Contributing Editor, Cynthia Holladay, interviews Michael Becker, VP Mobile Strategies at iLoop Mobile
Q. Describe your reasons for working with a coach and learning the Language of Leading.
Throughout my working career, I have learned and applied many aspects of leadership. But I wanted to grow and be effective at an entirely new level. So I started with a concrete plan for what I wanted to accomplish and began working with Julian as my coach. We've been working together off and on for about eighteen months.
I wanted a coach because I found myself becoming frustrated and not communicating well. I have a lot of passion and ideas, perhaps too many ideas at times. Often my delivery was overwhelming, so people couldn't consume my ideas. It was like feeding steak to a starving person who can't digest it. I was impatient with myself and others. Frankly, at times I was difficult to be with.
You know the old saying, "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing expecting a different result?" I was looking for recognition, trying to prove myself right. That is, trying to be right rather than making a difference. I'd push my point and expect people to bend my way rather than trying to lead and work with them.
With passion and force, you can sometimes get your way and succeed. But it is tiring, and this approach does not support long-term stability or create lasting value. I wanted a coach that could help me redirect my passion, intellect and energy in a more constructive and team- motivating way.Q. What were your initial goals?
I wanted to be a more effective leader-not just intellectually, but emotionally. Like many entrepreneurs, I've been driven by personal passion, initiative and contribution. However the mark of a leader is in helping others to succeed, not focusing on the measure of personal success. Making this transition was exceptionally difficult because it's scary not being on the front line. The fear was in losing my sense of identity: "I did that" or "I created that", which is often the hallmark of a founder. The identity needs to become "We did that!"
Another common issue I wanted to address was making things too personal; too emotional. I get passionate about things. But in a social and business environment, passion and emotion alone don't always work to help get things done. I needed to learn to rely on other people-to lead through following.
I wanted to learn how to develop effective agreements to accomplish the organizational goal. Moreover, I wanted to learn the taxonomy of leading and how to express ideas clearly. At the beginning of my coaching relationship, all I really knew was that I was not as effective as I could be. I needed to learn how to define the source of the ineffectiveness. Q. What have you gained so far?
The Language of Leading gives me a framework to understand what leadership is; how to lead; and how to pace myself when leading. This is an evolutionary paradigm shift for me, and I see growth happening through the process.
The Language of Leading also gives me a way to form constitutional agreements with people. When people change-the agreements change. So you must start over. The righteous person will say, "I don't want to start over because I've created value-I'm right.
" But the problem is, so what? What you offer now doesn't mean anything to the new people and circumstances. So you must form new agreements. Julian helped me recognize issues like this faster than I would have done alone.
One of the things I've learned when forming agreements is that there's you, the other person, and the ingredient that is the stand between the two parties. This shared ingredient is what is to be accomplished together and comprises what each party is committed to do, which is larger than any one perspective. We define what we are taking a stand for, establish the agreement, and deliver to that stand. Instead of "I'll try", it's "I'll do this." This perspective allows for an impassioned but unemotional conversation without either party taking things personally.
Taking a stand is part of mature leadership-knowing that you'll get there because of your stand. This mentality reduces fear and insecurity, and it subjugates self-righteousness. The righteous person takes a straight line. But as a leader, I've learned to adjust the path when needed because I want to make a difference, not necessarily to be proven right. This means allowing someone else to be right or creating an environment where everyone is right. Q. How has the framework made a difference?
Here's an example of the Language of Leading in action. I asked a colleague recently when he was going to complete something. He wanted to know why I was hounding him. I immediately recognized an alignment problem, so I responded, "I'm not hounding you. What I want to know first is, have you agreed to own this task and that you will get it done? Once we are clear about that, then we can talk about when. I don't have your commitment yet, so let's address that first."
It was amazing. This positioning completely addressed the emotional aspect of the conversation, and it was an interesting turning point. My colleague agreed to own the task, and we moved forward. If there is no agreement, you're in a no-man's land. And so often, that is the problem. Q. Would you share the results with us?
I'll go on record to say this: part of my result is still having my job. The Language of Leading has given me a framework for leading. Julian helped me see and make the necessary changes to my behavior. Without this framework and perspective, I would have kept pushing to be right. And I would have been fired or quit, whichever came first-without a doubt because the organization needed me to be a leader, not just an employee. Many entrepreneurs find this transition from visionary doer to leader difficult, and I was no exception. With Julian's coaching, I'm making it to the next level.
For my company, iLoop Mobile, the results are a more efficient use of resources and increased business. Previously, I was the vision driver-but at times also the blocking force of ideas and deals. I couldn't get out of the way fast enough to allow deals to succeed. Using the Language of Leading tools, I now get out of the way and help form agreements so others get their job done. Some of our largest business transactions to date this year are due to the fact that I've been able to apply the Language of Leading when forming agreements.
So the bottom line is increased revenue for my company, my colleagues are happier working with me, and I keep my job. I get to continue contributing and creating value for our customers, partners and industry. There is a great quote I try to keep in mind: "There is no limit to what you can achieve as long as you don't mind who takes the credit." This is what a leader needs to embrace, and it is about getting things done. And this is what Julian and The Language of Leading teaches. Michael Becker is VP Mobile Strategies for iLoop Mobile; co-author of "Mobile Internet for Dummies" and "Web Marketing All-in-One for Dummies". He was awarded the MMA Individual Achievement Award in 2007, the 2009 Direct Marketing Education Foundation Rising Stars Award, and is pursing his doctorate on the topic of mobile enhanced customer managed interactions at
Golden Gate University.
Interview by Cynthia Holladay, Principal, UpRight Marketing, & contributing editor for "Leader News."