Sunday, December 5, 2010

2010: What will be the Patterns and their Implications ?

Diminishing Fear : Unravel all your mixed messages

Fear somehow touches almost every aspect of our lives. It is woven invisibly into the fabric of our existence and often sets into motion a chain of reactions and circumstances.

As leaders we need to ensure that fear does not consume our workplaces and degrade the performance of our people. The key to reducing fear at work is direct and clear communication that eliminates mixed messages- the catalytic driver of fear.

Communicative people are less fearful and more secure because they know where they stand. They are less afraid to ask the awkward questions and less intimidated to have difficult conversations. They know that meta-messages live inside of every communication, and they strive to create clarity and understanding.

For example, if you seek new business, you may fail to keep your team in the loop. As time passes, you leave your team without a leader. Soon your people feel disconnected from your activities. Worst-case scenarios seem to be whispered, and one-on-one side conversations echo the halls.

As a result, fear starts to dominate your team. It shows up as people start distrusting your leadership capability, turning to other leaders outside the team for advice and information, creating concentric circles of communication with others, and building mountains out of molehills.

Our sense of security and well being are profoundly affected by how well we are kept in the vital loop, how well our leaders interpret and integrate the dynamics and complexities of workplace life for us.

Tips for leaders:

How can you as a leader build an environment where people feel safe? Mixed messages cause employees to retreat into fear. For example, when you say you care about keeping people in the loop, yet fail to do so, you send meta-messages. When you talk with employees and give directives, but do not ask questions to clarify understanding, you set the context for mixed messages. Inevitably employees will think one thing while you say something else, and confusion will result.
Mixed messages create a metaphorical moat. We don’t know which side of the river we are standing on, and without the security of knowing where we stand, we can’t do our best.

Instead of allowing mixed-messages and worst-case scenarios to take over, set the context for inclusion:

1.Don’t be afraid to stand up for your people.

2.Keep an open mind even if you disagree with what is being said.

3.Respond rather than react.

4.Accept responsibility for the impact of the way you are communicating.

5.Don’t be a people pleaser.

Action : Turn down fear and turn up clarity.

Monday, November 1, 2010

2010: What will be the Patterns and their Implications ?

CEO as a Strategist : Become the Guardian of all trade-offs

Great Strategies are causes, and the Chief Executives has to lead the cause and be the Chief Strategist.

The notion of empowerment of pushing down and getting many people involved, is important, but empowerment and involvement don’t apply to the ultimate act of choice. Strong leaders make choices and define the trade-offs.

The leader has to be the guardian of trade-offs. Thousands of ideas pour in every day : from employees with suggestions, from customers asking for things, from suppliers trying to sell things. There’s all this input, and 99 percent of it is inconsistent with the strategy.

A leader also ensures that everyone understands the strategy. Strategy is not some mystical vision that only the people at the top understand. That notion violates the primary purpose of a strategy- to inform each of the thousands of things that get done every day, and to ensure that those things are all aligned in the same direction.

If people don’t know how their company is different-how it creates value compared to its rivals-then how can they possibly make all of the myriad choices they have to make? Salesmen need to know the strategy; otherwise, they won’t know who to call on. Engineers must understand it, or they won’t know what to build.

The best CEOs are teachers of strategy. They go to employees, suppliers, and customers and say, “ This is what we stand for, “ until everyone gets it. In great companies, strategy becomes a cause. Strategy is about being different.

Executing Strategy:

The myriad activities that go into creating, producing, selling and delivering a product or service are the basic units of competitive advantage. Operational effectiveness means performing these activities better-faster, or with fewer inputs and defects- than rivals.

Companies can reap enormous advantages from operational effectiveness, as firms demonstrated with total quality management. But best practices are easily emulated. As competitors adopt them, the productivity frontier- the maximum value a company can deliver at a given cost, given the best available technology, skills, and management techniques-shifts outward, lowering costs and improving value at the same time. Such competition produces absolute improvement in operational effectiveness, but relative improvement for no one. And the more benchmarking the companies do, the more competitive convergence you have-the more indistinguishable companies are from one another.

Strategic positioning achieves sustainable competitive advantage by preserving what is distinctive about a company. It means performing different activities from rivals, or performing similar activities in different ways.

Three key principals underlie strategic positioning :

1.Strategy is the creation of a unique and valuable position, involving a different
set of activities.

