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One of the main reasons I chose to be certified as a Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered coach is that I was looking for a way to not only get my clients to achieve the results and change in Leadership growth they wanted to achieve but to make sure that their successful growth in Leadership was to be seen and experienced by all important stakeholders within the sponsoring organization.
Long lasting, visible, even measurable growth.
“Shouldn’t that be what executive coaching is all about?” I hear you think. Yes. It is. The first part is pretty easy to accomplish if you ask me. You work with a leader that wants the change. That sees the benefits of the change. Not only for themselves, for their stakeholders and the entire organization they are working for as well. They want to be (even) more successful than they already are and they work hard to make that change.
But then, at one point they are triggered. Mostly in situations that are key. Situations where a lot is at stake. An important client. An influential stakeholder. And then, exactly then, they step into their old behaviour. Result? They are perceived as not changed at all. No growth visible. Return of the coaching investment to be questioned. What has been seen and isolated for feedback is the 5% failure. Not the 95% change. Recognize that feeling?
Of course, on any way to lasting behavioural growth there is success and failure. That’s why we do the after action assessments during the coaching sessions. We take a look at what triggered the old behaviour and how to get around those specific triggers in the future. But very often, harm has already been done. In that particular, impactful situation, the leader failed. It has happened once that I was called by HR saying: “we need to talk, your coaching is not working”. In spite of all progress that had been made by the leader, no growth was visible for the stakeholders.
One of the key elements in the Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered coaching approach is that we are not only including the stakeholders in terms of feedback. “How did I do? Did I succeed? Are you happy with my (newly) demonstrated behaviour?” We include the same stakeholders in terms of feed-forward as well. There lies the real gain in creating more visibility on the 95% change.
When creating the development plan, we do share the Leadership growth area of choice with the selected stakeholders. “This is what I will be focusing on during the next 6 or 12 months”. And then we ask if they are willing to contribute to that process of change by sharing their constructive input on a monthly basis with 2 to 3 specific feed-forward suggestions. Asking for feed-forward is as simple as saying: “Based on your experience, what can I do to get better at …?”
No “evaluation” of behaviour but behavioural suggestions for the next month on how the leader could become more effective in the Leadership growth area mentioned. The stakeholder then gives the leader input based on their own experience, their insights, and their specific experience in working with the leader. By asking them for this input, and by following up (with a short feedback) after that month, stakeholders are involved in successes as well as failures. Need I tell you that everyone (think about how it would feel if someone asks you for your suggestions) is positively surprised when the relationship (I trust you) as well as the input (I trust you to help me) is valued by the leader asking for the support?
The beauty of it is that it’s an informal process. Feed-forward. Feedback. Feed-forward. Feedback. No time-consuming meetings, just a short alignment month after month. It can be 5 minutes in the coffee corner, a short call, an email, etc. On the other hand, although the above might seem simple, it’s a process that is not that easy at all. Leaders need to be willing to show courage, humility and discipline. And learn how to simply say thank you for the stakeholder input with no further discussion on different perspectives or realities (that’s where your coach keeps you on track ;-)). We don’t want the “I understand you giving me that suggestion but in my department that is not going to work” talk. Courage. Humility. Discipline. But then again, isn’t that a basic requirement for all growth and change?
I could add some specific behavioural examples to the above but I’m choosing not to do that. If you are interested to know more, please contact me without obligations and let’s see together how this specific way of working can benefit you and your organization in terms of long lasting, visible, and even measurable Leadership growth.
About the author
Sofie Varrewaere is the founder of BigFish4.me and a certified Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coach. After studying a Master in Psychological and Pedagogical Sciences, she ogled into the magical world of Recruitment, Selection and HR Services. Working for the world leader in HR, she has always been in an advisory role in relation to the larger goals of several multinational organizations. In 2013 she started her own company in International executive Coaching. Doing what she is good at, challenging others as well as herself