June 17, 2014
"People laughed when someone in our workshop said he didn’t want the project to be remembered—projects tend to be remembered for all kinds of bad things or things that go wrong."
Gaining alignment and partnership across large, complex projects or organizations is a daunting task--particularly in the oil & gas, mining & metals and construction industries, where people tend to remember what goes wrong, more than what goes right. Leaving a legacy of excellence that lasts (and is remembered) well into the future is a goal that requires alignment and partnership at the highest levels. Here, I speak with JMJ Consultant Susan Harycki about
how to create this kind of legacy, what it means to be a "legacy leader", and how to coach people in leadership positions to make the most individual impact on the most important organizational goals.
JWF: What opportunities can JMJ Performance Coaching™ offer for improving safety and performance in the oil and gas, mining and metals or construction industries?
SH: Performance coaching is about unleashing the potential of individuals in an organization and, ultimately, having this produce exceptional performance for the organization as a whole.
One of the greatest opportunities for improving overall performance—which includes safety—is when many leaders are coached simultaneously in service of a commonly held “declared future,” some significant outcome that they’re committed to producing through their individual and collective actions.
A particular oil, LPG, and gas project I’m currently working with has done a remarkable job of utilizing coaching to accomplish unprecedented alignment and partnership across what is a very large, complex, global project. While they have many accomplished leaders, in the early days of the project it was a little daunting for them to imagine how they would bring their greatest intentions for the project into being.
The technical aspects of their work were only a part of the challenge. How do you get so many different people and different organizations across so many different cultures and languages to move together to produce exceptional results?
People laughed when someone in our workshop said he didn’t want the project to be remembered—projects tend to be remembered for all kinds of bad things or things that go wrong.
But using JMJ’s Align, Design, and Plan (ADP) process, the key project leaders and core team members of the owner company were able to generate a clear and compelling “north star” for the project. Team members got excited about actually making a conscious decision to have a say in what their legacy would be, and to do so soon enough that they could actually put a plan in place and go into action to cause that legacy to become real.
This project’s “declared legacy” reflects a commitment to design and build a world class asset in a safe and socially responsible manner, with a culture that lives on in each individual, company and community interacting with the project. Once the project team was clear about this, we were able to identify the key stakeholders they would need as full partners to make it happen. We worked to create a plan for engaging these stakeholders across the life of the project.
With this clarity and foundation in place, individual coaching for the project’s top 15 leaders commenced.
We pulled the leaders together for a kick-off of the coaching conversations. The Project Manager made it clear why he was asking this particular group to take on the coaching, and I was able to help them understand the individual coaching process. We worked together to develop their shared goals for the coaching conversations, and to set them up for individual goal setting.
At the end of this meeting, the project leaders understood that good intention and good people are necessary to create exceptional results—and that these things alone are insufficient. It takes both individual leadership and aligned leadership to make big things happen.
The group’s shared goals have been critical to their successes to date.
The first goal was to identify their unique contributions to making the declared legacy real and be in action on making this contribution. What role would they play as legacy leaders? Based on their personal commitments and project accountabilities, how could they create real impact for the project and enable the team to make the legacy real?
The second shared goal was around calling forward the legacy leadership of others and unleashing their teams’ greatest contributions.
As I met with each leader individually to further the goal development process, I also asked, “And what else?” What was the developmental edge or opportunity for them in terms of being able to call forward aligned and coordinated action?
We met monthly, either in face-to-face coaching sessions or via telephone. Each of them was working to produce the same outcome, and each of them was working on their own capability to lead toward this outcome.
We often identified the opportunities most naturally available to them. The space for clear thinking offered by the coaching process enabled them to make the most of these opportunities –or to create opportunities when what was needed was missing.
Performance coaching also helps people celebrate successes along the way while producing an overall outcome that is several years away.
JWF: JMJ’s Performance Coaching uses questions and guidance to facilitate creative thinking so that leaders can see options that they may not have seen before. Could you talk about how you were using some of these tools specifically to work one-one-one or in a group?
SH: Whether we’re working with groups or individuals, it’s important that people are clear about their desired focus of conversation, and then build the conversation from there. In the background of our approach to coaching is something we call the “GROW” model.
What is the Goal or desired outcome for this particular conversation?
What is the current Reality regarding the issue or topic being explored? What is actually happening now that presents a challenge or opportunity worth exploring?
What possibilities or Options exist or can be created to generate the desired outcome?
Finally, the Wrap Up! What insights will be useful going forward? What actions will the person take? What support is needed and what requests will be made to ensure this support is in place?
This sounds simple, but in today’s busy, complex, fast-paced world, leaders benefit greatly from having a coach who can facilitate conversations that lead to their greatest thinking.
The GROW model sounds linear as it’s described, but it is actually a very fluid—or non-directive—way to ensure that the person being coached is thinking for themselves, coming up with their own ideas rather than simply getting advice.
As a coach, I ‘own’ the process, and the client ‘owns’ the content of the conversation. Organizational and project leaders typically are overwhelmed by a myriad of subject matter experts and divergent points of view. I believe that the integrity of JMJ’s coaching model helps leaders to reclaim their own decision-making capabilities, revealing new avenues for action.
In the case of the project I’m describing, the “declared future” was a future no one could necessarily know how to produce. This time for discovery of individual and collective action has been instrumental to the successes still being generated.
JWF: What kind of results have you seen taking the approach?
SH: On the particular project I have been describing, three years after our work together began, I am continually seeing each of these leaders’ commitment in action. We do not just have 15 people in one room who are committed to producing a particular outcome; we have people across the project working together to make their legacy real. These people span every age, gender, and experience level across primary and secondary contracting companies, and across four continents and a significant number of languages.
I hear the same level of commitment and ownership from new arrivals to the project as I first heard in that Align, Design and Plan workshop three years ago.
What has “legacy leadership” come to mean?
Each time any of them has a decision to make or an action to take, they consciously consider their declared future to ask what it is that requires them to do now. Performance Coaching has contributed to individual leaders’ successes, and it has also enabled a global partnership. It has brought people alive with energy and a sense of collaboration that many would have said was beyond anything that would be predictable. It really is an extraordinary outcome.
The challenges on this project have been tremendous—and they don’t stop coming. People are getting tired, but they continually re-orient themselves to this greater outcome they are working to produce.
They solve both their technical and commercial issues with a level of integrity and commitment that inspires me.
JWF: Why do you think this kind of Performance Coaching is important?
The larger, the more global and the more complex our work in the world becomes, the more we put everything we care about most at risk. For me, it is critical that we as individual leaders avail ourselves to coaching, and we as collective groups of leaders come together in workshops or forums that allow us the space for reflection and discovery. We must take opportunities to bring our deepest commitments and values forward.
By doing this, we help to protect everything we care about most and cause those things we care about most to flourish.