2.Strategy requires you to make trade-offs-to choose what not to do.

3.Strategy involves creating the right “fit”.

People need guidance about how to deepen a strategic position rather than broaden or compromise it; and how to extend the company’s uniqueness while strengthening the fit among its activities. Deciding which target group of customers and needs to serve requires discipline, the ability to set limits, and forthright communication. Strategy and leadership are inextricably linked.

Friday, October 1, 2010

2010: What will be the Patterns and their Implications ?

Unleashing the Power of Human Capital

The Key to Invention lives within the power of our imaginings. No one person develops anything completely on his or her own; however, a great leader stands out in front pointing to an impossible goal and helps motivate and guide others to make that goal a reality.

As leader your job is to ask questions no one else will ask, look into places no one else will look, and point the way that no one else can see. You have to Break OUT.

Most people are locked up in a prison of our own making. Most of us don’t know that we’re in this prison because it consists of the boundaries and limitations we choose to place on ourselves and our lives. These choices, conscious or not, impact everything that we do ( and don’t do)- how we think, behave, act and react.

Through experience we gain knowledge. This knowledge becomes so much part of our thinking that it grows to be “natural” or “automatic” behavior. “Civilization advances by extending the number of operations we can perform without thinking about them,” said Alfred North Whitehead.

Our experiences teach us that certain things are true and natural. So, we come to expect them. These thoughts are called premature cognitive commitments ( PCCs). We know what we know based on past experience, and it affects our current behavior. PCCs help us live out our daily lives automatically, without starting from scratch every day. Naturally, by basing our actions on past experiences, we limit ourselves to only what we have done before. This is where the prison comes in. Our prison of past experience limits us as to what we “think” we can do.

PCCs exist within individuals and groups. Why do companies go out of business? Why don’t they just switch from one thing to another? They don’t because the prison of what they have always traps them. The “Break –OUT” idea to switch from what they have always done to something new isn’t perceived as a “realistic” option. So, despite all their efforts, they go out of business- they fall victim to their premature cognitive commitments.

But some organizations do Break-OUT of their PCC prisons. It is said that change happens when you either “feel the heat or see the light.”

How You can Break-OUT

Here are some do’s and don’ts:

1.Don’t Rely on Benchmarking
2.Forget about them- know yourself
3.Turn down the volume to pump up
4.Map from “A” to Break OUT
5.Use high-octane 80/20 fuel

We encourage you to think big. BreakOUT is risky. It takes courage and an open mind. In mapping BreakOUT, it is easy to get stuck in incremental change- taking baby steps toward your goals instead of reaching for the stars.

Don’t limit yourself. You can change transformationally and unleash the power of people-setting then free to soar to new heights.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

2010: What will be the patterns and their implications ?

Self Leadership : Few People Manage their lives and Careers well

The Failure Rate of Executives points in the same direction: Each executive is picked for proven competence and has been highly successful in previous jobs. This suggests that either their jobs have become undoable (systems failure) or they have lost the ability to self manage.

All of us, even those of us with modest talents, must learn to manage ourselves, develop ourselves, and place ourselves where we can make the greatest contribution. Great achievers always manage themselves. But they are rare exceptions, so unusual both in their talents and accomplishments as to be considered extraordinary.

Now we all must stay mentally alert and engaged during a long working life, which means knowing how and when to change the work we do.

I invite you to ask seven questions :

1.What are my Strengths?

Most people think they know their strengths. They are usually wrong. Often people know what they are not good at. Yet, a person can perform only from strength. You can’t build performance on weaknesses, let alone on something you can’t do. You need to know your strengths to know where you belong. It is also essential to remedy your bad habits- things you do or fail to do that inhibit your effectiveness and performance. Comparing your exceptions with your results indicates what not to do.

In areas where you have no talent or skill, you should not take on work, jobs, and assignments. It takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.

2.How do I best perform ?

Few people know how they get things done. Indeed, most of us do not even know that different people work and perform differently. Too many people work in ways that are not their ways- and that almost guarantees nonperformance. For Knowledge workers, How do I Perform ? May be a more important question that What are my Strengths ?

3.What are My Values ?

