The Business Coach

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About What Coaching Can and Cannot Do For You, but Didn’t Know You Could Ask.

The Business Coach: My "New & Improved" Blog

Was my first reference to Palin objectionable? Try this one!

Welcome to my “New & Improved” blog, The Business Coach: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About What Coaches Do, and Cannot Do For You, but Didn’t Know You Could Ask. To answer the obvious question, “Why switch from ‘Success Without Distress’ to this subject?” it’ easy: I think this will be of greater interest to Psychology Today’s readers.

As Hara Marano, Editor-at-Large at PT (and my official great friend & godmother) remarked regarding my request to switch foci; “You’ll address some of the issues you planned to raise in your old blog anyway, won’t you?” Of course, I said. I have studied success, successful people, and self-sabotaging successes for (I hate to admit it) over 30 years. With that degree of immersion in a subject it’s hard not to discuss it 24/7. (Or, as they say, “when all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail.”)

For the moment, however, I want introduce briefly what I do to pay the mortgage, and give you a flavor of blogs to come. My mortgage is covered by the fees I receive from “executive coaching,” a sub-section of what I will blog about as The Business Coach. Within my practice I’m asked to do three things: (a) help salvage self-destructive, extraordinarily talented (or once-successful) executives; (b) help inoculate fast-track A Players (young superstars) against the stresses born of success that might derail them, and, (c) select and help integrate new C-level hires into businesses (a subject I addressed briefly in my blog, “Discerning the content of a candidate’s character…”).

In subsequent posts I would like to explain the intricacies of these issues and help readers who use (or want to use) coaches, set their expectation levels for what coaching can and cannot do, as well as help you determine when psychotherapy –in contrast to coaching—is your best bet.

Allow me a brief example of what I mean:
A number of businesses ask me if one of their employees has “leadership potential,” the most over-used and misunderstood concept in management today. To explain my problems with how “leadership potential” is abused would take an entire ISSUE of PT, not a blog. Suffice it to say, leadership is a unique talent (or skill set) that most people confuse with other talents (or skill sets).

In a nutshell –using the example of a basketball team— rarely is the best athlete on the team the best leaders. It does occur (e.g. Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs), but so does the opposite circumstance: A vast number of men who have played in the NBA (most notably, Bob McAdo), have incredible skills (at scoring, passing, etc.) but are not only horrific leaders, they are not even team players.

On the other hand, the NBA is an ideal showcase for people who may not necessarily have the best raw athletic talents (e.g. they are slow), but are, nevertheless incredible team players AND leaders. Both Steve Nash is a “short” (by NBA standards) two-time MVP, yet thought to be not nearly as skilled as (respectively) Jason Kidd. Maybe so, but Nash makes everyone around him play ABOVE their potential, he’s unselfish in every realm of his life, and is a superb leader.

When I assess “leadership potential,” I never give high grades to someone who has a constant string of A+ reviews (and report cards) to his or her credit. I look for over-achievers; the guy or gal with average intelligence, high EQ, and a stint as head cheerleader or team mascot to their credit. Why the rah-rah traits? Because the person who cheers for his home team, school, or university, puts an entity greater than himself first, and will not be narcissistic. Leaders must be dedicated to their business in rah-rah ways to do the following:

• Hire to their weakness. Every great leader does so, realizing that their job isn’t a solo performance with manifestations of competence across-the-board, but, rather, finding the best talent to get the job done.
• Give credit where credit is due…and then some. Under duress, everyone plays follow-the-leader. In bull markets, if leaders do not have rah-rah spirit, give credit to direct reports for their success (rather than hog it), and serve as head cheerleader (or, as a client of mine who was CEO of a $215 million company said, “I’m chief encouragement officer), their workforce will walk out the door to go where they will be appreciated.
• Be respectful. This, folks, is the big one. Good leaders NEVER put people down gratuitously; they always bolster the “little guy’s ego” because they are 100% secure within their skin. Believe it or not, A+ students are less apt to act this way than B students. Why? The B student has tasted a few C’s or D’s, knows how it feels to hurt, and as a result has gained empathy, whereas the A+ student has never had occasion to do so.

The sole exception to this rule is the man (it’s never a woman) suffering what I call “LES” –LITTLE EGO SYNDROME (or Little Man Syndrome, a.k.a., a Napoleonic Complex). These pathetic guys were poor students in school but always felt they deserved A’s, resented those that got A’s, and spent their lives compensating for being small, unpopular, a poor athlete, and an inadequate man. Regardless of how successful they are in their later years, men who suffer LES, as adolescents are never chosen by me to be a leader. Why would I do such a thing, anyway? A guy with LES is, for example, an author (or blogger) who, despite never holding political office, takes cheap, unwarranted, and vile potshots at, for example, Sarah Palin, without actually knowing a thing about her.

While we’re at it, I wrote a column defending Sarah Palin’s psychological fitness for office. Several liberals objected to my post, much to my surprise since I never said that Sarah Palin would be a good Vice President. But now I will. Judging the #2 spot on both tickets –and only the #2 spot—if you asked me who, following a horrific tragedy, would be better suited to fill the #1 spot in Washington, D.C., I would say Palin, hands down, for the following reasons:

1. Palin appears happy and as if she loves life. Exuding this sort of attitude suggests to me that a person can give praise to others, not “hog” success. It also suggests that if she could hire to her weakness (which is easy for someone who is psychologically secure). On the other hand, Joe Biden has never spoken in public without putting someone down.

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Biden 2.png
[He recently, for reasons the Lord only knows, went up to a reporter, jabbed him in the chest, and said, “Work on those pecs (pectoral muscles).”] That, PT readers, is not being a good “party man,” it is contemptuous behavior, purely and simply. In my role as a business coach, that attitude would rule Biden out of contention for a leadership role.
2. Palin is “rah-rah”. Depending upon what poll you believe, Sarah Palin’s approval rating in Alaska ranges between 60% and 84%. Good Lord; only Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio had those numbers. You get astronomical approval ratings by serving people, not pursuing self-interests. As many a Republican pollster observed, Palin got more votes running for mayor of her home town than Biden got in the last two Democratic primaries.

This, then, is how I assess “leadership potential,” and that’s one subject, dear PT reader, I will blog about.

Thanks for making the transition with me!

After 30 years on the faculty of Harvard Medical School's Department of Psychiatry, Dr. Berglas moved to Los Angeles to focus on writing, consulting, executive coaching.

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