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Successful Leadership: Coaching Great Leaders

Successful Leadership: Coaching Great Leaders

Webcast Details

  • How does the relational dynamic fit into executive leadership coaching?
  • How can coaches help executives foster agility in their leadership styles?
  • What tools for successful leadership development can coaches provide for executives?

Jacque Merritt, Executive Coach and Senior Consultant at Gallup, and Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia, Leadership Consultant and Executive Coach, were our guests on a recent Called to Coach. In Part 7 of a series on successful leadership, Jacque and Ruth discussed their insights from a decade of experience in executive leadership coaching. This type of coaching differs from other types of coaching in its relational nature and, like other coaching, it has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. How can coaches truly engage executives with different leadership styles and unique situations, as well as understand what's on their minds as they start thinking about recovery from the pandemic and what that will look like? What part does CliftonStrengths play in executive coaching, and how can coaches gauge their own success with executives?

Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series -- Season 9, Episode 15. This is Part 7 of a 7-part series on successful leadership. Access Part 1 of this series on leadership. Access Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6 of the series.

I have learned that the power of coaching is really the practice that they do in the in-between time. So I try to create a lot of motivation for that and a lot of follow-up with that.

Jacque Merritt, 42:35

[Executive coaching is] a different type of coaching. It's relational coaching, ... where ... you really think about the whole person. And it works so beautifully with the strengths approach.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia, 3:26

With the people that I coach, ... I try to see them in terms of their potential -- what they possibly could be, based on what I'm experiencing with them, and I try to hold that mirror up to them.

Jacque Merritt, 20:01

Jim Collison 0:00

I am Jim Collison, and live from our virtual studios around the world, this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on March 26, 2021.

Jim Collison 0:21

Called to Coach is a resource for those who want to help others discover and use their strengths. We have Gallup experts and independent strengths coaches share tactics, insights and strategies to help coaches maximize the talent of individuals, teams and organizations around the world. If you're listening live, love to have you join us in our chat room. It's just right above, right above the video window there. Click in; it'll take you to YouTube. Sign in with your Google account. And we'd love to have you in there with your questions. If you're listening after the fact, you can always send us an email, and many of you do: Don't forget to subscribe to us on your favorite podcast app or you can do it right there on YouTube. Dr. Jaclynn Robinson is our host today. She works as a Learning and Development Consultant with Gallup. And Jaclynn, it's always a great Friday when I get to spend it with you on Called to Coach. Welcome back!

Jaclynn Robinson 1:06

Likewise! Thank you! Happy Fri-Yay! is what I like to say -- it's my Positivity coming out. We have two amazing guests with us today. We have Jacque Merritt, who is an Executive Coach and Senior Consultant. Jacque advises leaders around the world on leadership, team building and succession planning. Random tidbit here, too, an interesting fact is Jacque's been to over 50 countries. So that global mindset is there. Her CliftonStrengths Top 5 are Woo, Maximizer, Input, Focus and Connectedness.

Jaclynn Robinson 1:38

And then we have another global champion with us today. We've got Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia -- love it -- a Leadership Consultant and Executive Coach who's been providing strategic guidance to leaders for 15 years. Ruth leads with Individualization, Strategic, Input, Woo, Learner and Maximizer. So welcome you two! I'm so excited to have you. You know, you're those familiar faces that people see, especially if they've been through any of our courses. And so I think having you kind of in the, in the flesh today is something that people are really excited about. So maybe as we kick off, we'd love just to hear a little bit more about your coaching experience. Ruth, would you mind kicking us off and just sharing a little bit about your executive coaching?

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 2:28

I, will, first of all, welcome everybody. I love it. We're here from Italy, in, I should say, India via Italy to L.A. How cool is that? Really, really excited to have you here. My coaching experience -- my coaching experience really officially started when I joined Gallup 15 years ago, and I quickly, I was very lucky, was drawn into programs that required senior leadership and executive coaching. So I became a strengths coach within days of joining Gallup. Where I feel I pivoted more towards actual executive coaching was when I actually went through a master's I did in the U.K., not far from St. Albans, Hertfordshire -- it's actually Medfordshire, but I went to Ashridge, where I spent 2 years working very hard on doing my master's -- MS in executive coaching.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 3:19

And what I learned there -- and I'm hoping to share something later on today because I think it's very relevant to our times -- is it's a different type of coaching. It's, it's relational coaching, they call it, where you really bring yourself into that coaching room. It's Gestalt-based, so you really think about the whole person; you, you help leaders think about the entire context, etc., etc. And it works so beautifully with the strengths approach. I'll talk much, much more about that later. But really, I focus most of my time nowadays, I'd say, working with leaders and their teams to think about shifting their cultures, creating agile cultures. Again, I'll talk about that later; something I'm involved in at the moment. So agile cultures that can really master and master what we're going through at the moment. (Of course, strengths-based, it goes without saying.) I'll stop here because I could just ramble on now. That's really it for now. These are my milestones. That's where I am today.

Jaclynn Robinson 4:20

And you and Jacque are both ICF Certified, as well, right? So we have that International Coaching Federation piece coming in. So I'll go over to you, Jacque, because even just what Ruth was saying, in terms of taking that holistic approach, I think you do that so well, too. And I always feel like that Connectedness is coming out in how you see people as that, that human as well, the whole human.

Jacque Merritt 4:40

Yeah, thanks, Jaclynn. And I love hearing Ruth talk about her experience because it's so academic. She brings so much smarts to the scene. And I'll have to admit, like probably the first 20 years of my coaching experience, I was speaking nonsense. Like if I trace the trail back, I think I just evolved or emerged as a coach through experience. Like my, probably, I can even trace it back to my first love was chimpanzees. So I actually spent some time in Congo -- I don't tell my clients this -- but I use a lot of what I learned working with chimpanzees to work with executives. Because you see some of the same kind of primal behaviors, I think, in the boardroom that you see in the forest.

