Frequently Asked Questions

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Below are answers to some of the questions our clients and others ask us most frequently.  For your convenience, we have grouped these questions under our Core Capabilities:  Change Management, Assessment, Strategic Planning, GE Work-Out, Business Process Improvement, Executive Coaching, and Team Effectiveness.

Change Management

Just what does the buzz-phrase “change management” mean, anyway?

Well, just the fact that “change management” often strikes people as a “buzz-phrase” illustrates the problem.  You wouldn’t blink if someone told you they needed to do a better job managing their “budgeting” process or their “manufacturing” process.   But managing a “change process”?  Sounds like consultant-speak, right?  Wrong.

Given the need to make a significant change in your business, especially one that will affect people and/or require their involvement and commitment to be successful, you really need to think of change as a process, too.  The fact is that there are time-honored theories and practices that can mean the difference between implementing a change that enhances your business performance and fires people up and a change that bogs you down and, as a result, fails to achieve its objectives and damages morale to boot.

The point of all this is that, just like other business processes, change is a process and needs to be managed as such.  Hence the phrase – like it or not! – change management.  So change management is the body of knowledge that speaks to effectively managing change in organizations, according to a widely accepted set of proven principles, in a way that effectively mobilizes commitment to the desired change and achieves the business results for which you embarked on the change to begin with.

What are the most important elements in effectively managing change?

First, as a leader, you need to demonstrate to all who need to get behind the change, that the status quo is unsustainable.  Ironically, this is easier when there’s a crisis at hand than when only you and a few other leaders see the rationale for change.

Along with this first step, you need to create in the minds of those you want to enlist a very compelling picture – a vision – of how much better it’s going to be once you succeed in making this change.

Next you need to establish a coalition, or team, of folks who are behind the change and agree to lead it with you.

Then you need to provide opportunities for people to actually get “in the trenches” with you to make change happen.  You also need to structure this involvement to ensure that, pretty quickly, they can achieve some small “wins” that indicate success and motivate them to continue to move this new change program forward.

Once this starts to happen, you need to cheerlead as if the change depended upon it – because it does!  You need to celebrate and praise what’s being done that’s helping to “move the needle” and identify and discourage what isn’t.

Perhaps most important of all, it’s usually best if you orchestrate and plan all of the above beforehand, not make it up as you go along.  That’s what we mean by managing change vs. letting change manage you!

Can change-management skills be taught?

Absolutely.  We do it all the time.  (See our Change Management: Principles and Practices Program.)  But to do it best, avoid the strictly academic and theoretical.

The best way to approach change management training is the “action-learning” method, whereby leaders get to apply the principles of change management to a real change project that they are responsible for in their businesses.   As a result, they leave the training program with a first stab at a change management plan that they can take back to their companies and apply in the real world.  

Assessment

Why conduct an assessment if you already understand what the problem is?

You mean you think you already understand what the problem is.  Organizational problems are often multifaceted and complex.  And your understanding may be incomplete – or even flat out wrong! In that case, you’re unlikely to implement something that solves the problem.  And, with the wrong solution, you could even make things worse!

An often more compelling reason to do an assessment is that people may distrust a solution unless they believe it’s based on an objective analysis of the problem. Even if the assessment validates leaders’ beliefs about the nature of the problem you’re facing, an organizational assessment gives you an objective, third-party view that has greater credibility.  And that can often result in greater acceptance of your solution.

Are there any other benefits to doing an assessment?

Yes, there are.  An organizational assessment gives an organization’s leaders a chance to build – or restore – trust.  To do this, leaders need to state publicly, before the assessment, that they’re committed to addressing whatever issues the assessment identifies.  People may be skeptical or cynical during the assessment, but what matters is that leaders follow through on what it calls for.

An especially powerful way to ensure follow-through is to create cross-functional, cross-level teams, each focused on a particular issue and chartered with the challenge to identify and propose possible solutions. Trust grows when people see that business leaders are candidly sharing results and mobilizing resources to address key issues and engage employees in the process.

What are some of the features of a good organizational assessment?

