What SHOULD You Expect from Your Coach?

In the past I have described factors to be used in selecting your executive coach and how an individual could make the most effective use of their coach. A gap in this information relates to whatYOU SHOULD EXPECT from your coach once selected and engaged. Coaching is a partnership and like all partnerships is only as effective as the quality and commitment of the participants. While I believe a coach can't work harder than their client it is just as clear that a coach should deliver on a number of expectations and obligations in order to support client success.

Why this topic at this present time? Unfortunately, after having been at this work awhile, I have heard several client experiences and circumstances where an acceptable standard of performance has not been achieved - to my way of thinking. This reality might not be that different from a variety of other sectors where individuals/firms offer products/services for sale that really don't deliver on their promises. High price and flashy marketing doesn't equate to quality of offering or results.

Much of the challenge, I believe, comes down to lack of client knowledge and awareness of what "good" or even "great" quality and performance for a coach should look like. While I have talked about how you should go about selecting an executive coach that doesn't address what you should expect - and perhaps demand - from a coach. What I offer below is informed by personal experience as a coach and feedback from my clients about what they have appreciated in our work together.

Clarity of Roles and Expectations. This starts with actual documentation that serves to describe the partnership role between a client and coach. This certainly doesn't have to be a form vetted by respective lawyers - a trust-based relationship, which coaching is, should not have to go down that path! However, there should be enough clarity between you and your coach to understand what each person is expected to bring to the work, the pattern of work, access between formal sessions and an emphasis on confidential nature of the work.

Confidentiality. This should really go without saying...but I'll say it. This is a particularly important consideration when an individual is being sponsored by an organization to utilize coaching, when a coach is involved in group/team coaching, or coaching multiple individuals in an organization. There is no question that there is great value to me as a coach in having a greater understanding of organizational context through working with multiple clients or engaging with a client's executive sponsor. However, it also requires the coach to confirm up-front - and subsequently DEMONSTRATE- how confidentiality between sponsor/client/coach or between team members will be maintained. Just as important, the coach also has to actively guard against any risk of bias or triangulation in their coaching experience with any one individual.

Purposeful Process. As the coaching client you drive the coaching agenda. The coach should help you in confirm and clarify this agenda and then help hold you accountable to your goals. Your coach should be able to balance the need for structure in a coaching engagement (e.g., consistent focus) while at the same time being agile and flexible as client learning and circumstances evolve. Bottom line for me - no canned approach. While I do have coaching agreements, intake forms, leadership and team assessments at my disposal, and other tested methodologies and processes, all of that takes a back seat to strongly understanding individual client challenges and opportunities and the organizational culture from which they arrive. A coach's approach should be tailored to the client - not the other way around.

Challenge. To be truly effective a coach must challenge your beliefs, assumptions, sacred cows and preconceived notions. There is nothing I appreciate more than hearing clients say that our work together has made them uncomfortable (in the good way, not the creepy way...), expanded their frame of reference or possibility, and perhaps even radically altered their entire direction. Paradoxically, if you are finding your coaching sessions to be lovely chats and highly validating you might not actually be getting real value from your coaching partnership. Your coach needs to bring the right balance of compassion and courage to your work in pursuit of your goals.

Capacity Building. Akin to Challenge noted above, your coach should be actively working to build your skills to the point of helping to dissolve the coaching partnership at some point in time. The goal is not to create dependency but rather capacity for the individual leader to soar on their own. In this regard, I often work with my clients in the scheduled last month of our time together to confirm a decision to continue - if value from the client's standpoint is still being delivered - or to strongly transition out of coaching by using skills learned/developed/enhanced during coaching. This can often mean creating structure on a go-forward basis (e.g., continued pattern of thinking time replacing coaching time) that replicates the successful elements of the coaching partnership. It's why I share freely any and all of my coaching tools with my clients post-engagement.

Preparation, Continuity, Accessibility, Responsiveness. I recently had the opportunity to interview a number of my current and former coaching clients for a developing video production. Key elements of benefit identified by a number of them was their appreciation for how prepared I seemed to be for each coaching engagement, how I seemed to be able to retain the narrative string between formal coaching sessions and throughout the entirety of the coaching engagement, and the level of accessibility and responsiveness afforded to them between formal meetings. None of this occurs by chance. I have created processes for myself - and my clients - that strives to prepare us both for upcoming coaching sessions. By the very nature of my work I am constantly scanning my environment for resources and tools relevant to my work and the success of my clients. Despite being busy, my clients are my priority and quality and speed of response are foundational for me. What would you expect from your thinking partner, your sounding board, your coach?

Coaching Presence and Trust. Like confidentiality this seems to me to be an area that should not have to be emphasized. How engaged and attentive do you find your coach? Are they fully focused on you and your work - whether in-person or virtually? Do they practice active listening? Do they provide you all the space you need to think and work? Are they talking more than you!? Are they providing you a safe space to be vulnerable? Do their (powerful) questions relate to the issues you are actually grappling with? Coaching - it is all about you!

Holds to Coaching. Your coach is supposed to coach you. Not advise and certainly not direct you. Your coach is not there as mentor or consultant - these roles imply some level of superiority versus partnership. The coach must continuously demonstrate a belief in your personal ability to tackle your challenges and opportunities. The coach must understand their own boundaries and the boundaries of their profession - unless otherwise trained, we are not counsellors or therapists. At times you may expect that your coach, acting in YOUR best interest, would connect you with other professionals or resources even if it meant personal financial loss to the coach. The coach needs to be able to demonstrate an ability to act in your best interest, not theirs.

