By: Louise Macdonald  09-12-2011
Keywords: leadership

for CEOs and board membersIt is often difficult for CEOs and other senior executives to access an effective, objective sounding board where they can discuss not only their options with respect to business issues and stakeholder relationships, but also their hopes, fears, personal goals and struggles in exercising their leadership. My approach to coaching these leaders focusses on helping them develop awareness of their assumptions about self, other people and the situation in order to access new options for action on key leadership challenges. This programme comprises regularly scheduled meetings as well as ongoing ad hoc assistance as required, for a period of six months to a year at a time. for new executivesI provide a customized process aimed at facilitating the introduction of a person new to his or her executive role, and perhaps new to the organization itself. The so-called “first 100 days” on the job are critically important in confirming the wisdom of the decision to match the individual to the role, for the organization and for the person involved. I work directly with the new executive, as well as with selected key stakeholders, to facilitate the integration process. This involves helping the executive articulate his or her own personal integration strategy and comparing it to the expectations of the organization in terms of results to be achieved, style, influence, etc. The approach is based on mutual adaptation and learning in order to ensure a successful transition.

This is a customized approach to building teamwork in the senior ranks, aimed not only at increasing collaboration and synergy between functional areas, but also at defining the executive team’s purpose, role and leadership approach. The goal is to maximize the qualities each individual brings to the executive table in order to provide effective and aligned leadership throughout the organization, and for the group to be seen to be working together for the good of the enterprise. This service comprises individual and group work that can be designed as an off-site or as an on-going development activity for executive teams. For advanced teams, the art and practice of Dialogue allows team members to gain shared understanding at a deep level about the things that really matter to the organization. This shared understanding creates a powerful foundation for aligned action among members of the leadership team, in addition to enhancing the personal learning and awareness of each of the participants and building sustainable relationships among team members. for executive sponsors and senior change agentsThe announcement of a major organizational change translates into a period of transition for the human beings involved, including important stakeholders who are not employees. The so-called “change curve”, based on research into the stages of grief, reflects an emotional journey that each person undertakes in adapting to a new organizational reality. This journey can happen overnight or take several months. Leaders who do not attend to this certainty, by gaining an understanding of how people make meaning of their work experiences during times of change, risk losing talented, motivated contributors and retaining relatively passive employees. The assistance I provide in this area is to facilitate discussion and dialogue among the leaders of the change. These conversations are aimed at achieving shared understanding on the following dimensions: a definition of the ideal outcomes for the change using multiple variables, an exploration of the values driving the plan to conduct the change, and discovery of the important assumptions each of the participants carries - about the change, about their role and about the other individuals and groups involved in making the change a success.

It’s a well-accepted notion that the culture of an organization should be explicitly or implicitly aligned with business goals. Sooner or later, the task of setting out to “change the culture” shows up on many executives’ agenda, and is quickly relegated to the senior HR or “people” executive. Once the strategic direction for the organization has been determined, I facilitate discussion and dialogue with representative groups across the organization aimed at surfacing assumptions about how the current culture contributes or not to the execution of the strategy. The focus is on tapping into informal conversations that are already happening within employee groups, and harnessing their energy into focused action in service of the strategy. In addition, leaders are invited to take a look at how they may unwittingly, through company policies and procedures but also through their own behaviour, be supporting elements of the culture they wish to see changed.

Many high-potential leaders have already identified their leadership learning gaps with the help of the organization’s performance management system and external support in the form of assessment questionnaires. Executive coaching is often the approach used to help individual leaders close this gap. In addition to or in place of coaching, the organization can benefit greatly from getting leaders from across the organization together in customized leadership development workshops, mobilizing them to take confident action on organizational issues and build lasting relationships while learning to become better leaders. Participants talk about their work and gain insights from interacting with their peers in the context of discussions about leadership values, assumptions and behaviours and their impact on employee motivation and organizational results. This “real world” approach to learning can also be integrated into existing leadership development efforts. :

The task of the internal or external consultant is complicated by often ambiguous mutual expectations about what the consulting is supposed to achieve. According to Peter Block, author of Flawless Consulting, the consultant can take one of three stances when working with the client: he or she can be the Expert, act as a Pair of Hands or engage in a process of Joint Collaboration. Once clarified, any of these relationships can create difficulties for consultants as they go about their work of helping the client. Internal consultants bear the additional constraint of being “part of the family”, that is they are subject to organizational politics and culture in a way that will probably heavily influence the help they provide. As the Consultant’s Consultant, I act as a sounding board to help the individual think through options for intervening more effectively in the client’s world. Through practical discussions of what is going on in client engagements, the consultant learns how to take responsibility for his or her part in building a lasting client relationship. When consultants are working in Joint Collaboration mode, I help them to design help that is useful and empowering to their client. Consulting to the Consultant is offered in a Joint Collaboration mode, so that the assistance is designed according to the needs and objectives of the consultant-client.

Through the concrete experience of building a successful boutique HR consulting firm over 9 years and then integrating it into a national firm for the subsequent 5 years, I gained valuable insights about how consultants can make choices that will further the attainment of their business objectives, without undermining their own values and life goals. In the areas of branding, marketing, business development and financial management, I can bring my experience to the conversation and help the consultant focus on a unique personal career management path.

I facilitate a network of independent consultants who meet periodically to share experiences and learn from each other. Using structured reflection tools inspired by the work of Prof. Chris Argyris and his colleagues, participants bring real consulting assignments into the room and provide learning for the whole group. In the process of exploring their assumptions about themselves, their clients and their consulting situations, they discover fresh options for action that will lead to successful resolution.

Keywords: leadership

Contact Louise Macdonald

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