These are the features we have found to be most beneficial to our clients:

  • Use of multiple assessment methods:  We usually recommend some combination of interviews, focus groups and an employee survey.  Individually, each of these methods has both advantages and disadvantages.  But together, they constitute powerful, complementary sources of data.
  • Complete confidentiality:  This must be assured at the outset and maintained throughout, so that participants in the assessment feel comfortable sharing their true feelings and concerns.  Any assessment is only as good as the authenticity and validity of the data.
  • Representative sampling:  The respondents in an assessment must constitute a truly, representative sample of the organization’s broader population. This is easiest to achieve through a survey, but it’s also important when people are selected for interviews and focus groups. When your assessment includes data that’s truly representative, your assessment results will have more credibility.
  • Standardized questions:  Standard sets of questions must be used with each data gathering method, so that later you can identify themes and tabulate them in a consistent way.
  • Quantitative and qualitative data results:  A good, comprehensive assessment should yield both quantitative data (for example, average ratings on survey items or scales) and qualitative data (participants’ comments in response to open-ended questions). Quantitative data allows you to compare subgroups (for example, departments) within your organization as well as to compare your data with that of other organizations. Qualitative data can help explain the reasons for people’s perceptions of the organization. Some kinds of qualitative data (for example, participants’ responses to questions such as, “What could the organization do to …..”) can provide sources of ideas for solving problems.
  • Conversion:  Qualitative results can also be converted to quantifiable ones through thematic analysis and tabulation of the number of people who mention each recurring theme.

What is the best way to summarize the results of an organizational assessment?

One approach we find especially effective is to prepare a 20 to 30 minute presentation – consider it like a “stump speech” – that tells the story of the assessment and summarizes the important results in a way that everyone can understand.  Avoid “management-speak.”

Most importantly, this presentation should conclude with a strong, clear statement of what the organization intends to do to address the issues you’ve uncovered in the assessment. You can and should share this presentation with different groups within your organization. Following each delivery, we always like to engage the audience, often in small groups, in a discussion of their reactions to assessment results.  This provides additional opportunity to refine your understanding of the issues as well as possible solutions to address them.

Are there any situations when an assessment should not be done?

Yes, indeed.  If the leaders of the business are not committed to addressing the issues surfaced in the assessment, they should never conduct one. When people are asked in interviews, focus groups and surveys how they feel about the organization and what their concerns are, it is simply natural and logical for them to expect that something will be done about what they have to say. When this doesn’t happen, people are likely to become resigned, cynical and passive – or more so, if they already were!  In this case your assessment has served to do nothing but raise hopes and expectations only to dash them later.  In other words, an assessment not acted upon not only doesn’t help make things better, you can almost guarantee it will make things worse.

We also advise against conducting an assessment just before or during a major organizational change.   Change almost always unsettles people and may prevent you from getting a “true reading” of your organization.  Better to wait until the change has been implemented, until you’ve achieved a more “steady state,” especially if the change involves something as unsettling as retrenchment or even lay-offs.

Finally, don’t use data from an assessment to determine issues of downsizing or layoffs. Doing this is likely to build a lasting distrust of assessments and data gathering activities of any kind as well as the people who conduct them, whether they be internal or external consultants.

Strategic Planning

Why do so many Strategic Plans simply sit on shelves collecting dust vs. serving as effective blue-prints for change and business success?

Sometimes the problem is the plan itself.  Over a period of more than twenty years of being invited in to help clients “develop a new plan,” we’ve seen many existing plans that lack the kind of concreteness, “actionability” and accountability that’s necessary for a plan to be an effective business management tool.  Plans composed of nothing but lofty generalities and aspirations without what we call “arms and legs,” that is, concrete initiatives, responsible individuals and timetables, may generate initial enthusiasm.  But they usually don’t amount to the kind of practical management tool that ensures follow-through action and business improvement.

Sometimes the problem is the process.  Many strategic plans are developed via the “golden eagle” approach, whereby external consultants swoop in, analyze the company and then prescribe their program for future success.  Strategic plans developed this way risk not generating much internal ownership on the part of the very people who must “make it happen,” namely, the senior executive team and the workforce.

