Providing executive coaching to any organisation, requires a sound coaching approach, practice, and an alignment between my personal values (that drive me professionally) and the organisation I’m contracted to work with.
For example, if you are not in sync with a family organisation’s values and the way they want to conduct business then you should decline the offer of work. You could not, for instance offer coaching, or counseling (thinking of an American TV series, the Sopranos) to a mafia family.
Starting with my values
Values, for me, is that everything should be done ethically.
That is one simple way of putting it, “it should be done in a way that all stake holders have a share in the benefits: the customers, owners, employees and business partners”.
- It is important to have those initial conversations and do your own due diligence before accepting the assignment.
- It is necessary to check out and confirm whether there is sufficient overlapping values (personally, professionally, family, business) from which a potentially positive relationship will emerge that will result in positive returns for the organisation.
Values still intact and healthy, contracting for coaching.
With the psychological contract in place, it becomes more of the approach to contracting that lays out the process and intention of how the coaching engagement will evolve.
My method to coaching is to let the Clients decide (with some help from me) where they want to improve. I ask them to analyze their work life and their personal life, and then decide on three major goals. The Goals set are always measurable, stretched and time bound.
My coaching sessions are normally once a fortnight which translate to approximately 12 sessions over six to eight months to fit in with my clients’ busy schedule, especially when travelling is an important part of their role.
Let me share a couple of examples from family managed organisations:
One of my client’s, a President of a large Company, wanted to reduce his high Stress. After some discussions the stretched goal he set for himself was “Sound sleep 7 nights out of 7 in the week and blood pressure down to normal.” The Goal was achieved 100% and the change in his work style and personal space was dramatic. The improved Business results and family happiness was like a large icing on the cake.
Another client I was working with was the MD of a large company, he was a visionary and had built the company from scratch. However, as the business grew, he still remained the focal point for all decisions and the way forward. He was now keen to change this and do it with speed, so as to build a good team and ensure succession.
How does Caesar bequeath his powers?
Easier said than done!
Following our first coaching session, we felt that the best way to do this was to catch the bull by the horns.
We discussed a possible method of engagement. This involved some form of disclosure and in this case it was to share with his Team his own weakness.
“I don’t delegate enough, or I tell you I want a solution and then tell you the solution itself” – what I’m actually asking you to do is accept my solutions before you come up with a solution to the problem.
He called his Team for a meeting (which I shadowed). He explained his Goal “Building a competent Team who would be empowered to take most decisions without him.” He then made disclosures of his perceived weak areas and then asked each of his team members to meet him individually the next day and to “Tell me two additional things that I need to do differently so that I reach my Goal.”
He told them not to be generous because he would know when they were simply humoring him.
The MD opened up and shared his weaknesses that empowered the team members to give their feedback to “Caesar” without fear or misgiving.
Such openness from a visionary leader like him had a great emotional impact on the team.
In our subsequent sessions, we discussed the feedback and the client identified three behaviors he needed to change following his approach to 360 with his team. And within six months good leaders emerged, the empowerment and delegation was a Success. The “Senators” then started looking into their own shortcomings and began to make changes to be in line with what Caesar had done, and this led to a cascading improvement across the “Roman Empire” (the Company).
Managing boundaries with patience
Rivalry, often seen in ‘non owner businesses’, can also emerge in family businesses. This ante is raised further because the work and family relationships are intertwined.
The coach can play the role of an independent sounding board, someone whom they can also run some of their internal issues by. The coach becomes that person who will maintain each person’s confidence and who will sometimes advise them, and who will listen impartially to all members and then facilitate those discussions and even advise them on how they could proceed.
I reiterate the importance of patience, once one is a sounding board – simply being patient as the matters unfold, or waiting to convince the person of the actual situation when they are less emotional. Having the ability to tactfully diffuse the situation, is something a family business will appreciate with time. While doing all this you have to ensure that bonding and trust is not affected.
Another challenge can falls around ‘whose decision will be final’ especially when there is a dispute. Then one has to set ground rules for decision making and where there are differences whose view will be paramount. It could go by age, or it could go by competence - whatever is acceptable as long as it has been laid out in the beginning; differences can come still there has to be an acceptable rule for resolution.
Ultimately, families are interested in the overall embedded value that’s there in a Business, and families understand this value increases when differences reduce and people pull in the same direction!
Knowing your own values influences how you behave with your client. That also has influence in the way your clients choose to act on those suggestions/conversations within their own organization, and so managing those boundaries are paramount.
And for me, the three things that are required are honesty, building trust, your own business acumen because if you don't have that then again that's a big issue. Suppose you're only a good listener, you're tactful but you don't have business acumen then they don't see any value addition. And then you also have difficulty in making business related judgements.
Furthermore, this will all drive the type and quality of relationship you’ll have with your client and the stakeholders. Making changes in Caesar’s Roman Empire requires humility and openness from Caesar, which a Coach can induce. The opportunities for coaching can be limitless.
To connect with Aubrey:
Aubrey brings to the table over 40 years of rich & varied Corporate Experience as CEO, Director, and Business Head with Tatas & Bayer.
Aubrey has strategised & managed a major merger, was CEO of a large NBFC, & Profit Centre Head of a large Business. In all his assignments he has rapidly scaled up revenues & profits. In many areas he has also built up Structures & Processes from scratch.
Post retirement Aubrey continues as an Advisor to a Tata Company. Aubrey is also an Executive Coach to several Indian & Foreign Corporates He is also an expert in Family managed Businesses serving as a Business Consultant & Mentor to Business Families. Having had Leadership Roles in different work Areas & Industries Aubrey’s expertise is in Financial Services , Automobile Industry, Mergers & Integration , Materials Management , & Learning & Development .
Aubrey is an Engineer from IIT Bombay & a First Rank Gold Medallist MBA from IIM Ahmedabad. He is also a Certified Executive Coach - International Coach Federation & NEWS Switzerland. He has several hundred hours of coaching experience at the MD & CXO levels.