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Preview: Ed Batista: Executive Coaching & Change Management

Ed Batista: Executive Coaching



Executive Coach, Lecturer @StanfordBiz, contributor @HarvardBiz



Updated: 2017-09-19T13:50:38-07:00

 



Twenty-Five Years Ago Today

2017-09-19T13:50:38-07:00

I'm keenly aware of how much hard work goes into a marriage, and Amy and I have busted our asses for a quarter-century to try to do right by each other. We've succeeded more often than we've failed, which is... I'm keenly aware of how much hard work goes into a marriage, and Amy and I have busted our asses for a quarter-century to try to do right by each other. We've succeeded more often than we've failed, which is why we're still here, but I've certainly stumbled many times along the way. I think it's important to acknowledge that effort and not to contribute to the illusion that marriage is all about picking the right person, and then it's "happily ever after." Yet one of the most meaningful rewards for that hard work is the opportunity to look back and feel this tremendous sense of love and pride and accomplishment that comes only when we've overcome a big challenge. I look at the picture above and am reminded not only that we had a fantastic wedding, but also how much we've we've grown in the 25 years since that day. And a lot of growth was necessary to make it this far--those innocent young people above really have no idea what they're getting into. I've been lucky enough to have some unpleasant experiences in recent years, and I mean that very sincerely--these difficulties have left me with a deep sense of gratitude for all the gifts that I've enjoyed in this existence. I don't maintain this attitude 24/7--I get cranky and irritable and lose my appreciation for life all the time. But then something happens, and I'm reminded of just how grateful I should be--grateful to be here, grateful to not be in pain, grateful for my family, grateful for my clients and students and the work I get to do with them, grateful for Amy. And I feel like Raymond Carver in "Gravy": No other word will do. For that’s what it was. Gravy.Gravy, these past ten years.Alive, sober, working, loving andbeing loved by a good woman. Eleven yearsago he was told he had six months to liveat the rate he was going. And he was goingnowhere but down. So he changed his wayssomehow. He quit drinking! And the rest?After that it was all gravy, every minuteof it, up to and including when he was told about,well, some things that were breaking down andbuilding up inside his head. "Don’t weep for me,"he said to his friends. "I’m a lucky man.I’ve had ten years longer than I or anyoneexpected. Pure gravy. And don’t forget it." I am profoundly grateful for the past 25 years--the good times, the tough times, it's all been gravy. And it really was a fantastic wedding. [...]



Peak Performance

2017-09-08T06:57:34-07:00

A few years ago I began to take notice of the work of Brad Stulberg, an author and coach who’s done an extensive amount of research into the science of optimal health and human performance. Brad’s articles in Outside and...A few years ago I began to take notice of the work of Brad Stulberg, an author and coach who’s done an extensive amount of research into the science of optimal health and human performance. Brad’s articles in Outside and New York magazines consistently introduced me to innovative and intriguing ideas about how to perform at higher levels in any number of domains, and I found myself eager to read more. Then a few months ago I had an opportunity to meet Brad in person and truly appreciated his thoughtful perspective on coaching and personal effectiveness. Afterwards Brad was gracious enough to send me a copy of his book Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success, co-written with Steve Magness, an elite track coach. As eager as I was to read it, the press of other responsibilities (and an already-lengthy reading list) kept me from cracking Peak Performance until I took it with me on a recent cross-country flight. I found it so deeply compelling that I finished it by the time I returned to SFO, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. As an executive coach and someone who teaches MBAs at Stanford, I’m constantly exploring material that might be of interest to my clients and students, much of which pertains to improving performance in one way or another. Having been exposed to so much literature in this field, I can say with confidence that Peak Performance is one of the best books of its kind, an outstanding resource that's likely to provide each reader with thought-provoking ideas about how to approach life a little differently and improve their effectiveness as a result. Peak Performance is comprised of three sections that interrelate but address distinct bodies of material. In Section 1, The Growth Equation, Brad and Steve explore the book’s foundational idea: Stress + Rest = Growth. This core concept is neatly articulated by these bullets in the conclusion: Systematically grow by alternating between stress and rest. Stress yourself. Seek out “just-manageable challenges” in areas of your life in which you want to grow. Cultivate deep focus and perfect practice. Work in discrete blocks. Nurture a growth or challenge mindset. Have the courage to rest. Grow your mindful muscle with meditation so that you can more easily choose rest. Apply your growing mindful muscle in everyday life. Take smart breaks and let your subconscious go to work. Prioritize sleep. Take extended time off. There are so many parallels to my own approach to coaching here: Growing by expanding our comfort with discomfort. The importance of deep work and self-care. The value of a growth mindset. The necessity of a mindfulness practice (and the specific benefits of meditation.) The ways in which boundaries and other limits on work actually support superior performance. So perhaps it's no surprise that I find Brad and Steve's work so compelling. But what makes Peak Performance such a useful addition to my library is the balance that Brad and Steve strike between vivid examples that bring these ideas to life and in-depth discussions of relevant research findings from psychology, neuroscience, exercise physiology and related fields. A few caveats: Brad and Steve write authoritatively about the parallels between physical performance and our experience in other domains of life, but if stories about athletes (and specifically runners) aren't your thing, this aspect of the book may eventually feel repetitive. Section 2 on Priming and Section 3 on Purpose are valuable in and of themselves and entirely consistent with Section 1's discussion of stress and rest (which comprises more than half the book), but they also feel less thorough and more subjective. Section 2, which addresses such topics as the power of routines[...]



