Ron's Material Leadership Blog
Why the name material leadership? If you are curious the answer is on my website. www.materialleadership.com
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Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I believe there is value in this effort and plan to continue. Last weekend I was asked by one of our upcoming interviewees what I have learned so far. I reflected on the question and then shared that while I have learned many things, I am trying to hold off until the end to synthesize the results. I know the perspectives that will be gained will be wise and useful. I suspect there will be a few threads of commonality that when pulled upon will reveal a rich truth about the search for purpose. We mustn't try to pull on them prematurely, the web of connectivity may yet be too weak to reveal the truth lying just beneath the surface.
So we soldier on.
This by the way, diligence in leading, is a prerequisite of effectiveness. I could tell you stories of long hours, stressful days, emotional strain. I cold talk about the struggle for balance, searching for clarity, seeking schedule synchronization, but I won't. This blog is a challenge. It is a challenge to be transparent, to write with clarity to seek knowledge. It challenges me in so many ways. The benefit I receive back is in the knowledge that in some small way I have helped you, an anonymous reader. So I soldier on toward my goal; clarity in understanding a leaders purpose.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
"You have to know who you are deeply so you can really convey your passion to them"
Early in my career I would have paid plenty to have access to wise counsel. To have someone walking beside me that could offer perspective; offer a different approach to difficult conversations, difficult circumstances. I would have loved to have a leadership coach!
This is part of the reason that I coach others. I want to help those I work with to avoid some of the land mines I have stepped on. Not all of them of course. Read my post on adversity, you will know how much I value learning from mistakes and interpersonal conflict. No, I am talking about the types of mistakes that you should just avoid. In a leadership position there are things that you just should not do; walking into an important meeting without having thought out your approach, entering into a difficult conversation without considering alternative explanations of what might have happened. There are many things a coach can offer you that you just want to know.
So it was with this in mind that I asked the next interviewee on our purpose series to participate. Terrence (Terry) Seamon has been involved in leadership development and leadership coaching in the greater
I met Terry through Linked In. I love to answer other member questions related to leadership development in the forums there and so does Terry. It’s one of those things where you start to see the same names popping up time and time again. I always found a wise ring of truth to his responses and a clarity that comes only from years of experience. Terry and I have had a number of conversations on the elements of leadership development and it was for this reason that I thought you would benefit from his perspective.
This interview took a twist. Rather than discussing Terry’s leadership purpose, I asked him to walk me through how he approaches the coaching process. I wanted you to be able to get inside the head of a leadership coach; to look at the client as he sees them. To go after a leaders purpose from a coaches perspective.
I suppose there are as many approaches to getting through to people as there are people to get through to. Ultimately to make a difference in the life of a coaching client, a coach must get through. Terry and I talked about this aspect of the process for some time; it was clear that we were in agreement. [Side note there is an excellent book by leadership development coach Marshall Goldsmith called What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. In this book
Terry’s perspective was not substantially different from
Somebody is not going to be coached until they are ready for it. Creating readiness is partly a thing you can do as an external agent. But it’s also got to come from the person themselves.
Terry related the story of an executive who had been abrasive with his team and frankly had gotten to the point where the aggressive behavior was career limiting if not down right career threatening. He coached the executive to look at the feedback from his team. Not surprisingly he experienced push back from the executive. After all the very behaviors that had to this point seemed to help him succeed where now being called into question.
Terry’s perspective on purpose entranced me; he had an elegant way of getting at the question without the directness you might expect. No Terry takes a subtle yet effective approach getting at purpose in unique ways. When I asked him about this he shared an example where he was assisting a client with their resume. Terry noted his client had no summary statement on his resume and dug in.
“I noticed that he did not have a summary statement at the top of his resume of who he was as a person… That was my recommendation to him and he had no idea of what I was talking about. “
I shared with him…You want to know what you are going after. At the same time you want to know who you are. You need to be able to convey that in writing and in speaking to people that you hope will invite you into their organization.
Fascinating approach, Terry was able to ask his client what is your leadership purpose without uttering a single word of the actual question. Once interested he was able to guide his client through the process of self discovery and a definition of purpose. Armed with a clear sense of purpose a leader has the ability to make informed choices about career opportunities and roles.
