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Diving right into action with a coaching client can be highly energizing. In that excitement and momentum, it can be tempting to push formal assessment aside. However, launching an executive coaching engagement is no different than commencing a journey. A ship that sets sail without the proper coordinates, weather forecast, and a clear understanding of the resources on board has a greater probability of getting lost or sinking. The success or failure of the journey is largely dependent on the crew’s preparation and a proper due diligence before setting sail. Here at AIIR Consulting, the coaching journey requires the same disciplined approach.

If our goal in coaching is to maximize performance, clients must first start by understanding themselves – their needs, values, strengths, shortcomings, and how others view them. This self-awareness is critical for success. Without it, our behavior is reflexive – guided by conscious and unconscious learned responses and our human tendency to do what feels good and avoid what does not. In a business setting, low self-awareness obscures an accurate understanding of the strengths we need to leverage for success and the areas we need to address in order to manage risk. In a leadership role, low self-awareness can create risks ranging from personal career derailment to enterprise value destruction.

Case Study: Adam was a Senior Finance Manager in-line to become the CFO of a BioPharma organization. His gift for numbers and his razor-sharp critical thinking created tremendous value for the organization. His ability to conceive and execute on complex M&A decisions and assemble a diverse product portfolio based on long-term profitability tightly correlated with the company’s incredible 5-year performance. Adam recognized this and viewed himself as invaluable to the business. However, his feelings of entitlement and volatile interpersonal style created ruptures wherever he walked. When people raised objections or questioned his rationale for decisions, Adam either ignored the challenge or squashed it. His style in meetings often left others feeling devalued, insecure, and unheard.

Adam’s low self-awareness put him and the company at risk. His inability to discern how others perceived him also led to superficial working relationships and fear-based influence. Consequently, senior management simultaneously viewed Adam as both a prime succession candidate as well as a walking liability.

Adam reacted with shock and disbelief when he was ultimately passed over for CFO. The story may have ended much differently had Adam been aware of his behaviors and their impact on others. With stronger self-awareness, Adam would have known about:

  • His ineffective ways in dealing with opposing ideas, as well as how his reactive style was detrimental to his image and important work relationships
  • How his developmental history and early career experiences impacted his current behavior
  • His longer-term life and career aspirations, and to what extent he was on track to reach them

Most importantly, Adam could have set goals and actions to course correct and achieve his aspirations. With deeper self-awareness, Adam would have more effectively become the master of his behavior rather than his behavioral reactions guiding him.

Assessment at AIIR: At AIIR, we view self-awareness as the springboard for change and development. We believe one of the most powerful ways to attain it is through a formal and valid assessment process.

In the first stage of our coaching process, ASSESSMENT, we collect three different types of data and then use this data to seek out key development themes through converging data points. We first look at psychometric data, which yields valuable information about personality, derailers, strengths, and leadership orientation.

The second data set involves 360 data, which helps the coach understand how others view the leader. We ask the client to select a sample of the most important stakeholders in his or her work life to share their candid view on the client’s leadership style and performance.

The final stream of data emerges through a Developmental History Interview between the coach and client, where a coach gathers important information about family history, career trajectory, current role and strategy, and future aspirations.

Synthesizing these three streams of data, the coach is able to gain a comprehensive picture of where the client is, where they would like to go, and to what extent the two are aligned. Through a disciplined assessment at the front end of an engagement, the client is positioned for success as they journey outside of their comfort zone.

Stay tuned for our next post in this series, as we discuss how the ASSESSMENT Phase transitions into the second Phase of the AIIR process- INSIGHT.