During lock-down I became interested in the Sky Atlantic show Billions and the impact an executive coach had on the performance of the fictional hedge fund team. My wife was convinced that this interest was based solely on the fact that the executive coach, Wendy Rhoades, was glamourous and sexy. She may have had a point, but whatever the reason I ended up researching the topic and ultimately hiring a team of business coaches to work with my accountancy firm, Fitzgerald Power.
Paul O’Kelly, an Offaly man in his mid-sixties, is different to Wendy but he’s glamorous and sexy in his own way. Paul and his colleague Nicola Colleran have been working with Fitzgerald Power for eighteen months helping to build the leadership capabilities of our senior team while overseeing our strategic planning and execution work.
What follows is a brief summary of my experience to date.
Much like the muscle-bound beefcake who screams, “one more rep” as he abruptly brings you to the conclusion that bed is a more appropriate 6am setting than the gym for a middle-aged man, a business coach will hold you accountable.
We all perform better when we have someone to answer to. The difficulty for entrepreneurs and people running companies is that there often isn’t anybody to fill this role. Leadership can be lonely. If you’ve done your job properly the people who work in your business will be talented, committed and highly capable. But they don’t share your experience and they won’t really hold you accountable. That’s not how it works.
Lizzo might be her own soulmate, but I do better when I’ve got someone to answer to
What does your business coach hold you accountable to? If they’re any good the business plan and objectives that you and your team has developed under their guidance. They will help you to articulate clear goals and will work with you to build a step-by-step execution plan.
In our case we build and refine our plan in a cloud-based planning and execution system called Metronome. This system is used to guide our management meetings with each member of the leadership team responsible for a quarterly priority, the progress of which is tracked through Metronome. Each quarterly priority, which is agreed upon at our quarterly off-site meeting, is specifically designed to move the business plan forward.
The actual strategic framework we use is a topic for another article but suffice to say the design and execution of the plan is overseen by our coaches who facilitate the quarterly off-site and help to ensure what we are doing is relatively sensible and aligns with our overall objectives.
The term Growth Mindset was coined by American psychologist Carol Dweck in 2015 when she said; “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”
Working with Paul and Nicola has created lots of benefits for Fitzgerald Power, but the development of a growth mindset across our business has been the biggest win. In preparation for our quarterly offsites our senior team reads a business or leadership book that is relevant to the theme of the meeting (along with other pre-reading and preparatory work). These books are analysed and discussed by the group in a way that I couldn’t have imagined eighteen months ago. The process has built confidence and collegiality and makes our discussions more focussed and better informed.
Part of my monthly one-to-one meeting with Paul focusses on the development of our senior team and the support they need to grow their leadership capabilities. The ultimate output is an individual scorecard for each role with agreed metrics and a personal development plan.
These plans are informed, in part, by the results of our senior team’s Predictive Index Behavioural Assessment which has helped us to understand our different personality types, our respective strengths and weaknesses and how we gel together as a senior team.
Our intention is to cascade these initiatives throughout our organisation.
We have converted a former meeting room into a small library (it’s very small and I use the term library loosely) where the books the leadership team is reading and other learning materials such as the Harvard Business Review will be made available to the entire company.
In recent weeks we have launched a company wide mentoring program where everybody working in our business can benefit from one-to-one coaching from a member of our senior team. It’s an idea we borrowed from Joe McVeigh and Mark Homan who run the legal practice BHSM and did a very good job of selling me on the benefits as we enjoyed a few pints together following Ireland’s resounding victory over France. It might have been the occasion but it all made perfect sense that evening.
Our mentors and mentees will undertake a training course to ensure they get the best out of the process. Given the positive impact this mentorship program could have on Fitzgerald Power, the senior team is currently reading The Coaching Habit which is a fantastic manual for anybody interested in building a coaching culture in their organisation.
The positive momentum of this company wide growth mindset is a virtuous cycle that has led to better engagement and a real focus on the support the individual members of our team need to grow and develop in their respective roles
In typical fashion I didn’t really know what I was looking for when I started the business coach recruitment process. I just knew I needed help and an external perspective.
Jasper Walshe, one of the prospective coaches I met, asked me a great question, “are you looking for leadership coaching, strategic input or both?”
Jasper’s question helped clarify my thinking. It was a generous interjection considering; (a) he probably already knew the answer, and (b) the focus of Jasper’s business is leadership development and not strategy.
Having copied my homework from Jasper I eventually met Paul and told him I was looking for a cross between Wendy Rhoades and Warren Buffett. We agreed it was a modest hurdle and one we should easily clear. Time will tell but so far so good.
Thanks to Stuart for sharing this which was first published on The Currency News.