This is not a question of ethics. With respect to ethics, the rules are the same
for everybody, and the test is simply to ask yourself, “What kind of person
do I want to see in the mirror ? “ But ethics are only part of a value system.
To work where the value system is unacceptable or incompatible with your own condemns you both to frustration and nonperformance. To be effective, your values must be compatible with the organization’s values. Your strengths and the way that you perform rarely conflict; however, there may be a conflict between your values and your strengths. What you do well may not fit with your value system. In that case, the work may not appear to be worth devoting your life to. Values should be the ultimate test.

4.Where Do I Belong ?

Some people know early where they belong, but most people do not know where they belong until they are well past their mid-twenties. By that time, however, they should know the answers to the three questions: What are my
Strengths? How do I perform ? what are my values? And then they should decide where they belong. If you have learned that you don’t perform well in a big organization, you should not work in one. Knowing where you belong enables you to say to an offer or assignment, “ Yes, I will do that.” Knowing where you belong transforms you into an out-standing performer.

5.What should I Contribute?

Today you may have to ask, what should my contribution be? To answer this question, you must address three elements: What does the situation require ?
Given my strengths, performance style, and values, how can I make the greatest contribution to what needs to be done? What results have to be achieved to make a difference? Since it is rarely fruitful to look too far ahead, ask, ”How can I achieve results that will make a difference within 18 months?” The results should be hard to achieve- they should require ”stretching”, but be within reach. The results should be meaningful, visible, and measurable. From this will come a course of action: what to do, where and how to start, and what goals and deadlines to set.

6.Am I responsible for relationships ?

Managing yourself requires taking responsibility for relationships. This has two parts. First, you have to know the strengths, performance modes, and values of your co-workers and boss. Second, you need to communicate effectively. Most conflicts arise from not knowing what other people are doing and how they are making, and what results they expect. They have never asked or been told.

7.What will I do next ?

Today managing yourself often leads to a second career. You may start one in a different line of work, or develop a parallel career on the side. Few people manage the second half of their lives well. Most just “retire early on the job.” But men and women who see a long working-life expectancy as an opportunity both for themselves and for society will become leaders. Since you can expect to experience setbacks, having a second interest is vital.

Managing yourself well, demands that you think and behave like a CEO.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

2010: What will be the Patterns and their Implications ?

It’s what makes you unique and gives you advantage : Strategy

Strategy is not aspiration, action, deals, importance, vision, mission, learning, values, change, agility, growth, price, best practices, operations, acquisitions, or structure.

Strategy is what makes you unique, gives you a distinct competitive advantage, provides direction, builds brand reputation, sets the right goals, add superior performance, defines a market position and creates a unique value proposition. In formulating strategy, you have to choose what to do (and what not to do), what customers to serve, and what needs to meet at what price. Strategy often requires a different value chain with reinforcing structure and sustaining systems.

Barriers to strategy include capital markets with the prevailing emphasis on shareholder value, growth goals, development deals, wrong goals, wrong performance metrics, and cost accounting. Develop strategy to establish a unique market position and gain a competitive advantage.

Strategic growth is about becoming more distinctive, expanding geography, hiring the right people, and heading in the right direction.

Friday, July 2, 2010

2010: What will be the patterns and their implications ?

Do you have the Courage to Ask ? Ask, “ What needs to be done?”

Peter Drucker onced Remarked, “ The leader of the past knew how to tell; the leader of the future will know how to ask.”

Why is asking so important ? Today all leaders manage knowledge workers. It is hard to tell people what to do and how to do it when they already know more than we do! Today, we need to ask, “ What needs to be done?” listen, and learn from everyone.

Leaders who ask co-workers for suggestions, listen to them, learn from them, and consistently follow-up, are seen as more effective. Similarly, customer satisfaction goes up when service reps ask, listen, learn, and follow-up. When people ask us for input, listen to us, learn from us, and follow-up, our relationship with them improves. If this is so obvious, why don’t we do it ?

As a rule, leaders don’t ask ! One reason is an inflated ego. When I ask leaders to rate themselves relative to their peers, about 85 percent of them rank themselves in the top 20 percent ! And the performance of the company has little to do with their assessment.

When we succeed, we tend to attribute good results to our own motivation and ability and attribute poor results to environmental factors bad luck, or random chance.

When we over-rate our own performance and knowledge, we easily justify not asking others for their input.

