the process helped me a lot in dealing with my peers and my subordinates
Barry coached me for a year twice a week over the phone and once a month face-to-face even though I was halfway across the country from him. I had several issues I wanted to address through habit-transformation coaching, and Barry facilitated a formal on-line 360° survey, which gives an excellent overview of strengths and weaknesses. Barry also conducted 360° interviews that provided details on specific issues for me to address. That feedback included the following issues: I sometimes disrupted meetings with my own agenda, I needed to focus more on active listening, some people reported that they felt that I verbally abused them, and some of my direct reports felt like I micromanaged them. I thought I made excellent progress on all these issues and several more during my coaching program, so in order to gauge how much progress others felt I made, we waited until six months after my coaching program completed to make sure my changes endured, and Barry conducted a follow-up on-line 360° survey. Barry and I and my management and HR all thought the results were outstanding. When we compared my follow-up results with my original survey data, my combined feedback (boss, peers, subordinates, and an other group) results showed a minimum of 19 percentile improvement on every category measured and average improvement of 29 percentile. My direct reports, which had indicated the greatest problems with me, showed a minimum of 41 percentile improvement on every category measured and average improvement of 51 percentile. I also participated in a multi-session workshop Barry conducted on making formal commitments and holding people accountable for their commitments. The process helped me a lot in dealing with my peers and my subordinates, and I taught some members of my team to use the same process. Barry's company always gives his clients an opportunity to add one personal goal among the business goals they identify. I chose to stop smoking because I had tried and failed many times. Using the same behavior-change techniques that Barry used for my other habit transformations, Barry enabled me to stop smoking during this program.
- Dan J. Product Development Director for a design and manufacturing company
coached me through greatly reducing my counterproductive behaviors and those changes endured
Barry coached several members of my organization over an extended period including my Director of HR and me. In addition to making many improvements in the habits of my HR director, Barry trained him to be a transformation coach, so he took over providing coaching for my company after Barry wound up his engagement with us. My biggest problems were that I became too aggressive at times and occasionally denigrated some of my employees. Through a year-long process, Barry coached me through greatly reducing my counterproductive behaviors and those changes endured. When my HR manager brought Barry in to coach me and others, he challenged Barry to get quick results with me. Barry told him that his transformation coaching program takes about a year to get lasting results, but he said he would stop my incessant swearing within three months, which my HR manager laughed off. Barry accomplished that and went on to do much more with me and others in my company. Barry also conducted a five-session workshop for my senior management on making commitments and holding people accountable for their commitments, which greatly improved the execution capability of my company.
- Michael W. CEO of a mid-size manufacturing company
Barry Borgerson has done excellent work in building intellectual capital for executive coaching.
This recommendation is written regarding Barry Borgerson and the excellent work that he has done in building intellectual capital for executive coaching. I have worked closely with Barry over many years where he served in different roles including mentor, professional collaborator, and being my executive coach. At Oliver Wyman Delta, we looked closely and thoroughly at the work Barry has done on behavioral change in executives and saw value and utility for our Leadership Development Practice working with senior leaders on organization and individual change. I have applied his methods/approach in client settings and found them to be effective. We used his intellectual capital as a foundation for developing a coaches training program for a +$3 billion market cap U.S. natural resource company which was well received. As a licensed clinical psychologist, I found his principles, methods, and approaches fully consistent with my background in psychotherapy as well as the professional literature on individual change. It is worth noting that his methods have been prepared and communicated to senior executives in a manner they find clear, understandable, and helpful to their roles in a business setting. If there is a negative it is that understanding the core of Barry's intellectual capital requires some patience and study. Barry himself is best at explaining his approach in a meaningful way. At all times I have found Barry to be professional, responsive, and providing high-quality service.
-Randall Cheloha, Principal , Cheloha Consulting
played a key leadership role
I worked closely with Barry for several years in the Council for Entrepreneurial Development's Venture Mentoring Service (CED-VMS). During that time, Barry mentored several startups to improve their business knowledge and coached their leaders through behavior changes to transform them from hopeful startups to growth companies and some through successful exits. Also, Barry played a key leadership role in raising the overall effectiveness of our whole CED-VMS program by interviewing and selecting increasingly effective mentors, training new mentors, and by refining the role, and then training lead mentors.
-Jay Bigelow, Vice President, Entrepreneurship, CED
Discover the journey of George, Jack, Cecilia, Maria, and my own story. . .
Let us look at some common and difficult problems transformation coaching can help you overcome. See if you recognize similar challenges in someone who reports to you, in your own career, or in the life of someone you care for.
Moderating George's Excesses
George, a senior manager in a manufacturing company, has no blockages to getting into action. In fact, he is all action.