Watch That Next Step (CEO Problems)

2017-08-15T16:11:43-07:00

Most of my coaching clients are CEOs, and while almost all of them have previous leadership experience, for some of them it's their first time at the very top of an org chart. As they've grown into more senior roles... Most of my coaching clients are CEOs, and while almost all of them have previous leadership experience, for some of them it's their first time at the very top of an org chart. As they've grown into more senior roles over the course of their career, they've come to expect that things will be different at the next level up--but they can still be surprised by how different the role of CEO can be from other leadership positions. Even my clients who've had experience as a #2--as COO, for example--often discover that leadership at the next level brings unexpected challenges.What should first-time CEOs anticipate? And how can they be better prepared for the demands they're likely to face? Three dynamics that show up repeatedly in my practice are More Scrutiny, Less Feedback, and Very Little Empathy:1. More ScrutinyIt’s not surprising that being a CEO results in more scrutiny—most leaders are used to operating under a spotlight that’s become more intense as they’ve grown more senior. But what can be surprising is that the spotlight blazing on a CEO almost never turns off. Leaders expect to be observed and assessed during key performances—giving a big speech, or running a critical meeting. But CEOs find that nearly every single interaction is now a key performance, and the people on the other side of the exchange will be carefully scrutinizing all aspects of their communication, from word choice to facial expressions.This has less to do with the individual who holds the job, and more to do with the symbolic function that the job serves in business culture. Even as organizations have grown flatter and concepts such as “servant leadership” have gained currency, the role of CEO continues to loom large in the collective imagination. This can be particularly surprising to first-time CEOs who feel that their own behavior hasn’t changed, but the behavior of those around them has. It’s important for CEOs to bear in mind that people aren’t merely responding to them as an individual—they’re responding as much, if not more, to the role.The heightened scrutiny CEOs encounter is also a function of several psychological dynamics. When we encounter someone we perceive as higher status or more socially distant from us, we’re more likely to experience a threat response, commonly called a “fight, flight, or freeze” response. In these situations our brains and body react just as if we’re facing a literal threat to our physical safety. We feel a heightened sense of vigilance and scan the environment seeking clues to help us determine the degree of danger. We also tend to be distressed whenever we don’t fully understand another person’s behavior, so we rapidly construct a narrative to explain it. Our brains are essentially making a bet that having some sort of explanation, even one based on the scantiest of evidence, is preferable to having no explanation at all. As a result, most of the people a CEO encounters will be constantly assessing them, seeking to determine whether or not they pose a threat and trying to make sense of their behavior.There are several consequences of this process that CEOs need to be mindful of and can take steps to address. First, recognize that every interaction, formal and informal, is likely to feel significant to the other party and that they will invest it with meaning. Successfully navigating an endless series of such interactions requires being attuned to others’ perceptions and responding in a way that is both authentic and sustainable--a difficult balance to maintain. Adopting a patently insincere persona is no solution, but some degree of self-monitoring is necessary, both to connect effectively with others and to manage the expenditure of energy that such connection requires.CEOs should anticipate that many[...]



List-Price vs. Haggling (Culture, Compensation and Negotiation)

