Nov 062008

Dr. Earl R. Smith II

Before I agree to accept a coaching engagement, I organize a consultation – free of charge – with the prospective client. The purpose of this session is to give them a chance to meet me – listen to me describe my approach to coaching and the kinds of effort and results that are likely to be involved. It also gives me a chance to decide if I want to work with them. One of the best questions that any prospective client can ask is ‘what am I going to get out of being coached by you?’ I like that question because it shows me that the person is serious about the process and focused on the likely results.

I am a firm believer in the value of focus and metrics. Any coaching engagement that does not turn around both is likely to produce sub-standard results. Last week I was sitting through an initial consultation when the prospective client asked the question. She had approached me about leadership coaching. To be honest, I was not hopeful until that point that any engagement was possible. The CEO had built a start-up into a large private company. However, she was dancing around the issue of accountability within the engagement. Her question was a turning point in our discussion. Here are a few of the ‘benefits’ that I outlined for her:

  • It is time to grow as a CEO: Your understanding of what it means to be a CEO is rooted in the start-up phase of the company. As the company grows, your role needs to evolve. A friend of mine if fond of suggesting that it is a bad idea to attempt today’s journeys using yesterday’s maps. The things you spent your time doing are not the things that you need to be doing now. Your understanding of the role of a CEO is critical to your company’s success. I will help you make that growth a reality. I have learned how to do it during my six times as CEO. It is not rocket science but it is necessary in order for your company to have the right CEO – the one it needs now.
  • It is time to grow as a leader: Leadership means something different when the team expands and your span of control narrows to a few senior team members. Previously you made most of the major decisions. That is not going to be possible now that the company is much larger and more complex. ‘Directive leadership’ worked then but it will not now. Collaboration and cooperation are becoming much more important. Arriving at the right decisions will require active input from more of the team. I can help you refine your leadership skills and make sure that your leadership approach matches the needs of the company.
  • Organizational performance is the new mantra: The time that individual performances could lift the company to new heights is past. Your competition is bringing all its resources to bear against you. Everybody on the team needs to grab an oar. Your leadership needs to extend down through the organization without overriding the chain of command. Performance metrics need to be more completely developed and enforced. My coaching support can help you deal with the organizational and cultural changes and challenges that your company is going to face while it works to get the most out of the entire team.
  • Cultural evolution is a key: I wrote an article about the conflicts that rage during a company’s transition from the ‘Cottage Stage’ to adolescence and beyond. The culture of your company needs to professionalize. You need to reflect on your role in facilitating this evolution. I can help you do this.
  • The business of business eclipses the business of the business: When you launched your company, you were heavily involved in its business. Now the business of business needs more attention. Issues like quality control, financial controls, human resources management and many more are in need of attention. You cannot farm these out at this stage. They are too important to the development of the company. I have run six companies and know how to manage the business of business.

As I outlined these points, my companion became quiet and a bit somber. “I guess I had been thinking that the next phase of the company’s growth would be pretty much a continuation of the past”, she finally offered. After a bit she added, “You have got me wondering about whether I will be able to become the right CEO for the company going forward.”

Her focus had now become the one with all CEOs who eventually encounter this challenge. Success brings such challenges and demands for growth. The very fact that she was now willing to address them was a major step forward. Whether she successfully does will depend on her ability to reinvent herself. However, the journey had begun.

If you want to learn more about my executive and leadership coaching, send me an e-mail and we will arrange for a time to talk.

© Dr. Earl R. Smith II

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