Drives Action - and Results. At the end of day coaching has to be much more than active listening, powerful questioning, being a sounding board, a place of safety/vulnerability - something active and positive has to come out of the partnership. Demonstrating a compassionate edge, your coach should help you design actions and deliver results. You or your company are investing time, money and energy into this endeavor - there must be purpose to the endeavor. Get pushed and get results.
I believe these are some of the qualities and experiences you should be looking for as you experience coaching. Lofty goals perhaps and I admit to feeling some misgivings as I document these expectations - can I live up to these requirements in all circumstances? I am constantly striving to do so! It's About Leadership! And in the case of coaching - It's All About You!
_____________________________

Greg Hadubiak, MHSA, FACHE, CEC, PCC

President & Founder - BreakPoint Solutions

gregh@breakpoint.solutions

www.breakpoint.solutions

780-250-2543

Drive to Why

I have been doing a lot of work of late with organizations and individual leaders as it relates to their "why". This has can manifest as questions related to "what is our mission?", "what does it mean to do what we do?" and even "what does it matter if we deliver this or that program or service?" In all of this there is a craving for clarity, direction and ultimately a hope that, on an individual or organizational level, we are in fact making a difference. For some, this conversation becomes even more powerful when it starts to address the concept of what legacy we might leave behind. Heady stuff.

There is no doubt that this is and should be considered a critical question to address. I tend to ascribe dysfunction at an organizational level to several different factors - lack of clarity or alignment on values, lack of clarity or alignment on strategies and tactics. Lack of commitment to or understanding of Mission/Purpose is high on this list of explaining organizational dysfunction and even conflict. The same holds true at an individual level. If we start to consider some of those difficult people we have worked with - or even ourselves - we can recount many instances of individuals who seemed perpetually ornery, out-of-sorts, grumpy and otherwise unpleasant. I consider these to be potential circumstances where people are disconnected from their fundamental purpose for being - they are not doing the work they were meant to do. They are in the wrong place to make the impact they were born to make.

One of the key challenges in addressing this gap is in fact understanding what the "Why" and Mission is. All too often the approach and answer to this question is confused with What and How we do things - we start describing our purpose within the context of the programs/services our organizations currently deliver or expect to deliver. We describe our Why by our title or position and things we currently do. This is certainly easier to wrap our heads around. It takes less effort to describe what we do and how we do. And we can start to address value we believe we are delivering by the number of people served or products delivered. Another reason there may be default to this way of trying to define Mission is that it is far less challenging to organizational and personal identity. Defining Mission by describing current activities rationalizes our current work. It affirms our identity and makes us feel good. It is an exercise also fraught with risk if our environment significantly changes or some other external force changes our mandate. Suddenly our activity-based Mission hits the proverbial - and literal - brick wall. Change at the stage engenders significant conflict and resistance.

So where to better start this organizational or individual search for Mission and Purpose - the more fundamental Why? I suggest divorcing yourself entirely from the programs/services you provide or the position/title you hold Engage in the thought process that eliminates the types of things you currently do that would yet allow you to adjust, change and do something different to allow you to fell fulfilled and purposeful. Sound a bit too pie in the sky?? Let me give you my personal example.

For the longest time I fundamentally confused Mission and Vision for myself. For much of my healthcare leadership career I would have defined success and Mission with the type of role I aspired to take on - CEO of a large urban hospital. The challenge to this dream were successive rounds of reform efforts that have characterized our reality since at least the mid 1990's. The positions and realities I aspired to increasingly ceased to exist. It truly wasn't until such time that I left my leadership career behind - involuntarily - that I came to define my new personal (and organizational) mission in ways that transcended any particular role, occupation, title or even location. The result for me became:

Helping Leaders Discover, Realize and Unleash Their Potential

For me, this new sense of purpose - perhaps driven out of necessity - allowed me and allows me to live to a sense of purpose that can be realized in a multitude of ways, robust enough to respond as changing circumstances dictate. Far from being "flighty" in my work or approach to life it allows me to remain centred and be who I want to be regardless of changing context. I can live this Mission by being a Leader in the formal sense with position, title and authority - I can take on a job as I desire. I can live this Mission by being an individual or team/group coach. I can live this Mission as a consultant. I can live this Mission through presentations, teaching and speaking engagements. This Mission, This Why is not dependent on any one type of work, client or even location. It becomes THE constant guidepost for continuous learning, professional development, networking and a range of other activities. It speaks to my Passion first and any desirable outcome (e.g., earnings) second.

So that's my advice and challenge to you. Be fundamentally clear on your purpose - for yourself or your organization (or both). Be fundamentally clear on a Mission that can be independent of what you do or how you do today. If you don't know why you do what you do don't be surprised to end of up in a place you don't want to be.

Greg Hadubiak, MHSA, FACHE, CEC, PCC

President & Founder - BreakPoint Solutions

gregh@breakpoint.solutions

www.breakpoint.solutions

780-250-2543

Choose Your Battlefield

I'm a bit of a history buff.  Others might consider that comment an understatement as they peruse the inventory of books sitting on shelves at home and at work.  E-readers and audio books?  Not for me - I need the physicality of history in my hands.  Old fashioned?  No doubt. 

