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Exec coaches: When careerists need bucking up

NEW YORK (AP) -- On the trading floor at Merrill Lynch, a trader in a blue polo shirt juggles calls on 150 phone lines, filling orders for 20 blue-chip stocks under his command. Above the din of TV broadcasts, he shouts over the intercom for help selling stocks he can't seem to move.

The pace here demands peak performance -- and he's lagging today, after a bad night with his sick baby.

Amid frenzy, he feels a touch on his shoulder.

It's a tanned, well-built man, exuding serenity. "Is this still a good time?" asks the man, Don Greene. The two head for a private conference room.

Greene, a sports psychologist and executive coach, circulates weekly at Merrill Lynch, helping more than 50 traders overcome setbacks and regain the focus required to handle stock transactions worth billions of dollars each day.

Executive coaches like Greene, part personal trainer and part shrink, are paid handsomely -- some earning up to $5,000 a day -- to work on brokerage floors and in executive suites. They help top performers stay cool while profits slip and see clearly through a haze of information. While they don't do psychotherapy, they do take up issues that cut deep.

"Merrill Lynch gives me a free hand to talk to people one-on-one about their concerns, whether it's a poor decision here or a problem at home," says Greene.

He's a former Green Beret whose techniques for "centering" have helped compose Grand Prix drivers, Olympic divers and Metropolitan Opera divas.

'Masters of the universe'
Coaches have built an industry by "helping relieve the stress of the masters of the universe," says Walter Wriston, who led Citibank's international push in the 1970s.

"I think they've created a lot of good," he adds, but then takes a step back, reflecting his uncertainty about something that he and other corporate heavyweights never had: "I don't know enough about their results to say that."

Once used to bolster troubled staffers, coaching now is part of the standard leadership development training for elite executives and talented up-and-comers at IBM, Motorola, J.P. Morgan Chase and Hewlett Packard. These companies are discreetly giving their best prospects what star athletes have long had: a trusted adviser to help reach their goals.

Between 25 percent and 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies use executive coaches, according to a recent survey by The Hay Group, an international human resources consultancy with a $10 million coaching practice.

The coaching boom over the last five years coincides with the rise of management by e-mail, which has reduced face-to-face interaction at work, and the dot-com boom and bust, which seemed to change the rules of business.

"People are in a legitimate state of doubt -- about galloping technology, globalization, heightened competition and increased complexity," says Warren Bennis, who teaches leadership at the University of Southern California. "They need someone to bounce ideas off of and to listen to their existential grousing."

Officials at IBM think hiring 30 organizational psychologists to coach its top 300 managers gives it a competitive advantage.

It calls them leadership consultants and credits them with "creating a climate where everyone in the organization feels empowered and capable and committed," says Tanya Clemons, the IBM vice president overseeing executive development. "We can already see the results."

Motorola's administrators say they expect to spend "in the low millions" this year on executive coaching for the company's best middle managers.

"We need individuals who are really connected with who they are and how they lead and what gets them energized," says Kelly Brookhouse, a director in the office of leadership.

'Develop their flat sides'
Sometimes coaching fills a gap in the corporate hierarchy. With individuals moving from company to company, few managers rise through the ranks under the guidance of a senior mentor.

"When companies went into downsizing, they neglected developing their people, so to some extent, this is catching up on what they should have been doing all along," says David Dell, research director at The Conference Board, a nonprofit business research group.

And within many large corporations, outside coaching is still not accepted. "To a certain extent, folks still consider it a sign of weakness," says Michael Chayes, a partner at~ PricewaterhouseCoopers helping companies navigate organizational change.

Coaching, however, does seem to resonate with Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers seeking practical advice about workplace problems. Many are already comfortable with the idea of therapists, but this is help of a different kind.

"Psychotherapy is looking through the rearview mirror at life and coaching is looking through the windshield," says Judy Rosemarin, a dynamic veteran who teaches coaching at New York University's Center for Career Education.

