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Harvard Management

Communication Letter
A NEWSLETTER FROM HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL PUBLISHING TOOLS, TECHNIQUES, AND IDEAS FOR THE ARTICULATE EXECUTIVE

Article Reprint No. C0209B

The Communication Secrets


of Executive Coaches
by Nick Morgan

This document is authorized for use only in Ivan Figueroa's CE - MBA VIRTUAL 31 - C1 at Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru (CENTRUM) from Jun 2018 to Dec 2018.
Harvard Management
Communication Letter
A NEWSLETTER FROM HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL PUBLISHING TOOLS, TECHNIQUES, AND IDEAS FOR THE ARTICULATE EXECUTIVE

Harvard Management Communication Letter Harvard Management Communication Letter


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HARVARD MANAGEMENT UPDATE • HARVARD MANAGEMENT COMMUNICATION LETTER • BALANCED SCORECARD REPORT
This document is authorized forHARVARD
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Ivan Figueroa's
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PRESS • HBSUniversidad Catolica
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INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION BY NICK MORGAN

Twain wrote a great line about con-


The Communication Secrets gressmen being people who would
never lie ‘unless it was absolutely con-

of Executive Coaches venient.’ Well, we all have those same


truthful-when-convenient tendencies.”
If you’re talking and no one’s listening, But, he adds, “If you are for real, good
that’s not good. Here’s how to have people will want to be around you.
conversations that lead to action. Because even though we all want to

t’s a manager’s function to 1 Look for moments of crisis. Executive coaches counsel
I coach an employee through a prob-
lem or crisis on the job. And when
Executive coaches counsel that it does
indeed take a crisis to make people
that it takes a crisis to
the crisis has been caused by the want to change their behavior—or make people want to
employee’s own mistake, it’s an even listen to a coach. So in your com- change their behavior.
opportunity for the manager to help munications, pick the “points of
the employee learn—and change the pain”—the missed deadline, the
behavior that led to the problem. botched proposal that came back seek and ultimately claim an opti-
rejected—and focus on them. In an mized reality, the present-moment
But it’s not always easy to know what information-saturated age, people are truth remains very, very attractive.”
to say or how to coach, especially in not much interested in business con-
stressful moments. Executive coaches versations that don’t have a strong 3 Have a vision.
thrive on such moments. The field of imperative behind them. Recognize Powerful, transforming conversations
executive coaching is growing fast; that you need to save your breath for are far more likely to take place if you
the business climate being what it is the moments of greatest need. have a vision to impart to your lis-
today, executives believe that they tener. Visions are dynamic, attractive,
need to have every advantage possible Alan Downs, executive coach and and seductive. And, according to
in order to survive and, ideally, thrive author of Secrets of an Executive Leonard, not that difficult to develop.
in a demanding, rapidly changing Coach: Proven Methods for Helping
environment. Leaders Excel Under Pressure, says, “‘Have a vision’ sounds like such a big
“Not every executive who is failing is or impressive thing, doesn’t it? But
Executive coaches seek to change in a crisis. Furthermore, most execu- don’t get intimidated. A vision is a
behavior through one-on-one conver- tives will experience crises only at crit- very practical thing. Having a vision is
sations at key moments in executives’ ical points in their careers. The point is just a natural extension of being who
careers. The best ones are masters of this: There is an optimal time in an you are,” he says.
focused talk; through their conversa- executive’s career when he is experi-
tions, or “interventions,” as they encing crisis and when coaching is People want to feel that they are
sometimes call them, they look to immensely helpful.” The successful involved in something larger than
make lasting changes in their clients’ manager learns to pick her moments themselves, and if you can convey a
behavior. just as the executive coach does. sense of vision or mission to your lis-
tener, you will be far more likely to
So what can some of the top coaches 2 Commit to telling the truth. enroll him in your plan for change. So
teach us about really effective com- This is a prerequisite to having an don’t just tell your employee to go
munications? How can you adapt effective conversation about change, back and redo the proposal. Explain
some of their insights to your own but it's easier said than done. “Telling how important the proposal is to the
business and personal conversations the truth is a skill that may take several company, and then tell him to go back
so that you know what to say and years to master,” says Thomas J. and redo it.
when to say it? The following execu- Leonard, founder of Coach University
tive coaching techniques first address and author of The Portable Coach: 28 4 Use the appropriate vocabulary.
matters of topic and timing, and then Surefire Strategies for Business and This is more difficult than it sounds. It
consider the habits of mind that will Personal Success. “That’s because means dropping pretense, jargon,
best enable you to communicate telling the truth is something that “spin,” and all the other ways in which
powerfully. doesn’t always come naturally. Mark we sugarcoat the sometimes hard

