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Preview: Ed Batista: Executive Coaching & Change Management

Ed Batista: Executive Coaching



Executive Coach, Lecturer @StanfordBiz, contributor @HarvardBiz



Updated: 2018-02-18T14:00:00-08:00

 



Pirates in the Navy

2018-02-18T15:16:52-08:00

It may sound odd, but pirates are a recurring theme in my executive coaching practice. I work with many startup founders, and it's not unusual for them to identify with or feel some affection for that other group of entrepreneurs... It may sound odd, but pirates are a recurring theme in my executive coaching practice. I work with many startup founders, and it's not unusual for them to identify with or feel some affection for that other group of entrepreneurs who operated outside the bounds of conventional commerce. The concept is deeply rooted in the technology sector's collective narrative, and last October Reid Hoffman published a compelling post that discusses this idea in depth: One of the reasons the pirate label seems so appealing is that early-stage startups are a lot like pirates. They both lack formal processes, and are willing to question and even break rules to "steal" from incumbents (market share and booty respectively)... Pirates don't convene a committee meaning to decide what to do... [T]hey act quickly and decisively, and are willing to take risks because they know that the default outcome is failure and the death of the company. It's important to not to take this association too far, of course. As Hoffman also noted, piracy can be a problematic metaphor: Much as with Silicon Valley's fondness for the term "disruption," piracy is a sexy label which projects the wrong image of entrepreneurship, and promotes connotations that can lead entrepreneurs astray... It may sound cool to say that you're a pirate, but to the rest of the world, you're essentially saying, "I'm a no-good thief." But he goes on to clarify that there are two different types of pirate: lovable rogues, who break rules but whose acquisitiveness is restrained by a code of ethics, and sociopathic criminals, who don't hesitate to harm others in the pursuit of naked self-interest. To be clear, my clients who respond to this theme are either lovable rogues themselves or enjoy leading teams composed of such characters--I don't work with sociopaths. The antithesis of the pirate is the naval officer, and Hoffman argues that "startup pirates" eventually have to switch sides: The impulsive Captain Jack Sparrow has to grow up and start acting more like the sober and responsible Captain Picard. This transition can be challenging; founders and early employees often resist changing their approach; after all, didn't it bring initial success? But failing to make the transition from pirate to navy can lead to disaster. I agree with Hoffman's thesis--growing organizations and their leaders must beware of the dangers of "failing the pirate-to-navy transition." But they must also be thoughtful about how they make this transition and what they evolve into. Just as some pirates are sociopathic criminals, some naval officers are by-the-book martinets and others are power-hungry political schemers. And just as some pirate ships are menacing threats, some commands in the navy are awful, soul-crushing bureaucracies. The key is finding the right balance between the two identities, both for the individual leader and for the organization as a whole. Rather than being pirates OR the navy, perhaps being pirates IN the navy is a better way to think about it. Some of the leaders I've worked with are true pirates (the ethical kind) with no interest in serving in anyone's navy. As their companies grow they become increasingly uncomfortable with the routines, structures, and management style required to lead at scale, and eventually they're happy to recruit an "admiral" to take over, freeing them to pursue their next adventure. But most of my clients want to remain with the organizations they've built for some period of time; even if they don't feel the need to stay permanently, they want to stretch themselves as leaders and reap the rewards (material and psychological) that will accompany a longer tenure in the role. In my experience leaders who make this transition successfully--pirates who've joined the navy, or who've transformed their pirate crew into naval off[...]



Gratitude Checklist

2018-01-28T22:04:47-08:00

I'm alive. ☐ I'm not in pain. ☐ I can think clearly. ☐ I can see, hear, and walk. ☐ I'm warm and well-nourished. ☐ I'm protected from the elements. ☐ I was born to parents who loved me. ☐...

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I'm alive.
I'm not in pain.
I can think clearly.
I can see, hear, and walk.
I'm warm and well-nourished.
I'm protected from the elements.
I was born to parents who loved me.
I've built a loving relationship with a partner.
I feel known and cared for by a number of people.
I derive a sense of meaning and purpose from my work.

To be clear, I'm not some blissed-out idealist, and I don't walk around thinking about these things 24/7. I'm disappointed and irritated on a daily basis. But I've experienced enough real heartbreak to know that disappointments and irritations are fleeting sensations, and I shouldn't let them dampen my gratitude for this existence. A list like this helps. So does a sunrise.

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Lost and Found

2017-12-31T09:32:46-08:00

Amy and I met when we were in high school together, probably sometime in 1983. We started dating and fell in love in 1986 and then spent most of the next four years apart as we pursued our separate (but... Amy and I met when we were in high school together, probably sometime in 1983. We started dating and fell in love in 1986 and then spent most of the next four years apart as we pursued our separate (but deeply intertwined) paths through college. The distance forced us to stay in touch through the U.S. Postal Service. We didn't have email accounts, the web didn't exist, and phone calls were expensive--the old Ma Bell had just been broken up, and we had to call each other after 11:00pm, when long-distance rates were more affordable on our tight budgets. So we wrote letters--hundreds of letters. Somehow, 30 years later, we still have them, and Amy proposed that we re-read them over the holidays, a major undertaking that we just completed. It was an overwhelming experience, in the best sense of the word, and we found much to laugh about, much to be grateful for, many surprises, and plenty of heartbreak and sadness. My first reaction is simply thankfulness that we're still here. There were many times during those tumultuous years when that outcome seemed highly unlikely. And my second reaction is thankfulness for the work that I do today and my life as a coach and teacher. I had many strong passions as a young man and launched myself on a number of potential paths with vigor, only to find my enthusiasm fade after a few years. From my vantage point today, not only do I feel a sense of pride in what I accomplished on those ventures, I also realize that the lessons I learned along the way contributed immensely to my ability to be of service to my clients and students now. But in college, during the period covered by the letters we just read, I went from a checkered (albeit very entertaining) freshman year at Duke to two years at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (chosen for its proximity to Dartmouth, which Amy was attending), followed by two more years at Brown (where I finally got my shit together.) I'm deeply grateful for those experiences--and to my parents, who certainly had their doubts, but who remained supportive and encouraging along the way. And yet at the time I often felt like I was wandering. So it's deeply rewarding to look back at those uncertain years and know that the path I ultimately chose has been a calling, a true vocation. That's not to say that the last 12 years have always been easy or fun--I've struggled many times, and I know I'll face difficult moments in the future. But I feel so privileged to do this work, to live this life, to be able to say: I'm not lost, I'm here.   Photo by dvs. Yay Flickr and Creative Commons. [...]



