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Coaching Executives: Looking Outward to Lead Others

Coaching Executives: Looking Outward to Lead Others

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 5, Episode 26
  • Listen to the CEO of a global leadership consulting company as he describes his experiences in coaching executives and what it takes to lead.

On a recent Called to Coach, we spoke with Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, Glenn Williams.

Glenn Williams is the CEO and founder of Outward Looking International (OLI), a leadership consulting company which he launched in 2010. Glenn spent more than 25 years as a psychologist and an executive across 40 countries before starting OLI. OLI's mission is to change the ways leaders think and behave in regards to performance. Glenn's top five strengths are Learner, Arranger, Strategic, Achiever and Responsibility.

Q: What are some of the top lessons from working across so many borders?

  • The biggest privilege is meeting so many people in their own contexts
  • Travel light and lower expectations -- take it easy, travel problems will happen
  • Get to know people
  • Really understand their culture and their context

Q: Where do you stand on the continuum of global similarities vs. uniqueness?

People are people but at the end of the day we operate in different contexts with values, cultures, and priorities. Learning and listening are the two most important skills rather than seeking to only share your knowledge and your perspective. "Learning and appreciating the uniqueness of each culture [is essential]."

Q: Why did you choose the name "Outward Looking International" for your business?

Towards the end of a global executive position, looking out the window of his office reflecting on his experience and his love for developing people and organizations, he equated looking out the window to leadership. "Leadership is about looking outward. It's not just about me -- though I do need to have a good idea of who I am -- leadership is about looking outward and focusing on how other people can grow, develop, and aspire."

Q: This is not your first venture into being an entrepreneur. Tell us about your decision to start your first business.

  • 1989 Report -- Human rights commission -- focusing on the plight of youth homelessness in Australia. 40K young people were homeless.
  • Created the company called "ProFam Consultants" which became "ProFam Australia" to help explore ways to help young people who weren't seeking counseling or support services to change their circumstances. The company focused on developing different leadership programs, team building, personality assessments, etc., in workplaces to impact work/team dynamics and increase self-awareness with the hope employees would incorporate similar approaches at home to help build their families and combat the social concerns that were emerging at that time.

Q: The common thread throughout your professional experiences seems to include the notion that being a leader is not just leading in the workplace but also in your personal space(s). On your website, there is a quote that reads "Success doesn't have to come at the expense of something important to you." How are you accomplishing that in the work you are doing now (with strengths and otherwise)?

When people refer to "work-life balance," the word balance is quite ambiguous. How do you measure balance -- is it 50/50, 70/30? How do you measure it with regards to other parts of your life -- marriage, kids, workplace, community? We focus on alignment. Instead of focusing on balance, how do we actually help a leader live a more aligned life -- aligned with their goals, values, strengths, and passions? It's more focused on the holistic approach rather than focusing on one realm of their life.

We all go through different seasons in our life. We have different priorities, financial goals, needs. We adjust based on goals that are important to us at that particular time. For example, an entrepreneur Glenn worked with was extremely successful in his work but experienced multiple relationship breakdowns in the process. The entrepreneur reflected that, although he was placed on a pedestal for his business success, success came at such a cost. He admitted that the cost may have been too high and not worth the loss he suffered.

Q: How are you using CliftonStrengths as a way to address such "heavy" topics?

It's very difficult for some people to focus on their strengths. Some people have never been encouraged to focus on their strengths. When leaders transition from one role/position to another, we examine "limited beliefs" which is how they view their strengths (i.e., how they see themselves, how others see them, the impact of their experiences). Sometimes leaders have had destructive experiences that they haven't really dealt with. If you examine the culture someone has grown up in and the impact of family, what are some of the assumptions, beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes that you have acquired from childhood to adulthood. Then you look at the culture of the organization you've worked in -- does that culture confirm/affirm your strengths? We address these limiting beliefs first to have a better understanding of what they're really good at.

Q: How have you had success in encouraging leaders to take the time to invest in leadership development programs?

430 leaders in 12 different countries have gone through their executive training framework (called LCP -- Leadership Capacity Program). They created an online portal including 5 different phases which creates flexibility in a self-paced manner (no one looking over their shoulder, no immediate time demands/deadlines, progressing at their own pace), allows them to thoughtfully respond to questions. Often times, this will be the first time these leaders have been asked to consider these questions. At the end of their responses, a journal is created for them that becomes the foundation for their coaching. This ensures the foundational work (i.e., limiting beliefs, lessons learned, leadership reflection, values, connection to goals) is completed before the coaching relationship begins.

We live in a highly mobile society. It's not unusual for leaders to be responsible for more than one business/office. They're often traveling from one territory to another. Having a face-to-face model of coaching can be challenging and not always possible. By doing this work online first, we can have a virtual coaching session using their own material … and it gives us a far greater opportunity to connect at a time that is most practical and most meaningful for them.

Q: Tell us about the process of creating a personalized "LCP" and how CliftonStrengths can be incorporated.

LCP is a framework that leverages strengths. It is based on (1) Appreciative Inquiry and (2) Strengths-based approach. We encourage participants to complete CliftonStrengths Finder to find insight into their strengths (in addition to other assessments which can help to supplement and add to more insights and make it relevant to their current context). This information is integrated into their LCP journal to help the participant and coach to dialogue.