Jacque Merritt 5:26

But, so I've been at Gallup about 30 years. And really, I've become, I'll say, more of a professional coach over the last 10 years. And that's when I really started not only doing the strengths coaching, which is sometimes more feedback than coaching, but really getting more involved in professional coaching and understanding what some of those skills and techniques are and, and really leaning into that and practicing that. I just got my master coach certification from ICF in 2019 -- thank you!

Jaclynn Robinson 6:01

Not easy to do! That's a huge feat!

Jacque Merritt 6:03

It's a lot of heavy lifting. And I mean, it's, and Ruth and I'll talk about this, like ICF has a certain style of coaching, which we absolutely push into our executive coaching. But there's a lot more I think that we do with executives that, you know, ICF doesn't cover. So that's kind of my story. And Ruth and I, I don't know, we partner a lot together, which is fun to do this conversation together. So we both teach an executive coaching course for CHROs. And we started that a couple of years ago; we have one coming up in April. So that's been a really great experience to work with executives on their own coaching. So that's a thing now.

Jaclynn Robinson 6:47

I'm so excited to have you on for that reason. I mean, there's just so much knowledge that we're going to pull from today. I hope the questions start coming. I know they will from, from those listening in today. So as we think about just executive coaching, and even your experience with the CHROs, we've come through this year. What are maybe some of the, the good and the bad experiences or challenges that you're seeing right now?

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 7:14

Yeah, we get asked that quite a lot, actually. Hi, Jacque! There's, What's different, if there's anything different, in the flavor of your coaching since the pandemic has started? And I like the fact that you polarized; you almost asked your question in a binary version -- good and not so good. So what has absolutely positively surprised me is I've coached a lot of leaders throughout Europe, so a lot of French, German, English, England-based, some Middle Eastern, and a couple of South and North, Northern and Southern American-based leaders, in particular in the last few months. And what surprised me in a positive way, and it's because it's, it is sort up my street, is there seems to be, for many of these leaders, more vulnerability that, that comes out to the fore, quite, quite early on.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 8:05

And, you know, when I said earlier, people will show up, or I was trained to look at the people as a whole, whatever that means, at the person as a whole. I feel people show up more as the whole, because they have been confronted with so much difficult, so many difficult issues to solve. First of all, all their people, people they are responsible for who are lost, they have high anxiety, they're stressed, I mean, all the good stuff we know about from our data and from other data. So there's the responsibility leaders feel, day in, day out; minute by minute by minute when they're present in our coaching rooms.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 8:40

And there's also that the personal stuff. Most of those people have families or partners or elderly parents, I mean, there's so much personal, so many personal issues to deal with at the moment that they are front of mind. And I think the way we position our executive coaching, at least I do -- and Jacque will talk about herself, but I think it's similar -- is we invite them in quite quickly. So one question, I know you'll ask us about question, one question I think is important to ask early on is, you know, "How are you?" As simple as that! You know, "How are you showing up today?" In fact, Jim was saying earlier, "What are you leading with today?" I like that question.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 9:18

So What do you, what are you coming up, how are you doing today in that very moment? And most people, given what they've gone through and going through at the moment, will open up quickly, which is a bit of a treasure trove. Yes, a lot of people still come because of strengths coaching, and they will have their profiles in mind. And we'll talk about those very often. But not always. I think it's the ability to signal early on, Hey, here's a safe space for you. Use it in your own, in your own way and as you wish. Some want to solve problems with us. Some will want to talk about Hey, how do I quickly pivot towards keeping my remote people engaged? How do I address mental wellbeing, lalala?

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 10:01

But mostly, I have to say, it's personal stuff at the moment. It's, you know, How do I, what do I need to do? Help me navigate this. And that's, that's where I think the executive piece comes in, compared to, you know, coaching people. We all go through this, but we don't all have these duplicity -- or multiplicity -- of responsibilities. So that I find positive.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 10:21

I have to say, I've also coached a few leaders who, through this pandemic, it was quite obvious they didn't quite hack it; they didn't quite step up. Their leadership didn't step up to stepping into the unknown. Some leaders are so, so good when they have a framework or a very straight, you know, metrics-driven remit that they can operate within. And they don't find it easy to work with the unknown for this whole VUCA piece that we, of course, are all talking about. And that's sad. And not sure yet, we'll maybe talk about it, how do you deal with that? I mean, that's what's interesting. It's this, this, I think, pandemic has really separated the amazing leaders from the leaders who struggle. And who knows what's coming out of this -- and also through coaching, maybe through awareness, coming out of that? Yeah, so my observations.

Jacque Merritt 11:15

Yeah, it's like, it's like you're reading the first line from A Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times."

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 11:23

It is a bit, isn't it?

Jacque Merritt 11:27

It's true, it's like, I think the leaders had very different experiences. So it's really like, who are we talking about? I had some organizations that were absolutely thriving that pivoted quickly and took advantage of opportunities. And then other organizations who made cuts down to the bone and really made compromises with their values in this last year. But just to add to what Ruth said, like, one thing that I was really surprised about, and it's a good thing that has taught me a lot, is I have a lot of leaders who are working on things like agility, dealing with ambiguity, letting go of responsibility, and somehow the remote work, like magic, enabled them to do that. And they just, like, adapted, let go, like they surprised themselves.

Jacque Merritt 12:18

And so it taught me how circumstances like where you're disrupted can really create those opportunities for rapid growth. Like they were just thrust into that. And so I guess, as a coach, it made me ask the question, like, How do we create that for people in our coaching? How do we disrupt them to create that rapid growth through the coaching journey? And are there things that we can push? You know, and it doesn't have to be like bad things. But are there good things that they could disrupt, too, that could create that learning?

Jacque Merritt 12:53

And then, on the, on the bad side, I think, I have a number of leaders who are, found it almost too easy to let people go. Like we saw a lot of downsizing. And I was a little disappointed at some of the leaders how easy they pivoted to that as a solution, and it almost gave them an excuse to do something that they really should have done from a performance standpoint, just as a regular business rhythm, if they weren't happy with those people. But this kind of like gave them false courage or something. Yeah.

Jaclynn Robinson 13:33

Yes! And at a time when, you know, if you don't have to let people go, you shouldn't. Or when you do need to, just having it happen at this point in time, when, when people are really struggling is --

Jacque Merritt 13:46

Felt really cruel.

