Executive coaching at the CEO level directly and immediately assists executives. Coaching can be specific: to communication problems with direct reports; diversity challenges; leading as opposed to managing; moving from micro management to the macro world of leadership; listening and self awareness.
The Hislop Group coaches elicit change rapidly – but also facilitate change that is permanent and enduring. We develop CEOs to lead at an elite level and leave them with a set of behaviours that can be deployed indefinitely. We leave the provision of technical solutions which address current issues only, to consultants. Our programs, by contrast, create adaptive toolsets that persist indefinitely. Effective tools that tackle current issues and then remain to resolve future challenges. This outcome is effective, financially efficient and a superior alternative to consultants.
Subject matter expert to leader
Senior executives gain their reputation, promotions and experience through the continuous development and exercise of professional knowledge and subject matter expertise. This usually occurs within strategic business silos.
As executives rise through organisations, leadership is incrementally bestowed upon them. In organisations partitioned into silos however, the requirement to lead is subsumed beneath the need to manage teams to results. Effective “authority” is hierarchical and develops through their expertise and knowledge not from personal leadership presence. This is progressively augmented by “adjacent authority” based on proximity to the CEO, so that ultimately the accretion of power obviates the need to develop personal leadership authority – or what we term “followership”. Senior executives must, however, eventually equal their well-practiced knowledge and experiential authority with personal leadership skill, which is often underdeveloped and one of the most difficult transitions they must make to purse an effective senior leadership career.
Technology, globalisation, and unrelenting scrutiny have increased the complexity and volatility of business exponentially. The consequent increase in pressure on those charged with the management and leadership of organisations is profound.
In the past decision-making was the responsibility of the CEO or board, but the scale and scope of contemporary business makes this inappropriate and potentially dangerous. The complexity that surrounds and pervades organisations means that decisions are rarely permanent or singular. They are part of a complex inter-related fabric woven through with synergies, conflicts, and ambiguities. Linear issues from past decades required singular technical solutions but have given way to multi-dimensional problems without absolute solutions. These adaptive challenges are broad, complex issues that need interrelated paradox-based responses. The width and depth of these challenges are beyond the capability of the CEO and must engage a coordinated and aligned executive leadership team.
Curiosity & Humble Inquiry
Business culture in Western democracies implicitly values “telling” is more valued than “asking” – all the more so when the relationship is between a superior to a subordinate. Senior executives value their directive contribution to conversations, and their interest when others are speaking is correlated with the rightness of the other person’s opinion in their perception. Their curiosity of peers and direct reports is limited to their contribution to the executive’s agenda. This behaviour crystallises thinking into “monolinear” blocs that seek to support and align the superior’s views. Creativity is stifled and diverse thought is inhibited. Singular thinking is ineffective in an interconnected and globalised world that demands 360 degree vision and comprehensive insight.
Humble Inquiry – the behaviour of curiosity and “ask rather than tell” – is an essential attitude and skill of current executive leaders. It evokes creativity, unlocks multiform response and expands the width and depth of intellect to complex business challenges. This is the optimal response to the complexity of modern business.
21st Century Leadership: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous.
The US military sought counsel from Harvard to explain its inability to successfully execute its objectives during the Afghanistan war. VUCA – volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity attempted to explain the difficulties encountered.
Harvard quickly realised that VUCA also described modern business environments that are assailed and seduced by unrelenting technology and globalisation. This confusing dynamic demands an adaptive approach to the complexity of business involving greater customer diversity, via diverse employees under the scrutiny of diverse of stakeholders. Knowledge is less important than the management of relentless information; distraction has hijacked deep thought; and the world tries to find solace in an unfamiliar set of comfort zones. Adaptive Leadership in a world of VUCA is fundamental for success.
CEO’s first 100 days
A CEO’s first hundred days is a guide – albeit not definitive – of their style and priorities. It is watched with interest by the organisation and scrutinised by senior leaders and the board. In today’s world any hundred days in the CEO’s tenure has huge impact on the organisation.
