Coaches and selling – a tough love
Articles & Blogs
It is not easy to be a manager, and even more difficult the higher you climb. But increased speed, uncertainty and complexity that dominate the everyday lives of decision-makers on C-Level are only one part of the problem. The by far worst part is the total loss of power and status which goes along with a loss of one’s influential position. Exactly this happened to Martin Senn who was the CEO of Zurich, one of the biggest insurance companies worldwide. He committed suicide end of May at the age of 59. Martin Senn was a long-time employee of the insurer, serving as its chief executive for six years before he was forced to step down in December due to public pressure following economic difficulties and a failed M[&]A transaction. The loss of prestige and influence had hit him hard. An acquaintance said Senn had suffered from depression recently.
The Insecure Overachiever
Since the 1950s, McKinsey & Company, one of the world’s leading strategy consulting firm, has been known to employ the best graduates from the best universities, and to use performance incentives and a very formative high-performance culture to shape these young, hungry ‘high potentials’ according to their requirements. After these young consultants are pushed to the maximum by their international projects, most of them voluntarily leave the company on good terms after three years at the latest in order to take up leading positions in the industry and then to become potential customers of their former employer. Over the past few decades, this HR strategy and its accompanying high-performance culture were adopted in the field of professional services by the majority of international companies and are now also entering many more traditional industrial and service-based companies.
More than a century ago during the period of rapid industrialization, the ‘human factor’ and his or her contribution was fitted into standardized structures and processes. Being successful in large and ever-growing organizations required the individual to understand and play ‘the rules of the game’ well.
A couple of weeks ago, I was on my way to a prestigious leadership symposium of a large car manufacturer. For the following two days, I was supposed to be one of the experts facilitating workshops for the 80 or so participating managers. The topic of my workshop was called “Resilience and Leadership” and I was very much looking forward to it. I had just completed the manuscript of my new book called “The Art of Self Leadership”. It was my 8th book on the topic and I really think of myself as an expert when it comes to dealing with adversity and hardships – at least in theory. As it was early February there had been a very cold period with snow and ice in the past days. However, this very morning sudden rain had turned the stairs in front of my house into an ice rink and despite the warning of my wife the blessings of gravity hit me by surprise and I fell hard on my back. The pain was remarkable but I quickly got back on my feet and since I was running late I somehow got my luggage and myself into the car and drove to the venue of the event without much further ado. At this moment, I was not thinking very much. There was only one voice in my head saying “You have to get there somehow and you must not be late”. I don’t recall exactly how I got out of the car since I could barely walk. When I arrived at the conference the organizers looked at me with deep concern in their faces indicating that I looked exactly as bad as I felt.
“We have 90 offices with 30,000 employees and more than €50 billion assets under management.” I interrupt the ambitious young real estate consultant’s presentation to ask: “Is this the first slide you will be showing in the major pitch you have been preparing?”
Why should anyone be coached by you?
„All of us are destined to shine like children do“. These words by Nelson Mandela came to me, shortly after an executive coaching session with a division manager from the finance industry. We had talked about our inner shares and related attitudes (child-attitude, parent-attitude and adult-attitude). We also discussed which attitude is the most useful in maintaining your self-efficacy in today’s challenging environment. While transaction analysis is all about the integration of these three shares, in coaching we use the power of the inner adult to set and achieve our goals, whilst being generous, brave and open to gain experience.
Narcissus, the young man from Greek mythology, fell in love with his own reflection in a pond and ultimately drowned in his attempt to get too close to his own image. Leaders with narcissistic tendencies fit perfectly into both the modern business world and also the political system. Donald Trump or Silvio Berlusconi are perfect examples for this phenomenon in the political domain while business leaders like Elon Musk (Tesla) or Thomas Middelhoff (Arcandor) are prominent cases for the business world.
Executives often fall - after several years in the same position - internally sidelined and wait there for too long (for different reasons) before actively seeking the confrontation with their employer. The result: Most executives come to the conclusion that they should have tackled this issue much earlier.