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Team member to team leader

How do you transition from a team member to a team leader?

Coaching and mentoring Rachel*, a newly appointed team leader, has been a very interesting assignment. Rachel is a comparatively young woman whose boss appointed her to a leadership position on the basis of her potential. When I first met with Rachel, she was already well advanced in identifying the steps she needed to take to move successfully from being a member of a tight-knit team to the leader of it.

The first challenge Rachel identified for herself was letting go of her friendship group at work, a tough decision. In every workplace, people develop friendships with some of the people they work with, but not all. Rachel realised that if she continued in her strong friendships with some members of the team, this could easily be perceived as favouritism by the others. Rachel decided to take the courageous step of speaking with her friends, to explain the situation, and making sure that when there were social events, everyone was invited. If they met as a smaller group, Rachel decided she couldn’t attend.

The second was identifying the behaviours that were holding back some of her former team mates from delivering effectively in a very high-volume work environment. These behaviours ranged from people who didn’t pull their weight to people who were trying to work 24/7 and not coping. Rachel put performance plans in place for each team member to hold them accountable for what they were meant to do as well as helping those who were over-working to pull back. Rachel made a point of ensuring her own manager was part of developing this strategy because of the risks involved.

The third challenge is one new team leaders encounter constantly. With a need to make her team more efficient, Rachel had to find and implement new ways of doing business: she had to lead organisational change for the first time. Unsurprisingly, this met with considerable resistance from some members of the team, who wanted to enshrine the virtue of ‘the way we’ve always done things round here’. Putting in place the changes she needed to make, when she had herself been part of the old process, was a considerable challenge for Rachel. She didn’t want to look like a hypocrite, so effective communication was essential.

What was the role of a coach and mentor with a client who was already so far progressed in finding strategies to make the transition from team member to team leader? In fact, I asked her this very question. She told me there were two things she wanted my help with. The first was as a sounding board, so she could outline the steps she proposed to take to test if they were the right ones and in the right order.

The second was to work with her on how to achieve her strategies for change. Although she was already a very effective communicator, she wanted my help to refine her messages to the team about what needed to be done and why.

The third was to help her evaluate her approaches, to workshop with her what worked and what didn’t and, where things had not gone according to plan, help her to check the strategies were the right ones. On the basis of this evaluation, she also wanted assistance with deciding whether to press on, modify the approach, or let go of a strategy and try a different approach altogether.

Coaching such an effective young leader has been an inspiring task. As I said to Rachel, my only question is not whether she will become an effective leader but what organisation she will end up leading.

Contributor: Dr Catherine Burrows is a Sydney-based executive coach, available in Wollongong, Newcastle, Western NSW and other areas by arrangement. Catherine is a co-founder of Executive Coach Exchange and the CEO and owner of Innoverum independent consulting.

*Rachel is not the name of an actual client. This case study is an amalgam of work undertaken with new and aspiring team leaders.

A personal bill of rights

Our current featured member Grace Gedeon is an experienced and empathetic life coach, complementing her work as a business and executive coach.

Grace writes:

Executive Coach Exchange Grace Gedeon
Grace Gedeon, executive & life coach

In my coaching work, the acknowledgement of your personal and emotional rights is a foundational step in the process of reclaiming the self and building confidence, self esteem and self empowerment.

1. You have the right to ask for what you want. THE RIGHT To ASK for what you WANT. Break that down, you have the right to ask, you have the right to want. I used to feel selfish asking for what I wanted and at times I didn’t even know what I wanted, because I might ask and then some authority figure or more dominating person would say : really- you don’t really want THAT do you? You don’t really want to wear that or be with him. So after a while I stopped asking and I stopped trusting my own judgment about what I thought I wanted. I was baffled and disconnected from my desires. Sound familiar? Why bother asking eh? Well, it might be true that you may not always get what you want just because you asked for it – but that’s not the point, (after all people have a right to say no to you). The point is, that it’s important to know that you have the right to ask for what you want, independent of what the other person’s response is. Do you ask for what you want? Some people ask, even demand, without believing at a core level they have the RIGHT to ask. The degree to which you believe you have the right to ask will affect the answer you get. If you don’t believe you have a right, you may ask in a way that sabotages you. Work on knowing and embracing that right before you ask and your outcome is more likely to be favourable.

