“Focus on What Went Well and Keep Doing That”

Advice for CEOs at 6th Institute of Coaching Leadership Forum

16/10/2015 Barcelona

Didac Lee

Didac Lee: “Sometimes people aren’t what you want them to be. They are what they are. Work on your expectations” / Photo: Edu Ferrer

Leading business in today’s volatile global marketplace is more challenging than ever before. Navigating terrain defined by uncertainty calls for a “vision” of business leadership and maintaining a focus on the “positive.”

So says the Institute of Coaching founder Dr. Carol Kauffman. At the 6th IOC Leadership Forum and the 1st in Europe hosted by IESE this week. Kauffman collaborated with IESE’s Coaching Unit Academic Director Professor Alberto Ribera, bringing 25 leading international expert business coaches, 9 guest speaker CEOs and HR VPs, to IESE Barcelona to discuss “C- Suite Perspectives on Culture, Structure and Leadership Transformation.”

For senior management, Kauffman said, coaching has become “par for the course. We’re in a new era where the model of leaders as superheroes is no longer relevant. Leaders also need support.”

From Hero to Human

Kauffman’s remarks were echoed by coaching experts, among them, Didac Lee, CEO of Inspirit, member of the board and VP of Barcelona FC. Recently awarded “Best Mentor of Startups” by the Founder Institute, Lee stressed the need for coaching at C-Suite level to mitigate the dangers of “going astray.” Executive HR VP of Caixa Bank Xavier Coll also agreed that it was his coach that kept him on track. 

All agreed on a need for “clear vision” in leadership to help organizations cleave to the path to prosperity.

“Vision-based coaching gives way to vision-based leadership,” said Kauffman. “It’s about being aware of your own personal values. And of the organization. Ask yourself: Why am I here? Why is my company here? It’s about trusting yourself and maintaining positive. Then building on that to move forward in the right direction.”

“We need leaders who inspire. Who connect emotionally with their team. Who know how to tap into each individual’s unique strengths and to build on them,” she said.

For Lee the key lies in “finding the purpose of all your people. You have to connect people to their purpose, even when it’s not clear to them what that purpose is.”

Navigating From Negative to Positive

Coaching for leadership is based on deep understanding of human instinct, says Kauffman.

When we feel threatened, our instincts kick in and our focus naturally shifts to what is going wrong. This blocks creativity. “It puts up a barrier between leaders and their team,” she says.

Activating positive emotions from negative emotions is crucial for leaders. Instead of spotlighting weakness or failure, she argues, it’s constructive to ask the question: “What are we doing right? Let’s keep doing that.”

Not only that, says Kauffman, leaders can’t “give what they don’t have.”

“You need to ask yourself, ‘What is it that I don’t know?’ And ‘How can I find the answer?’”

Embracing fallibility and building self-knowledge is the basis for thinking about how to leverage personal strengths in new ways, she says. “And then it’s about doing the same thing with your employees. As a leader you have to work with each individual team member to identify their unique strengths, staying grounded, centered, calm, and constructive. And creating a sense of engagement from those around us. Personal meaning activates more energy.”

A Meeting Place for Coaches, CEOs and HR Experts

The first of its kind in Europe, the IOC Leadership Forum created a frank and open dialogue between participants. 25 international senior coaches from Australia, USA, Brazil, Germany, UK, France and Spain formed the interactive audience. 4 high profile CEOs and 4 HR VPs from the auto, steel construction, technology and banking worlds took part in open panel discussions and workshops. Coaching and its role in making it through VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) was high on the agenda. What companies are looking for in a coach was also discussed along with coaching strategies and techniques for CEOs were debated to take home.

“Stick to your values and purpose. Without values you lose direction.” That’s the key for Ribera.