A new professional challenge in 2017

 

After more than a year of research, planning, and reflection, I have decided to take on a new professional challenge in 2017. I have been accepted to serve as a military peacekeeper/observer through the Swiss Armed Forces company SWISSCOY stationed in Kosovo in former Yugoslavia.

I will serve as a team commander in the rank of captain and will be responsible for a Liaison and Monitoring Team (LMT).

Much like every other male Swiss citizen, I served in the Swiss military but retired as a First Lieutenant when I moved to Australia in 1995. More than 20 years after my last day of service, I will once again put on my uniform, this time to receive training in all aspects of military peacekeeping.

SWISSCOY is a 200+strong company of men and women. Entirely made up of Swiss soldiers, SWISSCOY has been stationed in Kosovo and Bosnia since 1999, immediately following the Yugoslav war.

Members of SWISSCOY serve voluntarily (no conscripts) but are compensated. Everyone is armed for self-defense with semi-automatic rifle and pistol, but as peacekeepers our greatest hope is we’ll never need them. SWISSCOY is under the command of the Kosovo Force (KFOR) of NATO but is UN mandated. Thirty one nations contribute to KFOR, including Germany, Turkey, Poland, the USA, and Canada.

My engagement will start with three months of training in Stans/Switzerland from January 2017 to March 2017, together with the men and women with whom I will serve. We will then be deployed from April 2017 to October 2017 in Kosovo.

After my deployment, I will to return to Seattle and Redpoint Leadership Coaching.

There are three main reasons for me to leave my comfortable life in Seattle and seek out this new challenge:

1. Making a meaningful contribution for a better world: As a citizen and resident of the privileged western world, I view it as my obligation to give back and make an ever-so-small personal contribution to those who are less privileged, in particular those who suffer from the aftermath of armed conflicts. As many of you know, my dad’s mission work has inspired me deeply.

2. New challenge: I am looking forward to fulfilling my mission with a newly formed team in an unknown environment. While I have no doubt this won’t always be easy, I am very much looking forward to the new challenges and ahead. I am also looking forward to digging deep into the history of the region and getting a thorough understanding of the current conflicts in the Balkans.

3. Gaining new leadership experience: I am looking forward to the close collaboration with local civilian leaders and military leaders of SWISSCOY and other nations as well as taking on the leadership of my own team. I have no doubt that I will gain new, valuable leadership experience that will be personally enriching and will serve me well in my future as an Executive Coach.

As with every change, there are inevitable downsides as well:

Away from my family: I will be away from my two sons, Luc (11) and Liam (9), for nine months. While I will have three weeks of home leave during the deployment, it will be difficult for all of us to be apart for that long. In order to ease the separation, we are planning to communicate regularly via skype/phone/text/email. I communicated my reasons for pursuing this opportunity early and openly with my family, and while they understand my motivation, they are sad to have me gone for that long, as I’ll be sad to be away from them. I take some comfort in hoping my boys will learn the importance of giving back from my example, the way I learned it from my father.

Away from my business: I will have to scale my business down during my absence (and scale it back up upon my return). Thankfully, I have a network of strong colleagues I can refer my existing clients out to. Nevertheless, it will take some time and energy to build my business back up.
If you are interested in keeping tabs on what I’m up to during my service, I will communicate via Facebook, LinkedIn, and my blog at https://redpointcoaching.wordpress.com/category/coaching/
I look forward to staying in touch with you during my service.
For more info on the training I will be undergoing:

For more on SWISSCOY’s mission:

How To Run a Great Meeting

By Urs Koenig, PhD, MBA
Leadership Coach
http://www.redpointcoaching.com

‘One either meets or one works’ – Peter Drucker

‘Shadowing’ my clients at meetings they lead or participate in is an important part of my leadership coaching. It is a highly effective coaching technique that allows for just-in-time feedback to my clients.

Through these shadowing sessions, I get to experience many different meeting settings and styles. Time and time again I am amazed how poorly some of these meetings are run (yes, even by some of my clients…). No wonder our people complain about meetings: they are boring, the boss just drones on, we don’t actually accomplish anything, etc. etc.

By following three very basic principles, you will be virtually guaranteed to run a solid – maybe even a great – meeting. You will help your team achieve bigger goals, resolve and even prevent unhealthy conflict, and promote good teamwork.

Like with many things in life, the 80/20 rule applies: apply these basic three principles to your meetings (20%) and you will take care of 80% of the usual meeting dysfunctions.

Before I get to the three principles, one thing upfront: only have a meeting if you need a two-way conversation. Meetings are meant for discussion, debate, and decision making. If you merely need to relay information one way, consider other methods (such as email).