One reason for this fascination with history comes from the lessons learned - and not learned - from others.  With variations on a theme, the quote "Those who cannot remember (or learn) from the past, are doomed to repeat it" resonates with me.  One of those lessons that has been the subject of explicit and implicit discussion with many of my clients is that of choosing or changing the field of battle on which you compete.  We can probably all understand and appreciate this at some bigger picture level with companies and technologies that have changed their landscape - Apple, Uber, Airbnb.  These companies and technologies did not take as given the landscape they faced and at points in time made a conscious decision to NOT compete against well-established competitors.  They radically changed the field of battle. In some cases, so radically that major competitors were put out of business.

This is not a new a concept.  For centuries, ranging back to Greek city states, the Persian empire and other dynasties, commanders and armies would maneuver for days or stare across at each other for weeks from their respective camps looking for the best place or opportunity to engage in battle.  They sought out high ground, access to water, linkage to the coast or supplies, or waiting for the sun to be in their enemy's eyes before engaging.  These ancient leaders went to great lengths to try and set the table to their best advantage, to leverage a strength or mitigate a weakness.  Alternatively, they might seek similar opportunities to diminish an opponent's strength or take advantage of their perceived weakness.  Don't have sufficient or good enough cavalry?  Choose a battleground that constrains the field of movement.  Fighting against great odds?  Choose a place where only part of your enemy's strengths can be brought to bear at one time.

So how does this relate to leadership/team coaching, organizational effectiveness, business development, consulting or other things that you might be doing?  It relates in nearly every circumstance that I work with.  Which one of these scenarios might you have experienced or otherwise be familiar with:

"I looked at the job posting and I'm missing a couple of the qualifications they are looking for so I'm not going to apply."

"He/she/they stopped me in the hallway and were looking for my input on his/her/their initiative.  I felt compelled to answer them on the spot but I don't think I gave the best answer."

"I'd like to pursue the CEO role but I'm not sure I'm what they are looking for.  I'm not anything like the current CEO."

"The client/RFP is looking for something pretty particular as far as a solution/technique.  It's not something we have do so maybe the fix is already in?"


I could go on with other samples but at the heart of these comments is a belief (or fear) that the terms and conditions of the "battle" are already set and our choice is to compete on those terms or not at all.  My suggestion is that perhaps the battle conditions are not set in stone.  You may and can have a choice as to where, how and when to engage.  How can you alter your own reality and that of your "adversary" to change the tide in your favor.  For example, if applying for a new role, how can you paint a picture that despite not having a couple of the qualities or attributes laid out that you have something different or more important to offer that the hiring committee has not taken into account?  Rather than feeling compelled to respond on the spot to a question or proposal how can you set yourself up to better respond perhaps by asking for a more considered, focused and structured discussion - one that allows you to be as prepared as your counterpart?  What makes you think that you have to lead like the last CEO?  Or that you can?  Or that you should  We are all different leaders, no clones, and certainly all imperfect.  What do you bring to a leadership role that your successor did not and that is perhaps better suited to current and future reality?

All of these scenarios - and the historical analogies of success - speak to and require several foundational realities being in place.  First, an understanding of your personal, team or organizational strengths and values.  Those (successful) generals and commanders noted earlier were completely aware of the strengths and weaknesses of themselves and their armies and those of their foes as well. You likewise need to understand your own strengths and limitations and how to make best use of those in your chosen field of endeavor.  Second, is the ability to exercise restraint and patience to seek out the right opportunity to apply your skills and abilities.  Wrong time, wrong place?  Might mean the wrong opportunity?  Third, having the courage to be bold or patient as circumstances dictate.  When pushed can you hold your ground to create the right circumstances for victory?  When opportunity presents, can you demonstrate and apply your strengths at the right time and place?  Time and tide may wait for no one.  Be clear about your objectives, your vision for success, and apply your strengths, abilities and values with confidence. 

It's About Leadership and sometimes leadership means actively understanding and creating the conditions for success - your success.

Greg Hadubiak, MHSA, FACHE, CEC, PCC

President & Founder - BreakPoint Solutions

gregh@breakpoint.solutions

www.breakpoint.solutions

780-250-2543

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained?

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  How does that phrase resonate with you on a personal, leadership and business level?  Over the last 20 years, and the last 10 in particular, this phrase has held resonance for me.  While I make a distinction between personal, leadership and business worlds above, those of you in leadership roles and certainly those of you who have launched and are leading your own business know that this distinction is highly artificial.  Everything we do as a leader/owner is very much about US - it is difficult if not impossible to separate our realities.

In my coaching and consulting work, I have often marvelled at the conniptions that my clients put themselves through - or are put through - in the name of "risk management".  Certainly part of that is a function of the broader society we work within and the degree of regulation that has become so much a part of our lives.  When I reflect back on my leadership career and how that world has evolved since my first leadership role in 1986 it is amazing and distressing to see the degree of oversight that has now been imposed on our systems.  Now don't get me wrong.  The increase in regulation in many parts of our lives - healthcare protocols, environmental protection, financial reporting requirements - have all been done with positive intent and, in many cases, because leaders and systems have failed us.  We have met the enemy and they are us.

A significant consequence of this evolving reality, I believe, is that it has sapped our courage and diminished our ability and willingness to experiment and be bold on the promise of greater, future success and benefit.  Rather than being motivated by possibility we seek and actively enlarge the risks, barriers and challenges that MAY be in our way.  We often give up before we start.

Whether you believe you can or can't, you are right. 