Understanding "The Pie Chart" in The How of Happiness

2018-01-03T20:55:17-08:00

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at UC Riverside, is one of the leading researchers on happiness, and her books The How of Happiness (2007) and The Myths of Happiness (2014) offer a wealth of valuable insights on the subject.... Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at UC Riverside, is one of the leading researchers on happiness, and her books The How of Happiness (2007) and The Myths of Happiness (2014) offer a wealth of valuable insights on the subject. (Both are on my syllabus at Stanford for The Art of Self-Coaching.) One of the most significant topics Lyubomirsky addresses is the extent to which different factors contribute to happiness, a major focus of positive psychology in recent decades. But it can be easy to misunderstand Lyubomirsky’s discussion of this topic in her earlier book, and it’s important to clear up any misconceptions in order to make effective use of her research. The widely cited "pie chart" from The How of Happiness (referenced on the book’s cover above and reproduced here) should correctly be understood as representing the amount of variance in happiness among individuals in Lyubomirsky's research that can be predicted by 1) heritable traits, 2) life circumstances, and 3) intentional activities. However, it's easy to get the mistaken impression that this chart represents the relative amounts of happiness that are derived from these sources for individuals in the population at large. But this research does not (and cannot) tell us how much of any given individual's happiness is derived from each of these sources. Ed Diener, a professor of psychology at the University of Utah and the University of Virginia, as well as an emeritus professor at the University of Illinois, discussed this potential confusion in “Myths in the science of happiness, and directions for future research,” a paper published in 2008. I take the liberty of quoting Diener at length here, but the entire paper can be requested from his website at the University of Illinois: One misunderstanding of percent of variance figures applied to the causes of human happiness is that the numbers are presented as though they apply to individuals. In other words, 45% [of] an individual's happiness is said to come from inborn temperament, 12% from demographics, and so forth. The percent figures are derived, however, from the amount of variance between individuals that is "explained" or predicted by specific variables. These numbers tell us little about the absolute importance of the variables, because people in a sample may or may not differ to the same degree on each of them, and they do not tell us how individuals would change in well-being if they were to change on these variables. It is inappropriate to interpret the figures as applying to how much an individual's subjective well-being is derived from the various causes because the numbers are derived from variation between people in specific samples. The percentages might be interpreted to mean that if one were to improve one's demographics from terrible to great, one's happiness might increase by 12%, but this is a misunderstanding of what the figures mean. It is important to recognize that the percent of variance between individuals, due to various causes of happiness, depends on the range and variation between people on this factor and has no necessary connection to what might be important to altering a person's happiness. [emphasis original] [page 497] Happiness is sometimes said to be about one-half heritable, but this statement can be easily misunderstood. It is a descriptive statistic based on particular samples in particular life circumstances and might not apply to other samples--for example, ones in which life circumstances are more variable across people. That is, the "heritability" of happiness is not constant across samples. This point surprises some people because they do not realize that heritability is not the same as genetic effects. Pie-chart numbers some[...]



Thank You, Jed and Melinda

2017-12-14T10:03:00-08:00

Thankfulness has been on my mind recently, so it was a welcome surprise this morning to see the photo above accompanying an article on the Roberts Enterprise Development Fund (REDF). It shows Jed Emerson, George Roberts, and Melinda Tuan sometime...

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Thankfulness has been on my mind recently, so it was a welcome surprise this morning to see the photo above accompanying an article on the Roberts Enterprise Development Fund (REDF). It shows Jed Emerson, George Roberts, and Melinda Tuan sometime in the 1990s, which is when I met Jed and Melinda. George is in the center as a sign of respect for his seniority and status--he's the billionaire who funded REDF--but it's Jed and Melinda who had a profound impact on my life and to whom I remain deeply grateful.

In 1996 Melinda was an MBA student at Stanford who was considering a summer internship at Compass Family Services, where I was serving as Associate Director. She wound up spending her summer elsewhere, but she made a powerful impression on me, and we stayed in touch. Her example taught me that business school could be a place where someone could pursue entrepreneurship and social impact.

The following year Stanford hosted a conference on entrepreneurship, and I attended the nonprofit track, which Melinda had organized. I saw Jed speak there--he was the founding CEO of REDF, and Melinda would join him after graduation as Managing Director--and I was thrilled to see that the room was overflowing, with people sitting on the stairs.

I was struck by Jed's blunt candor and sharp sense of humor, as well as his email address, which he wrote on the board: Live4Punk@... He also made a powerful impression on me, and his example taught me that people could be themselves at a business school--they didn't have lose their identities in a conformist crowd.

I was so inspired by both of them. I thought, "If this school supports people like Jed and Melinda, then this is where I need to be!" I applied to the MBA program and was thankful to be accepted, but I had no idea at the time what an amazing course my life was now set upon.

Two decades later, I am so incredibly fulfilled by my work as a coach and teacher, and it would not have happened without the two of them. Thank you, Jed and Melinda.