Executive support is critical to creating change and innovation in organizations. Organizations perish without innovation.
Coaches, consultants, and people leaders have important roles in guiding, shaping, and implementing organizational change. In addition, executives and their change-agent partners steer actions intended for consequential change and long-term improvements. Some executives and coaches trust freely, while others require trust to be earned. Trust underlies effective partnerships.
Because trust flows vary in relationships, three common footings are critical to growth or progress in developing an effective partnership. The integral footings for effective executive partnership are shared values, goal alignment, and transparency. When these foundations are not in place, attempts to increase partnership will be received as hollow, shallow, and ineffective.
Beyond the common footings, there are seven paths to forging and strengthening executive partnerships. As the coach gains an understanding of the executive and organization, the coach forms stakeholder relationships that grow strategic intent. With broader influence networks, the coach, consultant, or people leader engages others in the future. Spheres of influence increase, networks grow deeper and broader, and desirable results are realized because of effective executive and consultant partnerships.
Seven Workouts to Increase partnership
Have an agenda and forget about it.
Executive meetings often have one of two purposes: gathering feedback or making a decision. Preparation for executive meetings is often intense. It’s important to be well-prepared and to understand the business, as knowledge shortcomings in those areas weaken consultant credibility. Establishing outcomes for an executive meeting sets a business-now approach, and when outcomes are clear and agreed-upon, many paths can lead to progress. In planning and preparing for executive interaction, an agenda provides a familiar guidepost to frame interaction. The consultant can be flexible and responsive when well-prepared.
Authenticity promotes trust. For you and your executive, understand what you can both do better. It might be to offer alternatives in more situations or to listen more intently. As a practice, let your strengths shine. For those times when you are not the right person or resource for a topic, promote an environment where it is easy to invite your colleagues. Fresh perspectives and insights may provide a needed catalyst for progress. Bring what the situation needs at the moment. One great gift is to help a client to clarify needs and wants.
Think big and act small to build accomplishments.
Vision is essential to create any change. Pictures and future images compel action. And, visionary thinking helps to break through the status quo. Every vision needs action, and change agents should not underestimate the effect of slight changes on organizational progress. Be experimental with change approaches. When work promotes desirable organizational change, a record of accomplishment improves self-esteem. When we feel good in our relationships at work, contributions and engagement rise.
Bring perspective and acknowledge bias.
You were engaged or hired because someone thought you were bright and capable. When meeting with an executive, remember that head on your shoulders. You have a perspective worth sharing. You also bring professional and other biases to the situation. Rather than ignore those biases, leverage them. Some will be useful, while others restrain fresh thinking.
Acknowledge time as a critical resource.
There is always something to do, and executives are frequently shifting focus from one meeting to another. On typical days, executives interact with multiple stakeholders. Their meetings are as diverse as the topics. Calendars change, and meeting times shift. Repeat meetings with executives happen when you bring value to time.
Authority, ego, and power are relevant considerations.
People respond differently to those in positions of power. People also react differently to those close to leaders in roles of positional authority. All these factors influence executive and coach interactions. Consultants and coaches accelerate time to partnership effectiveness by understanding their own needs and wants for power and authority.
Results matter to both executives and effective consultants, and people leaders. This is more about congruence and ensuring that actions match words. A hallmark of an effective partnership is when both executive and coach independently fulfill common goals.
Moving to the Next Steps
Involvement with executives brings coaches, consultants, and people leaders closer to the business. With an improved understanding of what matters, consultants can help to chart the course of a division or an organization. When a partnership is lacking, the opportunities to influence meaningful change decrease. In addition to understanding the business, a partnership requires risk. That risk, your exchange of value, requires periodic inspection. Jobs that do not bring you closer to living out personal values cause undue stress. We all do better when we bring more of who we are to what we do.
The opportunities to develop these executive relationships extend our abilities to promote humane and just workplaces where individuals are inherently valued. Just workplaces are far, and few between for many, and the effects of our work may extend into larger social systems. We work with those in powerful roles to create organizations that value democracy and participation. And we can accomplish those humanistic aims by building influential executive relationships one pair at a time.