So what explains this phenomena?  Why is it that at a personal and even organizational level we can start out with such enthusiasm and passion for a project or a cause and slowly have our fears grow and our confidence diminish?  I believe at least two interrelated factors come into play and they are our emotional intelligence and organizational culture.

Considering emotional intelligence (EQ), areas such as Self-Regard (which might be equated to confidence), Independence (ability to stand alone as necessary), and Stress Tolerance are subsets of EQ that come to the fore when I consider how we might "talk ourselves out of" a course of action.  Many of us are familiar with the "imposter syndrome" and wondering what gives us the authority or audacity to advance a position or initiative.  Might not there be other better qualified or informed people out there to lead forward?  In addition, when more and more voices present challenges (rather than solutions) who am I to question their perspective?  Self-doubt creeps in and grows.  Maybe they are more right than I am.  Beyond this sense of self-confidence and ability to stand alone for something we believe in, we are all also social beings - we value inclusion, not exclusion or isolation.  Our desire to be part of the "tribe" can sometimes hold us back from leading the tribe.

And what about organizational culture?  Culture can be defined as "...the total of the inherited ideas, beliefs, values and knowledge which constitute the shared bases of...action.." and "...the total range of activities and ideas of a group of people with shared traditions, which are transmitted and reinforced by members of the group."  I've highlighted what I think are some key elements of the definition to help illustrate my current train of thought.  In particular, the longer an organization has been around the more likely that it will have well-established, formal and informal, beliefs and expectations that guide, motivate and constrain its actions.  Some of that same perspective holds true for sectors (e.g., government, public sector) and professions.  Over time, the motivating or constraining elements of these cultures are given voice - and authority - through policies, procedures, protocols and all the other trappings of well-established organizational bureaucracies.  And over time, even if we look to change those parameters (e.g., to support creativity, innovation), we now have to contend with a culture that has become imprinted and embedded into our collective consciousness.  The tribe and our own desire to belong and maintain status within the tribe diminishes our willingness to push boundaries.  

So our own EQ "levels" combined with strong organizational culture can effectively partner to hold us back from a preferred future in deference to a "safer" status quo option.  We can be left to lament a lack of excitement, engagement and fulfillment on a personal level.  We can be left jaded, cynical and disappointed about what our organization can or can't do.  We have met the enemy and they are us.

So how to sustain drive, energy and hope in the face of all these real and perceived obstacles?  How can we sustain the venture and the promise of success in the face of "reality".  I suggest a number of ways that I have worked with and that I have seen my clients demonstrate:

One - Be crystal clear about your own vision of success.  It's much easier to get pushed away from your personal and organizational success when you yourself are not clear about the benefits of persevering in a course of action.  

Two - Ground yourself in your values, personal and organizational.  What's really important to you both in thought and action?  Again, if these are not well articulated you may inadvertently find yourself making decisions of convenience (e.g., risk aversion) rather than of conviction.

Three - Get out of your head and test reality.  One of my favorite coaching questions is "What is the worst that can happen?"  This is usually followed up with questions around how likely is this circumstance and what is our ability to develop mitigating strategies.  

Four - Get out of your head and test reality Part II.  Discuss your vision and strategy with others.  As I was creating BreakPoint Solutions, this meant getting coached by two separate coaches on two separate occasions.  Yes, there were potential barriers and unknowns, but by working them through I determined that my future developing vision was more compelling and engaging than just "making something else work..."

Five - Prepare for resistance and setbacks.  No great thing every came without effort, work and tribulation.  You will always have naysayers, those who want to play it safe and a range of other barriers.  Circle back to your Vision to sustain you.  Measure progress, appreciate success, recognize anomalies for what they are, and press on to the next milestone. 

Making a difference at a personal and organizational level takes courage, determination and hard work.  As a famous tag line says - "Is it in you?"
_____________________________

Greg Hadubiak, MHSA, FACHE, CEC, PCC

President & Founder - BreakPoint Solutions

gregh@breakpoint.solutions

www.breakpoint.solutions

780-250-2543

Live Life - Lessons to be Learned

Life and time are immensely precious commodities and ones that we need to manage wisely and with purpose.  Hugely cliché start to this post but the (reinforced) realization comes with the passing of a former colleague's 13-year old son just this week.  This young man was certainly taken far too early from this earth and comes less than year after his diagnosis with DIPG which is an aggressive, cancerous brain tumor that afflicts children.  Through the immense dedication of his parents and a tremendous community of family and friends, this boy was provided with a host of wish list opportunities (e.g., skydiving, epic nerf war, NFL game at Wembley Stadium) that could make any of us green with envy - save for the foundational and challenging reason for doing so.

And perhaps if this were the only reminder of the need to stay focused on the truly important things in life one might be tempted to lament fate, bless God for one's own reasonably good health and that of my family, and move on.  Alas that has not been the case.  Add the sad story above to the loss of a 38-year old mother of two young children to lung cancer back in February of this year.  Add the sad story of the loss of an otherwise fit 42-year old to cardiac complications arising from contracting the flu just over a year ago.  Add the sad story of 40+ year old single mother of one just recently diagnosed with breast cancer in the past month. The list, unfortunately does go on and does not include the challenges being faced by aging parents.  Nor does it include individual health "alerts" that have been experienced in my own household of late.

Many of you may also know more of my own personal story of loss dating back to 2007 when I also lost my first wife suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 42 leaving me a single parent of a beautiful 6-year old daughter.