But even when strategic plans are developed internally, oftentimes, not enough people are involved.  Some executives view strategic planning as the exclusive purview of only the very senior-most executives – what we call “planning in a closet.”  Since people are always more likely to get behind something they help create than to support something they had nothing to do with, planning exclusively at “the top of the house” compounds the challenge of getting “buy-in.”

Finally, we have to admit that sometimes the problem is the people.  Strange as it may seem, after all the effort and expense of developing a strategic plan, we have seen CEOs and executive teams simply fail to follow-through in keeping the strategic plan front-and-center and making it a visible, living blue-print for business behavior and action.  There are many reasons for this:  the unexpected, changing priorities, challenges of “running the day-to-day business,” etc., etc.  But sometimes there seems to be a more fundamental cause.  We’ll simply call it the wrong “mindset.”

Some senior executives seem to approach strategic planning as a “chore,” a grudging obligation vs. the all-important dialogue about the shared destiny of the company that it truly is.  There is a huge difference between these two attitudes.  One is just “punching your ticket.”  The other approaches planning with some “fire in the belly” and recognizes that it can make the difference between “business as usual” and business transformation.  Frankly, this obstacle is difficult for even the most competent external consultants to overcome.

We can and do address the “buy-in” challenge, however, and very successfully.  Ours is a team-based approach to strategic planning.  It involves players beyond the executive team and includes mechanisms whereby individuals even further from the top can contribute to and react to the strategic plan, while it is being developed.  This is not token involvement; it represents real influence.

Since nothing breeds commitment like involvement, strategic plans that result from this approach start out with a much broader base of support than those that are hatched “in the closet” by a chosen few.  The fact that individuals well beyond the executive team can rightfully call the result “our plan” makes mobilizing the entire enterprise more likely, and significantly increases the chances that the final plan will make a real difference vs. just gather dust on the shelf!

(For more detail on our Team-Based Strategic Planning approach, including our planning “model” and “architecture,” please visit our Strategic Planning web page.)

Who should be involved in creating a Strategic Plan?

First, it’s important to make the point that there are different ways to be “involved.”  Obviously, there are limits to the number of people who can be seated on what we call, “the planning team,” that is, the people who are part of the actual planning meetings, themselves.  But even here, as we said above, companies often involve too few.  Our recommendation is almost always to go beyond just the leadership team and include other key individuals, thought-leaders, and/or so-called “high-potentials.”

In addition, there are ways of “involving” far more people from the business in between formal planning conferences.  This can be done by asking representatives of other company constituencies to react to “draft” material created at a previous planning meeting and/or contribute ideas and suggestions to be considered at future planning meetings.  (For more on this approach, see our “‘Offline’ Feedback/Input” process on our Strategic Planning web page.)

But the guiding principle here should always be more involvement vs. less, since involvement up-front significantly improves your chances of gaining commitment once your plan is ready for implementation.

What are the key elements of a good Strategic Plan?

Balance is key here.  Any good plan should have its lofty, inspirational elements.  After all, it needs to be compelling enough to make people want to strive for the company’s desired future.  However, in this context, we always like to recall what Thomas Edison so famously said:  “Vision without execution is hallucination.”

And any good plan must include specific, concrete, actionable and measurable initiatives – we call them “Tactics” – along with implementation schedules and the names of people who are responsible for “making it happen.”  (See our “architecture.”)  This kind of plan becomes a real tool for managing and measuring progress week-to-week, quarter-to-quarter, year-to-year – not a three-ring binder, gathering dust on a shelf, that no one ever consults.

It’s also important to note that planning can’t be done in a vacuum.  And although it is never a part of the final plan, a complete “environmental scan” of a company’s internal and external operating environment should be conducted at the “front-end” of a planning process to provide the real-world context and external focus so critical to developing effective strategy.

What’s the right time horizon for a Strategic Plan?

A single, pat answer here is not only difficult, it’s probably wrong.  SONY executives, during the 1950’s, when Japanese products were largely considered “junk,” committed to their vision to “become the company most known for changing the worldwide image of Japanese products as being of poor quality.”  How’s that for being visionary?  And staying with it!