However, the main reason why we don’t ask is fear. I once asked a VP of Customer Satisfaction, “ Should your employees be asking their key customers for feedback- and then listening, learning, and following-up to ensure service keeps getting better?”

“Of Course!” he exclaimed.

“If you believe in asking so much, why don’t you do it?” I inquired.

“ Because I am afraid of the answers, “ he ruefully admitted.

We don’t ask because, deep down inside, we are afraid of the answers.

My Suggestions:

As a leader, start asking key co-workers for their ideas on what needs to be done. Thank them for their input, listen to them, learn as much as you can, incorporate the ideas that make the most sense and follow-up.

As a Coach, encourage the people that you are coaching to ask, listen and learn from everyone around them. Be a great role model, then ask the people you coach to learn in the same way.

Improving interpersonal relationships doesn’t have to take a lot of your time. It does require having the courage to ask for people’s opinions and the discipline to follow-up and do something about what you learn. Who do you need to ask, “ What needs to be done?” When are you going to start asking?

Monday, June 7, 2010

2010: What will be the Patterns and their Implications ?

Crisis Leadership : Seven Strategies of Strength

A Crisis is an extreme event that may threaten your very existence. At the very least, it causes substantial injuries, deaths and financial costs, as well as serious damage to your brand or reputation. Yet, those individuals and organizations that have successfully weathered major crises have learned the major lessons that crises have to teach, and they have emerged even stronger and better than they were before.

Unfortunately, most executives are prepared at best for limited crises, mainly fires and natural disasters. A few organizations may even be prepared for direct threats to their core business, such as food contamination or product tampering, but even this situation is not common. Furthermore, those businesses that do prepare for such crises are doing so mainly in their primary industries, as in the food and pharmaceutical industries.

In the book , why some companies Emerge Stronger and Better from a Crisis, Ian Mitroff presents seven essential challenges that all organizations need to face and overcome if they are to survive today’s threats. In meeting and overcoming these challenges, successful crisis leaders have learned, even if they have not completely mastered , seven essential lessons. Learning these lessons can help you to anticipate, plan for, and survive the crises that are an evitable part of life and business.

Seven Essential Lessons:

1.Right Heart.
2.Right Thinking.
3.Right Soul.
4.Right Social and Political Skills.
5.Right Technical Skills.
6.Right Integration.
7.Right Transfer.

Crisis leadership is not just good for business-the economic bottom line-it is also good for the existential, emotional, and spiritual bottom line. No person, business, organization, institution, or society can survive for long without crisis leadership.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

2010: What will be the Patterns and their Implications ?

Bring Strategy to Life: Shift people’s mental model

Why is implementing strategy so difficult? How can leaders implement a new strategy more quickly and effectively? What does it take to make the strategy stick?

Strategy is about altering the future—putting the organization on a new trajectory. Why do so few strategic initiatives deliver? Excessive attention is focused on strategic decisions: What markets, investment, products, services, and business model? While initiating a strategy is based on such decisions of senior managers, the success of strategy depends on the daily actions of many people. So, the key to effective execution is having people internalize strategy as a new mental model of the business and then to change their daily thinking and actions, making decisions about priorities, consistent with the strategic direction.

Success depends on strategy taking on a life of its own with many people. Until strategy is enacted, it is just an idea. How can we enable people to internalize sensible ideas, stop taking old actions, and start taking new actions.

Six Elements of the Game :
1. The Game
2. Playing Field
3. Winning and keeping scores
4. Rules
5. Playbook
6. Players

When using the framework and language of The Game, people internalize what needs to be done to succeed with the new strategy, new ways of doing business, the new model. How decisions are made, and how the implementation of the new strategy will benefit all.

To realize its full potential, any strategy must take on a life of its own with all players. Contrasting the old strategy (old game) with the New Game enables people to internalize the shift. The new game requires an emerging environment, a new definition of winning and keeping score, new rules, new ways of doing business, new ways to succeed, and new opportunities.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

2010: What will be the Patterns and their Implications ?

Who will Lead Now ? Prepare to set up

CEO jobs are dramatically hard. Background, experience, education, and talent may not prepare you for the never-ending-on-public-display-globally-pressured-quaterly-earnings-report work that comes with leadership at the top.

About 40 percent of CEOs fail within 18 months. These odds, plus demands placed on leaders, have caused a downturn in senior executives who want the top position ( from 50 to 35 percent in the last four years). Moreover, CEO turnover is at a five-year high.

