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Case Studies: Executive Coaching--What is standing in the way of your success?

What is standing in the way of your success? What is the leash restraining the animal you know your business is capable of becoming? Before passing these questions off as an odd take of “Be All That You Can Be,” take a moment for reflection. Without having to answer to anyone but ourselves, it doesn’t take much effort to identify the little things we do that can detour our route to getting the job done. Overall, we dismiss these problems because eventually we can do the job. However, it’s the ‘little things’ can make the route to completion more circuitous than direct. These are the behaviors that consistently intervene in the process of the dream, goal, or vision we know we can accomplish: Difficulty communicating direction or motivating your employees, issues of trust or an effective ability to focus. Whether these behaviors are of our own design or, better yet, patterns we can blame on our parents, they are indeed the demons and dragons that repeatedly plague our success.

Demons gain strength when our vision involves the work of other people. The very foundation of teamwork is the community of personalities it entails. As assured that buttered toast will always fall face down, each personality in your team of players, regardless of similarity in education or upbringing, will be different from your own. Each member of your team has their own personal effectiveness demons, their own issues of communication, focus, or worse yet, commitment to your vision.

Case in point, Randy Gaschler: Credentialed teacher, founder of one of the first charter schools in America, author, founder and president of Innovative Education Management (IEM), a business that establishes, administrates and inventories charter schools. Gaschler’s personal and business vision, as defined in his book Parent Driven Schools, is to ”restore public education’s reputation as an effective means to train our children to be lifelong learners and productive members of society.” Examining his career history, one could classify Gaschler as a renaissance man, jack of all trades.  From lumberjack, cabinet-maker, football player and coach, his path to educator and administrator included numerous and immiscible experiences that shaped his abilities. Gaschler believed there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do because there wasn’t anything he couldn’t learn.

“My experiences in football made me well aware of the positive impact an outside party could have assisting people achieve their personal best,” he said, “but I was unaware such coaching was available for business people until the board recommended the idea.”

Gaschler faces a problem most business owners wouldn’t mind having. “My business is growing too fast,” he said. What was once a personal quest that relied on his own initiative and drive, now involves employees, teachers, vendors, parents, students, and an executive board, all of whom he had to communicate, motivate and gain commitment to his vision in order for him to reach it.  Characteristic of the self-taught leader, Gaschler’s communication style was assumptive. A style driven by an underlying belief that his people should understand what he was trying to communicate. Employee questions were received with his frustration that they didn’t know what he knew. In Gaschler’s words: “My actions and reactions to employee interactions were counter-productive. I wanted to improve my ability to respond to large groups of employees; provide motivation and guidance to my people and effect an environment of autonomy where my employees had the freedom to create.” 

As his business coach, Michelle Payne, would tell him later,  “ A (effective) leader must learn to communicate his passion to his team.”  As the president’s difficulty interacting with his employees could potentially hamper the future growth of the company, the executive board, in their advisory and oversight capacity, recommended the president secure the services of a business coach to help him overcome the problem. Gaschler was open to the idea.

Payne is quick to admit Gaschler’s problem wasn’t unusual for a person in his position. “As much as he wanted otherwise, Randy’s responses were confrontational, often communicating as if he was talking to himself, not to the team,” she said. Also kindred to many leader personalities, Gaschler’s mind is flooded with new ideas, often while attending to matters at hand. “The coaching sessions helped me take the time to put my thoughts and possibilities into action,” said Gaschler.  “We helped him to develop focus,” said Payne. “He has so many ideas; we helped him focus on the priorities.”

Gaschler’s coaching sessions also worked on issues of trust. “He had experienced a great deal of loss in his life,” said Payne. “Beyond his personal life, losses he experienced fighting ‘the system’ implementing the unconventional in a very conventional educational environment.”

The IEM president initially believed his issues with communication, motivation, trust and focus were his own problem. The irony is they are commonly shared among those in management/leadership positions. The difference lies in how each person works to eliminate the issues that stand in their way. For Gaschler, “It was ideal for me to have someone who didn’t work for me to sound off ideas with. After all, who can someone like me talk to?”

The five branch offices are now focusing on their unique brands of fee-for-service offerings. There is a palpable sense of cooperation that was borne out of the inclusive trainings and discussions...an attitude of “we’re in this together for the betterment of our clients”.

Also, an unforeseen benefit has also emerged...a low-key, but healthy, competition for the specialties each branch offers. There is a definite spirit of ownership and pride in providing the very best service  to customers.

This shift in thinking about their vital role has led to new levels of success and effectiveness.

The client reports that the coaching and specialized training provided by SEE Strategies was valuable and unique, “they (SEE Strategies) took the time to understand our environment, our lingo, and challenged us to think differently.”

Ultimately, the client discovered that their services, knowledge, and skills are “worth more than free.”

The client learned they had much to offer the employer and the job seeker in the rapidly changing world of business services.

“Not only did SEE Strategies provide us with a hands on tool to help our business customers evaluate their practices, but they walked our staff through the applying of the results.  The response from our business community has been very positive.  Our number of business customers has increased consistently since the training.”
---YSOS Superintendent


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