1.30.2006

TIP: When the project has hit the wall

via CIO - The harder the team pushed the less the wall moved. In fact, it seemed to be tipping backwards, threatening to crush everyone underneath. The wall is of course a metaphor for the intractable forces that so many teams find themselves up against when developing a new product, initiating a new release or implementing a process upgrade.

Teams do not like to confront walls; managers like it even less. Obstacles are factors that all managers face and how you face them is a measure of who you are as a leader. Most managers deal with the external obstacles very well - the assembly of a team, the marshalling of resources and the lobbying for support-however, many managers fare less well on the internal side-dealing with difficult people, sudden challenges or even personal setbacks.

These obstacles exact a toll on the psyche. While commitment to the enterprise is laudatory, managers must be careful not to take things too personally. Internalization leads to a build up of stress as well as the formation of another wall-one between manager and staff. Instead of reaching out, managers under duress either lash out at others, or seal themselves off. Either instance can be costly, not only to the project, but to the manager himself...

(Management today is coaching; it is about bringing out the best in others, but managers, too, may need assistance.) More and more companies are turning to executive coaches to help their managers... The question of when to hire a coach arises first... Executive coach Mark Sobol employs the "5 when's" approach... "one, when executives believe they need the insights and objectivity of someone 'outside the system;' two, when they are seeking new pathways to success; three, when they are questioning their definition of success; four, when they are transitioning to a new role of increased responsibility; or five, when the skills that have served them so well in the past are increasingly less effective in the present environment."...

Here are some suggestions for what you can expect a good coach to do...

  • Know the organization. ...What is appropriate for one organization may not be appropriate for another. For example, asking a manager to delegate more is fine but if the people in the organization are not prepared to assume authority, an issue of responsibility arises. The coach must help the manager prepare her people to assume more leadership roles.
  • Guide, not dictate. In a successful coaching engagement the executive coach serves as a guide, not a dictator. For example, say you want to improve delegation skills. The coach must find out why the manager is not delegating first, and then find ways to encourage the manager to delegate. The coach can provide some ways to encourage delegation but it is ultimately up to the manager to take ownership of the behavior. The role of the coach is to make suggestions that the manager comes to regard as important and therefore necessary to implement. Furthermore, says Crane, "It takes great self-restraint to observe or witness challenges and coachee blind spots and not rush in with the answer." He advises, "It is far better to ask the right set of questions that cause self-reflection on behalf of the coachees, so they can discover their own answers."
  • Know when to say when. ...If you hire a painter to paint a room in your house, the painter should ensure that the paint has dried appropriately, that the color is right, that it won't crack or peel and that you are satisfied that the room now looks the way you wanted it to look." Of course, she adds, "You can always bring him back" to paint other rooms, or in the case of coaching "to change another behavior." Managers have to resist the temptation to over-rely upon a coach, or cede decision-making. Sobol advises establishing two parameters. "First, every engagement should be sharply focused and defined as well as measured for success. Second, a series of engagements is appropriate only if the client's capabilities are continuously and visibly being built."...

Highly performing managers want an edge that will enable them to get to the top of their game and stay there. And that is one reason that executive coaching is catching on. Most often managers have what they need to succeed; it's a matter of self-discovery and self-application. That's where a coach can help. As Sobol puts it, "The role of a coach is to listen more than talk, discern rather than judge, and to shine a light when it's hard to see the way." Frequently the coach will provide insights into self that will lead managers on a leadership path; that is, they will learn to leverage the talents and skills of others to become more skilful managers and more committed leaders. So much of leadership is about putting others in a position to succeed.

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got

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