On the other hand, we’ve had clients who find it difficult to look further than a year ahead.  We don’t disagree with this latter position; we just don’t think it’s strategic planning.  It’s business or operational planning, in our view.  Nothing wrong with it.  It’s just not strategic planning.  In the same way that eyeglasses don’t constitute a telescope.

In our experience, what seems to make sense for most clients is a three- to five- to ten-year horizon, depending upon your business, your industry and the pace of change in your operating environment.

What are some of the benefits of effective Strategic Planning?

They are hard to overstate.  Consider SONY, who had the vision – and staying power! – to transform the image of their products from “junk” to one of the most enviable brands in consumer products over a period of more than 50 years!

The theory here is simple:  On the one hand it’s the old, “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”  On the other, if you pause to consider the future and make strategic decisions about the kind of future you want, you’ll dramatically increase the likelihood that two things will happen:  1) you’ll recognize the things you need to help achieve that future and 2) you’ll increase your focus on those strategic things.  This increases your chances of shaping the kind of future you choose vs. letting events define your company’s destiny.

Here are just a few real-world examples of what we mean, taken from our own client files:

  • One of our clients, in the course of a serious and uncompromising assessment of themselves, took on the challenge of becoming one of Fortune Magazine’s “best places to work” – and achieved the goal within two years!
  • Another, recognizing that achieving their goals would require a much more scientific approach to implementation and measurement, created a nation-wide measurement system and hired qualified resources to implement it, steps that might never have been taken had their planning not crystallized the need.
  • This client, energized by a more coherent vision for the future and a concrete road map for getting there, executed their first five-year plan in three years, significantly accelerating their growth and accomplishments far beyond what they would have been without such a galvanizing and catalyzing game plan.
  • Last example:  This client resolved, as part of their strategic plan, to review and strengthen their key business processes.  They did so, and over a more than two-year period, achieved significant, quantifiable productivity improvements to numerous back-office and customer-facing business operations.

But again – and we can’t stress this enough! – these folks were serious about it.  They meant what they said, and they “walked the talk” consistently and over an extended period of time!

(Click on the following links for strategic planning testimonials from some of our C-level clients from the following companies and organizations:  Polo Ralph Lauren, Noble International, Ltd., The Orvis Company, Inc., Financo,  Trout Unlimited, and the Leominster Credit Union.)

GE Work-Out

What is GEWork-Out?

GEWork-Out is a framework, an approach, a methodology, that allows businesses to involve people who are closest to the work in improving how the work gets done.  It’s a hybrid problem-solving/process-improvement/change-acceleration process whose objectives are to bust bureaucracy, demolish barriers of rank, hierarchy and function, accelerate decision-making and get things done . . . fast.  It is the enemy of “business as usual.”

Where did it come from?

Work-Out was developed at GE, during the Jack Welch era of the late ‘80’s and ‘90’s.  After significant layoffs to prepare for more difficult business future that GE envisioned, something was needed to match the work that still remained to the fewer people remaining to do it.  So Work-Out’s first task was to help GE’rs re-size the workload to the remaining workforce, in other words, to get excess and non-value-added “Work Out” of the system – hence its name.

Beyond this, though, Work-Out’s goal was also to transform one of the oldest, top-down, “command-and-control” business cultures into a more resilient, speedy, and egalitarian one with the result, as Welch so famously put it, of  “engaging and involving every mind in the company.”  Work-Out enables seamless collaboration – GE called it “boundarylessness” – across  not only internal functions but between companies and their suppliers and customers as well.

Since its early days at GE, Work-Out has been adopted my many other companies and continues to be used widely as a highly-effective challenge-confrontation/change-acceleration strategy.  GE continues to train its managers in Work-Out at its premier management development university inCrotonville,NY.  And within the company – after 20 years! – proficiency in Work-Out is still considered an “essential leadership skill” for managers in the Company.

(For more on Gagnon Associates’ history in helping GE to implement Work-Out initially, as well as our track-record of introducing it to other companies since, please visit our GEWork-Out Core Capabilities web page.)

Why has it proven so effective?