Why bring these stories out within what is supposed to be a leadership blog?  Because leadership has to be framed within the context of the big picture of LIFE.  Because leadership has to be focused on more than just the next 5-year strategic plan.  Because from my view there cannot be and is not any artificial separation between work and home, business and life.  Hopefully most of us do work to live versus living to work.  That we take time out NOW, even in the midst of all of our responsibilities (e.g., car payments, mortgage, tuition, business meetings, hectic business travel, etc.) to enjoy those around us, to have them enjoy our company and experience what the world has to offer.  And hopefully it doesn't take the pressure of a terminal diagnosis or the sudden loss of a loved one to focus on our attention on the truly important things in life.

At various points since 2007 I have tried to keep this admonition in mind.  I was extraordinarily blessed to find a new best friend, remarry and experience the wedding of the century (yes I said that), go on a first class honeymoon cruise in the Mediterranean, complete two Ironman Canada triathlons, bring two more daughters into this world, take my now 18-year old daughter to Paris/Europe for her high school graduation gift, run the Berlin Marathon with my wife in 2018 and now plan to run the Venice Marathon in October 2019.

Do I sometimes worry about my business, the expenses, how my retirement fund is shaping up (or not)?  Absolutely.  But more often than not I now find myself more worried about the experiences I might be denying myself and my loved ones by not living life to its fullest - and that too is a legacy of those who have passed from our earthly sight far too quickly.

It is all about leadership - and how we choose to lead our whole life.
_____________________________

Greg Hadubiak, MHSA, FACHE, CEC, PCC

President & Founder - BreakPoint Solutions

gregh@breakpoint.solutions

https://breakpointsolutions.blogspot.com

Things that make you go hmmm...Part I?

I'm certainly beginning to date myself with the title of this post with a song reference dating back 28 years - and the last century - but it seemed to resonate with the topic of conflict that I am about to explore.  Now there are whole classes and texts focused on the subject of conflict - sources and how to address or resolve.  What I hope to add to the topic are some of my own personal observations and experiences relating to my coaching and consulting practice - and my personal challenges as well.

As a starting point I'm going to come back to two related and foundational elements that potentially start to explain sources of conflict - self-awareness and personal values.  In my coaching and consulting work there are many occasions where I find myself trying to help my clients work through issues of anger, frustration, anxiety and even depression.  First let me be clear - none of what I describe borders on areas of clinical diagnosis or treatment - those are well beyond my bounds!  No, what I speak of is the garden variety set of negative emotions that all of us have experienced on a regular basis.  As these emotions are brought to the fore with my clients we can often use these experiences to help them better understand who they are and what they stand for.  These negative experiences (and even the positive polar opposites) can act as an opportunity for reflection, self-understanding, and personal clarity.  

Working from my own personal examples, I will admit that I might be a bit on the geeky side of this equation in having had some version of my own personal mission, vision and values statements since my mid-20's.  Focusing in on personal values, I have been pleased to see a lot of stability in them over the years.  Some of the most important to me are:  Integrity, Commitment and Learning.

Working on the premise that "feeling out of sorts" in work and in life can be a signal that our values are being challenged or under assault what types of circumstances help(ed) me understand my own values.  The first critical step is being prepared to step back from a set of circumstances and understand what is happening for me?  Why am I reacting in any given situation?  Presuming I hadn't already identified values of Integrity, Commitment and Learning, I have to have the capacity, courage and discipline to use my higher order reasoning to figure out what's going on and what makes this particular "issue" or circumstance important to me in one way or another.  I have to be ready to pause, think, learn and apply this learning.  

As it relates to Integrity, I have come to define this with a variety of other words including authenticity, transparency and honesty.  There is the further reality of after having declared a set of values and principles that I ACTUALLY live by them.  There is an explicit expectation that I will act in accordance with those values even in difficult times and treat people by the same standards regardless of "station" in life.  As I reflect upon times where I have been made to feel uncomfortable in my skin it can be related directly back to times I did not live up to my own expectations.  In other circumstances it has been where other (avowed) leaders have not lived up to their stated personal or organizational values - the emperor has had no clothes - or treated others as less or more depending on title or role.  In many organizations - private sector, public sector, religious, political - a significant challenge for me (and disenchantment on the part of the pubic) are leaders who don't walk their talk or hold themselves above others. 

As it relates to Commitment, I pride myself on quality of effort, quality of product or service delivered, and trying to bring my best to bear at all times.  That level of perfection can certainly cause one to pay a price!  Hard to attain perfection in every aspect of one's life.  But as I have learned and matured, I have tried to be very conscious of what taking on a commitment will mean.  A recent and ongoing example of this is in the area of mentorship.  I've been a mentor in one or more of my professions for at least a decade, maybe two.  A commitment to mentor really means something to me - be prepared to give of yourself, take a mentee as seriously as your highest paying client, being available for them as they require.  It's not just an excuse to round out your resume.  So when I start to feel that I can't deliver on that equation it literally starts to make me twitchy.  In like manner, I am highly offended by mentees and other mentors who can't seem to take this relationship seriously.  Taking this even further and deeper I will have to be completely honest that I have a hard time taking feedback on my performance from others if I don't see them as highly committed to a cause or effort as I believe myself to be.