Who will lead companies in the future ? this question has caused a leadership succession and development frenzy. Boards are more anxious about finding executive talent whenever they can.

In his book, Searching for a Corporate Savior, Rakesh Khurana, professor at Harvard University, suggests that looking outside for a CEO successor is part of a growing “ irrational quest for charismatic Chief executives” ( selection of outside CEO’s has gone from 6 to 50 percent in recent years). Fearing boards may be focusing on the qualities of presence, personality, and media appeal rather than character and competence, he gives seven guidelines for finding successors; abandon hope for a corporate savior; translate company strategy into operational terms; identify skills required for key activities (activity/competency mapping); assess internal candidates; test and choose from a short-list; and calibrate goals, milestones, and compensation to drivers to success. Khurana favors internal development of candidates, but acknowledges that developing home grown talent is not the only course.

After reviewing 276 companies that have good track records at developing home-grown talent, The Corporate Leadership Counsel defined seven Hallmarks of leadership Success:

1.)A Culture of Development.
2.)Enforcing Development.
3.)Recruiting Senior Executives.
4.)The Power of Meritocracy.
5.)Full Business exposure for rising executives.
6.)A Focus on leadership skills in successor identification.
7.)Succession Management.

Companies that are great at developing future leaders invest much time in cultivating a candidate pool. As managers gain the requisite training, coaching, on-the-job experience, they join an internal pool of high-potential candidates. But what separates the good processes from great ones is an emphasis on self-development.

All this leads me to conclude: Work harder on developing internal talent. You can improve your odds beyond 50-50 by doing the hard, but rewarding, work of developing more leaders internally. While I believe companies must regularly look outside for talent, having an effective process for developing leaders ensures that you will have great candidates when the time comes to add or replace executive talent.

Monday, March 1, 2010

2010: What will be the Patterns and their Implications ?

Small Remedies Reap Big Rewards: Fix your Broken Windows

What prompted me to write this article was my recent very bad experience with a Health Insurance Company of repute in India, giving me excuses for their lack of customer back-up service and incompetence. And as a Customer, I am supposed to BUY that ?

When is a DIRTY bathroom a broken window? This question could determine your success or failure. Answer that question correctly-and use that answer as a beacon-and your business could dominate its competition indefinitely. Ignore the answer, and you will soon condemn your business to failure.

The “broken windows” theory was first put forth by criminologists James Q. Wilson
And George L. Kelling, concentrating on petty criminal acts like graffiti, purse snatching, or jay walking, and how they can lead to bigger crimes such as murder. Something as small as a broken window sends a signal to those who pass by every day. That means more serious infractions – theft, defacement, violent crime- might be condoned in this area.

If a window in a building is broken and left un-repaired, all other windows will soon be broken because people perceive that the owner of this building and community around it don’t care if this window is broken: They have given up; anarchy reigns here. Do as you will, because nobody cares.

Broken Windows in Business:

That same theory applies to the world of business. If the restroom is out of toilet paper, it signals that management isn’t paying attention to the needs of its people. Perceptions are a vital part of every business, and if a retailer, service provider, or company sends signals that its approach is lackadaisical, its methods halfhearted, and its execution indifferent, the business could suffer severe- and in some cases, irreparable- losses.

When broken windows are ignored, fatal consequences can result. Small things
make a huge difference. We all bear some responsibility to stand up for what we want and have every right to expect from a company to which we give our hard-earned money.

In a Capitalist Society, we assume that a company will do its best to fulfill the desires of its customers. If the company sees sales slipping but doesn’t have data from consumers as to what made them decrease their spending, the company will not know what to fix. Still, businesses that don’t notice and repair their broken windows should not simply be forgiven because their consumers don’t make a fuss. Leaders are responsible to tend their own house- and the time to repair broken windows is the minute they occur.