Because it cuts through, pushes aside or demolishes the things that don’t matter – bureaucracy, formality, delay – and quickly and cleanly gets to things that do.  Because it gives people who have the biggest stake in and the most knowledge about a given problem or issue or challenge the opportunity to be heard and involved in fixing or achieving those things.  In other words, it gets obstacles out of the way and enables business organizations to harness the full power of the people working there – to get the engine “firing on all cylinders.”

It also accelerates decision-making by requiring leaders to render clear, real-time, public decisions on Work-Out team recommendations.  No long, drawn-out discussions or delay behind closed doors.  The very important result of all this is that Work-Out speeds things up and gets things done!

But it’s been around for over 20 years!  Isn’t it dated?

Physicians have been recommending regular aerobic exercise for years as a way of fostering cardio-vascular health.  Does that mean the recommendation is dated?

Work-Out is old in the sense that a “classic” is old, because it has been shown to be of enduring value and effectiveness.  It works today as well as it did twenty years ago because it responds to conditions, realities, problems, challenges that are endemic to organizations and businesses and probably always will be.  These challenges persist over time and so has Work-Out’s efficacy in dealing with them.

What kinds of problems can Work-Out address?

It is very robust.  But it is most effective with complex business issues that require individuals of varying expertise to collaborate across functional “silos” to improve or fix something or achieve some new challenge or level of performance.  It is less appropriate for issues of policy or strategy where the level of knowledge and responsibility more appropriately resides at the management level.  But when knowledge and expertise about the issue is distributed and multiple stakeholders will either be affected by or needed for implementation, Work-Out should be considered, especially if speed of execution is also a goal.

Here are some representative Work-Out Team Challenges:

“How do we reduce the repair cycle for one of our most critical machinery products by 30%?”

“How do we ensure effective implementation of our new Marketing Model across the country business unit in a manner that ensures clarity of all Marketing roles and responsibilities and effective Marketing execution?”

“How can we significantly reduce the company’s total spend for professional services, travel and telecom?”

“How do we improve the accuracy of our cost-tracking system across the build process of our most popular XYZ machine?”

“How do we eliminate NVA (non-value-added) work or simplify procedures and processes throughout the organization to free up resources for more value-added tasks?”

How does it work?

Work-Out starts with a complex, critical business issue that requires speedy attention.  The issue must be well-understood and the challenge in addressing it must be carefully and clearly articulated.  Once that’s done, you ask the question:  “Who are the people in our company who are closest to this issue, who know most about it, and who will be most critical in “fixing” it?  The answer to this question defines the Work-Out team.”  We call this the “Design” Phase.

Conducting the session – we call this the “Conduct” Phase – requires  someone with sufficient process facilitation skills to guide a Work-Out team (or teams) in its problem-solving or process-improvement work.  (As with the Design Phase, if skills in this area are not resident in your organization, you’d be advised to seek external help with your initial Work-Out attempts.)

Once a Work-Out team as studied its challenge, and developed and gotten approvals for its recommendations to address it, Work-Out enters the “Implement” Phase.  This is usually a defined period of time – most often 90 days – with regular, intervening checkpoints where team progress can be monitored, adjustments can be made, and “wins” celebrated.

Though in this description we’ve emphasized a single-team approach, for greater impact, Work-Outs can also comprise multiple teams that concurrently focus on different facets of a larger issue over the same continuous period of time.

(Visit our GEWork-Out Core Capabilities page for a more detailed description of the Design, Conduct and Implement Phases of Work-Out.)

Business Process Improvement

What is business process improvement?

All businesses have key processes – multi-step operations – that are necessary to make things run:  the budgeting process, the manufacturing process, the new-product development process, and so on.  Often, over time, these processes become less efficient.  Waste an inefficiencies creep in the way a ship’s hull collects barnacles or an attic collects junk.  From time to time it becomes necessary to review these processes, to “scrub” them to remove inefficiencies or to re-engineer – improve – them in light of changed business conditions.  Hence the term “business process improvement.”

What are the benefits of doing business process improvement?

The results vary depending upon the process you improve.  But they can range from greater efficiency and speed of doing business to better quality and happier customers.