The Power of Feedback
Arguably the most important theme in Terry’s responses was the wisdom he conveyed regarding feedback. In all aspects of our time together this activity seemed to bubble to the top. Whether through questions meant to spark self examination or survey feedback from peers, direct reports and supervisors the role of the leadership coach is to provide an external force that helps the client to see the context from a different perspective.
Remember the hard charging abrasive executive? Feedback, Terry offered him the data that challenged the executive to look in the mirror and see what others saw. Between this and some external “heat” by his superiors, the executive opened up and began to learn a new approach.
The application of external heat (force) would be a general principle here Ron.
Hopefully the client begins to internalize the feedback and accept that they need to embrace the possibility of change.
“One Size Fits All”
Well no this would be incorrect. It may seem rather obvious but people are different and the approach taken by a leadership coach depends on the client and what will work with them to affect change.
No. Everybody is different; there is definitely no one size fits all here… A lot of people are looking for the recipe just give me the five steps that I follow every time and get a quick result. Unfortunately the world does not work that way. Yet there are many vendors out there who will try to sell you the recipe.
The reality of any growth process is that it is gradual. There are no quick fixes only long term solutions. Terry’s wisdom on this point reflects my own philosophy. Organizations who want to be successful in the long term must invest in the growth of their people and realize that immediacy and reflexive action can cause more harm than good. Without the delicate balance of execution and reflective consideration we can become a train wreck begging to happen or a ponderer who never ventures into reality. Either choice seems unacceptable to a purposeful leader.
Terry and I also discussed how the coaching process progresses. IS there a standardized approach? Do you wing it? Do you set up accountability meetings?
Terry conveyed that it is difficult to say that there is one approach. His starting point allows for many potential directions, in keeping with the diversity of his clients. Once a direction is decided however process is definitely invoked. This is a critical aspect in that change does require a level of accountability. It is those coaches who are hardest on us, that care about us who drive us to our greatest performance level. So Terry takes on this role challenging when needed, offering guidance where appropriate. In the end however he is there holding his client accountable to their own success however that might be defined.
So what takeaways can we glean from Terry’s contribution to the conversation on a leaders purpose?
- Feedback truly is a gift to effective leaders
- Leadership development is not microwave popcorn it is a rich stew cooked gradually in a slow cooker
- Development is primarily an internal process but can be influenced by surgical applications of external force or heat
- How you apply external heat can either help a client grow or scorch them altogether.
I will leave you with a final quote from Terry who offers his best wisdom on personal development and the role of experience…
Experience is the best teacher but she is rough on her students.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Have you ever noticed when you greet someone during their day and ask them how things are they will often say "very busy"?
In the past several weeks this word “busy” has taken on new meaning to me. Ironically it has taken on the meaning to have little meaning or purpose; to work hastily getting the tasks of the day accomplished all the while losing sight on what is important.
Perhaps this is an unfair assessment. Well perhaps, yet I do not judge others I simply wonder whether the list of tasks that people scurry about to complete have any meaning in the grand scheme of things. What eternal value do our tasks have? Could this be a deception that keeps us at bay; to keep us from fulfilling or perhaps discovering our true purpose?
I believe it is…
So I have created a new answer to this question. When someone asks me how things are, I reflect on how well I am doing against my purpose. How am I progressing those strategic activities that bring life value and meaning. Am I on track in my leadership role in achieving the goals set out before me.
If I am doing well I respond to the question; I am having a high capacity day and I am blessed that supply is level with demand. This gives me an ability to create a nuance for those days that are overwhelming (supply is not meeting demand) and awesome days where “Bring it” is the quote of the day.
On days that are simply lost, that is I am not working toward my purpose, I can still respond that I am busy if I am or whatever else I am feeling. Only thing is now I have an external prompt to get myself back on track working toward my purpose.
How do you stay in your purpose?
How do you find your purpose?
Thoughts on a Recent Read
The Dip by Seth Godin
This was the first of Mr. Godin’s books I have read and I must say it will not be the last. I enjoyed this book and found its message wise and on point for our age. The premise of the book is that there is a time to quit a role, project, effort and a time to stay. When we have the opportunity to be the very best and are willing to pay the price, it is time to stay. When it is clear that staying will result in mediocrity or worse yet (Mr. Godin’s term for a dead end) a cul-de-sac, it is time to move on to something where we can be our best. The dip is the place in between. The place where we face opposition, adversity and discouragement. It is here that many wrongly chose to give up when greatness is not that far away for the brave souls who persevere.
Compelling: Very much