Jaclynn Robinson 13:47

Yeah, it does. Yeah, I love what you all are saying here. Another thing that comes up, too, because we've talked about how some, that primal instinct has been good, going back to almost your, your, your chimp experiences. I see that coming in here, too, because whenever there's an emergency, and we get into fight-or-flight mode, what's your primal instinct? And some leaders are doing this really well. And they have that primal instinct to act and create, change and innovate. Others are using this as an excuse or they're not doing so well. As the leaders are moving forward, those that are here, whether they're, you know, great in this role, or they have areas of opportunity, what's on their minds as they start thinking about this recovery phase and moving forward, and how are you supporting them?

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 14:35

That's a great question. It's funny, listening to you, Jacque, and also your questions, I'm very conscious of -- and you all know this -- this continuum of consulting, coaching and counseling. I seem to tap into, particularly with your last question, into a little bit more of a consulting at times. And the reason I'm saying is, maybe just by nature of the project I'm involved in. So I've literally come off of a call with a German-based company's CEO and his top team. And they're talking about agility. But Jacque, it's amazing. What they have actually lived through this agility piece -- through the COVID -- is that they were not agile at all. Two cultures were clashing. It's a manufacturing company, very command-and-control.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 15:20

The pandemic has really pushed them into this agility-by-accident mindset. And they did, they were so successful, it's literally a cash cow. Now they are seeing the end of COVID, and old behaviors are kicking back in. Some key points: So how do we support as coaches for that not to happen again, for that pendulum to not swing entirely back, and find that right middle ground? And some of it, so in this particular case, the CEO is a little bit lost. He's such a, he's a little, he's a little lost to really grab this momentum by the, by the horns and just actually let go. Because what happened in the pandemic, local decisions were made, instead of everything as being escalated to the top.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 16:04

So he has reached out to us, said, Hey, I want to create something around agility. Help me and team. So we ended up doing a BP10, interestingly, BP10 coaching, not CliftonStrengths coaching. Jacque would love to, you'd love to hear that. And so what, what is happening is, he is looking to us to set his people free to create a sense of own -- they talk about empowerment, not my favorite word; I talk about ownership, and literally helping us create this with him.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 16:35

So it's a fantastic opportunity. There's a bit of consulting, because we're introducing agility frameworks; we did a survey with them and all that good stuff. So there's data, but ultimately, it's about setting each person free, and helping them step into their own Builder. And of course, I use a bit of strengths language there.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 16:52

So with regards to this CEO, so I'm going to have a little bit of a chance to coach him ongoing; it's actually help him feel good about this. And help him also think about What are the, what are the limiting beliefs that have not enabled me to create an agile organization before? You know, how can I actively step into this? So there's a lot to it. And I think this is really, I was thinking about it this morning, it's really when this continuum, which Jacque and I talk about a lot, I have to be very cognizant of when I'm coaching him and his people; when we step into the consulting, bring in the data. And hey, some people have actually ended up crying in the course with me. So there's a bit of the leaning towards counseling at times. Yeah.

Jaclynn Robinson 17:36

I think that, and, Jacque, I would love to get your insight too, and I think we're tapping into a question that Lisa Feldman had, which was related to, you know, If you've directly coached leaders who can't work with the unknown and haven't stepped up? How do you manage them? And I think you're tapping into that. It's, it's, at least at Gallup, there's that continuum of coaching and consulting. So how do I empower them? How do I help them see what are the barriers and limits that you're putting on yourself? And you're kind of creating some of those guide rails for them to work within so that they feel more comfortable acting, I would say. Yeah. Jacque, what would you add to that? What's coming to mind for you?

Jacque Merritt 18:13

Oh, gosh, in relation to Lisa's question, or just in general? Let me take Lisa's question first.

Jaclynn Robinson 18:20

Yes, that works.

Jacque Merritt 18:21

OK. OK, since we popped that up there. I do have leaders who have really had a hard time stepping up. And I've even had leaders who have made a decision to not continue in their roles because they feel like some of the challenges were not where they needed to be. But I think as leaders, sometimes we can be the person to make them feel safe or strong. Like, as a leader, I want to do a few things. One of them is I want to love them. I want to love them up. In every conversation I have with them, I want them to feel like I'm in their corner.

Jacque Merritt 19:00

And, you know, I always felt a little nervous about saying that out loud until I read a book called The Trillion Dollar Coach about Bill Campbell, who was like the Silicon Valley, you know, Silicon Valley coach to Steve Jobs, and a lot of other, you know, incredible leaders. And Eric Schmidt from Google went off and wrote a book about him. And one of my clients was actually being coached by Eric Schmidt from Google, or mentored, I should say, which is different, and had him read that book. And he said to me, "One of the things I always know is that you love me." And that was in that book. You know, so I think that's powerful in helping people feel like they can be a better version of themselves, so helping them to build that strength and helping them to see themselves as a little bit bigger than maybe they are.

Jacque Merritt 19:49

I know, there's research in marriage that if you hold your partner up a little bit on a pedestal, that's what makes a happy marriage. And I try to do that with the people that I coach, too; I try to see them in, in terms of their potential -- what they possibly could be, based on what I'm experiencing with them, and I try to hold that mirror up to them. And I also try to be that calm presence for them. Like, when they're anxious, and they've got so many things coming at them, and they're super overwhelmed, and they feel like they can't handle it, I want to be that person that absorbs that energy and that helps them to find that place of calm so that their brain can get out of their primal, you know, survival brain and get into their frontal cortex where they can think and expand and be a little bit more innovative and look up a little bit. You can't get up when you're under stress; you're, you've got your head down, and you're narrowing and you're surviving, and you're feeling, you know, like you don't have the capacity.

Jacque Merritt 20:51

And so I try to help them elevate to kind of a higher altitude and look at things from different perspectives and just take a breath and find their best way to navigate forward. So -- anything you want to add to that, Ruth?