2. You have the right to say NO to requests or demands you can’t, or prefer not to, meet.
So you have the right to ask for what you want and you also have the right to say NO to what you don’t want. So how would it be if you couldn’t ask for what you wanted and you couldn’t say No to others? That’d be awful right? You’d be a doormat. Listen to each request that is made of you; listen to demands that are placed upon you- weigh them up, check your motives- when you respond- ask yourself am I responding from a place of “I don’t want to but I should or I will be disapproved of” or are you responding from” I do want to because it’s pleasurable or even if it’s not pleasurable, it’s difficult but serves the greater good AND I want the greater good”.

3. You have the right to be treated with respect. Respect is something we all crave but so many of us have gotten used to being talked down to, criticised, dismissed , argued with, shamed or ignored. We want respect but don’t realise that we have the right to be treated with respect. Employers, parents, teachers, coaches, partners, dominating people have conditioned us to think they have a right to treat us poorly until we earn their respect. On the contrary, being treated with respect is a human right. Perhaps we may need to earn respect for a particular endeavour or skill but we need to do nothing to earn respect for our essence. It’s our right and the right of others to be treated with respect as humans just for being sentient beings and part of the circle of life. There is never justification for abusive behaviour.

4. You have the right to express your thoughts and feelings.
How often were we shamed or cut down for expressing our thoughts or feelings? “Don’t be stupid, that’s silly; what an absurd idea! Don’t cry; don’t you get angry with me; what are you sad for?” It appears to be part of day to day communication to shut down people’s thoughts and feelings as a way of winning an argument. Yet that’s a real block to healthy communication, self esteem and building connections. Everyone has a right to their thoughts and a right to their feelings . Everyone has the right to self expression. Self expression is the birth place of creativity . This is what makes you unique – your thoughts and feelings are rich and valuable, they have a right to be expressed.The only caveat is that you note the impact your words have on others and as a self aware human being, be thoughtful. You don’t need to be shut down or censored you just need to be respectful and authentically communicate your thoughts and feelings.

5. You have the right to be seen and heard. There used to be an expression – children should be seen and not heard. Lots of children in my generation were raised that way. That was all about polite children but what it did to some children was make them feel invisible and insignificant in adult company. Many of those children grew up to continue to believe that they need to remain invisible and cause minimum disturbance and so they negated their own contribution in social settings. Your right to be seen and heard is so important, especially for people who have a deep longing for recognition and don’t know why they’re always overlooked. This right is vital to allow yourself to shine for your unique self and to claim your presence and offer your contribution. This right says YOU MATTER.

6. You have the right to trust yourself. Self trust is so vital to self esteem, yet so many of us second guess ourselves, we have committees of people we seek approval from before we make our decisions. We’re riddled with self doubt. Past mistakes have led us to believe that we can never be trusted. We get told that we have terrible judgment or terrible taste. The truth is that it’s usually our self doubt that ended up making the poor decisions in those situations,but if we had sat still and developed our connection with our intuition and truly listened to ourselves we would have mostly been right, and if we’d made a mistake, we would have learnt from it anyway. We don’t always have to be right. We also have a right to make mistakes. We just need to trust that we can guide ourselves to seek support or wise counsel when necessary or to take action based on our own view, even if everyone else goes against us. We have a right to champion our own cause and learn from our mistakes.

7. You have the right to change your mind. You’re not trapped. You’re not perfect, you’re human. If you go down a path and find out it’s not the right path- you have the right to change your mind. It’s your mind, no one else’s. Your consciousness drives it. As your consciousness evolves, so do your preferences. Weigh up the pros and cons; assess the situation carefully and diligently, then if you change your mind about the situation, find a way to change the situation – if that means selling that house; leaving that relationship; resigning from that job: it doesn’t automatically make you a loser or a quitter. Don’t let fear, shame or disapproval stop you. You have a right to create your best life and this may involve repeated changes of your mind. Please note your impact on others and remember the spiritual truth that the universe does not build your happiness on someone else’s misery. If your truth is that your situation needs changing and you make that change consciously and in good conscience then that change will be for the greater good of all.