Prevent Broken Windows: Broken Windows are everywhere, except at the best businesses. I invite you take the Broken Windows for Business Pledge. It’s a serious statement outlining the tenets of the broken windows for business theory:

I hereby pledge that:
•I will pay attention to every detail.
•I will correct any broken windows I find in my business, and I will do so
immediately, with no hesitation.
•I will screen, hire, train and supervise my people to notice and correct broken
windows as soon as possible.
•I will treat each customer like the only customer my business has. I will be on
constant vigil for signs of Broken Windows Hubris and never assume my business is
•I will mystery shop my own business to discover broken windows.
•I will make sure every customer who encounters my business is met with courtesy,
efficiency and a smile.
•I will exceed customer expectations.
•I will make a positive first impression and assume that every impression is a first
•I will make sure that my online and telephone customer service reps solve a
customer’s problem perfectly the first time.
•I will be obsessive and compulsive when it comes to my business.

If you live up to the promises in the pledge and make them second nature, you will discover your business- and your life-running more smoothly than ever before. You will never look at a broken window-or an unbroken one-the same way again.

Monday, February 1, 2010

2010: What will be the Patterns and their implications ?

Beyond Business As Usual : Do you have the Guts to Brand the Culture ?

Gutsy Leaders reject the mercenary notion that their employees are nothing more than human resources, akin to capital, fuel, oil, or machine tools that can be allocated or discarded at will. Instead, they see their people as individuals with unique gifts and talents, eager to realize their potential. Gutsy leaders aren’t afraid of being criticized or even mocked by their competitors. With bravery and vision, they dismantle fear-based management and replace it with heart, soul, discipline, loyalty, humor-and long-term profits.

Here are three ways that gutsy leaders blow the doors off business as usual:

1.Gutsy leaders brand their culture: A branded culture separates an organization from its competition. It attracts the “right” talent – people who are drawn to the culture as well as to the work. Since it establishes its own reputation, recruitment is easier because potential hires know more about the company than just what it produces. Companies with branded cultures-employers of choice –aren’t filled with merely “satisfied ”employees. Their employees are enthusiastic about the company. Are merely satisfied employees likely to go beyond what’s required to serve customers? Are they likely to strive to drive down costs without compromising quality, service or safety? Are they likely to be great ambassadors for your company and brand? The objective here is to create a culture that motivates people to become fully engaged in growing the business.

Dr. Jim Goodnight, co-founder and CEO of SAS Institute, the world leader in intelligence-software services, believes that the more you help employees focus on their work, the more amazing results they achieve for the organization.

Goodnight has built the largest private software company in the world, with 9,000 employees, offices in 53 countries, and revenues of more than $1Billion. The turnover at SAS has never exceeded 5 percent. The company estimates that it
saves between $60 million and $80 million annually by avoiding the costly headache of recruiting, training and assimilating new hires.

2.Gutsy leaders create a sense of ownership: Ownership recognizes that the organization’s experts are the people closet to the point of action, and trusts them to operate with the organization’s best interests in mind. The more people know about your business, the more they will care. Morale and productivity suffer. How can we expect people to think for themselves and build a profitable enterprise if they have no idea what goes into creating the bottom line?

If you want your people to think and act like owners, you must share financial information and explain what the numbers mean and how the information can be applied. Employees must know how economic value is created, how revenues and expenses translate into profit, how they create financial security for themselves and the organization, and what investors contribute and want in return.

3.Gutsy leaders lead with love: What does it take to be gutsy leader?What does it take to be gutsy leader? You have to be gutsy enough to stand up to those who stand in your way. You have to be big enough to admit your mistakes. You have to be vulnerable and say, “I don’t know.” You have to care enough to lead with love and trust rather than power and fear. You have to be humble enough to surround yourself with people smarter and more capable than you-and then have the faith to get out of their way. You have to be open and flexible enough to adjust to circumstances. You have to do what’s right, even when it’s not politically correct. You have to blow the doors off business-as –usual!

Ask yourself “If I were going to be brave today, what would I change if I walk beyond my fear of making a mistake, being rejected, looking foolish or being alone ?”

Action : Be Brave in making change.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010: What will be the patterns and their implications ?

Executive Coaching Success: Pressing the Right Keys

Companies and employees are relying less on skills-based training and trainers for career development and more on formal or informal coaching relationships. But the growth of executive coaching has generated some tough questions about its effectiveness and applicability and the ethics around the approach. Who can best benefit from a coach? When should a coach be used or avoided? What should a company look for in a coach? What should the coach-client relationship look like? Properly designed and implemented coaching can have a significant positive impact on an organization' s leadership capability. However, as with any developmental tool, there are keys to assuring a return on the time and money invested.