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 21:16

Oh, I love, I love all of -- you know, there's so many strands -- that's my Strategic now -- so many strands of answers, so try to stay focused. One thing, Jacque, that you talk about, and you and I have, are working on quite proactively is the somatic coaching. So bringing in the body when we coach. Without scaring anybody off, it's basically helping leaders getting out of their heads. Often -- you know, Lisa, I love your question -- often that "stuckness" that you describe happens when people get stuck in their heads. We all do. We all do; it's not just leaders.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 21:52

One way to potentially help people be unstuck, first of all, is to let go of this angst that I still sometimes have. That's my Maximizer is to help them solve, solve a problem, solve, make them better, make them do, get really on well with the unknown, make them feel strong. Are we really there to do that? I love, Jacque, what you're saying about, I call that the "safe ground"; providing a space of unconditional acceptance, or you call it love. And when, once that's happening, you can -- if you feel that the leader's open to it -- venture into some noncognitive areas.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 22:29

So one way we're doing this -- and there's a lot to this, which I'm still learning about -- is to, you talk about breathing, Jacque, just to get people to breathe, get a leader to just breathe fully. And to something I learned the other day is when you get people to relax their eyes, I didn't know that. Apparently our eye sockets, our eyes, our optic nerves, when they get tense, create immediate tension in our brains. And you mentioned fight and flight, Jaclynn, that's exactly what gets triggered. So just to get someone to get, and particularly with Zoom, this is the world that we're living in, strain on your -- relax your eyes, relax your jaw, you could do some almost subtle mindfulness, subtle bodily awareness, breathing.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 23:10

You know, the other day I was coaching someone who breathes so shallowly. And I just said, "Hey, I hear you, I feel you breathing very shallowly." And she started crying, just by me saying that, by me noticing that. Got her to breathe, and things started flowing. So, Lisa, that's not exactly the answer to your question. But I think expanding towards the, you know, away from just that cognitive, that space here towards the full body.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 23:36

And then something else that I'm fascinated by, and I actually wrote my master's piece around this, about this, is fragmentation. So it's, it's what Carl Jung explored. So he said, you know, we all have lots of fragments, elements, subpersonalities, in our lives -- of course we do. And we often struggle with certain issues when one subpersonality gets triggered in particular, and that makes us not feel whole, coming back to that concept again. And, you know, Egon Zehnder recently, the German consult, leadership consulting, consultancy wrote a piece -- I think the CFO -- wrote a piece on, be careful when you work with leaders because they will often make decisions based on one of their fragments.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 24:16

So it could be something, it could be a religious, it could be an ethical belief, or it could be something they picked up in school or something in their MBA, or something that their shareholders pushed them, a personality that their shareholders want to see in them, and not the whole -- and I think that's true. And we, if we can help a leader become, just to understand, What is it that I'm struggling with? How do I make decisions? Which of my fragments is it that's making the decision? Versus What will my whole self say? What, what will my wise part say, my, my, my free, my free person that's not constricted by all these things? And I know, I don't want to throw too many psychological concepts in here, but that's the sort of thing I'm pursuing at the moment and I'm just -- yeah, stopping here.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 25:04

Well I think you really, we're on this this piece of holistic, and I think that's something so valuable to talk about, because we're incorporating mind and body and spirit. And especially anyone that has those non-Western principles, they're so familiar with that too; everything's connected. So I love that you're bringing that up.

Jacque Merritt 25:21

And I think it relates to strengths, you know, when you were talking about fragments, I'm thinking of my Maximizer fighting with my Connectedness and, you know, my Focus fighting with all of them. Like the, it's like they're in the ring kind of battling each other. And, and sometimes, the wrong one wins, you know. And so one of the techniques I try to use with the people I coach is to put different strengths in the driver's seat. Like if they're always driving with their Achiever in the front seat, and their, you know, Maximizer navigating, like, chuck 'em in the back seat! Get your Connectedness to drive or your Relator. Like who would be better navigating this terrain? You know, and that gives some kind of a way to objectify the fragments and think about like how do they want to, you know, be more intentional about how they're showing up?

Jaclynn Robinson 26:14

I love that, especially because we talk about how our themes are so closely correlated, we feel, with our value system. And so even just switching one theme, you might be tapping into a different value that isn't being fed right now.

Jacque Merritt 26:27

Yeah, yeah, and just to build on that, I think, you know, I'm, because of my Focus, I'm going back to your original question. Right. So COVID-19, like, you know, where are people going next? The values thing is really coming up a lot, whether it's your own values, your organization's values, your culture's values. Like you see that with this kind of Environmental Social Governance, the ESG movement, you know, where I feel like organizations are reexamining their values right now and making some pretty big shifts in how they populate their boards and how they hire people, the voices that they're listening to. Like that's a big outcome of this last year that people are scrambling.

Jacque Merritt 27:24

You know, I'm seeing a lot of people that are focused on diversity and inclusion, having a really strong voice and being listened to in different ways. So that's one of the, you know when I think of leaders, I think they're juggling like 4 different balls. You know, they have the ball of myself; how do I manage myself? They have the ball of their team. You know, how do I engage and create wellbeing for my team? They have the organizational ball. You know, how do I create a good culture for people to work within? But then they have this other ball that's outside of the organization that I see them more focused on now than ever, maybe because of social media, because of what's been happening all around us in our environment, like they're more looking outward now than just looking down at their team and their organization. That's a big shift.

Jaclynn Robinson 28:18

That's a good point. Because I think with what you're talking about -- and Ruth, I want to loop you into this too -- is as a result of that and not looking down but looking outward and managing these societal issues that are finding their way in the organization, now you have people with differing opinions that are leaders. And now they, I feel a hot topic that's come up is how do I navigate this? Because my opinion on how we should act is different than this other leader's opinion. And that's actually creating a bottleneck in our communication to employees because we're not even on the same page as to, you know, getting in that alignment of what comes next -- whether it's ESG or whether it's diversity, equity and inclusion.

