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Posts tagged ‘Management and leadership style’

Books I have read – January 2010

Another monthly update on the books I read during the past month. For a complete a list, you can visit my virtual bookshelf.


As part of my coaching training, I have purchased this recommended book. The book is a great introduction to what it means to be a coach. It explains how to be an effective coach and provides an approach that can be used for various types of coaching.

Coaching for Performance

My Rating

A few words on the book: This is an introductory book to coaching. It provides enough material for people managers who wish to improve their management style by using a coaching approach without getting into too much details. Although the author frequently refers to sport, many of the examples provided and suggested approach do apply to a business context. The book is easy to read and pragmatic but it isn’t enough to completely change one’s management style.


Pleased with Collins’ previous books (Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies and Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t), I decided to read the third book of the trilogy.

How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In

My Rating

A few words on the book: Contrary to the previous two books, “How the mighty fall” comes across as an hudge-pudge of simplistic conclusions derived out of the same series of data used for the previous books. Similar to his previous books, Collins introduces a 5 stages model to explain the failures. The problem I had with the book is that the conclusion do not seem to be based on lengthy analysis but on quick conclusions that are company specific – i.e. if a similar company applied the same actions, would they actually get to the same results? It seemed to me that the failures were related to many circumstances that were specific to the organizations – not at a macro level but within the organizations. In addition, the author put too much emphasis on the leader of the organizations and very little on the inner workings.


A friend of mine had told me about Deepak Chopra a few years ago and one day I stumbled upon this book. It seemed interesting …

The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence

My Rating

A few words on the book: I must admit, I didn’t finish this book. The final chapters are exercises to help improve the SynchroDestiny and that was not what I was looking for. On the other hand, I enjoyed the “scientific” explanation behind SynchroDestiny. I realize that if you are – like many – a fan of Chopra, you will probably enjoy the book. For my part, I am still trying to figure out what was the “destiny” I was supposed to achieve by purchasing this book…

You can download the audio version of these books from

Audio Books at

Why most managers need a leadership coach

If at any point while you read this post, you disagree with any of my statements, go ahead and click the “Leave a Comment” link. Express yourself!

Image provided by Dunechaser

While the original title of my post was “Why most software development managers need a leadership coach”, I changed it to “Why most managers need a leadership coach” because the situation I have witnessed in the software development industry is also present in many others specialized fields of expertise – at least that’s what many of the people I speak with confirm. Nonetheless, in order not to generalize my assumptions (yet!), I will share my assessment of the people management and leadership capabilities within the software development industry. Let’s begin…

Are you familiar with such problems?

These are only a handful of typical problems encountered by a manager and for most experienced managers, they may sound trivial. Considering that new leaders are not born with management abilities, how can we expect them to be successful in their role?

People managers lack the basic skills

Here’s why I believe most software development managers (and many others) need coaching to become successful in their role (and apparently, I am not the only one who believes this is a valid suggestion). My logic goes as follows:

  • Managers – including software development managers – are people;
  • There are 2 ways to become successful at something. Either you learn through education or you possess above average intuition and intelligence and can figure out how things need to be done;
  • Most software development managers have a technical training /education (examples can be seen here, here, here, and here);
  • In addition to their education background, most software development managers mostly played technical roles (software developers, business analysts, application architect, etc.) in their career prior to getting promoted to a management position;
  • Most people management positions are complex and require knowledge and experience outside of technology such as Business, Leadership, People Management, Organizational Development, or Psychology;
  • Very few people in people management positions have all the requirements (see previous bullet);
  • Without prior education and experience outside the software development sector, most managers are ill-equipped to successfully perform in their role.

Coaching is a solution

With an average salary1 of $85,000 to $125,000 depending on the number of years of experience and location, why wouldn’t an organization invest a few thousands of dollars to hire a coach in order to help develop the people management and leadership abilities? Despite the economic downturn, I still see organizations spend thousands of dollars on training or conferences. Although I don’t argue the value of such events, I doubt they support the development of people management and leadership abilities.

It seems to me that we need to help those in management position succeed. Otherwise, the performance of the entire team will suffer.

Not convinced?

Others seem to agree with this new trend…

1.- Sources:

Wondering what a leadership coach can do for you? Try it for free…

In the spirit of International Coaching Week, I am offering 10 hours of leadership coaching (for free) to a leader in need. Since “96 percent* of clients report they would use coaching again to achieve personal and professional life goals such as work-life balance, increased self-esteem, productivity and much more“, this is an opportunity for you to try a coach.

In honor of annual International Coaching Week (ICW), Feb. 7-13, ICF Chapters and coaches everywhere will take time to recognize professional coaching and what it offers by hosting various coaching events within their local communities. This includes pro-bono coaching services, such as free coaching sessions, educational lectures and workshops for the public.

“This week is the perfect time for coaches to get out in their communities and show people what coaching is and how it can benefit their lives,” said ICF President and Master Certified Coach Giovanna D’Alessio. “Coaching is proven to help people attain their personal and professional goals and those who use it can expect to see a solid return on their investment.”