When his boss first offered him a coach, Ken Saji, a director for MTV Networks, hedged a bit.

"I didn't want anything touchy-feely," he says.

The 30-year-old, who considers himself a bit of an introvert, wanted to show more leadership in meetings. His coach, Dan White, suggested he build on his analytical nature to become an "active listener," who distills what's been said and offers new suggestions.

"I feel I perform 100-percent better in the areas we worked on," Saji says. "I'm now much more confident and more self-aware."

The most thorough coaches develop an "action plan" only after erformance. To create this fuller portrait, coaches interview a manager's bosses, subordinates, customers, even spouse.

The process, called 360-Feedback, "really holds a mirror up to someone. It grabs them," says Bob Kaplan, a founder of the coaching firm Kaplan DeVries of Greensboro, North Carolina.

For example, it helped one executive recognize that he was intellectually gifted -- and needed to have more patience with his staffers who weren't. Others learn that they are forceful leaders, but don't leave room for employees to develop their own leadership skills.

Such an intense process makes sense for companies demanding more of their managers. Division heads are not only expected to be experts, but also visionary leaders, strategic thinkers and inspiring communicators.

"Coaching isn't about telling people what to do," says coach Mark Lipton. "It's about helping people see their strengths and develop their flat sides."

People, rather than companies, do hire their own coaches -- some of whom charge as little as $50 an hour for phone or e-mail consultations. But the cost for top-flight coaches is often prohibitive. Companies pay up to $100,000 for yearlong engagements with CEOs, or $5,000 to $15,000 for a three-month engagement with senior managers.

But "they're cheaper than making a recruiting mistake," says Candice Carpenter, the former head of the women's Web site, iVillage. She now is coaching entrepreneurs to make succession plans.

Lots of coaches are hanging out shingles, from Yale Ph.D.s in organizational psychology to Jack Welch, the legendary chairman and CEO of General Electric who's retiring this year. The spread of Prozac and managed care can make clinical psychologists look for ways to enter the business realm.

D.J. Mitsch, president of the International Coach Federation, estimates that 15,000 people call themselves executive coaches in the United States. Her organization has certified close to 4,000 people, including many graduates of "Coach University. "

The company, based in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, charges $4,500 to train students via weekly conference calls, and says 1,000 students entered last year.

Some of those coaches are working abroad as the trend spreads.

Thirty coaches work in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa with 250 top managers at Unilever. Bonnie McIvor, who oversees training for the Anglo-Dutch conglomerate and is herself getting coached, says it's too soon to see any link to profits. But, she says, "We have seen changes in behavior and the way managers are leading their people, which has got to have an impact."

Still, as the economy softens, some companies are cutting their training budgets -- and deferring their coaching contracts.

"In the last five years, it's become a management perk as much as anything else," says John Renner, a Menlo Park, California., coach called in to help dot-com techies thrust into management jobs.

"And that's what's going to get cut."

But Marilyn Puder-York, who ran Citibank's employee assistance program, is getting extra calls from Wall Street executives forced to lay off colleagues.

Elite coaches, like Bob Lee, whose midtown office overlooks the New York harbor, say their clients need them even more during a downturn.

"With the help of learning and perspective," he says, "tough times can bring out real leadership in a great many people."


Executive Coaching: Maximizing Leadership Gifts for the Long Term

by Ken Kesslin

The best coaching doesn't produce just short-term results - it helps clients develop the skills necessary for the long-term transformation that will allow them to continue their growth as leaders long after the coaching relationship ends.

Sophisticated behavior change that is sustainable and dependable under stress requires - among other things - consistent encouragement, practice, and feedback. High-level behavior changes also need time to develop, time to be tested in action, and time to be refined.

The final ingredient needed to develop the kinds of behavior we want in our business leaders is a little more elusive to define, but no less essential. It is hope.

We hope that the new behavior, the new strategy, the new operating mode, the new idea will actually work. We hope that change is possible. We hope that our struggle to change will bring self-improvement, measurable business results, and more financial and/or personal success. There's really a lot of hope involved, and coaches are in a unique position to bring hope to their clients.

