As I mentioned in our last post, we’re on a mission at Coachmetrix to help others build their coaching and training businesses so that we can collectively have a greater impact on this world. Whether you are an internal organizational development professional or an independent coach, trainer or facilitator, we’ll share the lessons we’ve learned with our leadership development projects, so that together we can think and play bigger and continue to make a more significant contribution to people’s lives.
As a coach and trainer, I know that you probably have great services, great content, and know how to engage your audiences, whether in a one-on-one coaching engagement or a program with a group of leaders.
Unfortunately, that’s not enough.
How do I know?
Because we also have great content, trainers and coaches and raved about services, and we recently made some mistakes that derailed a $300,000 leadership development project and who knows how much in future revenue.
Effective Leadership Development Projects Needs Executive Commitment
The missing component – the one piece above all that can derail great work – was executive commitment.
Yah, obvious I know. At least as a Monday morning quarterback. But, we thought we had taken all the right steps. We met regularly with our executive sponsor, we included key clients in design sessions and we presented ongoing measurement. And on top of that, we created a highly customized leadership development program with deep levels of leadership coaching that produced meaningful personal and professional results for many of the participants.
So, what went wrong?
We had executive support, not executive commitment.
These are the Three Critical Shortfalls we Encountered:
Not Integrating with New Executives:
The origin of our failure began with the introduction of two new executives who were hired to run the Sales and Engineering departments about mid-way through our two-year leadership development initiative. The Sales leader had significant positional power, owning almost 45% of the overall company. Coupled with a strong personality and a need to control, he quickly gained significant influence. The Engineering leader wasn’t as persuasive, but he did manage almost 40% of the organization. Schedule conflicts got in the way of initial meetings and before we knew it, the Sales executive formed an opinion of us that wasn’t favorable. The Engineering leader went along for the ride and the CEO, who was a proponent of leadership development with his words, wasn’t strong enough to stand up to his new team members and he buckled under pressure.
Bottom line: We didn’t make the new executives feel special.
Not Engaging Frequently Enough:
Early in the program, we did a good job of engaging the executive leadership team. We sought feedback about critical leadership executive coaching issues, laid out plans and discussed how the program would impact their business. The challenge was that we didn’t continue to engage the leadership coaching team on a regular basis.
Bottom line: We weren’t getting enough face time and providing additional value with any of the executives beyond our executive sponsor.
Our Eggs Were All in One Basket:
Even though I said we didn’t get in front of the leadership coaching team frequently enough, we were highly engaged with our executive sponsor. In fact, we had standing meetings with him and other organizational development team members on a regular basis – sometimes as frequently as once a week. The challenge was that our executive sponsor steadily lost credibility with his peers due to other performance and cultural fit issues. As they began to blackball him, we realized our hitch was attached to the wrong wagon. He was eventually pushed out of the organization and we were stranded.
Bottom line: Our relationship, while strong with our executive sponsor, wasn’t strong enough with the entire leadership team so we were unable to create effective leadership development.
Lessons Learned on Leadership Executive Coaching
The level of executive commitment, not executive support, will either drive your program forward or stop it in its tracks. It will dictate whether you’ll be seen as a “trusted advisor” or an “order taker.”
Stay tuned for our next post where we’ll share our new formula for engaging executives and building commitment. It’s helping us add more value to our clients and is leading to additional work as well.
In the meantime, share your ideas, mistakes and wins. We’d love to hear your lessons learned about building executive commitment and creating effective leadership development projects.