Power of Coaching - A Personal Reflective Journey

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I would like to share my personal reflective journey to date, from the beginning.  I was invited to attend the MOR Advanced Leadership Program by my CIO at the beginning of the summer.  As one of the newest members of the OIT management/leadership team I immediately had two scenarios go through my mind.

  1. I haven't been doing a good job and should accept this opportunity to better my leadership skills.
  2. I am actually being considered as part of the future Rutgers IT leadership team.

Either way, I immediately responded with my grateful intention to participate in the program.  I spent the next few weeks very nervous as group 4 began to plan for their project.  Should I reach out to the group first, what should I expect, how am I going to accomplish these expectations and continue to balance my duties at work.?  We got off to a good start and everything seemed to progress as expected.  These individuals seemed to be very inviting and easy to converse with, maybe this won't be as bad as I had anticipated.  We held a weekly conference call discussing our presentation culminating with the final reading of our Steve Jobs script and said that we would see everyone Monday in St. Louis.

We arrive in St. Louis and gather before dinner, one last read through and the first face-to-face meeting.  We get together, introductions go well, the reading goes well, everything is going well.   Brian gathers us into a circle and I am standing next to Mike Sullivan, Brian introduces the program and himself, Gary does the same and then Mike.  It is apparent to me at this time that I am either up first or last, that's all I can think about.  What were the odds that this was going to happen?  I can't believe this, I proceed to stumble over my introduction and the leadership program begins.

Tuesday morning, what do I wear? Does it really matter?  I guess it does as I changed before proceeding down to the lobby, did I make the right choice?  Why do I worry so much about what other people are thinking as if they can see into my head and are aware of the uncertainty that I am experiencing. 

First Impressions:  I profess that I don't know what I expect to get out of the program, my intention is to jump in the deep end and then I explain what I expected to get out of the program.  Off to the table to discuss the first impressions exercise.  Who is sitting at my table?  Yes, you guessed it, Brian McDonald who immediately calls me out about my half assed introduction.  That is when Edie expressed that she felt I was approachable, and was interested in what I had to say but why don't I smile.  So Bill and smiling become one for the next three days.

Over the course of the next few days it felt like every topic introduced I was doing the opposite.  Yes I check email constantly, I was proud of the fact that I was very responsive.  I felt that was part of what enhanced my customer service skills.  Wrong, Brian would like to kill the person who invented email.  In fact here is a book that was published on the subject.  Leading, managing and doing.  You don't even have to ask, I was doing, doing and more doing.  New topic same result.  I did learn to listen, I learned so much from listening to cohort responses throughout our exercises and I am very grateful for meeting everyone associated with this program. 

Back to New Jersey and now it is time to implement what you have learned.  It started off pretty well and then seemed to be very difficult to stay on track   I share this with the group in case anyone else has experienced applying this program as somewhat of a struggle.  It wasn't until my executive coaching session with Mike that he pointed out that things are not as bad as they might seem.  Sounds like your actually doing quite well.  The power of coaching!

I did discuss my 360 with my direct reports, which brought about some dynamic discussions.  I have received unsolicited feedback following meetings that I should continue to be myself and pursue my strategic visions.  I am very cognizant of the tools that have been provided and utilize them while in meetings and coaching staff.  My favorite tool is what can I live with I use this over and over.  It really helps me move forward in a positive non-confrontational way. I am coaching a direct report whose responsibilities have changed since I joined the organization which was one of my least favorite parts of the job.  Using the coaching methods taught in St. Louis it has been going surprisingly well and is quite enjoyable.  I questioned that I seem to spend a great deal of time with lower level staff and asked Mike if this was normal.  Shouldn't I be meeting with my peers and planning the future of IT at Rutgers.  Mike reiterated that it is necessary to not only lead up but also to lead down.  It is our job as leaders to understand the needs of the organization and fulfill those needs. 

Bill Lansbury
Rutgers University

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