Key Change Factors

The most rapid behavior change occurs when the following key factors are present:

  • MOTIVATION to change

  • ACTION taken to effect change

  • PRACTICE opportunities in real-world settings

  • FEEDBACK that is trusted and accurate

  • TIME for new habits to develop

  • Skilled help in recognizing and OVERCOMING RESISTANCE to change

A quality executive coaching relationship will encourage or provide all of these key factors. In addition, there are a unique set of perspectives that distinguish coaching from other methods of individual or organizational behavior change and make it invaluable for leadership development.

They are:

  • Clients are powerful, capable, and responsible for their actions and the resulting consequences.

  • Clients have wisdom and knowledge that needs to be accessed and utilized.

  • Clients transform through the coaching relationship.

  • Clients (the WHO) are more important than the WHAT or the HOW.

  • Clients want and need hope!

Let's take a look at each of these perspectives.

Clients are powerful, capable and responsible for their actions and the resulting consequences. I often work with leaders who begin our work by blaming all their misfortune on outside forces - their particular situation, their people, their stress - on any and everything except their own behavior.

We can't really do any useful work together until they understand, and accept responsibility for, the tremendous power they have to influence people and events around them.

Recently I worked with three owners of a regional telephone and data network installer during an off-site strategic planning session. One of their common frustrations was their inability to hold any meetings in their own conference room without being interrupted by their own staff. The interruption was typically an urgent plea to handle a client emergency. This happened even after they'd told their staff not to disturb them.

When I asked how they handled those interruptions, they told me that they'd always go and handle the "urgent" client problem. We then had a long talk about the various ways they were supporting and actually encouraging their staff to interrupt them and depend on them in unproductive ways.
Once they were able to see their part in the interaction - that they were actually responsible for those frustrating interruptions - they also realized that they held the power to change their behavior in order to communicate that they really wouldn't accept interruptions.

The key here was a willingness to accept responsibility for their actions and the unintended consequences produced from their sincere desire to be responsive to their clients.

Clients have wisdom and knowledge that needs to be accessed and utilized. Producing the best results requires accessing the knowledge and wisdom of our clients. Good consultants provide expertise, answers, relevant management theories, and program implementation plans to solve particular business problems. Good coaches bring thought-provoking questions, personal exercises, and real-world assignments, all designed to help leaders discover and maximize their own unique gifts and talents.

Coaching develops extraordinary leaders. Extraordinary leaders produce extraordinary business results.

Clients transform through the coaching relationship. Clearly, both client and coach have particular roles in the coaching partnership. But the unique power for producing dramatic results comes from the ongoing, consistent communication, authenticity, accountability, feedback, and reflection that are part of any good coaching relationship.

Coaches are not in business to create or foster dependency, but rather to help clients develop skills of self-observation, self-awareness, self-responsibility, and self-mastery. These skills allow clients to continue their growth as leaders long after the coaching relationship ends. Ironically, our goal is to help our clients develop to the point where we're no longer needed.

For example, John was struggling with his inability to turn around an extremely negative atmosphere that had developed at his company. He owned a midsize manufacturing company that had made some poor hiring decisions for its sales team. This resulted in an extended period of low morale and deteriorating staff effectiveness throughout the company. They'd just experienced their first quarterly loss in eight years. This situation had been festering for over a year when John called for help.

In addition to coaching John on various strategies and action steps, we focused lots of attention on the power of his personal influence. You see, one thing that was not obvious to John - but obvious to everyone around him - was his powerful and influential presence.

When he was powerfully positive, so was everyone around him. When he was in a bad mood, everyone suffered along. During the past year, John and his people had created a powerfully negative environment together.

In our second coaching session, I asked John to take a moment at the end of each day and notice whether his attitude had been mostly positive or negative that day. He'd simply mark "+" or "-" on his calendar. His own attitude-tracking, plus our coaching conversations, helped John clearly see the connection between his mood and the performance of those around him.

