At Harley St. we like to say that we are “committed to the truth that is our client.” That may sound awkward, but it means that our job is to help each impact leader find within himself or herself the truth that is unique to him or her that will propel the leader forward. We believe that the impact leaders we serve are whole, creative, and resourceful human beings, and if they can constantly tap into their unique strengths and skills and energy – their hearts as well as their heads – they can succeed beyond their expectations.
Leadership and team coaching can be particularly helpful to clients who are leading initiatives that involve significant change; and public policy, campaign, sustainability, and corporate social responsibility initiatives provide some obvious examples. The challenges of securing full buy-in from teams formed to develop and execute on the initiative, or from outside stakeholders (voters, legislators, regulators, employees, and community leaders, for example) can be daunting. Patrick Von Bargen’s coaching training and his wide breadth of experience can make him an indispensable partner in the effort.
Whom do we coach?
Harley St. coaches leaders in a variety of true “impact” roles. We coach elected or appointed office holders, and candidates, and in companies and non-profits, we coach C-level executives, vice presidents who head departments or divisions, and directors of new initiatives within the company.
Why do leaders ask us to coach them?
It all comes down to the coaching conversation. The truth is that leading any initiative to achieve change is a lonely enterprise. Typically, leaders can’t talk frankly about their concerns or fears with their advisors, donors, superiors, those who report to them, or even to their spouse. Executives ask us to coach them because they need a trusted, confidential partner to find and clarify their core truth and mission and keep them centered in that core as they act.
How does a coaching engagement work?
Typically, Harley St. and the leader have a first conversation about the leader’s goals for the engagement. At the end of an appropriate amount of time – say, six months – what goals does the leader want to achieve? The coach and the client agree on the scope of those goals, and they agree to a schedule of coaching sessions to make achievement of those goals possible.
In many engagements – but not all, by any means -- the client asks that the coach to interview his or her colleagues (they can be peers, superiors, direct reports, or others) at the start of the engagement to get a better understanding of how they see the challenge ahead and the leader’s strengths in meeting that challenge. Any such interviews are conducted in strict confidence, and feedback of the most important and common themes from those interviews goes is given only to the client, with the identity of the interviewees obscured.
Each coaching conversation between coach and client is a confidential, structured, purposeful conversation. Each begins with reaching an agreement of the topic to be explored in that session; then the client explores the topic with the coach; and at the end, the client fashions an action plan to execute before the next coaching conversation. In addition to providing this structure to the conversation, the role of the coach is to ask questions, offer observations, paraphrase what the client has said – all in the service of helping the client get the clarity that will bring greater understanding and suggest new options he or she has not seen before.
By taking the time to work with a Harley St. coach, the leader client sees more clearly – with every coaching session – what the true challenges are and how he or she can meet those in surprising ways that draw on the leader's inherent and unique strengths -- his or her core truth and mission.
What is “team coaching”?
Harley St.’s team coaching practice is based on the leadership coaching model, but with a twist. The coach actually coaches the leader of the team in real time, during team meetings. The coach’s job is to help the leader conduct the team meeting in a productive way. So at the start of the team meeting, the team leader introduces the coach to the team, explaining that the coach is there to speak up occasionally to ask questions, make observations, or summarize the state of play in the meeting. The coach directs all his comments directly to the leader, and the executive leader responds to the coach in front of the team.
Why does team coaching make a difference?
Team coaching can be very effective, for several reasons. First, the team leader demonstrates in full view of her team how committed she is achieving the goals she has set by making herself vulnerable to learning and growth. By setting this example, team members are likely to follow suit.
Second, the coach’s observations, questions, and summaries are available to all team members listening – and those observations, questions, and summaries will likely be about the team meeting dynamics. Even though the coach’s comments are directed to the team leader, the team will see things about its own functioning that it had not seen before.
Third, as the coach coaches the leader to respond to those team dynamics, the team leader will change his behavior or ask others on the team to change their behaviors to improve the effectiveness of the team. In the coach’s presence, everyone becomes more accountable for agreed-upon change.
What else should I know about team coaching?
There are other dimensions of team coaching. The team leader may ask that the coach’s confidential assessment interviews be conducted with all team members. Again, that confidential feedback is shared only with the team leader, unless she and the rest of the team all agree it should be shared among all members of the team as a way to improve everyone’s awareness about the challenges the team faces.
Finally, there may be occasions on which it is clear that certain other members of the team – beyond the team leader – would benefit from individual coaching. In such circumstances, Harley St. arranges for additional coaches to assist other team members. The leader’s coach must be devoted to the service of the leader; the leader’s coach cannot be put in any situation with potential conflicts.
"I’ve had coaches, multiple coaches… I’ve had work coaches, team-building coaches…
If you’re a world-class athlete, you want to get coaching. That’s a sign of strength, not weakness."
— John Donahoe, former CEO of eBay and Bain & Company.