When it comes to leadership and management, as a coach it’s important to keep connected with what business needs, and the easiest for this is to talk to business leaders, looking ahead from their perspective.
So I did. And last week… I had the luxury of a small phone conversation with Mary Lou Nolan from Intellectual Ventures. When it comes to leading, Mary Lou Nolan knows what she is talking about. Have a look at her LinkedIn profile, you will be convinced! and when I asked her ‘What is the best business advice you have ever received?’ She replied without an inch of hesitation ‘Have the courage of your convictions.’ She added quickly, ‘it probably applied even more to woman, and it does not conflict with being adaptable.’
As a NLP coach, I can confirm there is really no contradiction! We are even famous in NLP for teaching people the ‘law of requisite variety’, that the component of the system with the most flexibility controls the system. Your convictions is what leads you to your outcomes, and we know that for goals or outcomes it’s fundamental to have more than one way to achieve them, this flexibility giving you the needed capabilities to keep moving forward even if something comes your way. Flexibility is actually compulsory in business. It’s key to adaption -to new markets -to changes in customers’ expectations or needs -to changes in legality or political environment, and more… W. Edwards Deming, the American statistician and consultant, was famous for having said, ‘It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.’ We all agree now, change is a constant, probably the only real constant around us. So I went ahead with my next question ‘Mary Lou, what is the most important point in change management?’ The answer came at light speed; ‘Communication, communication, communication. Whatever communication you do, at least double it and as soon as possible.’ From the outside looking at change management processes, I often see companies doing what I call ‘a change in the dark,’ their communication starting while they are already step 3 or 4 down the line of the change management process… and then the management team is surprised to see resistance from employees. What happens here? The longer you wait to communicate your change, the less ownership employees will be able to take for that said change, as a results you impose the change onto them, and they become numbers, disengaged, scared, losing motivation, often leading to a decrease in results and most likely a risk in the success of your change implementation. Communication should start when management realizes there is a need for a change, even if at that time the vision is not clear yet. You want to give a chance to your employees to build up the vision with your management team, you want to involve them versus imposing the change. Imagine for a minute… your partner decide to move house, organize everything with his/her vision of the perfect house, and announce the news just the day before the movers come in… Not pleasant, right? Just there, you have experienced being involved in the change process at step 4… and I promise I will review those steps in the next post.
Of course I kept my favourite question for the end; ‘Tell me how do you see coaching in business?’ and I had my first rest… before Mary Lou Nolan commented, ‘it’s a really good question, ‘ and paused again before adding, ‘coaching is really about finding what you are good at and becoming better at it, and coaching need to be done by someone who is not part of the day-to-day business. Managers can’t coach their teams, in the sense that they are too involved in the day-to-day dynamic to take that needed step back.’ Definitely what every coach want to hear, and definitely something true. At a business meeting I had this week, one participant emphasized again that having that outside perception, by hiring an external coach not involved in the day-to-day dynamic, is fundamental to allow teams to think or to brainstorm at different levels and assist in innovation. Coaches, when working with teams, like great leaders are actually folks that understand people enough to see how they could work together, creating synergy and performance, and they assist people in doing so. That’s simple, as coaches, we are agent of change and agent of performance.
Thanks again to Mary Lou Nolan at Intellectual Ventures for giving me 15 minutes of her valuable time for this inspiring phone conversation.