One Thing Great Leaders Never Do!

The ever-increasing presence of knowledge workers (people who know more about what they are doing than their boss does) presents challenges to modern-day leaders that their counterparts in years gone by were not called to address. The main challenge is: “How do you help your team members achieve their goals when you – as a leader – are not an expert on the topic?”

One thing great leaders don’t do is pretend to be an expert! This can lead to disaster in so many ways. Below is just one example. I’d love to hear your ideas! Please share with me in the comments your thoughts about how pretending to be an expert can be disastrous!

When someone comes to you with an idea, and rather than say good idea, you say, “why don’t you add this?” or “why don’t you do that?” you take ownership of the idea. Your input makes it your idea and it is no longer their idea.

So, given you follow this suggestion and do not pretend to be an expert, how do you lead today’s highly skilled professionals who so often know more about their jobs than you do? The simple answer is that it takes special skills — and not the ones that you may think.

You have to look at leadership through the wants and needs of the worker as opposed to the skills of the leader. Here are six quick tips for effectively managing knowledge workers.

  1. Demonstrate passion: In days past, working 40 hours per week and taking 4-5 weeks of vacation meant that people often focused less on loving what they do. Today many professionals work long hours and it’s crucial than ever that they love their work. Those who lead by example and demonstrate passion for what they do make it much easier for their followers to demonstrate the same passion.
  2. Strengthen abilities: With less job security and more global competition, it’s critical that people update and refine their skills continuously. Leaders need to look beyond skills needed today and help their workers learn skills they will need tomorrow. Leaders also recognize that their technical or functional skills may be obsolete – and that may well not be a technically competent as their direct reports.
  3. Appreciate time: People have less time today, which means the value of that time has increased. Leaders who waste their workers’ time are not looked upon favorably. Leaders will be far more successful if they protect people from things that neither encourage their passions nor enhance their abilities.
  4. Build networks: Today, job security comes from having ability, passion, and a great network. Leaders who enable people to form strong networks both inside and outside the company will gain a huge competitive advantage along with the loyalty of their workers. These professional networks allow people to expand their knowledge and bring it back to the organization.
  5. Support growth: The best knowledge workers are working for more than money. They want to make a contribution and to grow in their fields. Leaders who ask their people, “What can our company do to help you grow and achieve your goals?” will find it comes back tenfold.
  6. Expand happiness and meaning: No one wants to work at a meaningless job that makes them unhappy. Leaders must show their workers how the organization can help them make a contribution to the larger world and feel rewarded for doing something about which they are passionate.

Managing knowledge workers is a challenging and rewarding job. Leaders who do so must look beyond the work and think about the person who does the work if they are to be successful. By appreciating and encouraging the dedication, time, and experience of their workers, leaders help shape not only the futures of the professionals they lead but also the future of their organizations.

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What Does Leadership Mean to You?

In this week’s blog interview, Erica Dhawan turns the tables and interviews me. Erica is the author of Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence, founder and CEO of Cotential, and Thinkers50 featured emerging management thinker. This week she asks me what leadership means to me. Below is the excerpt from our interview.

If you want to learn more about Getting Big Things Done from Erica, take her free Connection Intelligence Quiz. And check out her new online course on Udemy, Get Big Things Done: Become a Standout Collaborator!

Erica: Marshall, you’ve been a luminary in the leadership world for years. Can you tell us what leadership means to you?

Marshall: I like to use operational definitions when defining what leadership means to me. That way I don’t get into semantics arguments about right and wrong. My mentor Dr. Paul Hersey taught me that the operational definition of leadership is working with and through others to achieve objectives. And the key word is “others”.

My friend Alan Mulally, who you and I both know, is an amazing leader. The former CEO of Ford and probably the best leader in this century in the United States, Alan said, “For the great individual achiever, it may be about “me”, for the great leader, it’s all about “them”. And that’s really the focus of leadership. It’s not about “me”; leadership is about “them”. It’s about others.

Erica: It reminds me of a metaphor. I think of a conductor in an orchestra and the conductor is guiding the group. The conductor is in the spotlight, but it’s about the orchestra. In many ways all of us as leaders, whether it’s sports or business or music or the arts, find that it’s all about how are we cultivating and holding space for others to do their best work.

