A Solid Handshake: Integrity Lessons for New Leaders

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The good news is you know, and now have an opportunity to address issues that you may never hear about through any other mechanism. Most bosses are reluctant to truly candid feedback, or they don't know how to articulate what they see, or, they sugar coat it.

Many times I've spoken with supervisors who swear they've given specific feedback but the client didn't make changes. Usually I find it's because the supervisor wasn't clear or was afraid to tell it like it is. The second reason to embrace the feedback is that it gives you a roadmap. Simply knowing what success looks l like will help you take significant, often swift actions. Third, if you can solicit it and embrace it you show people you're a mature leader who has courage and strength.

Show people you are able to listen, hear and act on these observations, and you can change the course of your career. Even if you're on a fast track, demonstrating this openness will accelerate your trajectory. People admire others who can take feedback and improve. I always encourage clients to consider constructive feedback as a great gift. Not only will it guide you, you'll become the kind of leader others want to be-one who balances humility and confidence.

Qualities To Be A Leader

Early in the engagement, you may find there are several things you'd like to work on. It's fine to have a big picture with a list of the things you want to do. It's also important not to take on too much because you can become overwhelmed. Set priorities for the coaching engagement, knowing that when you focus you can accomplish something meaningful quickly, and then move on to others. The coach should help you complete a detailed set of goals; three to five is plenty.

Based on that, you can develop an action sheet that includes timelines, resources and measurements of progress.

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Leadership Communication Articles from Bates

A professional, reputable coach will meet with your boss or company sponsor as appropriate to review the goals and agree on the program. You may be tempted to hire a coach "secretly" and there may be reason to do so from time to time. If you do, then I recommend that you be very mindful of keeping these goals front and center. Your coach is accountable to you, and you are accountable to the coach.

In evaluating which goals are most important, one guideline is the feedback you have received. If your boss and others believe it is a high priority, that's something you want to note. The way they phrase the challenge not be the way you or the coach would put it; but you can take into consideration their comments, talk it over, and determine how best to articulate that in your goals.

Of course the goals should also reflect what you most want to accomplish, too. There may be certain skills you need to master right now, just to be very effective in your current role. A good example of that is learning presentation skills - every leader needs to be able to give a clear, compelling presentation. Later on, there may be other skills you need to work on such as influencing others or winning buy in.

One way to figure out what to do first is to use your calendar and projects as a guide. If you look at the projects and meetings and on your plate, you'll have a sense of what to attack first. At the midpoint of the coaching engagement, many firms like ours like to have a three-way meeting with your sponsor to review progress. You should also plan to have a final meeting at the end of the engagement to assess how it went and come up with next steps.

These meetings can be done in person or by phone.

They're all meant to build staying on track into the program. The coaching process is dynamic, and it changes as new challenges arise. So you should stay flexible, and look at these challenges as opportunities to grow. If you have a plan in place, you are able to use it as a guideline while dealing with new challenges as they arise. Checking in with a mentor, boss or friend periodically will help you keep perspective.

It's good to know whether trusted people in your organization are seeing progress.

About Paul LaRue

Sometimes their perceptions about you may lag if they haven't had an opportunity to talk with you and the coach about where things stand. You can sit down with your sponsor and talk about where you've been and where you're going. Interestingly, this often is a real ego boost - you get more encouragement and support than you expected by pausing to check in with them. Staying on track also means you have to respect the time limits of the coaching program; keep an eye on the calendar. Many of our clients try to push out the coaching activity when emergencies arise.

After years of watching how successful individuals handle these situations, I can tell you that there will always be another emergency, and typically, it's never as important as it first appears. So try to take the long view. Most coaching programs have a start and end date, and the coaches are firm because they want you to make progress.

I have a Dream Too!

They know that in a coaching program, one emergency after another will eventually swamp the progress. They want to help you stay on track. Of course, exceptions are always made, on a case by case basis, especially for significant health issues, family issues, or serious, unanticipated business emergencies. The coach will always be understanding and should even be a resource, helping you to manage the work issues in the interim. But if you agree to do all you can to get to the coaching sessions and complete the work within the agreed upon contract period, you'll be far happier - because you get faster results.

We always encourage our clients to raise the issue of time or emergencies with the coach right away, so you can deal with it together. Every reputable coach will use a variety of tools and resources to help you learn and build new skills. You'll typically receive an executive coaching manual, books, CDs, and worksheets. The coach may recommend reading or listening to books and tapes. In our practice, we also use videotaping as a tool for communications. In addition, a coach may recommend that you work with other experts such as a wardrobe consultant, writing consultant, or organizer.

Contracts with other vendors are usually separate from your initial coaching engagement.

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If you come across resources that are helpful to you, you can always share those with the coach. You may read a book and recommend the coach pick it up, too. You may come across an online resource with articles or tools that helped you get a breakthrough insight. I've often found that once you're really engaged in the coaching process, you feel excited about learning and information tends to you're your way that you previously might not have noticed. This is all a sign, in my view, that the universe is working to help you get where you want to go.

Think of your coach as a partner. You owe it to yourself to create that strong partnership, so they can be a real resource to you. It doesn't mean you have to be in touch every day, or even every week, but there should be some regularity to it, and you should agree on how much and how often. Work out how to be in touch; the best times and ways to communicate with your coach. We have a policy of being available on an unlimited basis by phone or email throughout the coaching engagement.

If you call, we get back to you promptly, as soon as our other coaching or activities allow. We know that time sensitive issues come up, and we want to be able to offer timely advice or consultation.


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Staying in touch is one of the surest ways to make the coach your partner in your professional development. Even after you've finished a coaching program, you'll probably want to stay in touch with your coach from time to time. The coach will welcome hearing from you - they want to know that it's been successful and that you're still moving forward with your goals. A wrap up assessment at the end will determine where you are, and where you still want to go. If possible, ask for a follow up assessment six months after the program ends.

This later assessment is just another milestone to celebrate as you see the rewards of your hard work. You may not be working with a coach that lives in the same city as you. That's usually a fine arrangement as long as you've worked out when and how you will get together, and how you will use the phone, email, and technology like Skype or videoconferencing. You should choose the coach who best meets your needs, and that may mean they are a drive or a plane ride away.

Our firm is based in Boston, and we've successfully worked with clients from Asia, Europe and all across the continental U. In these cases, we have to be organized and efficient with our time, and we have to plan ahead. We also have found that technology can bridge the divide, even in presentation and communications coaching - where videoconferencing and other new tools are allowing us to be face to face without getting on an airplane. At the end of your coaching program, you should feel proud of what you've accomplished, and confident about the future.


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When you find you're in a challenging place just focus on what you really want from the coaching program. Sometimes you just need to have faith. If you trust the coach, believe in the process, and have faith in yourself, you will be amazed at how you feel when you've completed the work. Even veteran executives with years of experience have told me they feel energized, excited and even elated about what they know they can now go out and achieve. While you don't know exactly where you're going when you start, if you have some outcomes in mind, and you expect success, you'll get exactly what you want and more.

There is nothing in the world like having a partner by your side to help you get where you want to go. That's what coaching is all about.