 

Define Outcome Goals for Every Agenda Item

Get into the disciplined habit of sharing outcome goals with your team at the onset of every discussion. Start every agenda item with the following sentence: “The outcome goal of this discussion is to….”.

Here is a list of things I hear all too often that are NOT outcome goals:

  • ‘talk about…’
  • ‘further discuss…..’
  • ‘tell you all about…’

 

Here is a list of good outcome goals:

  • ‘make a decision on….
  • ‘develop a clear plan for…’
  • ‘brainstorm and capture ideas for ….’
  • ‘get buy in for….’
  • ‘receive input on…’
  • ‘get everyone’s questions on … answered’

By forcing yourself to define an outcome goal, you clarify for yourself and your team why this is worthy of discussion.

 

Clarify How You Will Make Decisions

Before capturing any decision you are making during the meeting, clarify how you will make it. I have experienced countless cases where leaders did not communicate how they will make their decision leading to huge frustrations on the team’s part.

Here is the classic scenario: the leaders simply wants input from the team, but in her mind it’s clear that she will make the decision on her own after listening to her team’s discussion. As far as she is concerned, the team has consulting/influencing power but no decision-making power. The team members, on the other hand, assume that they actually have decision-making power (e.g. through a vote) and are stunned that the leader wraps up the discussion by stating that she will announce her decision next week.

To avoid the frustration, the leader could have clarified at the onset of the discussion: ‘I will make the decision next week after hearing everyone’s opinion and input today.’ Alternatively she could have said: ‘We will make this decision by majority vote,’ or

‘It is important to me that everyone is 100% on board with the decision we reach. Hence we will make the decision by consensus.’

No matter how you will decide, communicate your decision-making process upfront, thereby avoiding misunderstandings and frustration!

 

Capture Decisions, Next Steps and Accountability

Many people dislike meetings because they feel nothing ever gets decided or acted upon. Don’t run one of those meetings.

Your goal as the meeting chair is to make sure that all team members understand what has been decided on at the meeting, what the next step is, who will take it, and by when.

Once you have reached a decision, have your team members verbalize/paraphrase their understanding of the decision. You will be amazed how this simple exercise of paraphrasing surfaces misunderstandings about decisions you assumed had been made!

Don’t keep minutes – capture decisions, action items, ownership, and timelines. After the meeting, send brief notes out to all the participants of the meeting.

These notes might look something like this:

 

Decision?

Fill the open position in our department by end of September 2015.

 

Next deliverable?

Draft job ad in conjunction with HR and email to all before next meeting. Finalize at next team meeting.

 

By whom?

Bill (Director of Marketing)

 

By when?

Email job ad to all before next meeting

Be sure to bring these notes forward to your next meeting. Start the next meeting with a review of the outstanding action items from last meeting. You will be surprised at how productive your people will be when they know that they will be held accountable in front of their peers. If they haven’t made progress, use this time to figure out why and help them remove obstacles.

I believe that even the late, great Peter Drucker would have agreed that meetings which follow these three basic principles would be worth attending!

 

Lesson in self-restraint: How do you handle almost getting killed? by Urs Koenig, MBA, PhD

Anyone can get angry, that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not easy.

-Aristotle, The Nichomachean Ethics

planeDale Carnegie liked to tell the story of Bob Hoover, who was a famous test pilot and frequent performer at air shows. Hoover was returning to his home in Los Angeles from an air show in San Diego. Suddenly, both engines stopped in mid-flight on the aircraft that Hoover was flying. Using his skills and some deft maneuvering, he managed to land the plane, but it was badly damaged. Thankfully, neither Hoover nor the two passengers that were flying with him were hurt.

Hoover’s first act after the emergency landing was to inspect the airplane’s fuel. Just as he suspected, the WWII propeller plane he had been flying had been fueled with jet fuel rather than gasoline.

Upon returning to the airport, he asked to see the mechanic who had serviced his airplane. The young man was sick with the agony of his mistake. Tears streamed down his face as Hoover approached. He had just caused the loss of a very expensive plane and could have caused the loss of three lives as well.

No one would’ve blamed Hoover for ripping into the mechanic for his carelessness. But Hoover didn’t scold the mechanic; he didn’t even criticize him. Instead, he put his big arm around the man’s shoulder and said, “To show you I’m sure that you’ll never do this again, I want you to service my F-51 tomorrow.”