Finally as it relates to Learning, or rather continuous learning, I am motivated by a desire to explore, learn, and experience.  Where that value is challenged has often come from being prevented from being the kind of explorer or creator I strive to be or being blocked by the resistance of others to learn, adapt and change.  In these latter circumstances, it is well beyond rational to expect excitment at the prospect of learning new ways of doing things. Learning and change can often be two sides of the same coin.  Too often too many of us can experience change as a threat rather than as an opportunity.  Too often we see our identity tied to a certain skill set or sense of competence in how we have done things for a long period of time.  So for me, the inability to learn, to read, to explore - and see that willingess in others - can often be source of conflict.

So what's my conclusion and request to you?  First, when you start to feel yourself feeling unsettled pay attention to the circumstances of your situation and the type of conflict reaction you are having.  Evaluate those feelings as an indicator of what actually might be at stake for you.  Second, as you evaluate those feelings start to evaluate and define those feelings.  Boil them down to the hot buttons and important principles that could be under challenge for you.  Define them in your terms, e.g., what does Integrity, Authenticity, Balance, Humility, Quality, etc., mean to you.  We each have our own unique definition.  Finally, once you have solidified those values in your own mind keep working with them, refining them and using them to positive effect.

Knowing your own values will allow you to more consciously make the right choices for you and allow you to anticipate and manage conflict situations when they arise.  Stop - Think - Act - Review.

There is no true leadership other than conscious leadership.  Know thyself or continue on a path of frustration and unproductive conflict.

_________________________

Greg Hadubiak, MHSA, FACHE, CEC, PCC

President & Founder - BreakPoint Solutions

gregh@breakpoint.solutions

https://breakpointsolutions.blogspot.com

Healthcare - Back to the Future??

Over two years ago I posted on the challenges that are healthcare reform.  The specific impetus at that time was a January 10, 2017 article by Andre Picard (Globe and Mail) who provided his assessment of the real challenge facing our healthcare system across Canada - leadership.  His article came on the heels of the decision of Saskatchewan to abolish its (latest) current regional structure in favor of a single administrative structure.  Quoting directly from his article he concluded:

"Complex health systems do not run themselves, and our current loosey-goosey collection of leaderless, milquetoast administrative bodies is not doing the job.

If you want a well-managed, efficient health system that provides value for money, you need to hire good managers, pay them decently, empower them and hold them accountable.

Until we do so, the number of health regions won't matter, and the quality of health care will not improve appreciably."

Since then nothing much has changed and yet the same - tired - winds of change are blowing across the country.  We see that Ontario is considering joining the fray of healthcare structural reform with abolishment of Local Health Integration Networks that have been part of its system since 2007.  Rumors continue to swirl around potential for consolidation of British Columbia's current regional health authorities into one central authority akin to what exists in Alberta and Saskatchewan.  Saskatchewan's restructuring has continued apace with what I would view as the normal challenges that come with such major system change.  And next week in Alberta, with the conclusion of its provincial election, we are have the potential to see a number of 180 degree changes in that system including highly touted cuts to administration, reversal of plans for delivering laboratory services (again) and the potential to abolish Alberta Health Services in favor of a return to regional health authority structure. 

Mr. Picard puts forward some strong words and a conclusion I have no difficulty agreeing with.  My perspective is established out of a 25-year career in healthcare administration spanning roles in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta and a stint within a provincial Ministry of Health.  Since departing the formal healthcare system over 7 years ago I have remained a keen observer of the system, hearing the concerns and complaints of those who try to navigate the system and receive less than optimal results, observe the macro results we achieve (or don't achieve) for the resources invested, see how Canada compares to other jurisdictions across the world, and continue to connect with those who still labor valiantly to try to make a difference in service of patients, clients and residents.  Despite the best efforts of very many committed individuals - those who are good leaders and those who see healthcare not just as a job but as a vocation - we continue to perform at far less than desired or optimal levels.

So what accounts for this challenge in performance and lack of change over the last 20+ years?  Andre Picard touches the surface of the issue and proposes a small sampling of potential solutions.  I'd like to build upon his recommendations.

The issues we face in healthcare are large, complex and not amenable to half-hearted, politically-motivated solutions.  If we - the collective we - are serious about reform in the pursuit of a system that is effective, efficient and sustainable than we must face, discuss and deal with the hard realities before us.  With healthcare typically being the largest expenditure of any provincial government - on average 40% of total expenditures - there must be concerted, sustained and integrated efforts to manage this accountability responsibly.  In my humble opinion, grand and repeated efforts at achieving positive change through restructuring - changing deck chairs on the Titanic - have been the cause of far more disruption and regression than positive change and progression.

Likewise, the challenges facing our healthcare system will not be resolved by the continued bureaucratization and centralization of decision-making and cost-control.  When I left healthcare leadership it was as an increasingly frustrated senior vice-president.  In my final years as a so-called decision-maker, with budgetary accountability of some $300 million, I found myself prevented from making the simplest decisions on my assigned accountability.  Inevitably it felt as though any decision that required an expenditure or reallocation of even $5,000 required input and consensus of an entire senior executive team.  

If anything it appears that the current reality has only gotten worse.  Cost management has taken on extreme proportions with many provincial health systems mandating, restricting and banning many expenditures.  I wish I could say I was making some of these stories up - but I'm not.  In efforts to deal with projected deficits in the area of hundreds of millions of dollars front-line managers and staff are often told to not order paper, pens or other non-patient care supplies.  Salary and position freezes are the norm as well.  Many systems are also banning any form of travel outside their province.   So at a time when we might need to be less insular we are becoming more limited in our ability to exchange information and ideas.  Efforts at staff recognition and engagement (e.g., bring in a pizza for lunch) are frowned upon.  The system now requires multiple approvals, moving up the chain of command, for even the simplest decisions.  In effect, our systems and our "leaders" are spending dollars in an effort to save pennies.  