Contributor:  Grace Gedeon is an international life coach, business coach and executive coach.  You can find more posts from Grace at www.gracegedeon.com and her radio show at News for the Soul.

Conscious relationships & personal growth

Our current featured member Grace Gedeon is an experienced and empathetic life coach, complementing her work as a business and executive coach. Here are Grace’s thoughts on conscious relationships and personal growth.

Executive Coach Exchange Grace Gedeon
Grace Gedeon

Grace writes:

“There’s a term I love to use called ‘nominative determinism’ which literally means name-driven outcome. Carl Jung put forward the idea that people are drawn to professions that fit their names. I also believe that the names we use to classify things, can be indicators of the essence of those things that we are naming. For example, what does the word relationship tell us about relationships? If we break that word down into two words: relation – ship, we can devise a metaphor that can be useful in guiding us towards a better understanding of relationships.

Let’s take a closer look at this…

A ship is a type of vehicle or vessel that takes people from one place to another across water.

Could a relation-ship be seen as a vessel, designed to take you and your significant other across the vast waters of your subconscious mind towards a new and wonderful destination of growth and transformation? This journey will likely involve travelling, at times, through storm and at times through magical beauty, depending on how you steer the ship and conquer the elements.

Let’s continue with this metaphor a little further.

What’s The Difference Between A Conscious And Unconscious Relationship?

A conscious relationship is one where the ship’s captain is awake, alert, engaged and capable of observing and navigating the deep unfathomable waters/emotions/subconscious terrains with mastery. There is no denial, avoidance, slacking off or ignorance.

An unconscious relationship by contrast, is like the Titanic – it looks amazing but doesn’t make the distance – it sinks. Why? Well, according to one theory, the sinking of the Titanic was attributed to a phenomenon known as thermal inversion that caused the light to refract in unusual ways. This distorted the size and distance of objects and created a false horizon. The mirage between the false horizon and the real one prevented the lookout from seeing the iceberg until it was only a mile away.

Aren’t human relationships much the same in that, to the extent that you disown or reject parts of yourself, you are basically operating your relationship through a series of mirages. You`ve now got your own version of thermal inversion! You can’t see clearly because your world is one of the projections of your subconscious issues onto those you are in relationship with and your own mirage now consists of mechanisms of avoidance, denial and deflection. Everything appears distorted, and before you know it, you hit an iceberg and your relationship is damaged or destroyed and it goes down.

Ways To Avoid Disaster

  • Play it safe. This would mean never venture out so that you avoid stormy waters or iceberg territory. OR
  • Take stock and ensure you understand how to be awake and alert and keep your relationship conscious.

To stay conscious, you must:

  • Engage in self- reflection to ensure that your childhood issues and past hurts do not become destructive projections on to your partner but instead opportunities for healing and connection with them.
  • Chose partners well and leave soul destroying relationships in the most loving way possible.
  • Look at your relationships the way A Course in Miracles describes them: as assignments – part of a vast plan for your enlightenment, the blueprint by which each individual soul is led to greater awareness and expanded love.

What Are Relationships Here To Teach Us?

Our relationships with others mirror the relationship we have with ourselves. Conflict with others mirrors the conflict we have between the persona we show to the world and our shadow self. So, the people who have the most teach us are often the ones who reflect to us the limits to our own capacity to love, those who consciously or unconsciously challenge that which we fear and are ashamed of within us.

In a conscious relationship, you and your partner learn how to move towards the goal of wholeness by fostering each other’s psycho-spiritual growth. You accept each other’s humanness and support each other’s growth towards wholeness.

In an unconscious relationship, there is no fostering of mutual growth. You and your partner are seeing mirages because you are unaware and resisting or denying the universal will for your mutual soul growth. You are stuck on the level of projection; your learning is limited.

Unconscious relationships often end over the obvious while being completely oblivious to the deeper lesson that the relationship was designed to help you learn. If you haven’t learnt the lesson intended by that relationship assignment, you won’t evolve to a higher vibrational relationship – perhaps you’ll create a different one but it won’t be a higher one.