Five Keys to Effective Coaching
1. Coaching is focused on the right players:The best opportunity to achieve payback on a coaching investment lies with high-potential or high-professional employees, managers and executives. Helping these "game changers" at critical junctures in their careers usually has a quick and sustained payoff. Coaching challenges - whether tweaking an employee who's already a top performer or assuring that a high-potential employee achieves his or her potential - are different based on the employee's career level, but the objectives are similar.

2. Coaching is applied in the right situations:Coaching is not a panacea for all development needs. There are a limited number of opportunities where experience has shown that coaching can make the biggest difference. They tend to be areas where specific improvement goals and clear benefits can be identified and are not broad finishing-school kinds of challenges.

a) Transitions:Starting a new position with a company, moving to a new role or taking on new responsibilities are critical junctures in a career. Providing a coach to design and facilitate a transaction process can have substantial benefits. These are stressful times, when previous weaknesses become highlighted or overused strengths come to bear. An effective coach can help ensure a smooth transition for the employee and his or her new stakeholders, create confidence by building quick wins and create effective feedback so learning gets locked in.

b)Preventing derailment:Even high-potential employees fail, most often due to overuse or overdependence on one strength. Coaching can help prevent derailment by helping employees identify potential failure modes and by developing specific preventive and contingent action plans.

c)Address a specific problem:This is the more typical coaching situation. We've all seen it - an otherwise promising employee lacks a specific skill or exhibits behaviors that impact his or her relationships with others. These can be derailers, but they are more often opportunities to coach good performers with a blind spot into well-rounded, great performers.

There are specific situations where coaching should not be used.

a) Unethical or illegal behavior is the issue, and the coach is really meant to be a detective or a buffer between the employee and others.

b) When the target employee is not a high potential or a seasoned pro. Instead, there's a long-term performance problem that should be immediately confronted by the employee's manager.

c) When HR has decided the employee needs a coach, without the buy-in of the employee and the employee's manager.

d) When the coach is expected to create a case to terminate the employee.

e) When the employee has psychological problems that should be addressed by a medical professional, or at least a coach with clinical experience. A good coach should be able to quickly identify warning signs and make a referral. Coaching is not therapy and should not be an intervention to go after deep psychological issues.

3. The right coach is used:
Not every consultant or HR professional is cut out to be a coach. An effective coach doesn't need to be a board certified psychologist, but the skill set is unique. Here's a short list of critical coaching competencies.

a) Business acumen:Coaches need to be good businesspeople first. They must be able to understand the market challenges and business priorities their clients face. They need to be able to understand and use executive language.

b) Expert facilitation:Effective coaches are often top-notch facilitators. They understand group processes and process consulting and can guide individuals and teams through effective questioning, analysis, planning and decision-making processes. They can read individual and group dynamics quickly and respond appropriately.

c)Credibility:The best coaches have had business or other experience that can allow them to maintain a perspective. They build credibility quickly by showing that they have "been there, done that." Credibility does not come from a bag of tricks. Beware of a coach with a one-size-fits- all technique or instrument he or she applies in any situation.

d)Interpersonal savvy:Being able to relate to all kinds of people, build rapport and relationships easily, listen, use tact and diplomacy, and diffuse high-tension situations are all hallmarks of an effective coach.

4.Coaching is integrated:Coaching should not be designed and implemented outside of the company's strategy, culture and existing business processes.

The business case for coaching should develop from the company's strategy. The need is best identified from a review of talent, driven by the strategic needs of the business. Coaching should not be a one-off tool. It should be applied where it can best improve a strategic capability of the organization. For example, if business growth depends on developing new products for new markets, look for coaching opportunities with high-potential leaders and their backups in mission-critical new product development, business development or marketing roles.

5.The proper coaching relationship is established:
The coach's client is the employee being coached and not their manager or a human resources executive who may be paying the coach's tab. This is not the typical consultant-client relationship with the economic buyer, so it needs to be managed differently. Once the coaching relationship is established, all feedback and communication should go to the coached employee. Any communication with the manager should come from the client after discussion and agreement with the coach. To do otherwise would breech this special agreement and would jeopardize the coach-client relationship.

The one exception to this would be a case where the coach uncovers unethical or illegal behavior on the part of the employee. The coach is obligated in these situations to terminate the relationship and inform the manager.