Monday, November 24, 2008

What Does Joe the Plumber Have to Do with It? - A Fresh Look at Executive Coaching

About a year ago, thanks to the kind introduction of our mutual friend, Bob Glazer, I was introduced Dr. Mindy Gewirtz. Mindy is an executive coach . . . plus a whole host of other things that will be revealed in the paragraphs that follow. Before I met Dr. Gewirtz, I had a very limited and stereotypical picture in my mind of “executive coaching.” I used to think about an executive coach as “Joe the Plumber” - fixing a leak and cleaning up a mess. I thought a coach was called in only when there was a significant hole in an executive’s performance or leadership that needed to be plugged.

Over the past year, as Mindy and I have met on a regular basis, I have begun to see executive coaching as an iterative process – a framework in which to discuss opportunities to be pursued, problems to be solved or dreams to be dreamed that were never before imagined. Coaching provides tools and strategies for making all of these possibilities a reality; it helps prune away the dead branches to make way for new growth. My coach teaches me to ask myself the tough questions, and to consider what I can do differently or more effectively. I now have the handles to open drawers that were shut tight and new hooks to safely hang my thoughts while I try on new ways to think about things differently. It is like “putting the cookies on a lower shelf,” so what I am feeling is then accessible. As a result, I now find myself thinking more strategically as I go forward - whether propelling my business or balancing my life.

So what does an executive coach do?

  • S/he creates an interactive process which involves acting as non-judgmental sounding board.
  • S/he provides accountability. Think of the process as an amalgamation of having a really good therapist, and a personal board of directors rolled into one.
  • S/he provides a process that helps to integrate the person with the professional.
  • The really effective coach gives permission to and empowers the executive to interject his or her humanity, personality, temperament and value system into the organization, thereby removing and breaking down artificial barriers.

Coaching is like painting lanes on the highway, to make the traffic of one’s life flow more effectively and with fewer unfortunate collision or traffic jams!

What are the characteristics of a good coach?

  • There has to be good chemistry and fit.
  • Look for authenticity, trust, unconditional positive regard and a willingness to ask searching questions in a non-threatening way.
  • Someone who believes in your ability to change, to discover the ideas within you to propel you forward, in your business and your life.

What is the secret sauce that makes coaching so special?

  • Coaches helps leaders to “get on the balcony” to gain perspective in context of business s/he is running, the transition process from one career to the next, the worry about the unpredictability of the economy.
  • Your coaching relationship can be your safe haven to think about the long term, away from the day to day chaos. There can be almost a spiritual dimension that adds humanity to the professional persona.
  • Think about having a partner to walk along side you, as you machete the unchartered territory in the rain forest of your dreams as you proceed on your internal treasure hunt.

As a reader of the White Rhino Report, how would I know if I am the right person to call Mindy?

  • Whether you are in the military transitioning to the business world, or whether you are on Wall Street, or in a university or non-profit system there is a common thread of internal and external navigation: within yourself, your team and even across organizations.
  • Are you in a new position of leadership?
  • Are you leading others during this turbulent time?
  • Are you now required to do something game-changing that is challenging to you?
  • Is the current economic crisis forcing you to think differently about your career or business
  • Are you ready to do something about where you are - not just talk about it?
  • Would having a resource like this allow you to be less “frozen” and think more creatively and effectively about your business.

If your answer to one of more of these questions is a resounding “Yes,” then I encourage you to consider meeting with Mindy to assess whether establish a coaching relationship makes sense. To shift metaphors that come to us from the recent Presidential election and its aftermath, I no longer think of a coach as “Joe the Plumber.” I think of a coach as my personal “Transition Team,” helping me to line up resources to bring about needed change and a fresh approach to the governance of my enterprise.

Yes, we can!

Dr. Mindy Gewirtz

(617) 803-2268

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