I hope this helps you understand the importance of staying conscious and conscientious in the pursuit of a deep and profound relationship that expands your heart and consciousness. There is work involved. These relationships, by their very nature, take you on a journey, they are not the destination, but rather the vessel that you can embark with another, to travel to a place of higher consciousness and expanded love, through the way you relate. What is required of you is that you stay true, not to the pursuit of power within the relationship, but rather to a deep desire for your mutual soul growth.”

Contributor:  Grace Gedeon is an international life coach, business coach and executive coach.  You can find more posts from Grace at www.gracegedeon.com and her radio show at News for the Soul.

Effective communication & conflict resolution

Grace Gedeon is an expert in the area of effective communication. Her work in the area of business coaching and leadership coaching, where she brings her experience as a lawyer and psychologist to bear, as well as her warm and genuine personality, has led her to the insights in this week’s post.

Grace Gideon, Executive Coach
Grace Gedeon, executive coach

Effective communication

Effective communication is about making your position clear while allowing others to feel respected and valued. One effective communication technique is to paraphrase the person with whom you are speaking in order to: a) make it clear that you are listening, and b) confirm that what you think you are hearing is what they intended. Listening with an open mind and an open heart is profoundly helpful when it comes to removing all judgment and projection, and establishing better and more respectful business relationships.

Conflict resolution

Full-blown battles waste time and energy, damage your good reputation, and decrease your motivation. Conflict resolution techniques, like effective communication and negotiation skills, can help you overcome these obstacles and maybe even make new allies.

Anger management

Anger management is about being able to lose a battle to win the war. It’s also about ensuring you don’t let your temper stand in the way of achieving the best business outcome. Certainly, anger has its uses. For instance, it can motivate you into action. Take note, hot energy motivates, cool energy mediates. Anger management helps you use your healthy anger to fuel appropriate action and once in action, you can learn how to stay cool, clam and collected in order to negotiate and mediate the best outcome for any given situation.

If you have a problem with anger management, talk to me. Together, we can identify your triggers and help you to develop more positive ways to react to perceived threats. This will ensure your business and career can go from strength to strength.

Stress management

Stress management isn’t always easy. The pressures of work can be a tremendous burden. With the right business coaching or executive coaching, you can learn the keys to stress management: self-awareness, self-care, establishing priorities, identifying the source of stress (environmental or emotional), managing your time effectively and, the best stress management technique of all, finding stress relief through love and gratitude in their many varied forms and languages.

Contributor: Our current featured member, Grace Gedeon, is a life coach and executive coach who blends her business and psychology experience to create her unique capacity to intuitively and clinically diagnose the psychological factors that stand in the way of your success and fulfillment. Grace teaches effective techniques to help you transform your career in a deep and long lasting way.

Why truly successful leaders need emotional intelligence

In this post Trish Kelly looks at the characteristics of emotional intelligence and tells us how you can improve this important area to become a truly successful leader.

Trish Kelly executive coach
Trish Kelly, executive coach

Most people agree that effective leaders have intellectual drive, knowledge, vision, passion, creativity and good communication skills. These days, it is increasingly being recognised that to be truly successful, leaders must also have emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is essentially the way we recognise, understand, express and manage our emotions and the emotions of others. Leaders with emotional intelligence understand how their emotions and actions affect the teams they work with. What’s more, they are able to use their emotional intelligence to connect with, motivate and empower their teams.

The five key characteristics leaders with emotional intelligence exhibit are:

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Self-Management
  3. Motivation
  4. Empathy
  5. Social Skills

Self-Awareness – This is a critical pillar of emotional intelligence. It is our ability to recognise our emotions and the feelings associated with an emotion, the things that trigger those emotions and how we react to them. Self-awareness is the essential building block for self-management of our emotions. This is because, before we can look at how we can manage, control or adapt our emotions, we need to understand what they are and how we respond to them.

Awareness of our emotions can be developed. We can reflect on what our strengths and areas for development are and how we feel and respond in different situations, and we can seek feedback from others.

