Executive coaching: Get help with key global trends affecting your business

Executive coaching: Get help with key global trends affecting your business

This article first appeared in Smart CEO Magazine.

Executive coaching is no longer a trend, but a viable tool in talent and performance management for organizations. Sixty percent of organizations with strong coaching cultures report that their revenue is above average in their peer group, according to a study conducted by the Human Capital Institute and the International Coach Federation.

Clearly coaching has an impact on an organization’s financial performance. Additionally, coaching can help with employee engagement: 65 percent of employees from companies with strong coaching cultures rated themselves as highly engaged.

Just as athletes have coaches who provide feedback, encouragement and performance assessment, many executives and entrepreneurs hire coaches to help them become more effective leaders. Everyone has blind spots, behaviors and patterns of thought that they cannot see for themselves. Leaders need someone to point out the behaviors that keep limiting their potential. Coaches serve that purpose, and can also act as thinking partners for executives who don’t often have someone they can confidentially share feelings, ideas and concerns with.

Future trends affecting leaders

Another advantage of coaching is that it can help executives take advantage of key societal and global trends, including:

Remote workers: I have several clients who manage teams not only in other countries, but also here in the U.S. Teams are dispersed in different states and often work out of collaborative work spaces or the home. Team leaders are challenged with maintaining cohesion in their teams and communicating effectively and quickly. Information-sharing platforms become extremely important. Coaches can help their clients hone their message and create new delivery models for that communication.

The need for resilient leaders: Resiliency is built before a crisis hits so that the leader can manage emerging situations decisively and thoughtfully. Tired leaders are ineffective leaders. Coaches are challenged to encourage, if not push, leaders to maintain health and well-being. Mindfulness, exercise, nutrition and sleep are essential elements to maintaining resiliency, yet often those are the first things to be sacrificed in a fast-paced environment.

Global cultures, language and values: Many of our clients work in global organizations and either reside abroad or are managing teams that reside abroad. Leaders underestimate the need to be careful about language. Behind the words is a set of cultural values that may not match the American one, and must be learned and considered for leaders to be effective globally. Executive coaches provide an alternative perspective that challenges our cultural assumptions.

The generational see-saw. Leaders will be faced with the challenge of how to manage a millennial generation of workers who are breaking all the rules of traditional work, yet have so much to contribute through their ingenuity and optimism. Second, they will have to decide how to recover the organizational wisdom and tacit knowledge held by the boomers now leaving the workforce. A greater emphasis on mentorship programs that can build bridges between the generations and their experience will help retain this wisdom, while encouraging diligence and intention in a younger generation that can at times be impulsive.

Leadership by authenticity: In his book Authentic Leadership, Bill George persuasively demonstrates that authentic leaders of mission-driven companies will create far greater shareholder value than financially oriented companies. He speaks about five essential dimensions of authentic leaders — purpose, values, heart, relationships and self-discipline. People are tired of listening to false promises and glamorized spins. They are looking for leaders who demonstrate courage and humanity in their leadership, with a focus on people.

Retiring workers: About 44 million people in the U.S. are now 65 years or older. By 2050, the Census Bureau expects that figure to double, as the largest generation in American history lives longer than any before it. A handful of companies and institutions, such as the National Institutes of Health, offer ways of letting older workers return on a part-time basis after retirement. This takes advantage of their expertise, while easing them into their post-employment lives. Teaching coaching skills to these older workers will help them coach newer managers to build skill sets appropriate to the organization.

Hi Tech combined with Hi Touch: We are living in a time that requires organizations to marry purpose and profit. New technology drives the fast pace of innovation but cannot continue without a nod to social endeavors that sustain a healthier planet. Companies such as Worldreader (helping low literacy in emergent countries), Samasource (addressing global economic equality through the power of technology) and CareMessage (focuses on enhancing patients’ ability to self-manage their health, expanding health literacy, and improving care in general in under-served populations primarily through text messaging) are fueling social entrepreneurship. Successful social entrepreneurs work with mature coaches who have a business mindset and share their insight into the value of social impact.

The 21st Executive Coach

What do these trends mean for those of us who coach leaders facing these kinds of challenges? The 21st-century coach is a global citizen, knowledgeable about cultural differences and experienced in living or traveling in other countries. This gives the coach enough perspective to challenge the assumptions on which leaders build a vision and direction for their organizations.  As coaches we need to develop our own capacity for global perspective to best serve our clients.


