Speis means ‘spirit’
and connotes joy, aspiration
CEOs and Senior Leaders must manage complex threats in a volatile economy and a world churning with change.
Sourcing, human capital, disruptive competition, cost overruns are among the challenges that grab executives’ attention. However, no less a threat than external challenges or organizational ones is under-performing leadership , never mind leaders who derail or who undermine their workforce. Up to half of new CEOs fail within 18 months. Superior leadership is a set of capabilities to be learned and cultivated, not a single trait to be inherited. Keeping grounded and constructive within a fast-current, over-stimulating fishbowl, under constant scrutiny and overload of information, interests, and interlocking issues, does not come easily for most leaders. New or seasoned, leaders must navigate power, form alliances, communicate vision, think clearly and strategically, and at the end of the day, balance their job with personal satisfaction to avoid burning out. Working with a safe, neutral leadership journey partner or trusted advisor who can help identify leadership gaps or simply act as a sounding board can vastly improve RoI on the valued investment already placed in a CEO or other senior leaders.
When Does Executive Coaching Help the Senior Leader?
Transition / CEO Succession:
A transition to a senior leadership role is a critical period for learning unfamiliar or conflicting aspects of the company, business or role; manage expectations and complex politics; project confidence and strong leadership presence; and make difficult decisions about what to focus on. A skilled coach can ease the flow of transition by collecting reliable information during a time when high quality, relevant communication is critical to set the CEO up to succeed.
Whether developing others, leading with vision, creating a culture aligned with the organization’s mission, or setting an example, the learning curve to leadership can be improved by intention and a roadmap.
Confidence / Competence:
Senior leaders must be able to think clearly, make hard decisions, manage exhausting demands, choose the right things to focus on, let go of micromanaging, be scrutinized constantly, and do it with poise. Understanding each leader’s strengths and gaps allows the executive and their coach to increase competence and confidence in the shortest time possible.
Whether bombarded with conflicting pressures or difficult decisions, having a coach who can hold a safe, confidential space to help the leader reflect and consider the complex tensions they are navigating can greatly reduce pressure and free up the executive to perform at their best.
Talented, capable leaders may nevertheless be undermined by overplaying their strengths, stumbling over blind spots, misreading cues, overplaying charisma or being too shy. When a leader’s personality style or behavior mismatches their organization’s current needs, collaborating to identify what behaviors to leverage and what to mitigate can help the leader adapt quickly and avert derailment.
What Are the Desired Results of Coaching Senior Leaders?
Get leader honest and relevant feedback from others; give leader opportunity to reflect on complexities with safe, confidential journey partner; space to grow, learn, think clearly and make best decisions. Read CEO Loneliness Series
Manage Power and Influence:
Get comfortable with oversized impact of self on others, as well as degree of visibility, scrutiny; recognize your decisions will not please everybody; learn to make constructive alliances within and outside of organization to build support for your leadership and initiatives; get comfortable managing conflicts
Lead with Vision:
Prioritize setting a vision that inspires and gives meaning and direction to workforce, aligned with vision of larger organization; reach people through stories, symbols, ideas that communicates and spreads vision to make it a shared one
Empower and Develop Others
Create a motivated and high-performance organizational workplace by prioritizing people development, starting with being a coach to your own team and being invested in their growth
Creative and Strategic Thinking:
Thinking big picture to get in front of the game, looking up more and less down; less operations-focused and more innovation, ideas, networking and creative connections, pushing past personal inhibitions
Understand and master leadership activities while consciously and intentionally deciding to lead, and confidently building own leadership style. Look at underpinnings of successful leadership such as balancing personal and professional priorities, understanding what it will takes for the work to be sufficiently meaningful, how to make a difference you care about.
How Does Coaching Help a CEO?
There are many ways a skilled coach can help CEOs and senior leaders, from being a journey partner relied upon to be honest and nonjudging, to being powerfully direct in giving immediate feedback during shadowing or during sessions that can help the leader gain immediate insight to relevant behaviors. The coach can also gather intelligence and feedback from other stakeholders who may be eager to communicate information to their leader, but who may be inhibited by time, access, or fear of being an unwelcome messenger – whether the information is about the leader’s style, or critical information about the business they want to bring to the leader’s attention but for any reason run into barriers to do so.
Other ways coaches can help senior leaders include:
- Improving self-awareness, self-management, and emotional intelligence. Developing awareness of how you are perceived and possible gap between that and what you intend.
- Get better at reading others and improving your relationships with them as a consequence.
- Become conscious of, and develop skills in managing your own mental states, your level of energy, emotional states, your thought patterns.
- Work on Vision and Values, a series of conversation that can be personal and wide-ranging in the service of identifying what is important; to have the space and sounding board to do that effectively.
- Understand what in your particular makeup makes it easy or hard to manage power, make tough decisions, to build alliances or deal with conflict; to inspire or influence others.
- Identify immediate challenges for the leader while crafting the arc of a longer-term growth path
- Develop the leader’s personal style of leadership
- Help leader think matters out loud, check their own reasoning, get new perspectives while exploring the issues, and get feedback on the thinking process
- Provide support in the face of doubts and uncertainties; or the emotional toll from the wear and tear of the job; help regain balance and strategies to reduce stress
- Help leader be thoughtful about their priorities including personal aims and the pursuit of meaning and expression of their most important values.
What Doubts or Concerns do Senior Leaders Have about Coaching?
I already have more on my calendar than I can manage. I don’t have time for it. This will just increase my stress.
If coaching increases your stress rather than alleviating it then it’s a good call to avoid it. However most leaders err on the side of spending not enough time examining where they are putting their resources, what the impact is, and what they might do differently to optimize their own contribution. If coaching works, it will help you “work smarter, not harder.”
I’m here to do business, not get into touchy-feely abstract conversations or my personal background or critique my performance.
The aim of organizationally-engaged leadership coaching is to help both you and your company succeed. Research has shown that human engagement is the most important factor in the success of any enterprise. Coaching is an evidence-based, scientific model of how best to engage the whole person so that they can be their best, to their own personal satisfaction, and the company’s benefit. Coaching strives to find the most direct, shortest path to a learning and change process while reflecting on an individual’s vulnerabilities only when it’s relevant to growth, never gratuitously. Far from critiquing performance, my style is strongly influenced by the strengths-based positive psychology model of coaching, which means starting with identifying your strengths and leveraging that as a platform from which to look at what kind of tweaks would get you the most benefit.
How do I know Jenai Wu Steinkeller, Ph.D. has the kind of experience and credibility to help me?
I have worked as a coach or consultant to company owners, entrepreneurs and CEOs, some privately held, others public with market cap over $40bn. Client industries in the US, UK and Europe have included life sciences, information, semiconductor, real estate, pharmaceuticals, legal, hedge fund, food, and arts. As a coach, organizational consultant, or psychoanalyst, I have helped thousands of clients. Rigorously trained as a psychoanalyst and psychologist through Harvard and Northwestern Medical Schools, I am less interested in having many clients as I am in having clients I can truly serve. Therefore I invite conversations that test whether I can be of help to you.