Self-Management This is our ability to use awareness of our emotions to stay flexible, to positively direct our behavior and to stay in control.

Leaders who manage themselves effectively are trustworthy and adaptable. They stay calm and rational under pressure and maintain a solutions focus when things go wrong. They rarely make rushed or emotional decisions, stereotype people or compromise their values.

We can improve our ability to self-manage by developing skills to remain calm and solutions focussed in challenging situations, by being very clear about the values that are important to us and by knowing the values we will not comprise. We can also continually reflect on situations to understand why we acted in the way that we did, and then use that experience to learn how to better manage similar situations in the future.

Motivation – This is our ability to harness our emotions to motivate ourselves to commit to appropriate actions, to follow through and to deliver results.

Self-motivated leaders are usually optimistic and have high energy which is contagious in the workplace, and they consistently focus on delivering results even in challenging circumstances.

We can recharge our motivation by reminding ourselves what we love about our job and about leading our team, by reflecting on successes, by making sure our goals are relevant and energising, and by adopting a positive mindset in challenging situations.

Empathy – This is our ability to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from their perspective; in other words, it’s our ability ‘to walk in their shoes’.

Leaders who display empathy are good listeners. They pay attention to body language and are able to read other people’s feelings accurately. They welcome questions and feedback, are both confident and humble, and are able to adapt their communication style to suit the situation.

We can improve our empathy by being aware of our biases and making sure they don’t interfere with our ability to listen, and by keeping an open mind and asking respectful questions to get insights into situations from other people’s perspectives.

Social Skills – This is our ability to build relationships.

Leaders who have good social skills are great communicators, develop open and supportive workplace cultures, foster teamwork and innovation, celebrate successes, embrace change, resolve conflict well and model the values they hold.

We can improve our social skills by reflecting on how well we communicate and connect with our teams, and seeking feedback from others about what works well and what we could improve in our workplace.

It’s never too late to learn! So how would you rate your emotional intelligence and what actions can you take to enhance your emotional intelligence?

Contributor: Our current featured member, Trish Kelly, is an experienced leader, change manager and facilitator with over 30 years’ experience in the public sector, working in very large organisations in both regional and central office roles.

Through her experience as the General Manager Human Resources for 8 years in the NSW Department of Education and Communities, the largest organisation in the southern hemisphere, Trish is well equipped to work with executives, aspiring leaders and others to support and guide them to achieve their goals and to maximise their performance and impact.

Why high performing organisations foster and champion staff engagement

While leaders in most organisations would agree that our employees are more valuable and important to our business than any other asset, not all leaders drive a culture that encourages, values and recognises genuine employee engagement.

So what is employee engagement?

Trish Kelly executive coach
Trish Kelly, executive coach

Put simply, employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organisation and its goals.Engaged employees are not just working to earn money: they are actually motivated to do a good job and they connect with the organisation and its purpose.

Employee engagement occurs in workplaces where the culture is based on trust, is open, inclusive and transparent and employees have a clear understanding of the organisation’s vision, goals and targets. They feel motivated and connected to and valued by the organisation, they want to contribute to the organisation’s success and they are encouraged and feel empowered to provide their ideas and views to drive continuous improvement and innovation.

There are a number of benefits to the organisation from a highly engaged workforce.

Engaged employees are more likely to have high job satisfaction levels and have a high level of commitment and loyalty to the organisation. This in turn is likely to result in fewer staff grievances and less lost time to sick leave and workers compensation. It is also likely to lead to higher staff retention rates, and retaining high performing staff is a key success factor for most organisations. In addition, organisations that have a culture and reputation for staff engagement are more likely to attract high quality candidates when recruiting for new staff.

Staff productivity is essential in any organisation. Engaged employees are motivated to deliver results in the most effective and efficient way and, when the chips are down, they are committed to rolling their sleeves up and going the extra mile to deliver.

Successful organisations continue to grow and evolve. If they are great, they strive to become even greater. Among other things, these organisations foster continuous improvement and innovation. One of the best ways to generate improvements and innovation is to get input from the employees who do the actual work. They can often see problems and identify ways to improve business practices that are invisible to the leaders of an organisation. In addition, when employees see that their ideas and suggestions are listened to and implemented, where appropriate, they will become even more engaged and the organisation becomes more successful, a great win/win outcome.