If you ever wondered if a coach can help you achieve better results faster, I invite you to send me an email (martin [at] with the following information:

  • Description of the professional objective you are hoping to achieve.
  • Why you think a leadership coach could help you achieve your objective?
  • Why YOU should be selected?

I am donating 10 x 1-hour sessions to one leader in need to help you achieve your goal. The sessions will take place over the phone (skype) at the rate of 1 session per week. You have until Saturday February 13th to submit your profile and I will select the coachee on February 15th. I am confident you will enjoy the experience.

*2009 ICF Global Coaching Client Study.

What Is Coaching? And Other Relevant Questions

As we offer various services to help organizations transition from a traditional software development approach to a more Agile approach, we are often asked why use coaching? Assuming you are also asked the same question, you may find this short blog post useful to help you properly answer the questions.

What is Coaching?

Coaching is a method of directing, instructing and training a person or group of people, with the aim to achieve some goal or develop specific skills. There are many ways to coach, types of coaching and methods to coaching. Sessions are typically one-on-one either in-person or over the telephone. – via Coaching – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. – via International Coach Federation.

What is Coaching?

What is Coaching?

What is Coaching?

What is a Coachee?

coachee [ˌkəʊtʃˈiː] – n (Business / Industrial Relations & HR Terms) a person who receives training from a coach, esp in business or office practice. – via coachee – definition of coachee by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.

Why use a Coach?

A coach sees the best in you and for you and will help you develop your skills. A coach will support you in your personal and professional growth – and will help you to live the life you truly want. You will get in touch with your values and your vision and help you discover areas and opportunities you didn’t see before. via Why use a coach? – ICF Nordic.

A coach helps his coachee reach his goals faster and more efficiently than he would by himself. The coach helps his coachee define clear, realistic, and time-bound objectives applicable to his and develops a partnership to you achieve the coachee’s goal.

How does coaching work?

Through frequent conversations between the coach and his coachee, the coach offers an external perspective and:

  1. Helps the coachee honestly assess his current situation;
  2. Supports the coachee in clearly defining his goal and raising the expectations;
  3. Helps the coachee properly assess the gap between the current situation and the targeted goal;
  4. Works with the coachee to define an appropriate plan and take action (not only conversations);
  5. Helps the coachee anticipate and deal with the obstacles by himself;
  6. Provides feedback on the progress achieved, continuously assesses the progress and presents opportunities to adapt the plan;
  7. Questions the coachee’s self-assessment, decisions and actions taken to achieve the goal;
  8. Proposes potential alternatives to push the coachee outside his comfort zone.

Why does coaching work?

Coaching is an empirical process (inspect and adapt). The coaching process helps the coachee envisions himself in the future, making it easier to expect and the achieve the set goals. The coach helps the coachee see opportunities that the individual wouldn’t see by himself and pushes the coachee to set goals his comfort zone. As each goal requires an action plan, the coach forces more frequent and more productive sessions during which the progress is evaluated. Overall, coaching is a partnership process between the coachee and his coach.

Why would someone ask for a coach?

Coaching is not an end in itself, it is a mean to achieve a set goal. When there is a true willingness for change, the coachee doesn’t want the status quo and is receptive to being challenged in order to achieve its goal, asking a coach for help will allow the coachee to carry out their goal faster and more efficiently.

Some prerequisite questions?

Before starting a coaching process, there are a few questions the coachee needs to ask himself:

  • What am I really looking for in my professional life?
  • What really attracts me in my professional life?
  • What do I really want to change?
  • What would really spark my passion?
  • What problems would I like to resolve to become happier or more productive?


As the first of a series of posts on the topic of coaching, it is important to set the stage which is what I intended to do. Over the next weeks, I will add material to this topic and hopefully will start a conversation with you.

On my way to coaching certification

On my way to professional coach certification

On my way to professional coach certification

After contemplating the idea for almost 2 years and acting as a coach for the last year, I have finally decided to sign up for a formal coach training leading to the ICF certification.

Once the decision was made, choosing the trainer was the next challenge. After googling and comparing, I asked a few people around for some references. It turns out, 2 Accredited Coach Training Programs kept coming up: Coaching de gestion and Mozaik Quebec.

Both programs lead to the same certification and both are well-recognized programs. After spending some time on the phone with representatives from each training organization and asking quite a few questions, I came to the conclusion that both training centers seemed very good. In the end, I selected Coaching de gestion for the following reasons:

  • The program relies less on formal classes and more on self-training. Instead of 27 days of training and classes, the program I selected provides 18 days of training and classes but compensates with over 2,500 pages of reading material. Based on my schedule and personal life, the latter program is better suited to my learning style.
  • The certification program is spread over 12 calendar months (instead of 9 months for Mozaik) which will allow me more time to try and practice my new learning in between training sessions.
  • Since there are less formal classes, the total cost of the training is about 30% less which is nothing to scuff.