Alicia M. Rodriguez is founder of Sophia Associates Inc., an international executive and leadership coaching practice. www.sophia-associates.com. We work with visionary leaders, executive women, social and creative entrepreneurs and change agents.

Contact Alicia at alicia@sophia-associates.com or @aliciarod on Twitter

Women as Integrative Leaders

Evolution has been defined as: “the process by which an organism becomes more sophisticated over time and in response to its environment”. As I consider the future CEO I wonder about that definition. Leadership has evolved as global challenges grow more complex and critical than ever before. More significant than what a leader does or why she does it is the “who” behind the leader moniker.

What does it take for a leader to evolve the capacity to respond to an ever-changing environment? What traits or skills might be found in a next generation leader? First we have to consider what the emerging future may look like. Without clairvoyance the imagination may be the best vehicle for considering what the future holds. We can imagine a world that needs high-integrity leaders that build bridges between cultures, between technologies and between industries. This approach to leadership is deeply rooted in a transformational worldview that is transcends self-interest for the collective good of the organization, its stakeholders and the larger community.

What are the skills and attitudes required to meet our emerging future? We need leaders who balance the feminine and masculine aspects of ourselves as humans with an integrated awakened leadership.

What is needed is a recalibration that values feminine leadership styles that incorporate:

      Shared leadership


      Focus on relationships

      Intuition and data

      Community builders



      Power with vs. Power Over

Women are now poised to bring traits and ways of leading into the future that can impact global solutions, merging doing business and doing good in the world. Both are required now. 

In his book Awakened Leadership: Beyond Self Mastery, author Alan Shelton writes,

The corporate landscape is teeming with the demand for offerings in personal development and consciously responsible leadership. Where these are made available, you will find today’s best executives. These men and women have developed a keen ear for identifying opportunities to expand through their own personal journey and at the same time developing traits that will facilitate successful outcomes in business. Much like I do, they live and relish every corporate moment. They do not want the lifeblood of their passion marginalized or diluted as though it were of a lesser value.”

Alan has discovered the shift in what many of us in the leadership development field might refer to as Evolutionary Leadership or Awakened Leadership or Integrative Leadership. The core of this shift is the emphasis on the development of the individual leader expanding her level of self-awareness and her ability to challenge herself to evolve in ways that include a unitive perspective.

I believe that women as the next evolutionary leaders bring to their leadership the feminine archetypal qualities that are required to meet the future. Yet I also believe that most women are unaware of how to best leverage this leadership style.

A Builder. She must imagine beyond what is visible to her now and she must hold that vision lightly in order to maintain an agility and nimbleness to respond in the moment. She must be able to create from nothing without a reliance on past models of success.

A Conversationalist. She must be adept at convening bold conversations, conversations that matter and illuminate essential principles which drive her business. She must listen deeply to what matters to others and engage people in conversations that generate mutual prosperity.

An Ethicist. The world is looking for leaders with impeccable integrity and transparency. We need leaders who ask difficult questions and can engage controversial discourse from an ethical perspective without becoming moralistic.

A Meaning-Maker. Evolutionary leaders support followers in their search for increased meaning in their lives whether it is through a business or a cause. Our fragmented lives can lead to a deep disconnect which in business translates to stress, dysfunction and apathy. Nothing can be created from that.

A Steward. The green movement has brought attention to the damage in over-consumption of resources and the need to find alternatives to past practices. The evolutionary leader is a steward of the environment and of her global community.

A Collaborator. She must create systems that support collaboration across cultures, within teams and with strategic alliances. These collaborations are based on mutual respect, honesty, humility and an attitude of abundance.

A Strategist. Without strategic acumen the vision of the evolutionary leader may remain a wish or dream. The evolutionary leader builds her own strategic skills and cultivates those skills in others.

A Mentor. A mentor requires a relationship with the future. The purposeful mentoring of a next generation of leaders focuses on what may be required to meet that future. If ideas are the currency of the future, she must provide forums for learning and mentoring opportunities that generate innovation and intrinsic motivation.

An Alchemist. The future is full of paradox. The ability to see beyond polarities and be able to understand the creative value of paradox is essential to the Integrative Leader. She is only one person and can only see as far as her personal horizon. By embracing multiple perspectives in her vision and strategy she taps the collective wisdom, expertise and brilliance of many to accomplish much. This is a leader that gives voice to those who may not be in power but can contribute to creating the future. She can discern the inter-relationship and patterns of what may be disparate elements and she can bring them together without diminishing any of them.