Engaged employees are enthusiastic, want to do a good job and take pride in it. In jobs that have a customer focus this means that the employee will do everything in their power to deliver a high quality service to their customers which is yet another win/win experience for the customer and the organisation.

What are you doing to drive and foster staff engagement in your organisation?

Contributor: Our current featured member, Trish Kelly, is an experienced leader, change manager and facilitator with over 30 years’ experience in the public sector, working in very large organisations in both regional and central office roles.

Through her experience as the General Manager Human Resources for 8 years in the NSW Department of Education and Communities, the largest organisation in the southern hemisphere, Trish is well equipped to work with executives, aspiring leaders and others to support and guide them to achieve their goals and to maximise their performance and impact.

How executive coaching can benefit employees

Executive coaching can assist individuals in the performance of their current role, in identifying and pursuing their career aspirations and can assist them to improve their professional relationships.

Trish Kelly executive coach
Trish Kelly, executive coach

For executive coaching to be successful there are some essential foundational elements from the individual’s perspective that need to be in place. The first is that the individual needs to be open to taking part in the coaching experience to learn and grow. Another essential aspect is that there needs to be the right “chemistry” between coach and coachee.  In other words the coachee needs to feel comfortable enough with their coach to be able to open up and discuss and pursue their issues and goals in a frank and honest way.

The following case study shows how coaching assisted an individual to navigate issues they were dealing with in their role.

Peter* was unhappy in his role and felt unsupported by his supervisor.

During the coaching sessions, Peter was able to unpack the situation. He began to more clearly articulate the different issues that were occurring and intersecting to make him feel unhappy and unsupported. This included some critical self-reflection and a new awareness and deeper understanding of how his own workplace communication and attitude was perceived by his supervisor. He realised this was a significant contributor to the situation.

As a result of focussed self-reflection, Peter was able to explore different options for addressing each of the issues he had identified and, most importantly, develop and prioritise an action plan to move forward with these options, including how he would modify his communication and interpersonal style with his supervisor.

Over a 6 month period, Peter progressively put his action plan in place. At each coaching session, he was able to reflect on the effectiveness of these strategies as he tried them our and openly discuss those that had worked and, equally, reflect on any that had not been as effective as hoped. In this way, he was able to keep moving forward with his plan.

In this particular situation, at the end of the 6 month period, Peter had a much more open and positive relationship with his supervisor and, as a result, had been able to develop and agree on a work plan and professional development plan for the next 12 months that provided clear direct and accountability and opportunities for further growth and development. This is turn led him to being happier in his role.

One of the key reasons for the success of this coaching assignment was Peter’s willingness to openly participate in the coaching process and to identify issues and develop solutions he owned and felt comfortable implementing.

Contributor: Our current featured member, Trish Kelly, is an experienced leader, change manager and facilitator with over 30 years’ experience in the public sector, working in very large organisations in both regional and central office roles.

Through her experience as the General Manager Human Resources for 8 years in the NSW Department of Education and Communities, the largest organisation in the southern hemisphere, Trish is well equipped to work with executives, aspiring leaders and others to support and guide them to achieve their goals and to maximise their performance and impact.

* ‘Peter’ is a blend of several clients.

Why executive coaching can add to your organisation’s bottom line

Trish Kelly executive coach
Trish Kelly, executive coach

Your staff are the most important resource for achieving your strategic directions and delivering results. Successful organisations have motivated, engaged and high performing staff and low staff turnover.

At the same time, employee related costs are one of the highest line items in the budget – if not the highest. That’s why it’s in your organisation’s interests to invest in strategies that grow staff capability and enhance staff engagement and retention.

While some managers may argue that coaching is an expensive strategy, the contrary is true. Because it is focussed on the coachee’s needs, and can quickly and flexibly assist them to discover how to address those needs, there is no “down time” in coaching sessions. Instead, the coachee can return to the workplace to implement the solutions they have developed. It is therefore a very cost-effective development strategy for the individual, and provides significant benefits to the organisation.