However, he used to think so poorly of others who did not share his drive that he would become enraged and
aggressive when they did not meet the high standards he set for them and himself. This caused colleagues and subordinates to avoid contact with him whenever they could.
Far from spurring greater action, aggressive behaviors block creativity and drain energy from those exposed to it. Although repeatedly warned to rein in his dysfunctional behaviors, George made little headway. Self-help to overcome aggressiveness rarely produces the desired results.
To capitalize on his deep knowledge and consistent execution, his company engaged me to coach George to
curtail his overbearing behaviors. Within a few weeks, colleagues began to notice and comment on how pleasurable it had become to work with George. For the first time, others could appreciate his outstanding talents and value to the company.
Although it takes a long time – we usually plan for a year – to make these changes permanent, some behavior change normally becomes evident quickly. Fortunately, once people recognize how much their behavior demotivates others and lowers their sustained output, they can change successfully through coaching. For long-term success, leaders must focus not only on achieving results but also on how they achieve those results.
Jack's Dread of Not Being Liked
Some people are so much in need of having everybody like them that they become unable to make tough decisions. Jack was a client who exhibited this characteristic.
He had been a high-level staff person reporting to the COO of a large corporation. He sought and was given a line role to launch a new career path.
In this case, I was overseeing another coach from my organization who was coaching Jack. One of the exercises we take clients through is to list those aspects of themselves they would like to change and those aspects of themselves they do not want to change.
Among those characteristics that Jack listed that he did not want to change was any aspect of his personality. We understood this because he has a most pleasing personality and we did not notice any undesired behaviors. That served him very well when he was doing staff work using the authority of the powerful COO whom he was representing.
However, we challenged Jack on his lack of desire to make a fundamental change in his personality. He was not limited by errors of the commission but rather by errors of omission. Jack was not going to succeed in his new line of responsibility if he did not transform himself beyond his uncontrollable need for having everybody like him.
One of the transformations we guided Jack through was to switch his guiding principle from having people like him to having them respect him. That transformation enabled him to go from a nice-guy staff person to a more tough-minded line executive. If you are highly respected, most people will actually like you.
However, you should not have been liked as your goal. We emphasize fairness in making tough decisions and using assertiveness as opposed to aggressiveness. With the help of his coach, Jack successfully navigated through this and other transformations with excellent results. Jack went on to a series of successful line-management roles.
Cecilia's Inability to Lead Effectively
Cecilia was Vice President of Supply Chain Management for a high-tech design and manufacturing company. She had worked her way up the ranks of the corporation to reach the executive level.
However, her management had become concerned that while she was a star contract negotiator, she was not getting the best out of her team. The 360° survey and interviews indicated that she lacked the leadership ability to hold members of her team accountable. Cecilia lacked the ability to give penetrating developmental performance reviews and to take strong enough actions to get the best out of her team.
The fact that Cecilia had worked alongside many of the people she now led compounded her barrier to action. The breakthrough in Cecilia's coaching came when we identified an auto-self characteristic she had developed to succeed in the purchasing world.
She could handle the most manipulative and forceful salespeople with a tenacious but calm demeanor to get good procurements for her company. What we did was to focus Cecilia on what it felt like when she trained herself to interact effectively in the difficult purchasing environment and what it felt like when she was able to withstand a contentious environment that others would try to escape.
This was an "ah-ha" experience for Cecilia. She was able to leverage her insights and experiences regarding negotiating good deals out of salespeople to "negotiate" better performance out of her team.
Road Rage – A Powerful Insight into Our Auto-Self "Who's in charge here?"
Here is a personal story of gaining insight into my automatic mode of behavior. Perhaps this will help you recognize similar internal encounters in your experiences. When I was 20, I noticed that when people cut me off in traffic, I would become enraged, scream at them, and attempt to retaliate by cutting them off as soon as I could. I grew increasingly concerned about my uncontrollable anger and my unsafe retaliatory driving. One day it could either get me an expensive ticket or cause an accident.
Finally, I decided I would no longer react that way when someone drove rudely. When the next person cut me off, how do you think I reacted?... I retaliated! After I recovered from losing control, I was flabbergasted, and I was painfully disappointed that I had not done better. This experience drove me into reality vertigo that made me wonder, "Who's in charge here?"
I had created a clear intention to behave differently, yet something "inside me" compelled me to behave badly, as if my intention did not matter. I refused to accept my inability to stop my road rage. I resolved that, no matter what, I would not attempt to reciprocate when the next impolite driver aggressively squeezed his or her car between mine and the one in front of me.