Marshall: That’s right – That’s one of the reasons I love your book, Get Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence. Because in the past, the leader was much more telling people what to do and how to do it. In the future, the leader is going to do exactly what you’re talking about with connectional intelligence. Leaders will be facilitators who are helping people learn from everyone around them.

I’m a great believer in situational leadership, which says there is no one best school of leadership and your leadership style depends on the situation. So, leaders need to match their leadership style with the readiness level of their people. This makes a ton of sense.

Let’s say I’m your manager. You want to learn and need to learn well, therefore I should use kind of a coaching or advising style, but there’s a problem. I don’t know what you’re talking about. How can I teach you what I don’t know myself? What I learned from our wonderful friend Alan is the importance of, “if you don’t know the answers, it’s okay.” Teach people to learn from everyone around them and don’t fake it. Don’t pretend to have knowledge you don’t have. In that way, I think what you’re doing is totally connected with leadership in the future!

Erica: Thank you Marshall for these great insights! For more of my interview with Marshall, check out my podcast “Masters of Leadership with Erica Dhawan”.

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To get you started on getting big things done in 2019, take Erica’s free Connection Intelligence Quiz. Next check out Erica’s new online course on Udemy, Get Big Things Done: Become a Standout Collaborator. Use code BIG2019.

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What Makes Great Teams Work?

 In this week’s blog interview, I’m thrilled to share more insights from my friend Erica Dhawan. Erica is the author of Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence, founder and CEO of Cotential, and Thinkers50 featured emerging management thinker. This week she shares with us one of the quintessential ideas that makes teams great in today’s connected era.

If you want to learn more about Getting Big Things Done from Erica, take her free Connection Intelligence Quiz. And check out her new online course on Udemy, Get Big Things Done: Become a Standout Collaborator!

Marshall: I’m here with Erica Dhawan. Erica, so proud to know you! You’re a brilliant thinker – one of the top thinkers of the future, one of our 100 coach members, you have degrees from Wharton, Harvard, and MIT, and you wrote a great book about connectional intelligence, called Get Big Things Done. How does this connectional intelligence idea apply to teams?

Erica: Thanks for asking Marshall! Connectional Intelligence is one of the quintessential ideas that makes teams great in today’s connected era. Let me explain with an example.

A few years ago, the CFO of a law firm noticed that the youngest associates were working faster than ever before. It was odd because they were doing more work, not less work, and they were getting more done.

When the CFO and team dug into this phenomenon, they realized that these new associates had created their own peer to peer network across offices, across practices to help each other solve cases faster. They were helping each other find answers to questions like “Where’s this legal citation?”, or “We did this before, what was the name of it?” They used Twitter to collaborate with each other and were working faster together!

This example shows us that in our connected era, the notion of a team looks entirely different than the traditional siloed team. Within one function, we can create informal teams where peers help each other get work done faster.

And, we can create teams of people that are passionate across global lines to solve a problem.

For instance, a woman named Balanda Atis. Balanda worked at L’Oreal. She had a passion for creating a foundation that met the needs of multicultural women. Although this wasn’t her area, she was in the mascara division, she shared the idea and found three other women who cared about the same thing. So, she called PR and marketing and asked if she and the other women could go on the road shows to see if there was support for the idea. There was and soon they created a new foundation color simply because they built this informal team with a common passion within the company.

So, you can see that in today’s world, the idea of a team doesn’t just rely on our traditional structures. We can form teams that are informally led and organically centered around common purposes and passions.

Marshall: I love it. Thank you!

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How’s Your Digital Body Language?

My friend Erica Dhawan, the brilliant author of Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence, founder and CEO of Cotential, and Thinkers50 featured emerging management thinker, gives us her take on something many of us don’t think about: Digital Body Language.

In today’s Information Age, when nearly all our communication is digital, how we come across to others is crucial to being heard. And, many times our colleagues don’t hear us because we are unknowingly rude! So, what can we do about it? Erica gives us her best advice in this week’s interview.

If you want to learn more about Getting Big Things Done from Erica, take her free Connection Intelligence Quiz. And check out her new online course on Udemy, Get Big Things Done: Become a Standout Collaborator!

Marshall: Erica, you’re talking about digital body language. I’ve never heard anyone speak of “digital body language: before. What do you mean?