Coaching, when done well, is a powerful strategy which provides a safe and conducive space for personal reflection, growth and development. It engages the coachee in identifying the specific goals and issues they want to address. It empowers the coachee to take responsibility for their development and

  • assists them to identify and reflect on their goals,
  • allows them to identify their own learning needs and
  • builds their personal awareness of how they are perceived by others.

Coaching is also a highly effective professional development strategy because it is client-centric. The coachee works with the coach to discover and develop ideas and solutions to achieve their personal goals and address their personal issues. This encourages innovation: rather than a “text book” response to an issue, the coachee works with the coach to develop an individual intervention that is going to work for them in their particular context. This creates a sense of ownership, confidence and buy in from the coachee. They are therefore more likely to follow through on implementing their ideas and solutions.

Benefits to the broader organisation from coaching include:

  • improved relationships
  • fewer grievances
  • improved team work and productivity
  • improved quality of work and
  • improved staff engagement, job satisfaction and staff retention.

Many capability development strategies can assist with the identification of goals and how to make progress towards achieving them. The power of coaching is that it helps the coachee to become more personally aware of their possible blind spots, particularly those relating to their behaviour in the workplace and the impact this has on others. Their growing self-awareness frequently leads to the coachee having a “light globe” moment and identifying ways to make a fundamental shift in their approach to their work and the way they relate to others.

So in determining the best way to use the organisation’s capability development budget, executive coaching is definitely a cost-effective and results-driven strategy to include in the mix.

Contributor: Our current featured member, Trish Kelly, is an experienced leader, change manager and facilitator with over 30 years’ experience in the public sector, working in very large organisations in both regional and central office roles.

Through her experience as the General Manager Human Resources for 8 years in the NSW Department of Education and Communities, the largest organisation in the southern hemisphere, Trish is well equipped to work with executives, aspiring leaders and others to support and guide them to achieve their goals and to maximise their performance and impact.

You don’t have to be a yes-person …

… but you don’t have to be a naysayer.

What do you do when a manager suggests a project that you have reservations about?

As we’ve discussed in an earlier post, it’s important for managers to create a culture where their reports don’t feel that they have to be yes-people. When you are the report, it’s also important not to be a yes-person, both for the organisation’s success and for your own feeling of self-worth.

Recently, though, we were discussing with a colleague the importance of using judgement in this situation. Sometimes, in avoiding being a yes-person, it’s easy to fall into the trap of becoming a naysayer. Have a look at the differences in attitude that these responses suggest, and the likely reception you will get from your manager:

Yes-person Naysayer What about …
Yes! What’s the point of this? I’d like a better understanding of the business imperatives for this project.
 Yes! I don’t have time for this. Can we look at resourcing to ensure we meet these timeframes?
Yes! Senior management won’t like this. I have some suggestions for issues you’re likely to encounter in getting management approval.
Yes! I don’t know how to do this. Can you work with me to coach me through this?
Yes! That’s not how we do things here. I think you are likely to encounter some resistance from our accounting and risk departments because historically we have taken another approach to this, which I can give you more information on if you’d like.


Our colleague had recently been leading a project with some very resistant team members. It was difficult to give their concerns full weight, because of the negative way in which they expressed these concerns. She didn’t want or expect yes-people, but the nay-saying was both unhelpful and uninformative. Even when the proposal was to take on additional team members to help with the workload, she was met with the response, “A new team member will just make more work for me”.

Executive Coach Exchange team feedback
Can you recast negative feedback to be more useful and informative?

With responses more like those in the third column – and note, these are not all positive responses – our colleague would have been better placed to address the concerns and make the project work for the team members as well as for senior management.

Our colleague remembered an occasion when she was just starting out, when she was surprised to hear a senior manager strongly recommending someone for a challenging role, despite explicitly recognising that the candidate wasn’t qualified: “She doesn’t have the skills or experience for the job,” he said, “but she’s an energy-giver not an energy-taker, and she’ll bring enthusiasm to the team.”

Our colleague said that after her recent experience, while still not sharing the view that enthusiasm trumps ability, she could understand how a manager could reach the point of wanting to be surrounded by positivity.

