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


After interviewing 8 managers yesterday about their most difficult people, virtually everyone was found expert in describing expectations..."I need these reports on time -or- isn't it logical we move forward on the sale of your business[?]."

But these managers were not having their expectations met...for a long time.


They may feel they are listening, but not to the extent the other person feels understood.  Without that you will be perceived as pushing your agenda as more important than their view.

How can we better get in someone else's shoes?  By asking questions...which will get us to the real problem[s] of why there is non-compliance.  Try "what" and "how" questions.

Sounds like, "what is going on to prevent you from meeting these deadlines?" Then really listen to the point where the other person feels heard!

Or..."help me better understand..."

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Donna, a client's manager, has experienced high levels of stress on the job and is burnt out and thinking of resigning.

Bob, her President, surprisingly reached out to Donna that totally changed her perspective of her job.

"Bob, the results for the 12 Lake audit came out yesterday and I am so sorry it was such a complicated audit.  I tried my best to supervise Mary when I had both businesses, but found it so difficult to supervise the finances for 13 people when I managed both branches. "


"You could never let me down in a million years. Your abilities shine through in everything you do and we are so lucky to have you here. Sometimes, we are all faced with difficult situations and I am sure you provided a lot of support to Mary. I am glad you don’t have to manage all those finances anymore!

With gratitude and respect, Bob"

An investment of one minute to write the reply to Donna, resulting in a 180 degree shift in motivation.  POWERFUL!


OK! If you never feel stress on the job or at home about the job, please delete this message.

Whenever one of my clients are stressed, I quickly find out if it has to do with things and people they have no control over.

Yes, focus on what you do have control over and that source of stress diminishes.

As important: getting control where you have avoided difficult conversations, including avoiding what you perceive as conflict.

Oh!  Who do you  trust to talk to about stress? Talk is important to relieving stress.

Monday, February 24, 2014



1.    Catch yourself making assumptions about the other person, be it a peer, manager, internal and external customers.
2.    Engage to the point THEY think you know them, their strengths and challenges. Reframe your relationship based on directly obtained facts.

A CEO client described his growth strategy to me, little of which was based on what his current customers thought of his company, or how he could be better than his competitors that his customers were happy to share.

People supporting trading desks:  They think they know how to work best to bring traders into compliance on a deal.  But how do they know?  Assumptions, not feedback.
Get your brain totally turned off so you can listen to others...they will then tell you what they need and why; and you can then better influence them on their terms, not what you thought [your terms] would work.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


I am convinced that American businesses are structured by the family dynamics we experienced earlier in life, then again as we became parents. So "bosses" act as parents relating to their staff and employees as their children seeking approval.

This family model in the corporate world has been reinforced by my consulting to multi-generational family businesses where the parents struggle to have confidence in the next generation to succeed them.

That becomes the standard followed by a sense of reduced confidence in those wishing to succeed you.

The solution?

Take off the parent hat and the subservient child hat and speak with each other as being on the same team.

Case in point from those conversations:

n  "Now that we are focused on my 30 year old son still being an adolescent, I can see that I enable that to happen by still paying his rent and buying him cars."

n  Me: "Mary, your son is getting mixed messages from you.  When are you going to help him be successful?"  Mary immediately leaves the meeting, saying: "I am leaving to see my attorney to establish the trust we have talked about.  Bye."

n  "If I put my daughter in charge, that will be the 4th generation of a family member taking over...but I simply do not believe she is capable.  In fact she has the same issues I struggled with when taking over the business."

As a manager, your lack of confidence in others may simply be the parent in you always striving to be the best you can...but at the expense of others wanting to live up to their full potential!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


As I walked past my executive client' office, Tom, he stood up abruptly and motioned me into his office.  Seems that Susan, his star staff manager had put pressure on one of her employees who then came in to talk with Tom.

"Alan, would you mind accompanying me to talk with Susan?"

So I did. As soon as Tom laid on table the situation, Susan started a lengthy speech about why she was justified in handling her employee the way she did...but missed the point Tom has made about motivating the employee vs. criticizing them.

Susan got louder and louder, interrupting Tom and holding on to her position for 10 minutes. Tom gave up and decided to approach Susan at a later date.

The good news: an executive faces conflict head on.

The bad news: my last 200 clients all avoid conflict that is disruptive to the organization [except 4].


Tuesday, January 21, 2014


I just came out of a meeting with a CEO who resigned after two years, having made significant inroads in lowering debt, growing revenue and building a strategy for even greater growth in 2014.

He outlined to me in great depth how he struggled with getting the board to advocate for him, to listen to his ideas and support his initiatives.

I have worked with Bob for three years, observing his high energy and probably too much passion for his ideas. But I also heard: "It is the Board's fault..."

He was not focused in getting to know his board members, what their strong suits and passions are, what their expectations are in their board role, etc.

What he needed was a mirror to identify how he is perceived...as all CEO's need. With this knowledge he could have found better ways to genuinely connect with board members and be understood.

We all can benefit from being more aware of how we are perceived.
" Read" others on how they are reacting to your suggestions, ideas and challenges. Better yet, ask your management or board, how you can better play in the same sandbox.

It is important to your effectiveness and perhaps your career!