Turning Those Flabby Abs Into Sexy Six Packs by Urs Koenig, MBA, PhD

Read what Marshall Goldsmith, who first pioneered our stakeholder based leadership coaching has to say about:

1. Hard Work, and;

2.The Difference Between Simple and Easy When Achieving goals

I absolutely love this article and hope you will too!

sixpackabsSaid Goldsmith, “I don’t watch much TV. But on a recent Saturday morning, I found myself channel-surfing for about 15 minutes. I was amazed at how many of the ads were about getting in shape. Here are some of the exact phrases I heard:

 

“Six-second abs.”
“Easy shaper.”
“Incredible – a miracle!”
“It feels terrific! Let us show you how easy it is!” “Quickly turn your flabby abs into that sexy six-pack!”

My favorite was one that claimed that “visible results” could be achieved in two three-minute sessions!

I am from Kentucky. Excuse the language, but a phrase from my childhood captures my feeling for these claims: “What a pile of bullsh- – t!”

If you want to know why so many goal setters don’t become goal achievers, you can pore over a bunch of enlightening academic studies about goals or you can watch infomercials for 15 minutes. Where did we ever get the crazy idea that getting in shape is supposed to be quick and easy? Why do we think that there will be almost no cost? Why are we surprised when working out turns out to be arduous and healthy foods don’t really taste that good?

I see the impact of this kind of thinking all the time. I recently got a call from Mary, an EVP for human resources, who was dealing with integration of people and systems after her company had made a large acquisition. “Don, our CEO, has been hearing some serious grumbling about Bill, our chief information officer,” she groaned. “Bill is 56 years old and has great experience. No one else in the company can match it. Unfortunately, he wants everything to be done his way. There are some brilliant people in the company we acquired who have their own ideas. Several of their top people, including our new COO, are expressing concerns about Bill. Don wants this issue resolved now! He has suggested that we get an executive coach to work with Bill. Given Bill’s busy schedule and our immediate needs, Don would like to see a dramatic change in Bill within a couple of months. Because Bill is also very impatient, he won’t work with a coach who will waste his valuable time. Do you think that you can help us? When could you start?”

Like all of the folks who buy these miracle products to help them get in shape, Mary wanted a miracle coach to immediately change Bill.

I pointed out that Bill was a 56-year-old executive. Just as with diet and exercise, Bill’s behavioral habits took years to develop and won’t go away overnight. We all set goals to get some aspect of our lives in shape. All too often, we fail to meet them. Why? There are four major challenges that we mistakenly assess:

1. Time: “This is taking a lot longer than I thought it would,” or “I don’t have time for this.”

2. Effort: “This is a lot harder than I thought it would be,” or “I’m tired. It’s just not worth it.”

3. Competing goals: “I had no idea I would be so busy this year. I’ll just have to worry about this later.”

4. Maintenance: “After I got in shape, I celebrated by indulging in some of the actions that forced me to set my goals in the first place.
Now, for some unexplained reason, I’m back where I started. What am I supposed to do? Go on some kind of diet for the rest of my life?”

We often confuse the words “simple” and “easy.” The changes I help people make are generally very simple. However, they are never easy. Just as with diet and exercise, changing behavior involves hard work. It takes time.

During the next year, Bill will be barraged with competing goals that will distract him from his efforts to change. He needs to realize that lasting leadership development is a lifelong process. A temporary change in behavior to “look good” in the short term will only create cynicism if Bill doesn’t stick with it. I can help Bill if he is willing to put in the time and effort. If not, hiring me would probably be a waste of everyone’s time.

Look in the mirror. Not just at how you look but who you are. If you want to be a better leader, a better professional, or just a better person – don’t kid yourself. To achieve meaningful goals, you’ll have to pay the price. There’s no product, no diet, no exercise program, and (I hate to admit it) no executive coach who can make you better. Only you can do it. If your source of motivation doesn’t come from inside, you won’t stick with it. This may not be material for a Saturday morning TV ad, but it’s great advice for any real achievement.

MGpictureBy Marshall Goldsmith, reprinted from Fast Company Magazine August 2005

In 2014: Design The Best Place To Work, by Urs Koenig, PhD, MBA, Principal, Redpoint Coaching

by Urs Koenig, PhD, MBA, Principal, Redpoint Coaching

jsw_kidbuildingAs we embark onto 2014 I would like challenge you to design the very best place to work! How would this organization of our dreams look do you ask? Read on…

Rob Goffee, an emeritus professor of organizational behavioral at the London School of Business, and Gareth Jones, a visiting professor at the IF Business School in Madrid, posed the question about what the company of our dreams looks like to hundreds of leaders. They summarized their findings in the May 2013 edition of the Harvard Business Review (“Creating the best workplace on earth: what employees really require to be their most productive”)

Here is what they found. In the organization of our dreams:

  1. I can be myself
  2. I am told what is really going on
  3. My strengths are magnified
  4. The company stands for something meaningful
  5. My daily work is rewarding
  6. Stupid rules don’t exist

These principles might all sound like common sense. Who wouldn’t want to work in a place that followed them? Most leaders and all of our clients are aware of the benefits of such a ‘dream organization’, which many studies have confirmed. And yet, no organization we are aware of possesses all six virtues.