When you need to raise concerns or give feedback to management, it’s worthwhile thinking about the result you want to achieve.  You can be honest and forthright without being negative. When you are purely negative, without any suggestions for overcoming the issue, it can be tempting for management to disregard your opinions. If you are prepared to put the time and thought into answers more like those in the third column, this can benefit everyone involved, including the organisation as a whole.

An executive coach can help junior managers reframe their feedback to achieve a more positive outcome, and can help senior managers create a culture where staff feel more able to express their concerns in an informative and helpful way.

Leadership series – Phil Cox

This week we continue our leadership series with an interview with Phil Cox. Phil currently holds Directorships at the Hunter Valley Training Company, the Lake Macquarie Foundation and the Honeysuckle Community Group. Prior to this, Phil was the Director of Hunter TAFE, where he used staff development to achieve significant cultural change in his organisation. We asked Phil to talk to us about this.

Phil Cox – achieving cultural change through leadership development

Executive Coach Exchange Phil Cox
Phil Cox

Phil told us that when he was appointed as Institute Director (a position equivalent to CEO at an institution with around 60,000 enrolments), he found a workplace culture which suited the previous incumbent but did not suit his personal leadership style. He found the culture rather hierarchical, where successors were identified more on their seniority than through a structured succession plan. He also found senior people in roles that he felt they were not best suited to, so he commenced the change process using restructuring. While some people chose to move on, others found a new and more appropriate role within the organisation.

Phil’s next step was to create a Developing Leaders Program, with the focus placed firmly on emerging leaders, rather than the existing leadership team. A consultant was brought in to help develop the program and to collect extensive data on the participants. Phil emphasised that the support and involvement of the Deputy Institute Director was integral to the ongoing success of the program.

It was a full-year program, run over 5 years, with up to 45 participants a year. While some program elements will sound familiar, others will not:

  1. The program commenced with a process of research, assessment of current leadership culture and staff consultation to identify 10 leadership effectiveness behaviours.
  2. The program was open to everyone. All staff were encouraged to apply, whether they were permanent or temporary, full-time or part-time; and from all levels of the organisation.
  3. Phil launched the program personally, using emails, podcasts and visits to most of the 15 campuses to promote it.
  4. Applications were assessed against the 10-point behaviour plan, which ensured the focus was on potential rather than past achievement.
  5. Despite his demanding role, Phil personally interviewed all short listed applicants and devoted 3 days, 3 times a year to the program. He was involved in both the initial interview and in robust follow-up discussions on the participants’ development plans, ideas and innovation.
  6. Tools including the Birkman Method and Leadership Effectiveness Analysis 360 degree evaluations were used, and repeated during the year to assess progress.
  7. Development Action Plans were established for each participant in consultation with the consultant. All participants discussed these Action Plans withthe Executive Strategy Group – comprising the CEO, the CEO of a partner institution and a member of the Institute’s Advisory Committee, ensuring an external focus on the interests of clients.
  8. The consultant was available as a ‘help line’ for participants and discussed emerging issues with Phil regularly. The consultant also provided 1:1 coaching to all participants.
  9. Participants were given projects to undertake which allowed them to experience new roles and experiment with new ideas.
  10. Participants were also given opportunities to act in other positions, based on their career Action Plans rather than on seniority, and were supported in these roles.

Clearly, this was a program designed to implement major cultural change, with the CEO at the centre of the experience.

We asked about the outcomes. Phil said that the majority of the participants are now in leadership roles, either within the organisation or elsewhere. People who wanted a career change were encouraged to try new roles. Phil gave the examples of a part-time security guard who now works in a specialist support role; and two IT technical specialists, one of whom moved into marketing and the other into a faculty leadership role in Tourism and Hospitality.

The participants were highly motivated and were empowered to become change agents. Phil said he saw positive changes every week, as the desired new behaviours were increasingly adopted throughout the Institute.

The final benefit was for Phil, himself. Phil told us he found the enthusiasm of the participants infectious. For Phil, the program was exciting and motivating and it was very clear that this Leadership Program was one of the most rewarding aspects of his work at Hunter TAFE.