This lament comes with a set of recommendations that is not so simplistic as restructuring or penny-pinching.  They do however require a significant change in how we collectively think and act.  But as Einstein once said, the very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  Time to try something different, perhaps unique, and requiring more than a bit of courage and commitment.  And a style of leadership, at all levels, that we have not had for some time.

First, given that healthcare is so important to our collective experience of our lives and now takes such a huge proportion of our total expenditures it is beyond time that our political leaders and parties approached long-term planning of programs and expenditures in a non-partisan manner.  In this I take a page out of how I understand Australia sets defense policy and manages associated expenditures.  In this case an all party committee debates and sets joint direction on a multi-year plan that transcends normal political cycles (e.g., 4 to 5 years).  Recognizing that defense decisions and requisite systems (e.g,. aircraft, ships, tanks) require long development cycles, consistent and reliable levels of expenditure, and overall sustained vision to be effective, Australia's political parties have committed to maintaining direction regardless of which party is in power. 

A simplistic and naive recommendation?  In my view not any more than the multiple and misguided restructuring efforts that have plagued healthcare since the mid 90's.  A challenge to be sure in the increasingly polarized reality of our political systems.  Within the Alberta context for example I grant that it is indeed more than a stretch to imagine Rachel Notley and Jason Kenney coming together, overcoming their sizable political differences, and developing and holding to a long-term vision and plan for healthcare.  But that IS the political maturity and leadership I believe Alberta (and every province) requires - and has been sorely missing - if we are to move beyond the empty rhetoric and expensive misfires of healthcare reform that has characterized the last 20 years.

Second, presuming the political solution and will identified above, we must craft a true long-term vision for what our healthcare system should be and what it should deliver.  Again, in my opinion, our systems have been operating without a true, empowering, action-oriented and well-understood vision for some time.  We've had platitudes to be sure - patient-centred, commitment to quality, accountability, [fill in the blank] - but all too often I believe a healthcare vision has been subsumed, subverted and overridden by short-term financial and political agendas.  The first step in this process?  Broad-based and transparent engagement of the public and our service providers.  The effective creation - and implementation - of a meaningful and sustained vision and plan for health will not come if we can't achieve broad-based understanding and commitment of a majority of our stakeholders in making it happen.  This is fundamental to the success of any venture.  However, for a variety of reasons (e.g., fear? arrogance?) the formal system and our political masters have shied away from anything but cursory, perfunctory, and even deceitful "consultation" processes.  The intent more often than not has been to manage noise rather than create true engagement and constructive action.

Third we need to ramp up the collective courage to make the hard decisions and choices that are before us.  The changes we need to achieve the outcomes we say we want (e.g,. quality health care, cost-effective, patient-centred, sustainable) will not come without courage.  We do not lack for knowledge, data and research.  Much of what we know about what contributes to healthier populations has been reinforced in multiple studies dating back to the 1970's.  I suggest to you that another study - on mental health reform, rural health services, manpower planning, [fill in the blank] - will not fundamentally alter our understanding of what our issues are, where are systems are failing, and what we must do.  Do we have 100% perfect information?  No.  But if we believe we need that before taking action I suggest you prepare yourself to accept less than optimal performance in perpetuity.  We need courage and leadership to address the hard changes before us. 

So how do we incent the type of leadership we require within our systems?  When I've posed this type of question to others one of the common responses I've received is that we need to move away from our publicly funded health care system and allow the private sector to drive needed change.  Again I may be naive, idealistic or blinded to the possibilities, but I do not believe the profit motive is one that is required - or desirable - within our healthcare systems.  I still believe that a publicly funded and managed system can deliver on its commitments if it is allowed to.  I do believe that we have the leadership talent in the system to work for better change if we empower staff, managers and leaders to do the right things, to make courageous decisions, and be supported for doing so.  The reality for the past many years however is that caution, risk aversion, and even indecision have been rewarded over any form of action.  Too often those who have been prepared to take action have been chastised, demoted, isolated, or even dismissed.  Other potential leaders have left of their own accord, having become discouraged by their inability to make the difference they believe necessary.  Others have simply quit in place, now being content to defer to others higher up in the chain of command, or to participate in innumerable and never-ending committee work - our proverbial bridge to nowhere.

Finally, and just as critically, we need to overcome the challenge of the type of leadership culture we have created over the past 20+ years.  While we often hear assertions, particularly from politicians, that our system is overburdened with overpaid administrators I believe the issue is more profound than that.  In my view, due in large part to the actions and behaviours of our politicians, the healthcare system is over managed and under led.  We have raised several cadres of healthcare administrators within a culture that has valued "noise management", risk management, and decisions and accountability (or lack thereof) by committee.  Accountability has become diffuse by design.  For those wishing to push forward with strength and vision they often encounter policies, procedures, and processes to confound Solomon.  

Aside from the challenge of the maturity of our political process noted at the outset of this post, I believe this latter point may be one of the most challenging to overcome.  Changing the culture of leadership - which sets the stage for all other required change in the system - is daunting.  How does one change a leadership mindset when more often than there is a predilection in succession planning in choosing those who act, behave, and look most like us?  Wholesale change is certainly not desirable.  We need the benefit of corporate memory to inform us, guide our actions, and prevent us from repeating past missteps.  But we also need more innovation, creativity and courage than ever before.  I fear that our current leaders may not overcome their own unconscious bias to make that happen.  I fear too that there may not be many of those potential leaders remaining in the system to choose from and develop to make the necessary difference.

