The CEO came to executive coach Alan Booth with a problem, and she wanted him to help fix it.
“She wasn’t getting along with her board,” says Booth, founder of Blue Granite Coaching in Toronto. “And she wasn’t having the leadership impact she wanted.”
Actually, it was more than that. The board members didn’t seem to be listening to her ideas, even though she would come to meetings with a big agenda, some well-considered opinions, and lots of important information.
In the past, Booth says, he might have focused on fixing her problem—that is, telling her ways to make the board members pay attention. But that was before he studied leadership coaching at Georgetown.
Often, people think of a coach as “the person behind the bench, telling players what to do: ‘Skate over there. Shoot on the net now,’” says Booth, who moved to coaching after a long career as a Partner with Deloitte Canada. “Telling people what to do—that’s actually not what leadership coaching is about. What it does do is help people uncover new thinking about themselves as a leader—leading to new actions they can apply for better impact.”
And did that CEO become a better leader? Indeed, she did. Through working with Booth, she saw that she was overly focused on looking competent and intelligent, which led her to essentially lecture the board.
Of course, the board members reacted the way most people do when they feel they’re being lectured to: They tuned her out. But when she shifted from proving her credibility to focusing on what the board was interested in, things improved tremendously.
“Georgetown taught me to think like a coach,” Booth says. “To find my clients where they are and use coaching skills to uncover what’s really important, what’s really going on, and support them to confront some belief that holds them back—and lead differently.”