Sunday, September 17, 2006

What sets Gary apart as a corporate politics coach..

Hi Gary,

There are a lot of coaches offering a variety of services. What particular skills set you and your executive coaching apart from all the other coaches practicing now?

GARY’S ANSWER: My ability to understand and coach about corporate politics.

General Electric approached me in 1989 and asked me to help one of their top managers in their Power Systems Group to change his management style. There was no formal term then for this type of consultancy. Over the years we’ve come to know of this work as executive coaching.

I do bring a different style and in particular, a different set of skills to this role of coach.

I saw that the role that I was being asked to do back in ’89 was to help someone be more successful. Really what the company wanted was for them to be more efficient, more productive. And so I thought well if that’s the case, I need for them to understand more of the political agendas surrounding them. Here is where I began to differentiate myself from others and why people would come to me and not to somebody else. I

Most corporate cultures have some degree of politics. I ask my client to talk to me about the people who surround them. Most people haven’t analyzed their corporate political environments, political cultures, or political systems like that. I help them strategically think about the people in their world and who and how they are important to achieving their goals. I help my clients think about what their goals are and what they want to do? Make more money? Be promoted? I think it’s very important for the executive coach to keep it very simple and pragmatic.

And then I start to use this skill, the political savvy, to help the executive analyze their client’s corporate political environment. I ask them to talk to me about what they perceive to be the agenda of these other people. And I’m also asking them to begin to look at their own agendas. We begin to make comparisons and see how these agendas are either in conflict, help, hurt, or don’t matter at all.

This political strategizing becomes a really unique process that many coaches or clients never thought about. And that’s part of what I do that is unique as an executive coach. My clients are in the senior management at the very highest levels. Mostly I work with people who have great consequence – as role models in their style of management and in the decisions they make.

This political analysis that happens in my coaching is different than simply helping somebody be more efficient or help change their behaviors. I think that this added dimension of what I bring to the coaching process is extraordinarily powerful for my clients because they can begin to take control of the politics that surround them.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Gary's start in business politics

Dear Gary,

How did you become interested in business politics?

HM, Seattle

GARY’S ANSWER: Great question! It started with my own experience, as often is the case. We’re interested in things because of our own experiences or those of someone close to us. In my case, I had trained for a career in internationally oriented management. I had worked and lived in a number of locations and different parts of the world. And as a manager, I happened to have come into a couple of positions while I was managing that were highly politicized. I came in and I saw my job as being in charge of an operation and yet that wasn’t how I had to spend my time. I came to realize that a significant amount of time was spent defending myself against sabotage; against other people’s agendas and that there were people who actively wanted my job.

It began to occur to me that this is really inefficient. I did all these things to try to train to be a good manger, now I’ve got a position where I really can show who I am, and yet I have to spend 50% of my time on politics? But, I recognized if I didn’t do it, somebody would perhaps be so successful that I wouldn’t be able to do my job. I maybe wouldn’t even have my job. I think a lot of time and effort is wasted in organizations managing corporate politics. Many organizations have some form of corporate politics. My own experience and position, I think, was a little bit more politicized than average, and thus, I think I was exposed to more of it that others may have. And became more sensitized earlier.

I believe I came into management with a natural ability, like some people may have ability in art and other people have an ability to drive race cars, I believe that I have a natural ability and instinctual understanding of the political environment around me. For example, we all have cell phones and other wireless devices surrounding us, communicating with each other on a constant basis. These invisible waves of communication are coming from a variety of different sources and directions. Similarly with people and individuals in organizations, there are countless “waves,” agendas between people, surrounding us, hidden from plain view, that make organizational politics. We all know they’re there if we think about it.

I think I have an ability, an intuition, to somehow understand these different “waves” of agendas. I’m able to sense not just the fact that they’re there, but actually begin to think about how they interrelate and whether they are in conflict with one another.

And so, I came to a point while managing in Hallmark Cards - Europe, when I realized I had my own agenda, in addition to those around me. I began to question how does my agenda, in other words, what I’m trying to achieve, relate to all these other things that are going on, emanating from all these other people. I was able to design a strategy for myself, just sort of intuitively, on handling and managing the politics in my own workplace. And it worked well for me. I was able to succeed and also mostly defend myself against the agendas of others. I could understand what people were trying to achieve, what their agendas were and maybe help some of them. So as I grew in responsibility, I had this other talent that I was able to use and as I managed many different locations and situations, it became a really valuable extra thing. It became my own private ace up my sleeve.