Erica: Great question – thank you Marshall.

We all know that most communication is through body language. Today, things have changed. We’re often in virtual teams. Now, 80 percent of the time, we’re not in a room with one another anymore.

Do we understand the new cues and signals of “virtuality”? Can we read people’s communications and understand what they mean? For instance, was it intentional that our boss sent us an email at a certain time? What are the hidden cues and signals in our digital conversations? These cues and signals help us understand communications. For instance, does ending a sentence with a period rather than an exclamation point mean something? Is who we CC or BCC in our conversations a signal? 

Oftentimes we think we know exactly what another person is saying digitally, but what we’ve actually seen in the data is that there’s an immense amount of misunderstanding, anxiety, and confusion about what people really because we don’t have the context of a head nod, eye contact, etc.

I have a few best practices to help people make sure that they’re learning a little more about their own digital styles, but also using digital body language intelligently.

The first is that brevity can cause confusion. One of my favorite examples was a CMO who was sent a big document from her team about a project. She wrote back a one liner that was just a random thought she had in her head. People took that one-liner and created a work stream for it. In a week, they spent hours working on something that she didn’t want. The lesson from this is that we have to be really conscious of how we are communicating and if we are being clear.

The second is that timing is everything. Oftentimes what we see is people respond 24/7. Some people expect that. Some people would never expect that. We have to think differently about expectations around timing. One of the greatest things I’ve found in my research is that if you send a thank you email within a few minutes or an hour of a meeting versus a few days or a week later, there’s a significant difference in how people feel connected to it. It’s simply because it’s like a signal of the virtual handshake, which is something that we can’t do in the same way in a virtual realm.

So, I’d encourage everyone to ask themselves: what type of digital body language am I projecting and how can I make sure I’m being clear and avoiding being misunderstood in today’s digital era?

Marshall: Great insights. There’s often a gap between what we think we say digitally and what they hear. So thank you!

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Become a Mixmaster and Get Big Things Done!

 Erica Dhawan, author of Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence, is a great friend of mine. She is a member of our 100 Coaches organization, has an undergraduate degree from Wharton, a masters from Harvard & MIT, and she’s written a wonderful book called, Get Big Things Done.

I’m so excited to start the year with this interview with Erica, because of her brilliant focus on connectional intelligence to get big things done. Founder & CEO of Cotential and named by Thinkers50 as “The Oprah of Management Ideas”, Erica is featured as one of the emerging management thinkers most likely to shape the future of business.

In this week’s interview, Erica describes a “mixmaster” and shares with us the benefits we all reap from talented mixmasters!

If you want to learn more about Getting Big Things Done from Erica, take her free Connection Intelligence Quiz. And check out her new online course on Udemy, Get Big Things Done: Become a Standout Collaborator!

Marshall: Erica, one thing I love that you teach is the concept called a mixmaster. What do you mean by mixmaster and how can it help us get big things done?

Erica: Great question Marshall! What makes a person a mixmaster is that they are someone who is very skilled at combining different ideas together to come up with an entirely new concept or idea. You’re a great mixmaster Marshall!

We have so many different innovations in today’s world, but what we’ve seen is that innovation often comes from leveraging existing resources in new and different ways.

One of my favorite examples of this is a surfer named Ben Thompson. Ben loves riding waves, and one of the things that bothered him was that there is so much sludge in the water. And, he’s not just a surfer, he’s also an engineer. So, what Ben did is he put these two loves together, surfing and engineering and created a sensor called the SmartFin. The SmartFin tracks the salinity, acidity and temperature of water under the surfboard, while surfers are surfing the waves.

Today this data is being used by climate change researchers to allow them to collect data they couldn’t have collected before, because normally sensors would corrode in the water after some time and be rendered useless.

Ben is a quintessential mixmaster. He took his skillsets as a surfer, as an engineer, and brought them together not only to help himself, but to think about other networks and communities he could contribute to and created a solution that benefits those communities.

It all starts with asking ourselves what are a few things that we love to do. Then, how can we combine those things to not only contribute to ourselves, but to others in our community, and then what would be a next immediate step and instantly we become mixmasters!

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Get Big Things Done in 2019!