The challenges healthcare faces are immense and they will require political maturity, vision, courage, the right incentives, appropriate accountability mechanisms and a new style of leadership to overcome.  A tall order.  Can it happen?  Only if we have the strength to do the hard work and not simply engage in what seems expedient in the moment.  Only if we have the courage to risk and hold true to the values that I believe informed most of us to enter into the healthcare field in the first place.


In this case it truly is all about leadership.

Greg Hadubiak, MHSA, FACHE, CEC, PCC

President & Founder
BreakPoint Solutions
gregh@breakpoint.solutions

https://breakpointsolutions.blogspot.com

Stand for Something or Fall for Anything

In my coaching and consulting practice, I often find that I am working with individual leaders, teams or organizations to develop, re-frame, redefine or otherwise establish their core values.  This exercise can be motivated from a number of sources:

  • Personally - to gain clarity on work challenges, desired advancement or changes in career, making choices about current/future fit ian organization, and exploring challenges related to work/life balance and similar choices. 

  • Teams - trying to strengthen teamwork, manage conflict, get clarity of where the team is going, how they are going to get there, and what is permissible/non-permissible behaviors/actions.

  • Organizationally - usually as part of an organizational reset and often tied to redevelopment/ reestablishment of a strategic plan or trying to figure out why desired results are not being achieved.

I love this kind of work - regardless of level at which it happens - as I do believe it is critical and crucial work.  Other leaders that I have worked with over the past 30 years plus would tell you different.  In fact, they would consider "values" work to be a lot of fluff and really only good for those ubiquitous annual reports and strategic plans that are mandated to them by an external agency, a board of directors, or by a variety of other stakeholders.  They engage in this work and produce such only because it is mandated, not because they see benefit in the exercise or expect to adhere to these values after the glossy publication is put on the shelf.  And, for me, the results of this lack of commitment are clear.

Having worked for these kinds of leaders and organizations I can attest to the personal impact on me and can certainly relate to the toxic effects it has on the broader workforce and for employee engagement.  Values matter on a number of fronts.  Many of us make employment and career choices - sometimes implicitly rather than explicitly - on the basis of whether a leader's or organization's values resonate with our own.  As I'm sure many of you have heard or read, the #1 reason that people leave organizations relates to their relationship, or lack thereof, with their direct supervisor. I would venture that a strong parallel conclusion would be that people also leave organizational cultures that don't resonate with their core values.

And let's remember that "leaving" an organization may not just come in the form of physical departure.  Many organizations, striving for higher levels of productivity, are fighting significant forms of both presenteeism and absenteeism based on a lack of true and authentic engagement of their workforce - on the basis of shared values.

Just as problematic, however, and more distressing to me are leaders that do have a strong sense of core values but consistently fail to strongly articulate those values and/or strongly and consistently put them into action.  The reality then becomes that a team or an organization fails to see a consistent presence or application of core values - whether that of the individual leader or of the organization.  Too often the result of this is other leaders, staff and stakeholders are either left to guess or interpret what values should guide actions OR, more worrisome, live and lead to a set of values that actually contrary to what the leader or organization is intending or hoping for.  The clear result of this "organic" and evolutionary model of leadership is an organizational free-for-all that lacks cohesion, alignment and as often as not results in unproductive and destructive conflict.


Clear personal values, clear team values and clear organizational values that are fully defined and effectively and courageously utilized to animate other structures and processes (e.g., recruitment, retention, performance management, strategic planning, communication) can be powerful in moving individuals, teams and organizations forward.  Certainly a great reference for me in this regard is Simon Sinek's "Start With Why".  Understand and lead self before you can effectively understand, lead and attract others that believe what you believe.

This also means having the courage to articulate - in some level of detail - what you believe in and stand for and then having the courage to act on those stated convictions.  This is why I push my individual coaching clients or consulting clients so hard on moving beyond one-word statements of their values.  Stating that we hold values of integrity, respect, transparency and so on needs to move beyond those basic and potentially powerful words to longer definitions and clear examples of what those values will mean in action, what is permissible and what actions and behaviors are out of bounds. Once those definitions are affirmed the proof really is in the pudding - is a leader or organization prepared to make a stand in service of those values?  To make the courageous and hard choices that demonstrate that these values mean something?

In the absence of committed leadership, founded on one's or an organization's well-developed values, the next wind will blow you in the next easiest direction.  You are no better off than those leaders who never believed in an exploration or declaration of powerful values.  Your glossy publication will gather just as much dust.

Leadership is a lonely venture, but in the end it IS all about leadership.

I end this particular post with a poem by Dylan Thomas which I have referenced before.  It speaks to me about being true to self, holding true to one's ideals, all in an effort to make a real difference in this world of ours.  For me, it is also a call to courageous leadership.  Choose to lead by your values and your terms.  There is a place and an organization calling for your talent and your leadership. 

Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. 

Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night. 

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. 

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night. 

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. 

And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Greg Hadubiak, MHSA, FACHE, CEC, PCC
Executive Coach/Leadership Consultant
President & Co-Founder
BreakPoint Solutions
gregh@breakpoint.solutions

https://breakpointsolutions.blogspot.com/