I am always telling people that I am lucky to have a thick skin. This often elicits a “what, are you kidding me?” look from those around me who may believe that I periodically commit to the odd to-the-death grudge. In my mind, these grudges are always well-deserved. But over the years, I have learned that it’s probably not so useful to take them too seriously or to act on them.
And that’s not the least of my problems.
Such are the emotional frailties and foibles of life. We all have our failures and some of us are lucky enough to have people who will pull our coattails when these personal gaps in our games threaten to ruin our reputations and effectiveness as leaders.
A brilliant, brash, and hysterically funny woman who some people view as terrifyingly competent has long been my Dr. Phil (on his best day). Very often, all she has to say is some variation on “Yeah and how’s that working for you?” for me to stop and look at what I’m doing. Very often it involves some reversion to form. She knows me very well.
She is a colleague who I have long considered to be my mentor but many leaders do not have such a colleague and that is a problem. When you have power, your feedback loops may be interrupted or close to nonexistent and then you have to take it all on yourself to construct reality. This is rarely a good thing.
We all need our critical observers to be good leaders. Enter the executive coach, an intervention that can be enormously useful in any size organization. There are of course caveats to its usefulness and so here, for your reading pleasure, is “A Leader’s Guide to Executive Coaching,” by David Coleman from the Spring 2008 issue of the Nonprofit Quarterly. It is well worth the read.
And in the name of full disclosure and transparency, all of you who told me that that feral cat would get pregnant in my yard . . . you were so right, proving that even the best of advice needs to encounter open ears to be effective.
Yours very humbly,