I am so excited about my interview with Erica Dhawan, author of Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence! If you have plans and goals for 2019, Erica is the person to help you get those big things done in 2019.

First, a little about Erica Dhawan. She is the Founder & CEO of Cotential and the world’s authority on Connectional Intelligence. Named by Thinkers50 as “The Oprah of Management Ideas”, she is featured as one of the emerging management thinkers most likely to shape the future of business. She’s also my great friend and one of our 100 Coaches group.

In this week’s interview, Erica tells us how we can get big things done in 2019 and shares a free gift and a new online course for the new year for those who are really serious about getting big things done!

Marshall: Erica is a brilliant friend of mine. She is a member of our 100 Coaches organization. She has an undergraduate degree from Wharton, a masters from Harvard & MIT, and she’s written a wonderful book called, Get Big Things Done.

Erica, I love what you are doing. How do we get started? How do we get big things done?

Erica: Great question Marshall – how do we start getting big things done?

I’d love to answer this question by sharing a short story first. One of my favorite examples of getting big things done is from Colgate a few years ago. There was a team at Colgate (the toothpaste company) that had a scientific problem. They were developing a new fluoride for the toothpaste to mix with the paste. But, there was a mechanical flow problem. All their tried for months to figure it out, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, but none could.

Finally, the leader on the team asked, “This isn’t working and it’s very expensive. How do we leverage a different network to solve this problem?” The team posted the fluoride challenge on a website called Innocentive, which is a crowdsourcing community for scientists. Within two days of posting the problem, a physicist named Ed Melcarek looked at the problem online and said, this isn’t a chemistry problem. It’s a physics problem. The problem was solved.

Colgate learned a few things from this experience. The first thing they learned is that they didn’t even dare to ask the physicists at their own company because they had labeled it as a chemistry problem. The second thing they realized is that the physicist who solved the problem would have never been hired by Colgate. He didn’t have the traditional resume. In today’s world though, Colgate could access and engage networks in a completely different way to solve real time issues.

So, in order to really start getting big things done, we have to do a few key things. The first thing we have to do is open ourselves to new resources and ideas outside of traditional experts in silos. When you’re trying to solve a problem, ask yourself, not just who has helped me solve this before, but how might I design this problem to engage people I may not even know that could help.

Marshall: That reminds me of something. What got you here won’t get you there!

Erica: That’s right! In order to get big things done, we have to think differently about what will get us from here to there and that starts with asking different types of questions.

The second thing that will help you get big things done is to be open to combining resources and knowledge outside of your own domains. We have to realize that sometimes our greatest sources of help come from where we least expect. We have to be willing and courageous to take a risk and ask.

So, in the New Year, if you want to start getting big things done, it’s all about having the curiosity and the courage to think differently about the resources we often already have at our fingertips. We don’t need a lot of money or position or title or to be even at a big company to get big things done. We can do it so often with what’s close at hand and with our own human skills.

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Connectional Intelligence: Which Type of Connector Are You?

I’m excited to interview my wonderful friend Erica Dhawan. Erica is the Founder & CEO of Cotential and the world’s authority on Connectional Intelligence. Named by Thinkers50 as “The Oprah of Management Ideas”, Erica is featured as one of the emerging management thinkers most likely to shape the future of business. She’s also one of the Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coaches. In this week’s interview, Erica is going to share with us the three types of Connectors as she defines them in her book, Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence. Below is an excerpt from our interview.

Marshall: I’m here with Erica Dhawan, one of the great thinkers of our time and one of the 50 top leaders of the future in terms of influencing thought around the world. Erica, I love the work you are doing in Connectional Intelligence. You identify three types of Connectional Intelligence, or Connectors, can you explain that?

Erica: Absolutely! Ten years ago, Malcolm Gladwell coined this concept of a connector as one of the three types of people that create the rise of social epidemics. This idea revolutionized teams around the world and how we build this connector skillset at work.

In today’s era, we’re not just connected, though, we’re overconnected. The average amount of time we spend on email and online meetings is growing exponentially. What I’ve found in my research is that in today’s world, it’s not about being a connector. It’s about how we connect intelligently with our resources. 

What I’ve found is that there are three types of connectors you need to lead dream teams today. 