More than any of these, the Integrative Leader must be authentic, awake, aware and alive, participating in the creation of the emergent future from a place of integrity, energy, principle and presence. The ability to reflect on her thinking and to maintain self-awareness allows her to challenge her own assumptions so she can continue to evolve herself and those around her. A desire to be masterful in reaching her potential translates into a focus on developing mastery in others.

The greatest surprise will be that many who hold the seeds of the Integrative Leader will not be found in the MBA programs or traditional systems. They will be the rogue thinkers, the artists, the people who put their creativity, their heart and their mind to work to make a real difference. Those are the people I will be looking for to lead in the next evolution of leadership.

© 2015. Alicia M. Rodriguez, Sophia Associates, Inc. www.sophia-associates.com

View our two minute video on Awakening Leadership Within to learn more about Leadership Development for the 21st Century.


Are You A Resilient Leader

Why Resiliency Matters

Strategic agility and customer responsiveness are essential to the success of organizations today. The culture of speed, competition and the rapid changes brought on by technology and globalization cause many executives and managers to struggle to move ahead of the competition within and outside their organizations.

It’s no surprise that more and more executives and managers are stressed at work. Tony Schwartz, author and founder of The Energy Project claims, “We’re not meant to run at high speeds, continuously, for long periods of time. Science tells us we’re at our best when we move rhythmically between spending and renewing energy — a reality that companies must embrace to fuel sustainable engagement and high performance.” His research shows that workers today are exhausted, emotionally depleted and 70% are disengaged. Research shows that the value should not be determined by hours worked but instead on the energy brought to projects.

Stress, however, is a fact of life – and work. The key to weathering storms is in how you handle stress and renew your energy. If you accept that “stress happens” then building both personal and organizational resiliency will help you and your organization weather the inevitable storms. That means being pro-active about nurturing your resiliency.

What is resiliency? The origin or the word comes from mid 17th century from Latin leaping back from the verb resilire - to spring back. Resiliency is the ability to recoil or bend back into shape after bending, stretching or being compressed. It is the ability to stand or recover quickly from difficult conditions and setbacks.

Resiliency is not a luxury for the senior executive, manager, worker or CEO. Like a bank account, if you withdraw from your wellness account without replacing this energy, you eventually end up energetically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally “bankrupt”.

Environments of high stress make it difficult to maintain personal resiliency and well being. Yet, a shift in thinking to viewing your personal resiliency as a component of leadership and an influence on organizational success repositions it as an integral component and essential. The shift in thinking makes building your personal resiliency as rewarding as innovation, learning, creativity, problem solving and decision-making, all outcomes of being personally and organizationally resilient.

How can you nurture your personal resiliency? By being self-aware and noticing what contributes to your energy and well being and what detracts from this. Then taking consistent actions and behaviors that maintain your personal balance – mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually – needed to spring back from the inevitable challenges faced in your role as CEO or senior executive.

Ten Questions To Build Resiliency 

Here are ten questions for you to answer. They will indicate where and how you need to replenish your energy to build resiliency. I use this exercise with my clients when we notice that their energy, inspiration and effectiveness is waning. We use these to build focus and intention around a plan to maintain resiliency. Like an athlete training for a marathon, you incorporate resiliency practices BEFORE you need them so you can recover quickly when adversity strikes.

  1. Describe how you feel when you are confident and at “the top of your game” – mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
  2. What are the top five “needs” or a better way of saying it, “requirements for wellbeing” that you feel you must meet in order to decrease your stress and increase your capacity to handle your leadership role?  Some typical answers from my clients may be: quiet time for reflection, spiritual practice, physical activity or a work out in the morning, eating nutritiously, making time for friends, activities that are “fun”, sailing, other hobbies and more.
  3. What structures in your life do you need to create that support your well being? Some typical answers: working out with a friend, taking a retreat every couple of months, kayaking in the morning, and more.
  4. What is the first, second and third action you need to take to get these needs addressed or met? 
  5. What is the affect you personally will experience once these needs or requirements are met?
  6. How will the affect of getting these needs/requirements met impact your ability to lead your staff, manage yourself and effectively handle the changes at work?
  7. If your personal ability to recover from setbacks is enhanced, how might that affect the organization’s ability to do the same?
  8. What successes can you point to that have been influenced by your resiliency?
  9. What are the lessons learned from being resilient?
  10. If your leadership capability increases as a result of your personal resiliency, what can you model for others and how might this impact the organization’s culture, creativity, productivity and overall performance?

