This Week, I Have Mostly Been...

I’ve had a really busy week, so I’ve simply not had the time or the mental energy to be able to write a piece of insight of some coaching principles etc., for you all to read.  So I thought I would spend my Friday afternoon reflection time with you.

Good to Great inspires a business…

Most of my week has been taken up with the final phase of a project that I have been involved with over the last 2 years.  This is with the a UK company who are part of a multinational, they have a pretty hands off relationship with their North American owners and are involved with some very well known brands.  3 years ago the Executive Team decided they needed to bring the whole company together, they were highly acquisitive for a while, so have multiple sites and diverse cultures.

Phase 1 was about bringing the Executive Team together, building relationships and creating a culture, at the highest level, that would allow them to have frank and open discussion, essential for ensuring collaboration and gaining alignment.  Phase 2 was about introducing new behaviours to the next level down, this was done by helping the Executive to be better coaches and 'being the change' they wanted to see. 

The Executive also sat down together and set about understanding where they wanted to get to and how they would get there, concluding that the Hedgehog and BHAG models in Good to Great would give them a good framework to work with.  Importantly they took the time to understand Collins intentions correctly – these models are wonderful, but they are only models – Collins observed some common behaviours which he has expressed in that form – the models themselves do not guarantee results and the transition from Good to Great is not something that happened overnight.  Many of the businesses Collins observed didn’t even realize they were going through a change until afterwards – the changes were slow and steady transitions arrived at through discipline and a series of steps towards a goal.

We are now into Phase 3 – The Executive Team have created their Vision, Purpose, Goals and Strategy for the business and considered 'where the culture is today vs. where it needs to be' in order to reach their Big Hairy Audacious Goal.

I have spent most of the last week working with data and thoughts obtained from a series of interviews with front-line management, in preparation for a series of workshops aimed at embedding new behaviours and encouraging those managers to support the cultural shift that the Executive Team want to see – this includes them seeing the benefit of coaching their teams rather than relying on older less effective management styles…I’ll let you know how they get on in the longer term, but importantly the new behaviours at the Executive and Senior Management levels have already had a positive effect on the business – they are winning more business, collaboration has increased and they now address the things that need to change, because they are no longer ‘un-spoken’.

Trouble at the top…

We’ve been involved in a restructuring programme with a major UK brand, this represented a wholesale change of reporting lines and one whole area of the company moving from a P&L holding centre to a function that serves only internal customers.  This has meant that individual Executives have had to move from a very parochial view acting as King of their own castle to one where they really do take responsibility for the whole group.  It has been a difficult period for them and our role has been to coach them through that process.  They fell off the rails recently and the CEO called us in far earlier than expected in order run a realignment session.   
I’ve finished editing the report this morning and they have actually made much more progress than they seem to be giving themselves credit for.  I think the lesson for them will be to not be downhearted, realize that they are on a long journey and keep their eyes on the prize, change programmes are never easy, beating themselves and each other up won’t serve them or the business.  Compassion is the key, with self and with others.  I know they will get there as they have already seen the benefit of increased collaboration, breaking out of their silos and improving honest and open conversations across the business.

Listen to Understand…

I love being involved with big businesses and helping some of our top Execs and teams to realize their potential, but my work with them is largely behind the scenes – they seldom know it is me that is reflecting their condition back to them.

I had another teen-coaching session this week, it really is the most satisfying of things to do.

My subject is a young man, preparing for GCSEs and going through all the normal things that teenagers go through.  He’s a well-adjusted youngster and he wants to do better at everything.

In our last session we looked at building relationships and in the end we decided to start with better listening.

‘Listening to understand’ is a really powerful tool worth developing for anyone – people love it when they feel cared for and listening to what people are saying is really good for that…this is proper listening though…

A lot of people ‘listen to respond’…they are listening only to see where they can contribute – that was one of my awful flaws as a salesman, being eager too to get in and show how clever and worth buying from I was.

Listen to someone else, listen in order to really, really understand what they are saying – when you do that you give them space to say even more, you learn more and then when you do contribute it will be in a much more meaningful way and more in-tune with your counterpart.

'Listening to Understand' and stopping swearing seems to have done this young man the world of good, he’s had a great 3 weeks and has strengthened a few relationships, including a special one…

We also sat down and worked through options for planning homework/fun-life balance better – with some discipline and action he should be fine – will keep you posted.


I started Stoptober – and then stopped almost immediately…hold on there - there’s a very good reason.  I’m reading the Alan Carr book, and actually have to keep smoking for a while, which I didn’t realize until I was a few chapters in, so I’m not a cop out – in fact I’m not  ‘enjoying’ smoking any more at all.  I won’t tell you how he does it, his estate deserves every penny it earns from the books in my opinion.   It is definitely a form of coaching and it has given me much more confidence around stopping, which I should be doing any day now – wish me luck – will keep you posted.

much love

~ Gary Walker

After nearly 25 years as a business insurance advisor and salesman I now work almost exclusively as a freelance assistant to Philip Goldman, one of the UK’s top Leadership Coaches.  Philip works with CEOs at the highest level, his clients include some of the world’s best known brands and FTSE100 companies.  I credit Philip with fuelling my interest in what it means to be a world class leader and that coaching in business is neither about providing solutions and using the latest management “tools” nor hugging trees and mopping furrowed brows, but helping those we work with to understand the emotional drivers that make humans what we are and how we can all go on to true self-empowerment, discovering for ourselves what it takes to be the best person, whatever that means for us individually, that we can be.

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