  1. The first type of connector is a thinker. Thinkers are great at connecting around ideas. They know how to bring together different ideas. They have a lot of curiosity and courage to think in new ways.
  2. The second type of connector is the enabler. Enablers are the awesome community builders. They know how to bring together all the right people. They are more of your traditional networking types.
  3. The third type of connector is the executor. These are the people who are great at mobilizing.

So, think about it: once you have an idea (thinker), you get the right people (enabler), and you mobilize and turn it into action (executor). And, it’s not about being the best at all of these yourself, it’s about designing a team that leverages your style as a leader.

One of my favorite examples of this is from a woman named Jeannie Peeper. When Jeannie was four, she was diagnosed with a very rare disease called FOP. She spent 20 years going from doctor to doctor trying to diagnose this illness. She finally met a doctor who had seen 18 patients with the disease, and she decided not just to be treated by the doctor, but to reach out.

Jeannie is an enabler. She reached out to every single patient and created the first ever knowledge network for patients with the disease. Today, the network is teaching doctors, medical researchers, and university professionals how to diagnose this illness, because Jeannie understood her style and created a network of people with different skills to address FOB.

What I recommend is that everyone better understand their own style and be mindful of tapping into the diversity of their network and skills that are different than theirs as they are building teams to get big things done.

Marshall: I love what you are doing! Let me give you my personal reflection. I see myself as a thinker and enabler, but not much of an executor. I don’t like to manage anything. I have only two problems with management – one is I have not ability, and the second is that I have even less motivation. The key is to find people who are great at what I’m not great at. I love your model because you don’t have to be good at everything, just know what you are good at, what you do like doing, and then find others who compliment your skills.

Erica: Exactly. Knowing how to find the answer, how to find the resources, is more important than having them yourself. And, that’s really the quotient in today’s world. It’s being that dot connector instead of thinking we’re going to be knowledgeable about everything.

Marshall: Wonderful! Thank you!

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The Incredible Power of Connectional Intelligence

My wonderful friend Erica Dhawan is the world’s leading authority on Connectional Intelligence and the Founder & CEO of Cotential. She was named by Thinkers50 as “The Oprah of Management Ideas” and featured as one of the emerging management thinkers most likely to shape the future of business. And, she is one of the Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coaches and I am thrilled to highlight her work and insights in this interview series. We’ll talk about the ideas in her bestselling book Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence, as well as some new management ideas she’ll share in her next book.

In this first interview, we’ll talk about connectional intelligence. What it is as Erica defines it, and how it is different from networking. Below is an excerpt from our interview.

Marshall: I am here with my wonderful friend, Erica Dhawan. Erica is a fantastic thinker. She’s got an undergraduate degree from Wharton and graduate degrees from Harvard and MIT. She is the world’s expert on connectional intelligence. Question for you Erica: How is connectional intelligence different? Tell me what does it mean and how is it different than networking?

Erica: First of all, it’s great to be here, Marshall. Thank you so much again for having me. To answer your first question, what is connectional intelligence, a lot of how we measure relationships, especially in the digital world, is through the quantity of our connections. How many LinkedIn followers we have, how many twitter followers, and so on.

In my work and research, I have found that we need to shift our notion from quantity to quality because in today’s overconnected era, having a lot of networks doesn’t necessarily lead to measurable change. The key is to develop the skill of cultivating the connections you already have to drive breakthroughs.

Connectional intelligence is the skill to enable and leverage the connections you already have to create value. So, just as game changing as emotional intelligence was in the nineties, in today’s era of digital connection, we can’t just rely on EQ when most of the time we’re not in a room with one another.

We’re working on global virtual teams. We need to figure out how to really tap into the power of our networks in new and different ways. Oftentimes we find that some of the greatest ideas are deep within our own relationships. We need to be willing to be curious, to ask, to be courageous, to think about new ways of leveraging those networks and forging communities that create big results.

Marshall: I love it. And you know, one thing I love about what you’re doing is that it is consistent with the idea of learning from everyone around you. Yes, we do live in a connected world and it’s a great opportunity to learn from people around you. And what I like about what you’re doing is it goes beyond just the numbers. Thank you!