The program starts on January 29th. I will share my thoughts and learning along the way.

Helping employees grow without an HR department?

Our organization is using an innovative human resource management approach inspired by the “golfercaddy” relationship in golf. Although the approach isn’t fully matured and there are still adjustments to be made, I believe there is value in sharing the process.

Some background

During its early years, human resources management was done entirely by the management team. The communication was centralized and the company’s founders had relations with all employees. They were responsible for hiring, annual evaluations and taking decisions relating to salary revisions. The fast growth of the organization highlighted certain limitations:

  • Managing the relationships between employees and the founders was increasingly difficult to maintain as the organization grew;
  • The centralized communication channels weren’t efficient;
  • The willingness to develop a new process without hiring specialized HR specialists;
  • The management of special situations and salary determination lacked transparency and were perceived to be unfair.

To address these emerging issues, the organization developed the “Caddy” process, a model of decentralized community-based human resource management.

What is a Caddy?

In golf, the caddy is the person who carries the golf bag, gives advice and provides moral support. A good caddy is aware of the difficulties, obstacles and peculiarities of the course, as well as the best strategies to play the course. The caddy is not the one who plays the game, the golfer is!

Objectives of the process

The objective of the process is to support employees’ success and monitor their well-being. In addition, the caddy process is a way for all employees to participate in the management of the organization by helping their peers to receive the proper feedback and skills to be successful in their role. The caddy process is deemed more efficient than the traditional hierarchical model.

The process

When an employee joins the company, he/she is assigned a caddy for a period of six months. After that period, an employee may decide to change caddy any time. A discussion between the golfer and the new caddy is required to identify the expectations of each party and determine if the match is possible and desirable.

Role and responsibilities of the Caddy

The caddy has certain responsibilities to the employee. In a traditional organization, these responsibilities are held by the Human Resources Department:

  • Communication of the corporate strategy;
  • Keeping track of business objectives;
  • Accompanying the employee in his career development and providing the support to develop new skills;
  • Assisting the employee to set goals and support them in achieving these objectives by offering the means to do so;
  • Preparing the salary revisions and making recommendations.

Caddy Team Charter

“I am unwavering in the success of each of my players, my caddy and the caddy team”.


Because people are the most important asset of the organization. Their development is linked to the success of the organization.


The Caddy process is based on trust and respect. It is a relationship of support and coaching without direct authority.


The Caddy is a humble person with great listening capabilities. He has the courage to confront the person if necessary and the wisdom to do so in respect of the person. Above all, he shares a common goal with his golfers: the professional success and development of the latter.


The Caddying is one of the most important roles in the organization and he is recognized as such, encouraged and valued by the organization.


The Caddy process has a significant positive impact on the development of the golfer.

It’s Sunday and I can’t wait to go to work tomorrow

I decided to change my workout routine this morning and went for a 10 Km (6 miles) bike ride through the forest instead of training on the elliptical. As the cold wind was blowing on my hands (it was only 6° C or 43° F) and the ducks were swimming on the lake I was reminded of the discussion I had a few days ago.

A friend of mine shared with me a dilemna he was facing. Although he had been satisfied with his current responsibilities, he was hoping to get selected for a new position within his organization. It is a role he had helped with in the past but the thought of taking on full responsibility for an entire product line was making him nervous. In a nutshell, his thinking went like this:

  • I’ve given a lot of thought recently to what I want my career to be.
  • For the past years, I have been very comfortable in my role – I’m in my comfort zone.
  • I like what I’m doing but…
  • I feel very excited about this new opportunity.
  • I felt very high energy when I helped with the role in the past but…
  • I’m worried I might not succeed!

Did you ever get similar thoughts, similar feelings? How do you know if it’s the right thing to do? The latter question was his.

Here’s a summary of the questions I asked him:

  • Why do you want this new role? How does that fit with your personal aspiration?
  • Would you get more personal satisfaction by taking on this new challenge or by staying in your comfort zone?
  • How would you feel if you found out someone else got the job?
  • In the worst case, what would happen if you fail at your new role? How bad would it really be?

This conversation didn’t pop in my head this morning because of the dilemna my colleague was facing. As I was pedaling uphill, the conversation came back to me because these opportunities are so infrequent. People so rarely put themselves in a situation where they would have to make a difficult decision with regards to their career. For most people I know, the question of stepping outside the comfort zone never comes up.

I know, I know, the mortgage, the car payments, the tuition for the kids’ school, etc. I don’t question these facts and I certainly don’t imply these things don’t matter but what would you be willing to do to trade your current job for something that would make you say “It’s Sunday and I can’t wait to go to work tomorrow”?

Sometimes you need to settle for one or more of the following: less money, more commute, longer hours, a regular chair (and not a herman-miller) and in other circumstances it will simply be the willingness to take a risk.

What would you be willing to do?