Here are just a few examples:

(For a more detailed explanation of “business process improvement,” along with illustrations, and a number of client case-studies and testimonials, visit our Business Process Improvement Core Capabilities page, “Business Applications” on our Home page, or our “Testimonials” and “Case Studies” pages under “Clients.”)

How soon can results be realized?

This, of course, can depend on the nature of the problem – its size, complexity and geographic distribution – but with effective execution and where companies can make improvement a priority, we have repeatedly had clients begin to realize gains in as little as 30 days and complete projects or make significant gains in 60 to 90 days.

Team Effectiveness

Why is teaming so prevalent in business today?

Given the pace of change in contemporary business and the resilience and agility required to keep up and be successful, it is simply a fact of life that old-style, “command-and-control” leadership is largely a thing of the past.  This usually means the need to involve individual contributors in decision-making and execution if a business is to “fire on all cylinders.”  Given, too, the complexity of contemporary business opportunities and challenges, successful execution almost always requires the collaboration of individuals with a wide range of expertise, across functional boundaries.  Hence, the prevalence of teaming in so many corporate activities.

What does it take to be an effective team?

Basically, effective teaming is a function of managing two dimensions well:  content and process.  Any given team has – or should have – a clearly articulated challenge or mission to fulfill.  This is the substance of the issue, the “what,” the content.  Highly critical to the accomplishment of the team’s mission, however, is the process dimension.  This relates to all the aspects that determine “how” the team goes about dealing with the content:  its organization, composition, procedures, norms of behavior, personality dynamics, conflicts, etc., etc.  In order for a team to successfully address its challenge, it is always imperative that these issues of process are well managed.  Often it is preferable to provide teams with effective process facilitation and counsel from the outside if this skill set is not readily available inside your company.

(For more information on the requirements for an effective team, please visit our Team Effectiveness web page.)

What are the pitfalls of “teaming”?

Like democracy, teaming can be messy and inefficient, especially if not properly managed.  And even at its best, teaming is slower than highly-directive, unilateral decision-making and action.  However, “dictators” do not do well in most contemporary business environments where the requirements of managing independent-thinking “knowledge workers” and getting their “buy-in” usually demand a more collaborative style.

Trying to “ram something through” with the goal of “saving time” can turn out to be a “pay-me-now-or-pay-me-later” game.  The time saved up front can be more than wasted later on when thought-leaders in the organization, who were not a party to launching a change, reject it or drag their feet during implementation because they feel disenfranchised.  So it’s often better to spend more time up-front rallying the troops in order to speed mobilization for the change later when you’re ready to implement.

We always try to maximize teaming efficiency and productivity by designing and facilitating short-cycle, continuous teaming sessions  (see GEWork-Out) vs. the kind of teaming whereby so-called “task-teams” meet for a few hours a week for an extended period of time.  We find that with careful and creative project design, supported by expert process facilitation, teams can achieve impressive productivity levels within surprisingly short periods of time.  In this way, positive change can be greatly accelerated.

(For more on short-cycle, high-intensity teaming, see our “GEWork-Out” Core Capabilities page.)

How can facilitators be helpful to teams?

Facilitators can be critical to team success, especially when they play an effective, neutral, third-party role.  A facilitator with good process insight and skills can relieve a team of the burden of worrying about team process – the “how” – so that the team can focus their content expertise on their challenge or mission – the “what” (see above).  Also important, a good facilitator can relieve all team members of the very common and often valid concern that the person “running the meeting” is steering it in a direction favorable to his or her own “agenda.”

Consider, for instance, the difference between a strategic planning session moderated by the CEO – which is often the case – vs. a session run by a neutral party moderator or facilitator.  In the first instance, the meeting is being directed by the individual with the highest level of formal authority in the room.  The second alternative is far more conducive to a candid, egalitarian exchange.  It also relieves the CEO of the job of directing the meeting and frees him or her to participate more fully as an equal member of the team.

Executive Coaching

When is executive coaching appropriate?

