After delivering a keynote speech to a room full of Chiefs in 2014, I went back to my seat and continued a conversation that had started that evening with a Fortune 50 Chief. She wanted to spend more time swapping stories about building powerful teams.
She was clearly a strong leader in a company with a strong set of core values, but she had several things on her mind. While she had built her own strong team, she felt there was still room for growth. She also felt her team wasn’t being viewed broadly inside her company as the strategic asset it could be. Finally, she knew the right personal coach could help bring out more of her best.
I knew when I left the event that we could be great student-teachers for each other.
Two weeks later we agreed I’d do a keynote for her worldwide team at their annual meeting. Shortly thereafter, I began a three-year assignment with three objectives: help six individuals to become more powerful individually, and as a group, and help her organization to build broad companywide support.
Here is that leader’s assessment of the results we delivered:
“I knew my team was more than capable to take on the challenges that we were facing, however, I also knew we did not have a lot of time. I was confident that with coaching from someone outside of our organization who had experience with turnaround situations and a commitment to values-based leadership, we could create a synergy that would empower the entire team to accelerate our progress. I am pleased to report my expectations were surpassed. Here are some highlights:
- We built strong companywide support. In fact, all business units that we support volunteered to transfer their people to us in areas where we demonstrated better leadership and leverage. (How many times have you ever seen that?!)
- Our organization doubled in size.
- All six individuals took on broader responsibilities and were ready for them.
- My team was consistently invited to all strategic meetings for input. (Be careful what you ask for.)
- Inside my organization, we demonstrated we could be agile-at-scale as 30% of our team changed roles as needs shifted.
Overall, we translated all our activities into value for the organization and focused our energy on better internal and external communications. Our people and our internal customers knew what we were doing, why we were doing it, and how it supported the organization’s overall mission. All six of us got better, and it cascaded throughout the organization.
When we invest in our people—who ultimately manage the change and the challenges we face each and every day—the payback is limitless, especially when that investment is in one-to-one coaching where the response is customized to not just address a bigger need, but also to address how that individual contributes to the bigger picture. And while each of us got better, we got better together too. I chose this particular coach because we share an understanding of the African proverb, ‘If you want to run fast, run alone; if you want to run far, run together.’
Believing in your team, investing in your team, and being willing to gain insights from someone who is not in the day-in-day-out environment will generate opportunities that you cannot imagine. The results are both bottom-line driven as well as individual people-development driven. Not everyone will embrace the opportunity but those who do will definitely be provided honest and transparent coaching and feedback to become who they aspire to be.”
—Fortune 50 Chief
From my perspective, it was great to work with such a hard-working, kind, values-based set of leaders who were committed to growth for themselves, their team, and their company. I was consistently reminded that i3k (intelligence, intensity, integrity, and kindness) mixed with humility and laughter is a powerful combination that delivers amazing results.
Yes, we began with the Power Compass and used other tools. But the real key to our success was the openness created by the understanding that we were all student-teachers capable of sharing counsel and learning something new. My client set the tone. She always sought input from all team members, worked as hard as anyone on her team, constantly created time to learn new things, and modeled healthy work-life integration. There were many gentle reminders as well as a-ha moments.
What’s the lesson?
Powerful leaders are always looking to improve themselves and their teams. They bring their A-game everywhere they go. And they surround themselves with other student-teachers to constantly raise their game and drive sustainable growth.
I am grateful for the opportunity to work with such powerful student-teachers.