Executives often flounder, unable to execute a strategic vision and lead their people as they battle other executives over conflicting goals and priorities. Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries shows how group coaching instills a team culture among executives that breaks the deadlock, creates alignment, and helps them fulfill their roles as leaders.
Many executives struggle to accomplish their mandate as executives: aligning the people from top to bottom in the organization behind the goals and actions that ensure the company’s success. The problem is that executives are often like ships in the night, pursuing their own individual agendas that often conflict with the agendas and priorities of other executives. The result is chaos and ineffectiveness, which ripples throughout the entire organization.
Using a case study from the petroleum industry, INSEAD professor Manfred Kets de Vries demonstrates how the group coaching methodology can instil a team culture that unites executives and helps them put the company first.
A global energy company developed a strategy to transform the company in light of changes in the industry that were hurting its performance. However, the executives of the company, who distrusted each other and were focused more on turf fights for resources than working together, were failing badly in implementing the strategy.
These divisions among executives were exacerbated by the arrival of Jim as new Chief Knowledge Officer and John, the new Vice President of Technology, Products and Services. Jim, a brilliant professor, proved to be difficult to work with and very disorganized; John was on loan from a major shareholder and was distrusted as a potential spy for the shareholder.
The CEO of the company turned to the group coaching methodology to try to bring order to the chaos. Over a series of sessions, a group coach used a variety of techniques to helped the executives gain awareness of how others saw them (a surprise to many), how they contributed to the chaos and ineffectiveness through their action, and how they were misinterpreting the attitudes and objectives of other executives. For example, the coach began the sessions by asking the executives to create a self-portrait that would convey to the group who they were in terms of what was in their heads and their heart and in terms of their past, present, work, and leisure. Each executive then sat in the “hot seat” to explain the self-portrait to the groups and get constructive feedback as well. Eventually, the executives would put together post-session action plans to apply the learnings of the sessions to their behaviour.
Based on observations of thousands of executives in group coaching interventions, Kets de Vries identifies eight psychological processes that induce “tipping points for change.” These forces for change are:
One-on-one coaching is not as effective as group coaching to help executives or members of any kind of team better understand what they are doing wrong, how others see them, and how they mistakenly see others. People are less likely to learn how to work together by dispersing into individual training sessions. To fully benefit from the group coaching methodology, however, the following steps are recommended:
From expertly facilitated group session, once divided executives emerge as members of a unified learning community, helping each other break destructive behavior patterns and laying the foundation for implementing and executing the corporate strategy in their charge.
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