Tips for Execs: A Drive By is Not a Check-In

Traylor and me

Traylor and me

I’m having lunch and a close-out conversation with an exec coaching client in Silicon Valley today. She has made obtained great results with small changes; her boss thinks she’s doing great and frankly so do I.

And she’s got a lesson or two that you can use.

One of the things she’s done is slowed down and let her direct reports (and a colleague or two) lead part of the conversation. Instead of the quick diagnosis and deep dive, she’s leading (and waiting) with “What do you think?” It’s a change from her previous MO and it’s been (not so surprisingly) effective.

We mostly lead busy lives; run and go from one transactional conversation to another – an end-of-the-day scorecard that reads how many things did you get accomplished rather than how much progress did you make.

Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal ran a piece asking Does Having Kids Dull Career Opportunities? I don’t know about the opportunities side but there is one thing I do know; great parents – like my client – have skills that folks without kids or people who outsource their parenting to others never get.

One of those skills is the ability to slow down and get laser-like focus on another human. So when my client asks someone “What do you think?” she’s got the ability to zero in and have an engaged check-in conversation. The 360 data for her with this one change was amazing; “awesome communicator!” touted one respondent.

Frequently the best leadership skills enhancements are the simplest. Like good design (paging Apple), small laser-like behavioral changes for executives can have profound, durable impact.

Einstein once said “If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t know enough about it.”

The same is mostly true about behavioral enhancements; if you can’t figure out how to make small straightforward changes with big impact you’re not getting to the root of solutions.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.



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