If you want to learn more about Connectional Intelligence from Erica check out her new online course on Udemy, Get Big Things Done: Become a Standout Collaborator

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The Biggest Challenge for Any Coach

In this, the final part of my interview series with my great friend Chris Coffey, who, along with Frank Wagner created Stakeholder Centered Coaching® back in the late 1990’s, we talk about the biggest challenge for any coach. It’s not what you might think and it’s a trap that many of us fall into. If you do, and you don’t get out, it can be the end of your coaching success. Chris gives us his best advice for avoiding this trap in the following excerpt from our interview.

Marshall: What advice do you have the people who have been certified? What do you tell newly certified coaches are some of the things to do and some of the traps to watch out for?

Chris: First I tell them, “Watch out for your ego and thinking your client got better because of you.”

Marshall: That’s the biggest problem of every coach I’ve ever trained, including myself, the ego of the coach. We want people to get better, so we can look in the mirror and feel good about ourselves. It’s all about me, me, me, me…

Chris: I’ll share a little story. Years ago, I did the first mini-survey with a senior vice president. He called me and shared great news from his boss that the boss was very pleased with the results of my client’s minisurvey and thought I was doing a great job as a coach.

I said, it was a nice compliment and that he had done the heavy lifting. All I had done was facilitate the process. My client said to me, “You’re damned right! I did the heavy lifting!”

Marshall: And, it’s true! Another thing you often say that I totally agree with is, “with clients what is the cost of them hiring me? The cost is their time.” In my coaching, I’ve worked with Ian Read, the CEO of Pfizer, the world’s largest drug company, Jim Kim, President of the World Bank, the CEO of Wal-Mart, and so on. For all of these leaders, the cost of hiring me is their time. So, I am not there to waste their time.

To me, many coaches get paid on bad measures. How much time do you spend? Terrible measure… And then, does the client like the coach? A terrible measure… I don’t get paid because they love me, although most of them like me. That’s not what I get paid for. And I don’t get paid for spending time. I get paid for results. And the less time we spend to get those results, the better it is for everybody. So, I love your focus on clarity, prioritization. Don’t waste time and don’t make it about your own ego. The final thing I’d like to say in our interview is it’s my honor to work with you. Thank you!

Chris: My pleasure. Thank you, Marshall, for everything. 

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So You Want to Be a Coach, Now What?

Chris Coffey, who along with Frank Wagner leads the Stakeholder Centered Coaching® certification in the U.S., has trained thousands of coaches. Chris provides a rare combination of being entertaining and dynamic while providing advice and stories from his extensive coaching experience that is both practical and applicable. He is a person that I trust to lead the training process for our behavioral coaches.

Recently I asked him what advice he has for people who are interested in becoming Stakeholder Centered Coaches and who may be starting up their coaching practice. Following is a short excerpt from our interview. 

Marshall: Chris, what advice do you have for people who are interested in becoming Stakeholder Centered Coaches? 

Chris: Great question, Marshall. First, we get, a lot of people who ask if we are going to drive business for them. The answer to that is clearly no. There are so many coaches out there and nearly anyone can be a coach. All they need is a business card.

When people ask me about being a Stakeholder Centered Coach, I ask them about their background and why they want to be a coach. I ask them what they will bring to their coaching. I describe what it is like to be a coach. They will have to get business, and this can be difficult. You won’t just get business because you’ve been certified.

So, for people who want to coach, are they passionate about helping people get better? Personally, I get a thrill when an executive calls me and tells me the coaching is working. Watching them grow and develop is hugely rewarding for me. 

Being a Stakeholder Centered Coach also means working with stakeholders. I talk with each stakeholder and explain that the client has asked them to be a stakeholder. I emphasize that this is not going to take much of their time. That is number one – the coaching be a time burden to them.

Then, periodically, every four or five weeks, the coachee will ask the stakeholder how he or she is doing. Has the stakeholder noticed a difference in their behavior. And that’s it for the stakeholders, be honest and pay attention. That is all they have to do.

I let them know that all they need to do is pay attention to what the coachee has picked to work on and be honest about his or her behavior in the minisurvey. Be honest and tell the truth. Don’t overinflate it and don’t hold onto the past.

And, so managing this process is the job of the Stakeholder Centered coach and for those think they want certification, to ask themselves, Why do I want to do this? Is helping people change for the better something that I am really passionate about?

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