Perhaps the biggest misunderstanding around executive coaching is relegating it to a remedial situation, that is, when someone is underperforming.  Coaching can certainly be helpful in these cases, but it can also be extremely valuable in accelerating the already strong performance of a hi-potential up-and-comer.  This can be especially true in accelerating the learning-curve of a strong performer who’s facing a new assignment that involves a different or higher level of expectation.

In all these cases, the value of coaching lies in providing someone with an opportunity to focus, define improvement opportunities, develop a coherent plan to make those improvements and get ongoing, private, “in-your-corner” support in implementing that plan.

Everyone accepts without question the value and benefits of coaching in an athletic context, right?  Why should it be different in the business environment?

How does the coaching process work?

There are probably about as many approaches to executive coaching as there are coaches.  Clearly a lot depends on the personal styles of the coach and coaching subject – not to mention the chemistry that does or does not develop between them.

But beyond that, the orientation of our approach is reflected in this timeless quote from the poet, Robert Burns:

“Oh! Would some Power the giftie give us
To see ourselves as others see us!”

Our approach is to serve our coaching clients as a neutral, 3rd-party vehicle or conduit through which he or she can get a candid, unfiltered picture of how they are perceived in the work place by their superiors, peers and subordinates.  Comparing this “baseline” assessment of their own “personal market” with their own self-assessment provides a rich context for identifying personal strengths and weaknesses.

From a practical point of view, it is also vital to help coaching clients see clearly the degree to which they are satisfying the demands of their professional constituencies.  Using a “constituency mapping” approach, we help clients identify the sources of demands on their time and the relative importance of those sources.  Then we assist in analyzing whether the client’s time and effort is properly apportioned against those key demand sources and priorities.

This approach reflects our view that solutions cannot be imposed from without.  In other words, coaches do not “fix” or even “improve” clients.  Coaches provide the means whereby clients gain the insight and personal commitment to improve themselves. The best coaches, we believe – and these beliefs guide our practice – provide clients with the tools and support to “see” themselves more clearly, develop strategies to improve, and take personal responsibility for that improvement.

Once implementation of a client’s development plan is underway, it is also almost always helpful for clients to have regular contact and ongoing developmental coaching in the same way that ongoing coaching provides value in any other field of endeavor.

(For more specific detail on Gagnon Associates’ approach to Executive Coaching, please see our Executive Coaching web page.)

What kind of results can coaching subjects experience?

Like anything else, executive coaching is no “silver bullet.”  In fact, executive coaching is no guarantee of success.  Anyone claiming the opposite is not being completely candid.  We are all familiar with the old saying that begins, “You can lead a horse to water . . . .”

On the other hand, under the right conditions, it can be transformative, significantly enhancing someone’s self-awareness, insight, mental focus and personal business impact.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate what’s possible is to let some of our coaching clients speak for themselves:

First, the manager of a coaching subject:

“I can’t tell you how noticeable the changes in [coaching subject] have been to me and to his peers, since he has been working with you.   It is everything from attitude to approach to behavior, and it is so encouraging. We have also seen a tremendous change in his general level of self awareness.

He has a clearer sense of his role, of the expectations for his position, and of his responsibility to his peers and his team.  He has dug into his role with an entirely new energy and approach in a way that has been both surprising and delightful.” (Click here for the complete testimonial.)

And here, from a coaching subject:

“While I am typically a disciplined individual, I found that my coach’s leadership and counsel continued to push me to create even greater discipline in my thinking and, therefore, my process of managing.

“Being pushed continually out of my comfort zone (I had never really been pushed by anyone like this before) forced me to think more strategically.   Building my goals, many of which have defined measurements attached to them, is ensuring accountability for future concrete results from me as well as from my entire team.

“Slowly I am effecting behavioral changes within my team, demanding specific deadlines to projects as well as forcing different thinking methods among the people who report to me.  I continue to see improved communication within my organization and a greater sense of ownership that demands answers to our business problems.

“All in all it was clearly an amazing experience, and I would strongly recommend my coach to anyone considering the need for coaching or leadership training – or simply getting refocused to better plan for the future.” (Click here for the complete testimonial.)

(For more specifics on “360-degree” assessment interviews, “constituency mapping” and our entire approach to Executive Coaching, please visit our Executive Coaching web page.)