In my work as a behavioral coach, I have gone through three distinct phases.
In phase one – I believed that my clients would become better because of me. I thought that the coach was the key variable in behavioral change. I was wrong. We have recently completed research with over 86,000 respondents on changing leadership behavior . We have learned that the key variable for successful change is not the coach, teacher or advisor. The key variables that will determine long-term progress are the people being coached and their co-workers.
In phase two – I spent most of my time focusing on my coaching clients. I slowly learned that a motivated, hard-working client was more important than a brilliant coach! I learned that their ongoing efforts meant more than my clever ideas. My results improved!
In phase three (where I am now) – I spend most of my time not with my coaching client but with the key stakeholders around my client. By doing this, my clients results have dramatically improved .
How do I involve key stakeholders? I ask them to help the person that I am coaching in four critically important ways:
1) Let go of the past. When we continually bring up the past, we demoralize people who are trying to change. Whatever happened in the past happened. It cannot be changed. By focusing on a future that can get better (as opposed to a past that cannot), the key stakeholders can help my clients improve. (We call this process feedforward, instead of feedback ).
2) Be helpful and supportive, not cynical, sarcastic or judgmental. As part of our coaching process, my clients involve key co-workers and ask them for help. If my clients reach out to key stakeholders and feel punished for trying to improve, they will generally quit trying. I don’t blame them! Why should any of us work hard to build relationships with people who won’t give us a chance? If my clients’ co-workers are helpful and supportive, my client experience increased motivation and are much more likely to improve.
3) Tell the truth. I do not want to work with a client, have them get a glowing report from key stakeholders and later hear that one of the stakeholders said, “He didn’t really get better, we just said that”. This is not fair to my client, to the company or to me.
4) Pick something to improve yourself. My clients are very open with key stakeholders about what they are going to change. As part of our process, our clients ask for ongoing suggestions. I also ask the stakeholders to pick something to improve and to ask my client for suggestions. This makes the entire process “two-way” instead of “one way”. It helps the stakeholders act as “fellow travelers” who are trying to improve, not “judges” who are pointing their fingers at my client. It also greatly expands the value gained by the corporation in the entire process.
Life is good.
My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.