Jaclynn Robinson 29:00

So I think that's been something that as executive coaches we've seen and experienced and how to navigate too. So I kind of want to loop that in as well, to see if you all have had that experience with now managing conflict between leaders because of this, and what that's going to look like.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 29:15

Fascinating. I'm literally coming out from this agility project. It is interesting, this, we're not aligned at the top level. And it's not necessarily about ESG issues or D&I; it's more about, it doesn't matter, it's about the agile value. It's a value for them. So the CEO has got this big bee in his bonnet. He wants to create ownership. He wants to create an organization where, where people really take things, jump in, not, are not afraid of failing anymore. They're learners, you know, really embracing those things. However, one of his board members doesn't see this, the world like that. And it's a tough one. I mean, what do you do?

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 30:02

Of course, I think what we are planning now in this, but it's so acute for me, that's why I bring it up, is they didn't want us to come in and coach around the power of 2 or even coach the whole board. They're now realizing, God, we, we need help. We need a coach to come in there and facilitate dialogue, conversation. And I think it might, again, it might go quite deep. It might actually, we might touch upon the personal value -- I love that, Jacque, that, the personal value and also the purpose. Why are you really here as a leader?

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 30:32

I laughed, I think it was Vibhas in one of your, the previous thing, he said, in your previous Called to Coach said, on a leadership -- I think it was one of the -- He said, "Leadership is about enabling the future." I really like that. And it's not an official Google definition. But really, ultimately, I love -- it's the enablement piece. And it's not stuck now. It's really creating something, that sense of hope that would chime with all 4 Needs -- a follower need: Hope. And maybe we can help -- I'm just thinking this out loud -- helping two leaders who are not converging on, on particular very important topics think about the greater good: What are you really here to do? What is the responsibility you have as a leader, not as a manager, but as a leader of a large organization? What is your purpose, your reason for being? It cannot just be to suit, to serve the shareholders, short-, short-term, and creating that that alignment, and who knows what comes up?

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 31:30

But again, I think it's just enabling space where you can create that, at least you can inject an element of trust, and they can then take it and, and work with that safe space. So that's one. What I did notice, just to come, Jacque, what you were just describing about the values. One organization I work within based out of Florida, and large, large organization, they actually whittled down, distilled their values, just at the beginning of the pandemic, just to 3 really, first time I can actually relate to an organizational value. And that organization has pivoted more than any other I've worked with, from working in offices to remote work. And their employees, I follow them on LinkedIn, they are raving about it. And the CEO is a tough guy, not an easy bloke to follow, really, really strong, a little command and control. But he managed to pivot; these values really kicked something in for him, opened something up for him. And he has just really grabbed it and is leading this organization beautifully. So there's hope, I suppose.

Jaclynn Robinson 32:37

Yeah, finding alignment with the, with the company's values. What can we all lean towards that's related to our mission? And then that can create that opening. Yeah. And Ruth, would you mind clarifying? Did you coach the CEO or was it the board for your former example?

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 32:54

Both. So the CEO and some of his board members, and, yeah. Yes, the CEO is a more long-term contract; the board members were just in and out, a bit of coaching/factfinding. But the remit now is they want us to come and do something, probably with the whole team. It's a small, it's only a board of 4 people. So it's going to be an interesting and intimate session.

Jacque Merritt 33:18

And I want to add --

Jaclynn Robinson 33:20

Something more. Jacque.

Jacque Merritt 33:21

And I think, Ruth, you brought up a really good point around working with the board. Like I've seen more of that in my coaching over the past year, where they want the board to be involved, and maybe, as executive coaches, it's not like we're coaching the board. But we're interacting with them. We're asking them, you know, how the CEO is showing up or how they can support the CEO. And so I always think it takes a village to grow a leader. And so involving the board in those discussions can be really, really powerful to share that feedback back with the executive committee, back with the CEO.

Jaclynn Robinson 33:58

That's quite true. And really getting their buy-in and understanding the impact it's created. Which takes me to, I'm glad we're talking about the board. Because whenever we work with the boards, they always want to know, What is the impact you're creating? Is this, is this intervention successful or not? So is there a way that you all gauge whether your coaching interventions are successful? Both at the individual level, and I would, I would even, you know, branch that out to the organizational level.

Jacque Merritt 34:25

So we do a few things. In a couple engagements that I'm working on, I actually did like a key stakeholder 360 set of interviews at the beginning of the engagement, including the board members. And then I'm doing it at the end. So getting their feedback on, Did this work? You know, what are the changes that you saw? And then we do have some of our partners or account leaders who call and follow up with the people that we're coaching. I just had some feedback this week from one of our partners who called the CEO I'm working with last week and he said, you know, "Really happy with Jacque as an individual. You know, she's revealed some blind spots, blah, blah, blah. But I thought when I engaged Gallup, that it would kind of be like going to the Mayo Clinic, where you have a whole set of doctors sitting around a table, and they're diagnosing you and your organization and your executive team, and then they would come to these recommendations." And, and I didn't know that he expected that! That's not what I thought the contract was.

Jacque Merritt 35:32

But it gave us a great opening for saying, Here's some things that we can do differently, to get you that. Like, we can bring in other people. We can contract for more, you know, kind of looking at organizational things like engagement or wellbeing. So we're going to plan for that. So I think just having that third party kind of come in and have that conversation that, you know, I guess I could have had it with him, but I didn't. So those are a couple of things.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 36:03

Yeah, and I would just add -- I love the -- I love the Mayo idea! I mean, the obvious answer, in addition to what Jacque is saying, is obviously the data. A lot of our engagements with boards are, I was going to say on the back of it, I don't want to say that anymore; are accompanied by some diagnostics, apart from the 360, such as the Q12, our engagement diagnostic. And there's my agility case; we created a whole survey on agility, which we will pulse throughout the coaching phases, and not just with the top team, but also with the whole organization.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 36:44

So that's, and I have to say, personally, maybe because my Analytic isn't, Analytical isn't so high, it doesn't rock my boat. It's great to see when an organization shifts the needle. Yeah, and it's a great selling point, too. I think the qualitative feedback is super powerful as well. So for instance, I'm, I'm involved at the moment in coaching a lady who is really destined for fantastic things in a big organization. I think they're trying to succession plan for the CEO role. They haven't said that openly. But that is, I can see it in the tone. So the current CEO has actually engaged us to coach her. And he wants to be involved once in a while. It's a little bit, Jacque, like your example. So we've actually got quite a thing. I've got 7 or 8 sessions with her planned now, on the back of already having spent a bit of time with her, and he wants to check in half halfway through, but also, there's an open door.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 37:40