This document is ©
Copyright authorized for use only
2002 by Harvard in IvanSchool
Business Figueroa's CE - MBA
Publishing VIRTUALAll
Corporation. 31rights
- C1 at 3
Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru (CENTRUM) from Jun 2018 to Dec 2018.
reserved.
Executive Coaches’ Communication Secrets, continued

things we need to say in order to cre- interference in such a ‘natural’ just a supersensitive person—and
ate the right climate for change. The process is a manifestation of some that’s a real gift.
irony is that letting go of these devices neurotic need to control or be in
has the effect of making you more charge,” he writes. “The type of rela- “Weaknesses,” he says, “can really be
attractive to others—because they will tionship necessary for coaching is not great signposts.”
come to learn that they can trust you. one that’s based upon ‘chemistry.’ It’s
more a matter of openness, communi- Executive coaching has flowered in
5 Engage your own passion. cation, appreciation, fairness, and recent years in part because of the
Many businesspeople still seem to shared commitment.” perception that the competition is
believe that business is the place
where all good emotions go to die. Of course we like some people more
You leave your personal life at home; than others. “This doesn’t matter in Many businesspeople
work is the world of automatons. coaching people, however, and it
doesn’t matter in building a successful still seem to believe that
Nothing could be further from the coaching relationship,” he says. What business is the place where
truth, according to the executive matters is trust. all good emotions go to die.
coaches. To the contrary, execu-
tives—and coaches—who can’t or 7 Communicate from a position of Nothing could be further
won’t engage their emotions in the awareness and self-knowledge. from the truth.
workplace are doomed to failure. Key to strong relationships are two
Downs says, “Maybe you’re think- further qualities effective communi-
ing, ‘Can’t an executive just act one cators need to possess: awareness and tougher and the stakes are higher in
way at work and be his real self at self-knowledge. You need to under- the workplace today than ever before.
home?’” The answer is no. “Sure, stand the practical and psychological In this atmosphere, strong communi-
you might be able to do it for a month terrain you are working in, both your cation skills are all the more essential
or even a few years, but slowly your own and that of the people you are for managers who want to be able to
grasp on your own values and feel- communicating with. Without self- influence the behavior of those
ings will begin to slip.” knowledge, you will be unable to around them.
understand the limits to your own
The process is called dissociation, and effectiveness as a communicator. Applying the coaches’ own secrets to
it’s deadly to communications. Few your communications may just save
businesspeople are good enough actors What is your power position relative you the time and expense of hiring a
to communicate with apparent sincer- to everyone else—is it one of strength coach yourself. ❑
ity and conviction about something or one of weakness? Are you trying to
that they are not passionate about. change a peer’s behavior or the behav- Nick Morgan can be reached at
nmorgan@hbsp.harvard.edu
ior of a direct report? Awareness is the
If you can’t—or won’t—be truly basis for good listening, and listening
passionate about your business com- is, of course, the sine qua non of effec- FURTHER READING
munications, then you are in the tive, behavior-changing conversation. Secrets of an Executive Coach:
wrong business. Proven Methods for Helping
Now turn that awareness toward Leaders Excel Under Pressure
6 Ground your communications yourself. Good communicators by Alan Downs
in strong relationships. know their own blind spots and AMACOM  2002

A solid relationship is the basis for work around them. Leonard advises Coaching:
successful coaching, says James Fla- you to identify your worst weakness: Evoking Excellence in Others
by James Flaherty
herty, executive coach and author of “Are you a wimp? A liar? Insensi-
Butterworth-Heinemann  1999
Coaching: Evoking Excellence in tive? Impatient? Selfish? A dilet-
Others, and it is often the result of tante? Or worse?” The Portable Coach:
28 Surefire Strategies for
deliberate effort. Business and Personal Success
Now look closely at the weakness by Thomas J. Leonard
“Sometimes people believe that rela- you’ve identified. You’ll find, he says, Scribner  1998
tionships are natural and either hap- “something of incredible value.”
pen or don’t happen, and that any Think you’re a wimp? Maybe you’re

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