Life and work come at you quickly and sometimes, with little forgiveness. Positioning yourself to be adept, agile, and responsive while having the energy to nurture future leaders in your organization contributes to the organization and to your own career path. Don’t take your resiliency for granted. The ability to recover quickly from inevitable set backs could mean the difference between struggle and success.

(c) 2015 Alicia M. Rodriguez, Sophia Associates, Inc. www.sophiaassociatesinc.com

How Introverts can develop Leadership Presence

Too often we associate a charismatic leader with competency and presence. Yet not all leaders are extroverted or charismatic. Some prefer to lead quietly and have learned how to do so while staying true to their nature, perhaps adapting a bit but not to the point where they are trying to be something they are not.

Here are some ways to stay true to your introverted nature and lead powerfully and confidently.

  1. Accept your natural tendency toward quiet as you would any other trait. Introversion, just like extroversion, has its advantages and disadvantages. Limiting yourself to a belief that one is positive and the other is negative is not useful nor does it allow you to tap what natural strengths come with your nature.
  2. Define “introverted”. To be an introvert is not the same as being timid or shy. This misconception often creates barriers for those who are labeled introverts. Essentially, introversion has more to do with how you process information and where you derive your energy. Introverts tend to process more diligently, sometimes taking more time. They renew themselves in quiet reflection and with few people and are often exhausted in crowds and over-stimulation. 
  3. Enhance the best qualities of the introverted leader. Come to embrace and work with, not against, your nature. Identify where and how you are energized to build more resiliency. Manage circumstances that deplete you. Structure the flow of information in ways that leverage your thoughtfulness and diligence for more clarity and better decisions.
  4. Work with a coach to identify the abilities associated with an introverted nature. Once you identify your strengths you can tap them as needed. You will also become aware of where you choose to stretch into your discomfort to enhance your leadership and where you may want to rely on someone else’s extroverted strength to accomplish things, influence others and execute strategies.
  5. Set boundaries. The best leaders know where those boundaries are and stay within them. If you find yourself exhausted, your ability to lead will be compromised. If you know you need time in your day or week to renew yourself, build it into your schedule. Intentionally create a structure that allows you to lead best within your nature and in alignment with what works to support you.
  6. Energy follows attention. This is one of the basic concepts in Aikido and in how we teach leaders to embody leadership presence. Your energy will follow your attention so be conscious of where your want to focus your time and energy. Develop a criterion that allows you to choose for or against your attention. Distinguish between what really matters and what is noise.
  7. Create space. Using the principles of Aikido you step off the line into more power to expand time and space. This creates physical space and in leadership it creates psychic space. Learn to use this spaciousness to listen and blend before attempting to influence or guide others. Your introverted nature will assist in moving with what is purposefully and powerfully.
  8. Embodied leadership presence is achieved by focusing attention into any body sensation.   When feeling off center, focus your attention quietly on the body sensations to bring you back to the present moment. This can be done at any moment and can be done discreetly.
  9. Think holistically. Research shows that about half of us are introverts and half of us are extroverts. When creating teams that are diverse in nature be attentive to include extroverts and introverts. The team perspective will be broader and each style can be tapped based on the situation at hand to resolve challenges, influence outcomes or work collaboratively on projects.
  10. Presence is both a body state and a mind state. Be conscious of how you hold your body. How you stand will make you feel more or less confident depending on your stance. Standing tall, like your mother may have told you, leads to feelings of well-being and confidence. Slouching or head down elicits feelings of disempowerment. Additionally, as a leader, your followers need to see and feel your state of being in order to follow you and your vision, and to feel safe and motivated to do so. 

You do not have to be someone you are not. Embrace your true nature, tap your inherent strengths and experiment with ways to reach out to others to communicate your vision and enhance your leadership.


“As an introvert it was eye-opening to learn that I could use my stance and attention to generate a powerful presence without being loud or pushy. It has completely changed how I interact in situations where I need to influence decisions or have my ideas heard. I am more confident and less critical with myself and others have commented on this new way of being. Thank you so much!”

(c) 2015 Alicia M. Rodriguez,  President, Sophia Associates, Inc.

www.sophia-associates.com  We work with visionary leaders to develop conscious leadership to meet 21st Century challenges.