Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Featured Post: It's Lonely at the Top

Below is an article from author Helene Beauchemin one of the authors of the book Winning Without Compromising Yourself. In addition to having the author available throughout the day to respond to your comments there is an ongoing contest related to this post. Grand prize winner receives a copy of the book Winning Without Compromising Yourself and other prizes are available.( See rules for details.)

It’s Lonely at the Top: When a Professional Coach Can be of Value

Who do you safely share your doubts and anxieties with when you are at the top of the pyramid? Colleagues? Staff? Family? Friends?

Many leaders have learned to rely on family and a few trusted friends and associates as a safe place to bare their soul as well as explore new possibilities when faced with the huge responsibilities that their positions entail. These relationships are invaluable to the well-being of the leader. However, these same people, because of their caring for you and their knowledge of the demands the position makes on you, often tend to protect you from hard reality and are not always capable of showing you the darker side of your actions or motivations thus not allowing you to grow into the leader you want and need to be in the circumstances. For this reason, more and more senior executives and political leaders are also turning to professional coaches in order to create the safe space that one needs to honestly explore the numerous challenges one is facing.

A coach accompanies you on part of your journey while offering you the opportunity for self-reflection as you go along. In addition to challenging your assumptions, a coach will assist you in addressing the ways those same assumptions influence your actions and self-image. When leaders are challenged or seduced by power, a coach can reflect back to them the important core values that brought them to public life or senior positions in the first place.

Political leaders often have a constellation of experts hovering around them: campaign managers, party loyalists, lobbyists, advisors, “policy wonks,” spin doctors, etc. This same pattern exists at the uppermost echelons of governments, with the added culture of respect for hierarchy and the ingrained awe reserved for players in the senior executive boardroom. While all of these people are usually well-intentioned, their focus – which often has a partisan perspective, is on “protecting their guy” or ideas, or on persuading political leaders to go along with policies that will benefit them. Even in the so called apolitical realm of government bureaucracies, a given program or policy may be defended just as fiercely by its proponents or by the teams that developed the idea in the first place or are ensuring program delivery.

Who do you, as leader, believe in these circumstances?

Over time, it is a well known fact leaders of all stripes, political as well as those working in the corporate and/or not for profit world, become isolated and can begin to believe their own rhetoric, becoming blind to the consequences of their own way of decision making or blind to signals coming from the population or from consumers.

Usefulness of a coach

This is where a coach can be invaluable. A coach does not have the same emotional and personal investment in seeing you keep your current position or adhere to past statements as do the people in your immediate circle of influence. In my own career as a senior government executive and now as a coach, I have often seen how easy it is for political leaders to be misled by those around them. The world of politics is one where the immediate trumps the long term, where people surrounding the leader get to confuse their personal interest and agenda with that of the leader they serve. In this world, loyalty is the most valued currency. Loyalty, however, does not often allow “speaking truth to power”.

This is another benefit of working with a professional coach. A top political coach or executive coach will be totally committed to you and to allowing you to excel. A coach will have the courage to assist you when facing dilemmas and assist you in staying true to your core values. As a coach, my focus is on you, my client, achieving results, while maintaining your integrity and creating the conditions to ensure your long term success as well as having your personal and familial well being in focus.

Copyright 2007 Winning Without Compromising Yourself, All rights reserved.

Helene Beauchemin, PCC
Contributing author to Winning Without Compromising Yourself (2007)