Why is that so? Several of the attributes run counter to traditional and well established practices and deeply ingrained habits. Others are complicated and costly to implement. Some conflict with each other. All of them require you as the leader to carefully balance competing interests and to rethink how you allocate your time and energy.

So as Goffee and Jones point out, the company of our dreams remains largely aspirational.  I therefore offer the below assessment as a challenge to you and your people to aim at creating the most productive and rewarding working environment possible.

The Dream Company Diagnostic

How close is your business to the ideal? The more checks, the closer you are.

  1. Take the assessment yourself
  2. Have your senior team and a cross section of your people take the assessment
  3. Compare the findings and discuss inconsistencies

Let me be myself

___ I am the same person at home as I am at work

___ I feel comfortable being myself

___ We are all encouraged to express our differences

___ People who think differently from most do well here

___ Passion is encouraged, even when it leads to conflict

___ More than one type of person fits in here

Tell me what’s really going on

___ We’re all told the whole story

___ Information is not “spun”

___ It’s not disloyal to say something negative

___ My manager wants to hear bad news

___ Top executives want to hear bad news

___ Many channels of communication are available to us

___ I feel comfortable signing my name to comments I make

 Discover and magnify my strengths

___ I am given the chance to develop

___ Every employee is given the chance to develop

___ The best people want to strut their stuff here

___ The weakest performers can see a path to improvement

___ Compensation is fairly distributed throughout the organization

___ We generate value for ourselves by adding value to others

Make me proud I work here

___ I know what we stand for

___ I value what we stand for

___ I want to exceed my current duties

___ Profit is not our overriding goal

___ I am accomplishing something worthwhile

___ I like to tell people where I work

Make my work meaningful

___ My job is meaningful to me

___ My duties make sense to me

___ My work gives me energy and pleasure

___ I understand how my job fits with everyone else’s

___ Everyone’s job is necessary

___ At work we share a common cause

Don’t hinder me with stupid rules

___ We keep things simple

___ The rules are clear and apply equally to everyone

___ I know what the rules are for

___ Everyone knows what the rules are for

___ We, as an organization, resist red tape

___ Authority is respected

Decide where you believe the most important deficits are and take action during 2014 in order to move your organization one step closer towards the very best place to work.

Marshall Goldsmith on the value of advertising your leadership coaching goal by Urs Koenig, PhD, MBA

Marshall Goldsmith on the value of advertising your leadership coaching goal:

Those of you who are familiar with our leadership coaching (hotlink) know that we don’t coach behind close doors only but make the process of leadership coaching transparent by bringing it out into the organization. Here is what our teacher Marshall Goldsmith has to say about the value if advertising goals in his recent Leading News article :

“It pays to advertise. I know a playwright who never reveals what new work she’s writing. “When you talk about it,” she says, “you’re not writing it. You’re just talking.” That sort of secretiveness may apply to creative work, but it doesn’t apply to rebuilding your reputation. People have preconceptions about you. They not only filter everything you do through those preconceptions, but they are constantly looking for evidence that confirms them. Thus, if they believe you are perennially late, even when you’re only a few seconds late to a lunch date or a meeting they’ll quietly file that away as another example of your tardiness. However, if you tell them you’re making a serious effort to be on time from now on, that bit of “advertising” can change their perception. They’ll be on alert for evidence of your on-time behavior rather than confirmation that you’re always late. That little tweak in perception, created solely by telling people that you’re trying to change, can make all the difference.

 

Race Across America and Becoming a Better Leader: Do You Have What It Takes? by Urs Koenig, MBA, PhD

Chris Ragsdale

by Urs Koenig, MBA, PhD

Many of you might remember that I finished team Race Across America (RAAM) in 2002 and attempted solo RAAM in 2005 but had to withdraw due to serious medical challenges.

Now Redpoint Coaching is proud to sponsor Seattle based, ultra cycling legend Chris Ragsdale  in his 2013 Race Across America solo endeavor.

Why are we sponsoring Chris?

