Leadership coaching is an increasingly popular method for helping high achievers become better leaders. Veronica Lim, founder of Inner Thinking Ltd, describes a typical week as a leadership coach and explains the value of realising your own value.
This morning sees the start of a new management programme with a client. I love assignments where the people on the programme are enthusiastic 'champions for change' within their organisation. This really is an opportunity for them to lead.
I have a brief meeting with the company's chief executive beforehand. We go over the challenges and the opportunities the company is facing and its key objectives for the future.
I have a responsibility to my clients to highlight patterns, provide an honest assessment of what I see, support them, hold them accountable and keep them focused. However, I am not responsible for their actions.
The morning goes very well. The team has come up with a clear three-year vision for the company. They also agree on how they will begin to achieve this in the workplace. What is especially exciting is their realisation that they can be more proactive in their thinking and make more conscious and deliberate choices.
In the afternoon, I have a coaching session with John, who is a head of customer services. John has come from a 'command and tell' management background and is finding it hard to get the best from his people.
John is not aware that people deliver better when they can work things out for themselves. He pledges to adopt a coaching approach, asking purposeful questions and taking time to truly listen.
John's challenge is one shared by many senior executives. In fact, listening has been cited as most CEOs' least-developed skill. And yet it is one of the simplest ways in which a CEO can glean valuable information. It also empowers individuals, acknowledging their ownership of their ideas.
Today, I'm discussing the marketing of my new Inner Thinking Leadership programme. Many people, particularly high achievers, unwittingly hold back from fulfilling their potential. They often feel like impostors, failing to recognise their own innate strengths and the value they bring.
This is highly stressful for them, but once they change how they think, realise their own worth and strengthen their sense of self, their ability to stand up for what they believe in shines through and they unleash their leadership talent.
These changes don't happen overnight, so I've designed the programme to last seven months, kicking off in Madeira – a wonderfully stress-free environment – and to include individual coaching.
Today is a 'thinking' day. I set aside at least one day a month for this. On these days, I don't plan any specific activity; I allow myself to work on whatever I feel most inspired to do, review, take stock and re-prioritise as necessary.
When I first began taking 'thinking' days, I found it difficult because I had been trained to work in a logical fashion (I'm a qualified chartered accountant) – carve out a chunk of time, assign a task to that time, and then stick to it and, in many cases, with it.
But I've noticed that in allowing myself to work on whatever inspires me most, I don't waste any time trying to stick with the task.
Today I have a meeting at 11am with a client who runs a consultancy. She wants to grow her company and thus needs to work on her sense of identity as a leader of a much bigger business.
I often work on this with people who have been identified as high achievers, and yet their self-perception is that they are 'not good enough' for the next level of leadership.
While some of the work is about identifying gaps in their capability (skills), the more powerful and transformational results come from working with them on their capacity – their beliefs, their assumptions, their sense of what they can and can't do.
This morning I have an early breakfast meeting with the CEO of a software company. He wants to consolidate the position of his company in the marketplace so he can be ready for growth.
While the reasons for coaching are extremely diverse, clients' concerns generally follow a single underlying theme: "How can I bring out the best in others so that I can free up more of my time and reduce my stress levels?" Or in other words: "How can I be a better leader and achieve better results?"
Being a manager requires you to think at an operational level, focusing on day-to-day processes, while leadership requires you to be more visionary and strategic, to take a longer perspective, and to bring people along with you.
One thing I've noticed is that once leaders truly realise their own value they become more confident about letting go of the operational tasks and start bringing out the value in others.
The more relaxed and confident they are about themselves and their ability, the more they and the people around them enjoy their work and the easier it becomes. This is what keeps me inspired to do the work I do.