2017-01-19T11:09:25-08:00

A constant theme in the lives of my coaching clients is the difficulty of conducting transactions when stakes are high and value is difficult to ascertain. This frequently comes up in the context of compensation negotiations. Most of my clients... A constant theme in the lives of my coaching clients is the difficulty of conducting transactions when stakes are high and value is difficult to ascertain. This frequently comes up in the context of compensation negotiations. Most of my clients are leaders of growing companies who are almost always hiring one or more senior execs--sometimes in order to fill a new role, and at other times to upgrade a position with someone more capable. And occasionally I work with people navigating a transition who find themselves on the other side of this process. The figures involved in senior-level compensation packages may be large and complex, but ultimately they're still just prices, and when we're involved in a negotiation it's essential to give some thought to the psychology of pricing. Prices are always laden with meaning, and compensation figures carry the additional burden of putting a value not only on our labor, but also, in a sense, on ourselves, which inevitably involves subjective assessments of our own worth and that of the value we create. Complicating matters further is a cultural divide that I've come to think of as list-price vs. haggling. In a list-price culture, there's a high degree of transparency and very little flexibility. An opening offer may not be take-it-or-leave it, but there's relatively little gamesmanship in the process. There may be some room for negotiation on the margins, but the basic requirements necessary to close a deal are clear and straightforward, and it's reasonably obvious when the two parties are sufficiently close to reach agreement and when they're not. In a haggling culture, the opposite is true. There's very little transparency and a great deal of flexibility. Opening offers are never take-it-or-leave-it, and gamesmanship abounds. Everything is up for negotiation, and the basic requirements necessary to close a deal are uncertain and highly dynamic. It's rarely apparent whether the two parties are sufficiently close to reach agreement, because their currently stated positions may bear little relation to their actual willingness to reach a deal. Our identification with one culture or the other derives from many potential sources--our nationality, community, family of origin, formative experiences, and professional training, to name just a few. We may also change sides in different contexts--we don't necessarily always employ the same approach. But in my experience most people have a basic tendency toward one culture or the other that asserts itself in compensation negotiations, largely because of the strong emotions that these experiences typically evoke. In some situations, the setting itself determines the culture of the transaction--for example, in the United States it's expected that used car purchases will involve some back-and-forth, and even list-price people who resist haggling will be unlikely to accept the initial figure proposed by the seller. But compensation negotiations for senior execs can be much harder to decode. When a leader is contemplating how to craft an offer for a candidate, and when a candidate is determining how to respond, it's typically the first transaction between these two parties, and they may know very little about the other's transactional culture. And when the two cultures collide it can make an already-difficult process even more challenging. The fundamental issue is the different way each culture communicates meaning through prices. In a list-price culture, the opening offer is an information-rich signal, and it will be closely aligned with the leader's assessment of the candidate's value. In a haggling culture, the opening offer is much less meaningful and may say very little about the candidate's value to the organiza[...]



"Work Hard or Work Smart?" Is the Wrong Question

2017-06-23T10:42:22-07:00

The perennial "Work hard or work smart?" debate has been playing out again recently, and it's one with substantial implications for my coaching clients, most of whom are technology company CEOs, and my MBA students at Stanford, most of whom... The perennial "Work hard or work smart?" debate has been playing out again recently, and it's one with substantial implications for my coaching clients, most of whom are technology company CEOs, and my MBA students at Stanford, most of whom came to business school to make a significant professional leap. But while this debate addresses critically important issues, we're not resolving it successfully, at least in part because we're posing the wrong question as a premise. Rather than ask whether we should "work hard" or "work smart," we should instead be asking: What is the nature of this particular system? What is the relationship between effort and results? And where am I on that curve? Because the answers to these questions will tell us much more about how to proceed. In a system characterized by increasing returns, additional effort yields ever-greater results, while in a system characterized by diminishing returns, additional effort yields less and less. This is a truism, of course--nothing could be more obvious. The key is recognizing that some systems are fundamentally one or the other, while others change their nature, often depending on the timeframe under consideration. In general--and to be clear, I'm being extremely reductive here--systems characterized by increasing returns are primarily symbolic, cognitive or inorganic, while those characterized by diminishing returns are primarily tangible, biological or organic. And an essential factor to bear in mind when assessing the nature of any system is that human beings are always both. As the late anthropologist and philosopher Ernest Becker once wrote, "the essence of man is really his paradoxical nature, the fact that he is half animal and half symbolic." We are tangible and symbolic, biological and cognitive, organic and inorganic. So how do we resolve this paradox? Do we focus on human beings as biological organisms or as symbolic analysts? Here the issue of timeframe is critical, particularly with regard to the importance of sleep, a biological imperative that's dismissed as a luxury in some competitive cultures and yet is closely associated with superior performance in fields ranging from athletics to leadership. From this perspective, any given day is a system characterized by diminishing returns, and when work interferes with our ability to be well-rested, it's time to stop working. I'm not suggesting that we should work all-out and then stop abruptly--research suggests that we're most productive when we alternate between periods of intense focus and regular breaks. Nor am I suggesting that we should cease work at the first sign of fatigue, but at a given point each day our effectiveness will begin to decline, so on a daily basis we need to know when we've reached that inflection point in our productivity and be prepared to Hit the Brakes because we're no longer working efficiently. (At the same time, we can take advantage of this dynamic by planning to do our most daunting or challenging work at the very start of the day, when we're best able to focus and direct our attention.) When we consider longer periods of time, the picture changes. A substantial body of research has documented the relationship between high performance and hard work (known in the literature as "effortful striving.") As I wrote recently, one of the most influential papers in this field is The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance, published by an international team of psychologists in 1993, which argues that, Individual differences, even among elite performers, are closely related to assessed amounts of deliberate practice. Many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the[...]