Q: What happens next after the journal is published?

We have a strong 90-day focus rather than longer term contracts of coaching. The focus is on immediate momentum and traction. There is no time to waste and so this serves as a springboard opportunity with very clear outcomes and clear timeline.

Q: How do you measure or discuss the impact at the 90-day mark?

The organization may have asked for individual clients to be coached with a very clear outcome for the coaching engagement. Other times the individual client sets their own goals and objectives to achieve at the end of 90-days. We look at three sets of goals -- organizational (in order to move their own performance), professional/development goals, and personal goals. All three are included because we operate from a holistic perspective. At the end of 90-days, we discuss with the client the degree to which their coaching goals were met.

Q: How many times are you coaching them across the 90 days?

It depends on the need and availability of the client. When you work with higher level executives, time and availability are significant issues. We aim to get at least 3 90-minute sessions or in some cases 6 1-hour sessions.

Q: Can your work be applied to teams or is it a 1-on-1 focus?

It is usually an individual focus but it's not unusual for organizations to request we coach a group of individuals who work together. We will then bring together the individuals and complete a "team alignment report" at the end of the coaching experience. This brings them together to review and discuss organizational goals and obstacles/roadblocks.

Q: Do you have organizations that request data outside of the individual report/feedback?

Critical to the coaching relationship is the confidentiality aspect especially as some areas become very personal on a deep level.

Q: What does the organization "Half Time" stand for and how do they use CliftonStrengths?

This is an opportunity for senior level executives or leaders who have reached a turning point in their life where they are looking for something else that can leverage their strengths in another way. "We are overprepared for life 1 and underprepared for life 2" -- Peter Drucker. In fact, Outward Looking International was the 2nd life or half time for Glenn himself -- an opportunity to explore another area for him.

Q: So do you receive advice from Half Time for your own self?

One of the beauties of Half Time is the other people involved because it brings together a lot of equally talented and experienced individuals who are looking for their next step. We start to focus, not on self-development, on helping others to develop.

Q: How old and successful do you have to be to qualify for Half Time?

We have had people as young as 38 and as old as 83 years. It's not an age thing -- it's related to a season in someone's life. You have to have lived a life of success to the point of affluence or influence in which you've networked enough to impact your network's success and development (and live a life of significance).

"The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The meaning of life is to give it away." -- Ann attributed this to Picasso based in a strengths blog she read.

Q: Are you seeing a similar mindset in millennials about making an impact?

Glenn often thinks we should explore a "Quarter Time". For example, the 38-year-old in Half Time shared that they didn't want to wait until 50 to find a life of significance but to continue living in that manner.

Q: You are also a faculty advisor at George Fox University for doctoral students in global leadership. Do you have any academic insights in relation to coaching/strengths?

The importance of cultural intelligence -- understanding, appreciating, and respecting the unique values and cultural elements of where people grow up -- and the impact on individual and organizational decision making. As part of the program, there are international study opportunities with the goal of appreciating different elements of leadership across various industries, structures, and cultures. It expands the students' worldview.

Particularly in cultures who are risk-averse, strengths-based development encourages organizations and people to set aspirational goals rather than fixating on the problems.

Q: I noticed on your website that you recommend include StrengthsFinder 2.0 and How Full Is Your Bucket?. Why did you choose How Full Is Your Bucket? over the other Gallup Press publications? How important is recognition to leaders?

If we are not passionate for it or don't have the heart for it, we're probably not in the place to engage the people we are responsible for leading. How can your strengths be aimed with your passion? How Full Is Your Bucket? challenges our mindset -- encourage leaders to think about how full is their bucket and how can they fill the buckets for those they supervise and empower.

Q: What data do you use or stories do you use to communicate to executives about performance and wellbeing?

Uncover the reason why the executives are seeking the coaching in the first place. Once you start getting answers from executives about questions such as are you happy, what makes you successful, etc. … you start to gain insight into how aligned (or out of alignment) their life is. For example, in working with a client in a large company who worked 100 hours a week, the client was asked, "Are You Happy?" The client answered, "well, sort of." If the client could change one thing, they wanted to be able to work in a way that allowed them a greater focus and more time with family. The client agreed their life was misaligned -- and the client easily explained what was influencing in the misalignment. Glenn addresses with the client strategies that can help to anchor this desire to have alignment in life.

Glenn's 5 leadership anchors from LCP

  1. Leveraging relationship currency (we make withdrawals, deposits, and experience relationship bankruptcy). "Soft skills have become the hard skills".
  2. Understanding motivational drive. Do you know, as a leader, the motivations of the staff your supervise
  3. Leader Value Code -- what are the values that guide your leadership and how do you live those values consistently?
  4. Empowering effective decisions -- what affects your abilities to make decisions? What assumptions and beliefs do you have that impact your ability to make decisions?
  5. Transforming goals and outcomes -- leader's trajectory -- how do we help you (as a leader) define your direction as a leader and for those you empower/lead/supervisor.

Glenn Williams' Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Learner, Arranger, Strategic, Achiever and Responsibility.

Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach Rachel S. Carpenter contributed to this post.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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