The Executive’s Challenge: Make Transitions Quickly

I coach high flying, low flying, delinquent (and some just doing ok) executives. All do the best they know how.

When we meet, I often ask the following questions:

• How much of your time do you spend managing this month’s financial numbers – and how much on where you want to be?
• To what extent are you achieving what you set out to achieve? (Test anyone who says “more than 70%”.)
• How fast are your customers’ expectations changing?
• How fast is your competition?

These lead to one question they all have in common…..
How can I make the next transition fast?”

3 Transitions: from Strategic Business Unit Manager to….

Transition 1: Manage Cross Functional Change, to….
Transition 2: Visualise/Lead Change to….
Transition 3: Innovate Change: 1st to market business models, beyond “the edge of the envelope” (eg the next “Google”, Web 4.0)

The Business Unit Manager’s (budding executive) typical, environmental characteristics:
• Known ie tangible
• Current: this month, quarter, year
• Has much historic and comparative data
• And thus considered manageable

Contrast the above list with Transition 3:
• Unknown
• Little or no data. Historic data of limited value.
• Future paced: Next year, 3-5 years, 100 years?
• Abstract, conceptual

So many of the personal strategies the executive used to get to “base camp” will hold her/him back. Indeed, as their positional power grows, should they continue with the same behaviours, they drive everyone nuts. “Counting the beans in the bag: by size, geography, colour (or whatever category dreamed of) does not make more beans”

What happens? (How might coaching be relevant?)

Tis all about Relationships, Relationships, Relationships….

At a Personal Level:

• A change in context; from say, a promotion (or a move into another part of the organisation), the executive finds that the personal strategies that have underpinned their success, in their careers so far, are no longer as effective.
• With each career transition; to forge new relationships in a new context fast (and existing relationships that also change) requires more flexible relationship strategies and mindset.
• It’s also about helping the executive to find out and let go of what needs to be let go of.
• There may be more/too much data to analyse, or no data. In either case there is less time. So it’s about helping the executive to create personal strategies that are effective when faced with the unknown, missing data, even the abstract.
• To summarise, I coach to get the executive to figure out what to do more of, what to do less of, what to do differently.
• It’s also about the commitment and flexible mindset required to step outside the comfort zone that has enabled the success in their career to date – and even more vital in the next level of impact.

At higher Strategic Levels
(any migration along the continuum, from: Business Unit Leader–>Manage Change–>Lead/Visualise Change–>1st to Market Business Models)

• As their network of influence spreads, the executive’s emphasis for influence transcends from personal to strategic. Despite positional authority, the executive has less face to face time “per person” whilst they visualise and lead change, as well as manage issues as they crop up.
• Two things thus become more important.
1. The success of the executive strategy depends upon on the emotional journey (strategic buy-in or resistance) it receives. So it’s about mapping and future pacing strategy, to foresee emotional blocks, leaks, politics and value shifts required, to make it happen. The logic and process for change adapts to the least path of resistance.
2. The success of the executive is a function of their “Strategic Identity” within the extended organisation. To what extent do their seniors, peers, direct and indirect reports put trust in their integrity and capability. And how does this “trust” underpin their “Strategic Identity”. Is the “Strategic Identity” effective within the current and desired corporate cultures espoused?
• Advanced Influencing: Can the executive deploy advanced influencing techniques, by being at their peak in every meeting? “Yes!”
• And beyond? Is there a space where the executive generates strategies to influence people, who at first do not wish to be influenced (because influencing everyone else then becomes relatively easy)? Once again the answer is “Yes!”
• Distinguishing Traits and Characteristics: I spent the last 10 years studying people who deal successfully with senior executives. This work consists of 100’s of interviews and workshops, around the world, for a number of major organisations including IBM and Xerox. The research points to 7 Key Traits or Characteristics. By definition, traits are nurtured (ie coached) not taught.

To conclude….

Should you reflect, you will see that the transitions happen in everyday life too.

1. We run our own lives as a business unit, day to day. We hopefully balance our bank account every month.
2. Every now and then we have some change passed on to us to manage (e.g. a change in tax laws, a pay rise).
3. Sometimes we visualize and lead change (e.g. we get married/divorce).
4. There are other times we may choose to completely reinvent ourselves (e.g. a new career).

So, conceptually, Executive Coaching is not a million miles away from everyday life. What differs is the context, and complexity of dealing with a vast network of people, over whom we have no direct control.

Executive Coaching needs to address our Strategic Identity as well as the Personal. It needs to address the flow of energy we put into our network of influence, and what we take out.
Ω
Shine on…!
Paul C Burr

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