So of course, there are limits to confidentiality; this is more about checking in and to see how he has, he's got a few expectations from the coaching. So it's a triangular contracting story, right? Yeah, the, the whole contracting, the way he engaged Gallup, but you know, my client, of course, is the coachee as well as him. So it's an interesting triangular relationship to be managing, which is great, because it keeps, keeps me on my toes. And there is something. And then also, we will work with her and her new, she's got a new team, and engagement, we'll engage engagement, team's engagement, and see how that hopefully will, how the needle will move as we go along that journey.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 38:23

So many, many things. And by the way, there's a fantastic study, I will get that book by my ex-professor from Ashridge. I think it's the largest ever, the largest ever meta-analysis on executive coaching effectiveness. So I can share that; I don't want to share that now. But that's excites me because he, so he used to, this guy, he's called Erik de Haan, his previous books and research always pointed towards the relationship between the coach and the executive, the coach and the client, which is still important, but not so much in that moment. It's more of an overarching indicator of success. There are many other things, like actually also the coachee's personality. Isn't that interesting? Openness versus closure. And again, it comes back to maybe some self-awareness they come to the table with. Are they aware of their fragments? Are they aware of their shadow, etc.? So I'm excited. If you, if the community is interested, Jaclynn, I can share that with you at some stage.

Jaclynn Robinson 39:20

Oh, they will be!

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 39:20

Because I think it's pretty cool.

Jaclynn Robinson 39:23

I think we're all interested in that! Feel free -- whether we have Input high or not, yeah, we would love that. No, I like what you brought up too about sometimes the, the stakeholder is a person that's having you come in to, to coach the coachee. And that's another informal method of, of having that 360 feedback, I feel. So it's nice to have them just to kind of tune in and say, "Yep, they're receptive, it's going really well." Or if that executive coachee feels like they're forced into it and you keep hitting a wall, being able to just kind of share, "There's a lot of resistance happening here." I've found that just having their leader, you know, connect with them and say, "How is it going? This is the value of going through this. Challenge your coach; come to them with questions or your thought partner, open up to them," has really helped also just break down those, that wall that they might have.

Jaclynn Robinson 40:18

So just hearing from both of you, there's that aspect of the 360 interviews that can be really helpful. But also just maybe getting some feedback and insight from that the, the stakeholder who is having you coach the executive coachee. And yeah, and I've noticed that a few times too, even just bringing them in for that triangulation call, towards the end of the coaching sessions, to say, "Hey, you know, as we're wrapping up, these are some actions and takeaways we have for this long-term action plan. Have you heard anything? Is there any feedback that you can provide for us that would, you know, really help us so we can incorporate that in before we finalize and close out our sessions?" So loved hearing both of your perspectives there.

Jaclynn Robinson 41:01

One thing that also came up in the, in the chat is related to best questions and strategies for initiating, building and sustaining trust with the executives. So what I heard earlier, even just thinking about this question is, loving them, kind of putting them on a pedestal and letting them know that you care. And just breaking it down. Sometimes it's not even about going right into CliftonStrengths themes, but How are you? Just connecting with them first at that human level. Sometimes it's, you know, you're incorporating the themes in almost seamlessly, and not calling out Harmony, but talking about conflict. What are some maybe other questions or best practices that you all have for, for initiating and building that trust?

Jacque Merritt 41:47

I think boundaries build trust, right. So going into that coaching relationship, kind of really understanding what coaching is and what you can expect from the relationship and whatnot, and kind of like laying out that coaching journey very specifically so they know, like, the confidentiality rules, right. Because now in all of our contracts, we're building in, or at least in most of them, we're building in on the front end, inviting that sponsor or their manager to the coaching session, and inviting them on the back end. We're doing like a final report that is seen by the manager. So kind of making sure they know the boundaries of confidentiality, I think is a great way to create that trust.

Jacque Merritt 42:32

And then just the role expectations. Like I have learned that the power of coaching is really the practice that they do in the in-between time. So I'm, I try to create a lot of motivation for that and a lot of follow-up with that. Like, I will email them in between coaching sessions, ask them how it's going. I send them questions to reflect on in between coaching sessions. So I think when they know they can kind of count on that predictability with, that their coach is there, you know, they're there for them. And they're prompting them and they're pushing them. I think that that helps to create trust, in addition to all the other great things that you mentioned.

Jaclynn Robinson 43:18

That's a great point.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 43:20

Do you know, Jacque, just listening to you, I was just thinking -- and this is completely off the cuff -- most of our listeners will know the 4 Needs of Followers. I was just thinking actually, in a way we apply those as coaches, if you think about trust, and I would agree; I think trust, I love that boundaries create trust. And us showing up as a whole person also creates trust. It doesn't mean it's about you, but giving a little bit. And we both have Woo; it's not that difficult, and there's a natural warmth and an opening. It does invite people in. So, and there are many other ways to create trust, as we know.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 43:55

Care -- it's what you call love; I call it compassion, and really expressing that, often nonverbally. You know, when I say to someone, "Hey, well, I really feel you, you breathing shallowly." That shows care and compassion. Oh, I noticed that. Oh, she noticed that. Subtle, little movements, nonverbal often -- that dance you talk about and ICF talks about. Stability is what you describe, holding them to account. And I'm, I'm becoming, I'm becoming tougher now with that. When I say, "Hey, there's some, some real homework to do," some coaches are now starting to postpone their second, third sessions because they're not ready.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 44:29

So I get them to really think about that leadership signature, as I call it, craft, you know, what is it that you're standing for, in 3 to 5 words? That's just, but I think it gives leaders a sense of Stability because we're there for them. We're on that journey with them. And then Hope. You know, something I've tried out a few times recently, and it seems to resonate is that concept of Ikigai, where, where people are a bit stuck or lost, get them to really think about, What, what are you good at? What do you love doing? And that's what, we do that in our GGSCs, right? That's sweet spot. What does the world need? And what do you get paid to do? And it sounds easy. And for those of you who have done it and tried it, it's not easy to find that sweet spot. And it gives hope, when you get there, Wow, that's, that's what I'm here to do! So actually, I'm going to be using these 4 Needs of Coachees now in my own little head.

