A discussion with experts on executive leadership Mark and Bonita Thompson
Mark Thompson has worked side by side with three of the world's most legendary disruptive innovators: Steve Jobs, Charles Schwab and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson. He brings insight from decades of experience with these great leaders and research on the culture of companies and brands that achieve the highest levels of employee engagement, customer loyalty and continuous sales growth.
Bonita Thompson is a senior human resources executive for global corporations and for 25 years was an HR innovator for six major firms, including Bank of America, Genentech, Levi Strauss, Pacific Telesis, Varian and Catellus. She is bestselling author of Admired: 21 Ways to Double Your Value.
How has coaching changed since you began working with executives?
Mark: In the past, Boards and HR leaders hired an executive coach in the C-Suite to fix something broken. Most likely, something or someone at the company needed to address a crisis quickly. An executive coach would be brought in, resolve the issue, and sent on his or her way. That attitude has dramatically changed in the last 10 to 15 years.
Today every high performance company is immersed in change and disruption that's so demanding that top execs must 'scale' their leadership skills faster than ever in order to scale the business faster than what happened in the past.
What is one of the most common things you help your clients achieve?
Bonita: One of the things we help with and that you are going to gain from hiring an executive coach is that your coach will have the ability to see things that you might not see. When you are moving fast it's hard to assess everything going on around you and a coach can help you avoid being blindsided.
Mark: Right, we are there to help you see around corners, evaluate opportunities, weigh tradeoff's and give you a fresh, new perspective.
What should you look to for in a coach?
Mark: It's critical that you find a coach who will dive in and understand your business objectives and the pressures you're under, as much as your personal and professional realities. A great executive coach takes a fully integrated, holistic approach to all dimensions because that's the only way to be sure you're successful and feel meaning in your life and work. I look at how you can be even more effective with your teams, peers, stakeholders. I want to know what you're passionate about and what holds you back by taking the time to learn about you and learn about what you are trying to accomplish.
Bonita: You've got to have chemistry with your executive coach. If you don't respect the person and they don't respect you in a deep sense, the relationship is never going to work. Yes, I said relationship. A great executive coach is going will care about you and your business. When I have tough topics to cover I try put things in a way that they are more easily heard. The goal is positive change. I don't know many people who can be shamed into positive change. Showing empathy and triangulating to the solution, can be more effective than hitting someone over the head.
I don't need to know everything about an executive to help them in achieving a goal. Perhaps a more pressing concept is understanding that our actions speak louder than our words. Creating environments and systems that help your actions and goals align is probably more effective than learning everything about a person's past. We do look at values so we can alien the goals - actions - values. Hopefully, executives still have a sense of privacy and trust after a session.
It takes hard work and a strong team to get to the top. One member of that team should be an executive coach. From my experience you will be able to see your goals more clearly when you can look through the eyes of your coach. Think about that Olympic Champion on the podium. They didn't get there without their team. Think about bringing on an executive coach to help you get on that podium.
You can get more from the best-selling duo. Here are two of my favorites.
Mark and Bonita Thompson with Carol Kauffman, Executive Director of the Institute of CoachingCREDIT: Ellen Shub
Imagine discovering what successful people have in common, distilling it into a set of simple practices, and using them to transform your career and your life. This is a powerful read based on their face to face interviews and coaching with hundreds of world leaders, from Steve Jobs and Oprah Winfrey to Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama.
I let this endorsement speak for itself. "Most people want to make a meaningful impact, but get stuck along the way. In this book, Mark and Bonita reveal powerful strategies from their latest research that will help you make it happen. Read it and then go try it." --Sir Richard Branson