First, Chris is one of the most accomplished ultracyclists in the U.S. and ranks easily in the top 10 world-wide.  Among many other accomplishments, he holds the 1,000 km road world record, has won what is probably the most competitive ultra event (other than RAAM), the Furnace Creek 508, and has ridden more than 500 miles multiple times during the National 24 hour race.

Second, Chris is a great friend, an amazing racing and training partner and an incredibly humble human being.  Chris and I share many memories riding and racing together. Two that I will never forget: winning and setting the course record in the two man division of the Race Across Oregon and riding through the endless second night of the 1,200 km Boston-Montreal-Boston event.

Third, there are many similarities in mindset and character that are required to compete in an ultra endurance event such as RAAM and submitting yourself to our leadership coaching process and graduating a truly better leader.

Think that is a bit of a stretch? Read on. Early hint: neither RAAM nor our coaching is for the faint of heart!

Do you have what it takes? You do if you have plenty of guts, lots and lots of humility and great dose of discipline!

Why RAAM requires plenty of guts 

Imagine you and I are standing at the starting line of RAAM in California at the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Ahead of us are 3,000 non-stop miles across this vast country. We have 12 days to finish. Now here is a sobering statistic for us: half of us standing here will not finish on the East Coast but will have our dream shattered. Somewhere along the way we will dismount our bike and not finish the race. Statistically, it will be either you or me.

For some of us it will be early in the race. Maybe it will be on the first day in the 120 degree heat of the Mojave Desert when half the field will be puking or during the second night and third day in the thin air of the Rockies. Others will be beaten by the monotony of the never-ending plains with failing necks during the middle part of the race. And some of us, with less than a third of the way to go, will find ourselves getting peeled off the bike by our crew and being transferred directly to ICU with fluid-filled lungs, broken pelvises or worse. (This unfortunately is what happened to me in 2005.)

Despite knowledge of all of this, Chris Ragsdale will be at the RAAM starting line in June 2013. For eight months leading up to the start in June he will put the rest of his life on hold to live and breathe RAAM 24/7.

RAAM has more similarities with a mountaineering expedition than a bike race: recruiting and organizing the crew, ordering vehicles, shipping gear, designing the race plan and yes, of course, training (most riders clock between 4,000 and 10,000 miles in the six months leading up to the race).

And then there is the financial aspect. Chris’ RAAM budget is around $25,000, which is average for solo RAAM riders.  Know also that Chris is a husband and father of two young boys age 5 and 3, is on-and-off remodeling his house and is not independently wealthy. Both he and his wife Lara work full time.

Taking all this on with the knowledge that he statistically has only a 50% chance of finishing requires plenty of guts no doubt.

Why our leadership coaching process requires plenty of guts

While none of our coaching clients (to date) have either thrown up or ended up in the ICU, plenty of guts are required nevertheless to complete the coaching process.

Our coaching is significantly more transparent than any other leadership coaching we are aware of.  We do not believe in simply coaching our clients behind closed doors in their corner office. We take your coaching to your organization and involve your team heavily in your leadership development.

This starts after our initial 360 process in which we interview each of your stakeholders (your bosses, your peers and your direct reports) and then feed back the results to you in a very detailed report. As the leader being coached you will stand in front of your team of stakeholders and share the leadership development goals you are committing to based on the initial 360 results. Let me be even clearer: you will explicitly present to your team of stakeholders which weaknesses you will look at improving.  You will also ask them to help you improve.

For most of our clients, this is the scariest part of the engagement. And yet it is incredibly powerful. When is the last time you have seen a leader stand in front of his team acknowledging his/her weaknesses and specifically asking for the team’s help to get better?

Throughout the coaching engagement you will be asking your team of stakeholders for regular face-to-face feedback on your progress towards your goals.  You are specifically inviting the good, the bad and the sometimes ugly feedback.

Half-way through and at the end of our engagement, your stakeholders will assess your progress in a very short anonymous s survey.  Once again, you will ask them to be brutally honest.

Truly becoming a better leader requires that you put yourself out there. It might not seem as scary as attempting to ride your bike across the United States, however as any of our clients will tell you: Our leadership coaching does require guts. In the words of one of our current clients: ”I have to admit I did not sleep well the night before the stakeholder meeting where I had to present my coaching goals based on the initial 360. However, the feedback after the meeting from my team was so incredibly positive that it was worth the lost sleep. They expressed a true appreciation for my openness and willingness to dig deep in order to become a better boss.”

Over the course of the next few ezines I will share with you how lots of humility and great doses of discipline are required to both compete in RAAM as well as graduating from our leadership coaching process.