Jacque Merritt 45:20

Love that! Me, too.

Jaclynn Robinson 45:29

Jim! Welcome back, sir.

Jim Collison 45:31

It's good to be back! Thanks for, you guys have done a great job. We got just a few minutes left, and I kind of want to blow through some of these questions that we have coming in. So we'll make it, maybe call it the "lightning round." So George asks, How dialed in are CEO clients about their Top 5 or Top 10 and also their blind spots? That's a really good question. Because I think there's a perception that the top, if we define it that way, doesn't do these things like, like the folks do in the organization. So Jacque, let me throw that one to you. How clued in, in the experiences you've had, how clued in are they to those 5 through 10?

Jacque Merritt 46:08

I make them plug into those as a starting point. In every coaching engagement I do, I start with CliftonStrengths. We speak the language; we use the language. It's, it's part of how we coach. So yeah, they're very plugged in and they love it. It's a, it's a great way to drive that self-awareness.

Jim Collison 46:29

Ruth, would you add anything to that?

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 46:31

Yeah, if anybody is a little more on the Deliberative front, and they don't quite see it, I would just go about it with examples. So what are you, tell me about some of the successes during COVID? Of course, strengths will pop up. What have you struggled with? "Well, I've found it really hard to bring my people together," maybe Harmony is low and they are so on the Achiever, Activator, whatever. So, often holding the mirror up when both we talk about what, what worked well and what didn't work so well. It connects them. I have not worked during the last, God knows, at least last 12 months with leaders who didn't connect even with their blind spots.

Jim Collison 47:06

That's, that's actually refreshing to hear.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 47:09

Great question.

Jim Collison 47:09

It's refreshing to hear. Ruth, I'm gonna come back to you. Does anyone have any thoughts on ROI -- Jaclynn, I want you to weigh in on this question as well -- that leaders and execs expect to see from their coaching relationships? So going in, any thoughts on ROI, Ruth?

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 47:23

Yeah, I think we broached it a little bit earlier. Look, I think whatever the ROI is, it needs to be part of that very initial contract, maybe the organization or whatever it is. So if they say, Hey, we, I think we need to be very careful that ROIs are not too quantitatively skewed. That's all I would say. I think we want, all want to see some success, some out, some, let's, let's, let's not call it success; let's call it shifts to the, to the good, shifts to the positive, shifts to something better.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 47:52

I would just consult, when we talk about ROI, whoever wants to have that ROI in place, that person not to become too metrics driven, not too 360, Q12, God knows what, and weigh it up. And I think all parties need to be part of defining them. The, the main, if it's the organization buying you, the, the coachee or the different coachees, and you sell as consultants. I don't know if that's helpful, but that's my general mind.

Jim Collison 48:20

Yeah, no, that's good. Jacque?

Jacque Merritt 48:22

Yeah, I would just agree with what Ruth said. I had a CEO who was really angry at his board recently, because they were holding him accountable for an -- a scorecard that was quantitative. And he said at a leadership level, there's a different scorecard. And so I think we need to reinforce that in our coaching too, that it's, it's not a score on a scoreboard anymore when you're a leader. It's, it's how you're showing up. It's how you make other people feel. We know all of those, like, translate into the hard numbers eventually. But really, those qualities are what we want to focus on.

Jim Collison 48:59

Jaclynn, would you add to that?

Jaclynn Robinson 49:01

I would agree that, and the alignment call at the very beginning, I feel, is where that all comes to fruition with the, the person that's hiring you potentially, whomever that might be. The coachee, you, sometimes the HR business partner that's also involved, and all getting alignment to say, What are the goals that we have? What are the challenges you're currently experiencing? Then you're almost going through the verbatim lived experiences of the feedback that HR is continuing to receive, the manager is receiving -- manager being even a leader that hired you in to coach this other person. Are they hearing from the direct reports and still receiving complaints? Does there seem to be a lot of collaborative energy that's now arisen as a result of being around this leader and coaching this leader? So I think the alignment call is where you can really get into that before you have that session.

Jacque Merritt 49:53

And Jaclynn, I think there's a question you can ask in that alignment call too, that is like if, at the end of this coaching engagement, you look back and say, "This was an incredible investment. We got our money's worth and more." What do you need to see in order to say that?

Jaclynn Robinson 50:09

Love that! Yes. Yeah.

Jim Collison 50:12

Ruth, you leaned forward. Do you want to, you got something you want to add to that?

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 50:16

No, becase you know, it's so funny.

Jaclynn Robinson 50:17

Way to pick up on the nonverbal cues!

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 50:19

The word energy, he used energy. And I wasn't thinking before you used the word, I was thinking, I wish, I wish we could measure energy. Or we wish we can, but in the organizational context, there's something about a different energy that a well-coached leader will bring. And, yeah, that's all I want. That's my leap forward. Because that's, I think, and it does translate. Sometimes in numbers; sometimes it just translates in happier people. And people maybe being, we talked about, we talk about burnout, wellbeing; we haven't even broached that subject here much. There is something in that that I think will be positively affected -- not just I think; I've seen that.

Jaclynn Robinson 50:57


Jim Collison 50:58

We, speaking of wellbeing, we're doing a whole bunch on wellbeing over the next quarter. So as you think about April, May and June, ahead of the book that's coming out. So we'll, we won't broach as much of it here, but we will have a whole bunch of stuff. Jaclynn, you and I are coming out with a teams series, and I'm sure that's going to come, that's gonna come out as well. I kind of want to wrap it with Justin's question because I really like it. He says, Sometimes I find coaching doesn't shift somebody as much as I'd hoped for from them, right. So I want to help -- No. 1 Maximizer. And it bothers me. Any coping tips to feel calmer, whatever the coaching outcome? I'll just throw that one out.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 51:37

Justin, Bless you! I think we all know that feeling.