Since I commuted in city traffic during rush hour, I did not have to wait long for an opportunity to test my resolve. The next time a driver cut me off, I did not make aggressive gestures or retaliate.
However, what happened internally astonished me. An almost overwhelming impulse to strike back surged through me. I still felt the driver had trespassed on my rightful territory, and I needed to teach him a lesson. That was the first time I experienced so vividly a struggle between my intentions and my automatic thoughts and actions. It felt like a bewildering internal war over control of my behavior.
This traumatic internal conflict launched an epiphany for me. I suddenly realized I had two distinct aspects of myself competing for control of my thoughts and actions, and "I" didn't have a clue how to control which competitor won.
I learned another valuable lesson during the following months. I continued my determination to avoid retaliatory driving behavior. My internal struggle persisted as my compulsion relentlessly challenged my commitment, but I persevered. After a while the urge to seek revenge receded.
After a few months, it became comfortable to avoid agitation and to resist retaliation. I overcame my need to strike back by telling myself stories, which was fortuitous because I was decades away from understanding the automatic, uncontrollable mode and its properties.
I told myself that I was not responsible for reforming rude drivers and that my emotional health, my safety, and the safety of other drivers were more important than avenging someone else's inconsiderate behavior.
Finally, avoiding retaliation became easy for me. In my current terminology, I transformed myself – I became different by reprogramming my auto-self (i.e., my auto-behavior and the auto-context that drove it). My new automatic behavior was consistent with my intentions. I no longer had to focus my attention on the problem, and avoiding retaliation no longer required the greatest willpower I could muster. That transformation as stayed with me throughout my life.
Maria - Evocative Questions Get Results
Maria was a director of software development whom I coached. She had strong technical abilities and was a good project manager.
However, she was not able to get the best out of her team. One of her intentions for a new behavior was to give balanced performance reviews to her direct reports that noted their strengths but also pinpointed their weaknesses and identified actions to improve their performance. Maria previously had sugarcoated the reviews of her team members.
I worked with Maria to develop balanced reviews on her next round. When she kept postponing delivering the reviews, I got her to commit to doing two of them before our next coaching session.
At our next coaching session, Maria admitted she had not given the performance reviews. I started with an open question, "Maria, why didn't you conduct those two performance reviews as you intended?" As expected, Maria replied, "I really wanted to do them, but the week was just so hectic I couldn't hold the schedules."
I could have just told her that sounded like an excuse and not a reason to me, but I knew she was struggling to give the developmental feedback and I wanted to create some stronger feelings to counteract her discomfort with the performance reviews.
I started with what I assumed would be a series of evocative questions as she tried to avoid facing her barrier to action. "What happened to make you so much busier than you thought you would be when you committed to doing the performance reviews?" Maria rattled off a list of activities that she had not anticipated when she committed. I continued, "How does that number of interruptions compare to a typical week?" Maria answered by repeating the interruptions that kept her from conducting the performance reviews.
I pressed on. "I realize that each week you get interrupted on different issues, but I want you to notice how your interruptions this week corresponded to the amount you should have expected." Maria was starting to get the point.
She finally admitted, "Yes, the number of interruptions was about normal." Maria was now running out of wiggle room as I continued to press her. "I assume you plan for your normal amount of interruptions when you schedule important tasks, so tell me again why you didn't do the two performance reviews this week."
This is the crucial point that transformation coaches must embrace. Most people find the delay uncomfortable and interrupt the process by asking further questions while the client is still struggling with the previous question. Maria went silent while she tried to think up a way to escape the reality war into which I had led her. I stayed silent and let her grapple with her dilemma.
Maria finally confessed, "Yes, I could have done those interviews.
I guess I was just looking for an excuse because I know they will both get upset when I point out their weaknesses." As frequently happens with coaching clients, Maria found herself pretending that she wasn’t carrying out her intentions because she was worried about creating discomfort for the people she needed to review. However, she also was well aware that they needed that feedback to improve their performance to an acceptable level. The actual underlying reason she kept failing to perform her reviews was because it was uncomfortable for her.
I now pushed forward to the conclusion of the evocative questions. "Now that you realize what happened last week, what are you going to do differently this week?"
Maria thought a little longer and said she would schedule specific times for the reviews and hold them. This type of evocative questioning usually gets the desired result. Maria completed the reviews and they went better than she had feared.
If I had just suggested that she was offering up excuses, she may have disagreed and not changed her behavior. However, after a series of evocative open questions, most people find it preferable to execute their intended behavior than to take another stroll down Evocative Questioning Lane with their coach. Another powerful use of evocative open questions to change behavior is to apply them while holding someone accountable who has missed a commitment.
Note: We strongly value confidentiality, so the names used here were not the real names of my clients.
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