Pulling Back The Camera: A Super Power For Your Career Development

Several of my coaching clients are emerging leaders who find themselves at a crossroads regarding their career development. Some of them feel stuck or unhappy in their current position and are unsure as to what their next professional move should be; others have decided to make a change and know what their next move should be or what their new role is, but are unsure about the steps to take to make such a change successful, and others  know they are transitioning into a new/more senior role and feel insecure about their capacity to step in successfully into that role.

I have found through my coaching work with those clients that they all have one thing in common: they are most often looking at the trees rather than looking at the forest, or, as Erika Andersen, well known leadership expert would put it, they are not good at “pulling back the camera”. When you pull back the camera, when you stop looking only at one flower and rather start looking at the whole forest, you immediately get access to additional valuable information and new perspectives that you may not have considered. This undoubtedly helps you make better decisions and better guides your thinking through those moments of your career and life.

Pulling back the camera in those critical career questioning moments is therefore a super power that we should all appeal to.

Here are a few insights on how to pull back the camera, from my humble coaching experience:

If you are stuck/unhappy and unsure about your next professional move, rather than asking yourself, for example, how to position yourself internally to be considered for a quick change, or rather than looking for all the positions currently advertised, stop and ask yourself, first, how you see yourself in 5 years from now, in the bigger scheme of things? What are key parameters of success and things you must have/emotions you must experience to consider yourself happy? What else, apart from your work, is important for you? How much money do you see yourself making? What is the level of responsibility you would like to have? How much flexibility do you want to benefit from? Is work-life balance important for you? What impact do you want to have in the world and on others? That bigger picture of success vs just jumping into a new job immediately or asking for help without knowing what you want, will help you be successful on the longer run, as well as allow you to make sure that today’s change will positively impact your life tomorrow.

If you have already decided to make a change, and you know where you are headed but you are unsure as to what steps to take to make such a change successful, rather than project planning the change and creating an excel list with all the things you must do in the next few months, stop for a second, first, pull back the camera, and ask yourself: You are one year from now, and you are telling a good friend how successful you were at managing this change - what are you telling him/her? What would make you feel you managed the change successfully?  Ask yourself: what are the things that won’t be there anymore for you (material things - people - habitual behaviors) once you have operated that change and how can you manage yourself and proactively manage that “ending” or that “grief” period**? What are the new behaviors you will need to exhibit to be successful in this new position/role/reality and how can you develop them? Those questions will help you be more strategic and decisive about the steps you should focus on to make your change successful.

 If you are transitioning into a new/more senior role and feel insecure about your capacity to step into that role successfully, rather than ruminating about what you do not do well or what you simply do not do at all yet because you have never been in a managerial role before or have never managed a budget before, pull back the camera and ask yourself first: What are the key competencies I was hired for? How do I want to come across as a leader/manager in 6 months from now? How will my success be measured by others and by myself? And once you have a few answers to those questions, go ahead and request the type of help you may need to develop the skills or competencies you have found, after pulling back the camera, that you still need to develop.

So go ahead, stop smelling the flowers and start enjoying the forest view.

*Erika Andersen, http://erikaandersen.com

** Managing transitions, William Bridges

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Listening vs. Giving “Advice” in Executive Coaching: A Balancing Act

Most often when people describe what executive coaching is and is not, one of the golden rules mentioned is that to be a good executive coach, we should NEVER give “advice”, provide solutions, or tell our clients what to do, or how to do it. We are instead there to listen actively, ask questions, mirror and rephrase what our clients say, challenge their assumptions, so as to help them look at situations from different angles and to strengthen their self-awareness levels. With that, we can hope clients will find the solutions to the challenges they might be facing by themselves.

This is without any doubt an extremely valuable service we offer to our clients, as the higher their seniority level is, the harder it gets for them to benefit from this type of intervention from those around and below them.  The tendency from the latter would probably be, indeed, to show how useful and smart they are by problem solving and offering solutions, and to absolutely refrain from providing constructive feedback or challenging the leader too much.

SO YES: there is a lot of power in staying away from anything that resembles consulting/mentoring/problem solving/saying what to do in executive coaching.

What happens when clients actively ask us to share our views/thoughts, advice on how to proceed? This is a situation that actually happens rather often. Shall we just respond with another question which would sound like: What are your thoughts on this? Or What would you do if you had a supportive self-talk? Or What are some options you may want to consider? Yes, we probably should. At the same time, I believe, we would also add a lot of value by asking authorization to share a few best practices and/or theories about common leadership competencies with which leaders often struggle with. As executive coaches, if the industry background we come from does not matter so much to be effective, our expertise with regards to leadership competencies does matter. I believe it is normal for a C-suite leader to expect quite a good know-how from us on best leadership practices, and on competencies such as communication effectiveness, delegation, feedback provision, managing as a coach, establishing authority, decision making, to mention just a few.

SO YES: good executive coaches should also have a good tool box with diverse best practices, theories, frameworks related with leadership competencies that they can share and offer to their clients when need be, to help them thinking on how to move forward.

To sum up, in my view, good executive coaching is a balancing act between being a mirror, an accountability partner, a devil’s advocate that provokes reflection and self-questioning  and being a leadership expert who can share different tools for clients to choose from without this being perceived as giving advice.

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Leadership and Trust

“Trust is in part based on the extent to which a leader is able to create positive relationships with other people people and groups”, yet in my coaching work with leaders very often i notice that the focus on establishing those positive relationships is missing, and the assumption that being technically outstanding or a good visionary are enough often seems to take over. It is important to remember that all human beings have a profound need to connect and foster positive relationships to feel recognized and listened to... dismissing this need is one of the key mistakes that leaders can do and it severely hinders the #trust that others put on you as a leader!


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