Jacque Merritt 51:41

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink. How about that? You've got to let go of owning that.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 51:49


Jacque Merritt 51:51

You can't want it more than they do.

Jim Collison 51:54

It is hard, though, right? I mean, we go into this, I think coaches go into this role, whether intentionally or unintentionally, you know, they may find in their journey, in their job-crafting journey, they really like coaching. And so they, over the course of a few years, get that all figured out and get some training. They come and get Gallup Certified and they're super excited. And they go to that very first feedback session. And they're expecting rainbows and fairy dust and unicorns appearing. And this is good. Like, it's gonna be life-changing and the person kind of goes (yawn), see you next week!

Jaclynn Robinson 52:30

And sometimes you'll have those where it's just so hard to pull anything out of them. And I think we all still experience that, no matter how experienced you are, where it's tough.

Jacque Merritt 52:39

And I think sometimes we don't know in the moment if it's making an impact. I had a guy, a CFO that I coached for 2 years, I thought I was not making a difference at all. I was intimidated by him. It was early in my career. And I tell you, when he retired, like 5 years later, he called me and he said, "I want you to know that you made such a difference for me. And here's how." And he, like laid it out very specifically. And I was shocked. Because I couldn't tell. I really could not tell. So Justin, maybe, maybe you are making a bigger difference, or some of the, they're not ready for it. But 2 years later, they're gonna remember some of the things that you said or did with them, and it's going to stick then.

Jaclynn Robinson 53:23

"Not now" doesn't mean never.

Jacque Merritt 53:25


Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 53:26

Exactly. I mean, the worst of, for a Maximizer, as a lot of us know, is when you see potential -- what you think is potential that doesn't come, that doesn't get unleashed -- it's a killer, bane on my life, too. Then, Justin, I would also ask myself, "Why is it so important to you? What is it in that that's so important to you? What potential do you see? Is that maybe more about --" well, clearly is a lot about you. And I mean, really could be a lot of self-coaching, or come to Jacque and I for coaching. And what's that saying? Justin, I would just very simply ask this person, "What do you care most about? What is it that you really care about in your life?" and go from there. It might not be what you care about, on completely off the charts from where you thought that person may want to go. Tiny steps. Jacque was talking about baby steps. Maybe, maybe that's one way of dealing with it.

Jaclynn Robinson 54:19

It's a great way to get people unstuck too, actually, so that kind of kills two birds with one stone. What -- am I making a difference here? But then if they're stuck, and you feel like it's really hard to pull something out of them, What do you care about? What are you really excited about? What's going on in your life? Going from there.

Jim Collison 54:36

We went for years on Called to Coach without really getting much feedback. You know, we did these programs, we recorded them, we got heart and soul. We, you know, coaches talking things, for maybe 3 years. There were people at Gallup that wouldn't even listen to them. You know, it was, for a lot it was like, What are we doing here? And it was a lot like Justin; we just kept going. I'm too, I'm too dumb to stop! I just kept going.

Jaclynn Robinson 55:01

You're amazing.

Jim Collison 55:02

And so just now, we're starting -- 8 years later -- we're starting to see the, some of the, the payback for it in, in that feedback that we're getting back. So I think what I hear you all saying, I think it just, sometimes it just takes time. Sometimes you hit that home run. I'm sure you've all had those clients, the very first session, they're in tears, and they're, they're changing their life, and they're doing everything different. And those are, those are feel-good moments. But I think with a lot of times, it just takes some time, right? We just got to, we got to spend some time there. Unfortunately, time is not something we have more of. And so, Jaclynn, why don't you thank our guests for coming, and I'll wrap this up.

Jaclynn Robinson 55:41

Thank you two. It's, it's, it's always a pleasure. I was so excited the minute I knew that we could get you on this show. So thank you both. I don't know how I acquired you both with the time, because you're just such busy individuals, first, first and foremost. So thank you. I think, I've been seeing in chat left and right too that, that what you're saying is resonating and has been really appreciated. So hopefully, we get to have you on again in the near future. I appreciate it. I always love picking your brain; I learn things from you two all the time. So thank you, wise sages, for coming on and bringing just such a holistic approach. And I think you did such a great job of capturing Western, non-Western principles and just helping people see from all perspectives. So thank you.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 56:30

Thanks for having us!

Jacque Merritt 56:31

Thank you. It was fun; I learned something. So --

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia 56:36

Me too!

Jim Collison 56:38

I tell people all the time, I have the best job in the world because I listen, you know, I have to listen to all of these, right? And I learn so much. I mean, every time I walk away from these, I learn so much, Jaclynn, thank you for getting us through the first quarter of 2021 with this Successful Leadership series. This will kind of put a wrap. I think we've done six [seven total] of these, and they'll all be available on playlist as well. And we'll encourage you to go back and listen to those.

Jim Collison 57:03

Jaclynn and I will start a, I mentioned this a little bit earlier, we'll start a team work, or a team series coming up here in April. We're excited. Dr. Mike McDonald is going to start his own series that's kind of a, an add-on to the Q12 for Coaches that we did. So we're going to look at a 4-part series on managers and engagement of managers and talk about, well only like Dr. Mike McDonald can talk about it, right? He is the resident expert and literally has a Ph.D. in engagement. So it is gonna be super fantastic.

Jim Collison 57:35

If you want to follow those, we haven't posted them just yet, as of this recording, but they will be coming here shortly, go to Don't forget all the resources are in Gallup Access. Head out to Join us for the Summit that is coming up -- the Gallup at Work Summit. It's going to be June 8 and 9, and we will want to see you there, even virtually we'll want to see you there. Head out to The registrations have really started picking up in the next week, and you're going to want to join the thousands that we're going to have there as well. Find us on social by searching "CliftonStrengths," and we want to thank you for joining us today. No postshow if you're listening live. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

Ruth Evers-Cacciapaglia's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Individualization, Strategic, Input and Woo and Learner.

Jacque Merritt's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Woo, Maximizer, Input, Focus and Connectedness.

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

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