This self-awareness transformed John into his own "attitude monitor." He began to quickly notice when he was losing his positive perspective, and together we developed a number of strategies to help him recover his positive influence.
Monitoring and changing John's attitude may not appear to be a major business success, but it has radically transformed the environment at his company and the effectiveness of his staff. In fact, during the first three months of our coaching, the company returned to profitability - during an economic downturn.

More important, John changed. He became self-aware and self-responsible for the attitude he brings to his leadership.

Clients (the WHO) are more important than the WHAT or the HOW. Consulting tends to focus on discovering the WHAT of a situation: "What's the problem?" "What's going on in this situation?" "What's the program, process, or procedure that will solve the problem?" The next step is often focused on teaching people the HOW: "How do we remedy the identified problem?" This involves some form of training program to teach new skills, or implementing some new program, product, or management strategy.

Coaching is different, because it specializes in integrating the vital WHO perspective: "Who is this leader and how do their unique skills and talents produce results most effectively for their organization?"

If the most brilliant business strategy isn't a good fit for the leader who needs to implement it, it will often fail. Not because it wasn't brilliant, not because it wouldn't have worked somewhere else, but simply because it didn't take into account who was going to lead and who was going to carry it out.

Clients want and need hope! Hope in the coaching relationship involves an unwavering commitment to the extraordinary potential we each have for growth and development. We have hope that positive expectation and ongoing support can produce dramatic and rapid change. We have hope that leaders can improve, that people can change, that positive expectations, support, and guidance do contribute to producing exceptional corporate leaders. We have hope that leaders can develop richly satisfying lives, both insid
e and outside of work. In fact, if I had to choose one perspective that was most critical to coaching success, it would be a commitment to hope.

Bringing Hope to Clients

Vaclav Havel, the former Czech president and playwright, added a wonderful richness to the definition of hope when he said:

"Hope is a feeling that life and work have meaning. You either have it or you don't, regardless of the state of the world that surrounds you."

The best coaches I know have this feeling. They model it in their own lives, and one of their primary responsibilities is to consistently bring it to their clients - regardless of the state of the client's world.

It's my view that this perspective of hope and commitment to expanding human potential places coaching at the forefront of successful executive development and organizational change efforts.

Does this mean that every coaching client will take on the challenge to change or that they'll all produce extraordinary results? Nope. What it means is that executive coaching is best considered and used as a way to develop and expand potential, not as a remedial program to "fix" damaged leaders.

When done well - and with a healthy dose of hope - executive coaching is the ultimate, results-oriented, leadership development program.

Coaching at the Executive Level
(How to Coach the Coach)


In our work with organizations to train leaders to be effective coaches, we are almost always targeted to the first line supervision up through middle management and at best senior managers. Typically, we have to address the issue of "rolling up" this training to the executive and senior management levels. There are some noteworthy exceptions, but many of our client’s training departments are not focusing on the senior levels for this type of training and support.

A survey of consultants and upper-level executives reported in Training and Development magazine, found that 90% of executives resist coaching. The reasons why fell into three categories:

1. They did not feel comfortable with their skills.
2. They have too many demands on their time and felt development was a low priority, or not even their job.
3. They did not value the development of others - "They should be able to figure things out for themselves."

Our own experience, and the experience of clients we interviewed, supports and amplifies these findings. Here is a more detailed table of barriers and possible strategies to address them:


Executives and senior managers are just too busy to spend time on development and coaching. • These are competitive and successful people, their nature guides them to be successful at those activities that are valued, and rewarded, by the organization.
• Development and coaching must be positioned as an important, if not critical, leadership responsibility that is formally part of their own performance assessment.
• This will the most difficult issue to deal with unless the very top person is willing to clearly, unequivocally, make it a leadership priority.
• Unless it is a clear expectation and priority it will not survive the competition for their time and attention
Performance feedback is not wanted or needed by senior managers, so it is not critical to spend time on it. • Almost every executive and senior manager we have interviewed said that they DID want to know if what they were doing was working. Again, these are competitive and successful people and they want to know that they are on the right track.
• The feedback must clearly be positioned as an asset to the executive so they can make their own self-corrections to be successful.
• You must find an objective, non-threatening way to assess their effectiveness.
• The most likely method is to survey their current and past direct reports, and current and past supervisors about the leader’s developmental contribution. To be successful, these need to be objective and candid. Often they are most valuable when supported by a skilled developmental resource person (coach-consultant) who can also interview the respondents, then coach the executive in evaluating, interpreting and responding to the information.
• Another method would be critical incident analysis by a skilled interviewer, but this depends upon a worthy incident existing that would be meaningful to re-visit and highlight success / non-success factors.
• Leadership assessments instruments are another method to assess their interpersonal dynamics, but these need to also show a connection between their "style" and real-world results and often need a resource person to help interpret the results into actionable feedback.
• Leadership assessment centers and scenarios are another approach. Again the key is to produce insights that clearly translate to success in their real world environment.
For executives and senior managers, formal group training is too uncomfortable, perhaps unsafe, and takes too big a chunk of time. • Many of their concerns can be dispelled by giving them a pre-training briefing on the workshop process and content. By discussing what the training does and does-not do and answering their questions so they feel informed (senior levels hate feeling "unknowing"), you increase the chances of them actively enrolling.
• An alternative to formal workshop training is assigning them a resource person for one-on-one coaching and support to learn this process. We, and some of our clients, have had good success with this option - especially where the senior person is not likely to attend formal training.
A lot of what senior managers do (use of intuition, dealing with ambiguity, etc.) is hard to capture via formal performance appraisals so developmental coaching doesn’t happen. • The production and financial records information systems usually generate adequate "bottom line" information to assess the actual results. The nature of their work, (often unstructured, uncertain, and ill-defined) means they can usually benefit most from feedback and coaching on their leadership process and behaviors they use to produce those results.
• In a classic study by the Center for Creative Leadership, four enduring themes for why executives derail reoccurred over time and across countries: (1.) they have problems with interpersonal relationships; (2.) they fail to meet business objectives; (3.) they fail to build and lead a team; and, (4.) their inability to change or adapt during a transition.

In the Center for Creative Leadership study, three out of four of these reasons for derailment deal with leadership style and personal behavior, not with making their numbers.

Okay, making the numbers is a critical priority in any organization. But relying solely on these numbers to evaluate executive success is ignoring the rich developmental opportunities for communicating, team building, mentoring, coaching, visioning and leading change. As one of our executive clients said, "results evaluation is easy; it’s also a cop-out".

Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric, perhaps one of the most numbers driven CEOs of the decade, is quoted in Built to Last as recognizing the need for balance between numbers and values. "People who make the numbers and share our values go onward and upward. People who miss the numbers and share our values get a second chance. People with no values and no numbers - easy call. The problem is with those who make the numbers but don’t share the values . . . we agonize over these people."

Coaching is a critical processes to address this need for balance.


Development and coaching are critical leadership skills that can easily take a back seat to "making the numbers" unless a conscious effort is made to position them as a priority. It is needed and beneficial and achievable if you will adjust your strategy to address the particular barriers at the senior levels.

There are several key factors that need to be addressed to get more coaching at the senior levels. The strategy and approaches for making this happen must be adjusted to their specific concerns.

The approach taken must use a proven, successful process that focuses real-world results.

One-on-one coaching and support is a valuable alternative to formal training at the senior levels if you have skilled, experienced, resource people.

Fred Friend

7 good reasons to call a lawyer
by Jeff Wuorio

For many small-business owners, contacting an attorney is akin to opening a faucet — everything gushes out but little comes back in return, short of a hefty water bill.

OK, so this analogy is a little trite. It's also horribly inaccurate. Legal advice and guidance in varied forms is absolutely central to any small business. You will get a bill, yes. But using an attorney doesn't have to be a burdensome financial drain.