While not necessarily a reliable bellwether for the new CEO’s style and priorities the CEO’s first hundred days is a good indication of the level to which leadership will influence and guide the organisation. As such the first 100 days should not be squandered in protracted selection of the leadership team. It should rather be a time for identification of core issues (often those issues which caused a change in CEO) and deep thought. In our experience the selection of the leadership team is most successful when done prior to the first day of the CEO’s control, if possible. This is particularly true of internal appointments to the CEO role. If the CEO’s appointment is external – and subject to glaring issues of competence – our advice is that the inherited team should remain in place for four to six months while the new CEO assesses it and its members.
Senior Executive Coaching
Senior executives have accepted the title of leadership in their job descriptions for many years but title alone does not make a leader. Their real leadership ability is often camouflaged or truncated by their management activity and their tendency to create teams with similar styles to their own.
The organisational focus on achievement of complex KPIs has often blinded the personal impact of leadership on teams. Low levels of personal leadership from senior executives often manifest in low engagement scores, a loss of key executives and laden response to new challenges by the teams. Strong leaders have high personal aspiration, and aspirations for their team members as well. They hire staff that challenge them and motivate their teams through assignment of high levels of responsibility and accountability. This personal, transformational leadership creates followers and an environment where their team can motivate itself as a group, and its team members individually. The transformative effect is profound.
Preparation for CEO or more senior leadership roles.
At senior executive levels personal leadership styles need to create effective and transformational influence or impact. The elements of effective personal leadership are clear, however executives have well-developed knowledge authority, so implanting new core leadership pathways as strong alternatives is a difficult challenge. It is rare in the extreme that this occurs without the intervention of a coach. Executives are simply too busy and their neural pathways are too entrenched. The coaching needs to be of exceptional quality to ensure the change is indeed transformational. He or she must be able to consciously choose between influence by leadership and management by knowledge authority.
Coaching at this level also deals with the relationship between the executive and the role over which they have temporary responsibility. Modern organisations are complex and in the throes of constant change. Our coaching seeks to equip the executive with skills and behaviours to face adaptive challenges. Once the executive is able to rely on their ability to influence through leadership, through curiosity, through openness to new ideas and seeking diversity of experience and thought, they begin to lessen their desire or need to be the answer.
Remedial Coaching addresses de-railing behaviors and attitudes. The sort of behaviors, overt or subtle that derail the good intentions and leadership strategy of a team or an individual.
Remedial coaching can also assist an executive changing a behaviour that while not offensive or derailing may significantly reduce or drain the executives leadership effectiveness.
This sort of coaching should be capable of a quick turnaround, eg 5 initial sessions close together with short review sessions over the following months to ensure the change is transformational.
High Potential Coaching
As stakeholders recognize the complexity of doing business successfully the pressure on those charged with the management and leadership of organisations increases significantly.
The past culture of decision making remaining the responsibility of the CEO or board has become not just inappropriate but dangerous. THE complexity of systems surrounding and including organisations, their markets and impacted communities means that decisions are rarely permanent, and rarely singular. They are part of a complexity of inter-related synergies.
Few of the problems are technical requiring only technical solutions. They are at best a mixture of technician and complex synergies. Adaptive challenges are those complex issues needing interrelated paradox based response,.
Identification, monitoring and executive development for members of succession plans. Succession planning for CEO and ELT members is part of both executive development programs and part of the core responsibilities of each executive at this level. Successful transparent succession planning causes:
• Attraction of high potentials to the organisation
• Continuing awareness for the ELT member of his or her job, its needs and challenges and its development. It is useful to challenge the executive to see his or her role as a separate entity.
• Forces the executive leadership team to develop a knowledge of the talent in their discipline outside the organisation even outside the industry.
• Forms a core strategic element of retention issues.
“Executive coaching is effective when the executive client commits to ensuring that his or her intentions and behaviours are entwined. Coaching drives change through holding the executive client in varying discomfort to support the change. Today’s world does not permit extended engagements where coaches design the discomfort and then suggest the clients try it. Today, we follow the client in.”
– Peter Hislop