Here are seven signs that suggest your business may benefit from the involvement of an attorney:

  1. You're starting a business. Far too many businesspeople get their operations up and running before contacting an attorney for legal guidance. Don't make the same mistake. Before the very first dime of income shows up on your ledger, hook up with an attorney to review business structure, legal ramifications and other elements designed to protect your business and help it flourish. "It's essential that an attorney become involved before you start," notes attorney John Ventura, author of "The Everyday Law Kit for Dummies." "An attorney isn't someone you go to just when you're in some sort of trouble."
  2. Check your contracts. It may be a pleasant afterthought to a bygone era, but these days it's rarely a wise idea to conduct business with a smile and a handshake. That means it's imperative for an attorney to review every contract you use in your business, both with customers as well as suppliers — or draw up suitable contracts if none are in place. "We've become so litigious as a society that it's critical that you have contracts that protect all your business relationships," Ventura says.
  3. Review your exit strategy. It may sound macabre, but it's also a good idea to have an attorney construct and regularly review a suitable exit plan should your business go under, no matter how well things may be steaming along now. For instance, an experienced bankruptcy attorney can help identify — and protect — property and other items that, should the worse happen, are exempt from bankruptcy proceedings. "You're always at risk, so planning a suitable exit strategy is absolutely essential," Ventura says. "You should know your bankruptcy options, ways you can protect your assets and simply lessen the overall blow of failure."
  4. Check your debt collection. As money becomes tight in a dicey economy, it can become more difficult to collect funds owed you. An experienced attorney can advise you on suitable collection methodology and resources. That way, you can avoid becoming entangled in any legal action against an overzealous collection agency. "Cash flow is king, so when that gets slow, you get aggressive," Ventura says. "But you have to be careful in using some collection agencies — if they step over the line, that can always get back to you."
  5. Begin to draw on your wealth. Enough stories about ways to avoid disaster. An experienced estate attorney also is essential in setting up programs to fund retirement from the proceeds derived from the business. Here is something that, as Ventura notes, many small-business people tend to put off until the very final moment. "Most entrepreneurs don't even start thinking about their retirement until they're well in their fifties. If you're doing well, an estate attorney can help you start taking the wealth out of the business to fund your retirement."
  6. Keep the business going after you retire. Few small-business people want to see their businesses close for good once they retire. A key area a solid business attorney can address is succession — establishing procedures and step-by-step guidelines to hand off ownership of even a small portion of your business to someone else. An attorney not only can strategize on ways to keep the business alive and flourishing, but can also possibly help you determine an ancillary source of income from the business to round out your retirement funding.
  7. Resolve a business dispute. Yes, this is an obvious reason to get a lawyer. Merely hiring an attorney will show you mean business, and may end up getting you the results you desire. A lawyer also may be able to help you avoid lengthy and costly court action. Moreover, a lawyer can help you avoid — by working on your own — turning what might be a bad situation for your business into something worse.

In seeking out an attorney, here are two important tips.

  • Get a specialist when you need one. Law is no different from scads of other professions. We live in an age of specificity, so be certain to establish relationships with attorneys who have training and experience in defined areas. Not only does that provide you with the best possible guidance, but it can also serve as a system of checks and balances. For instance, an estate attorney may point out a problem in your retirement planning that, say, a general practitioner might overlook.
  • Don't fear the cost. No one's about to claim that getting solid legal advice is dirt cheap. But it need not be as prohibitively expensive as you might fear. For one thing, Ventura urges entrepreneurs to delineate what sort of legal advice will be an ongoing requirement and what can be addressed on an as-needed basis — that can save on retainer fees right there. And, adds Ventura, don't be gun-shy about dickering over price. Some attorneys may be willing to cut rates for a guaranteed amount of work, while others may gladly set up payment plans for particularly expensive bills. "I think the days when an attorney simply charged by the hour have gone by the board," Ventura says. "Shop around and get a quote for fees. And, once you find someone you like, clear the air and get the subject of money out of the way."