Interview with Executive Coach and Human Relations Expert Leland Sandler
“Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.” — Vince Lombardi
In this interview with Leland Sandler, we discuss some of the benefits of executive coaching and the different types of coaching and advising to CEOs and executives. Leland has been a professional in the educational and executive advising fields for over 30 years, offering CEO coaching services for much of that time to help those running the show get the most from themselves and their workers.
The path that he took was worked hard for, with many academic and business achievements alike that helped shape him into who he is today. His educational journey began at the University of California, Berkeley where he received his B.A. in History in 1975. The following year, Leland earned his California Secondary Teaching Credential in Social Studies at the same university. In 1983, Leland Sandler received his M.A. in Education at San Francisco State University. He then went on to earn his M.B.A. at Pepperdine University in 1988.
Leland Sandler began his professional career as a teacher and curriculum developer. He designed and developed four new courses to be implemented into the U.S. History and Political Studies curriculum for students with learning disabilities. Leland Sandler has also worked as an instructor and presenter with the University of California, San Diego executive education program and as a curriculum developer for business programs at the University of Phoenix.
Between 1998 and 2003, Leland Sandler worked with C.G. Wright & Associates (a management consulting firm) as an associate partner in San Diego, California. Here he focused on executive advising, leadership, organization change, sales, and marketing team execution issues.
Currently, Leland Sandler is a managing partner and executive advisor at The Sandler Group, LLC. The Sandler Group is a management-consulting, organizational effectiveness, and executive advising company that focuses on improving the business aspects of the global life sciences and technology communities.
Leland is a very accomplished executive coach and over the last 18 years has worked with dozens of CEO, executives, and executive teams to help improve their performance and decision making. His primary industry focus has been on technology, life science, and biotech companies. The Sandler Group advises senior executives in the life sciences and the technology arena. We help create execution excellence throughout the organization by facilitating permanent changes in key leadership approaches.
As discussed in an article in Fortune magazine, Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, said the best advice he ever got was to get an executive coach. It is interesting to me that so many founders, CEOs and executives see it as a sign of weakness to get a coach, when every world class athlete in the world has a great coach. The benefits of executive coaching cannot be overstated.
Make sure that you get a coach that you trust and that you feel can empathize and communicate with you on a deep level regarding your most pressing issues. And make sure they don’t have a conflict of interest. It can be one of the best things you can do in your career.
And, it’s backed by the demand for executives too. Take Leaders International Executive Search for example – they are always on the look out for qualified, well-educated executives, and they often have the connections in the industry to secure new roles.
Patrick: This is Patrick Henry, the CEO of QuestFusion, with The Real Deal…What Matters. I’m here today with my good friend Leland Sandler. Over the last 18 years, Leland has been an advisor to CEOs and senior executives. They’ve been utilizing him to help foster and create a culture and mindset of sustainable excellence that enables senior leaders and their teams to drive effective and efficient execution throughout their organizations.
Leland is an executive coach. In the coaching world, I’m more of what Leland would call an offensive or defensive coordinator. Leland is more of a strength coach. He focuses on building people’s strengths. Leland helps executives and their teams achieve excellence in execution making them faster, better and stronger.
Leland holds an MBA in Organizational Effectiveness from Pepperdine University, an MA in Education Technology Corporate Learning from San Francisco State University and a BA in History from the University of California, Berkley.
He is also certified by the International Coaching Federation, which holds coaching certifications from New Ventures West Integral Coaching and Harvard Mindset at Work Immunity to Change. Welcome, Leland.
Leland: Thank you, Patrick.
Patrick: Leland and I have worked together before. He’s done some executive coaching with members of my team when I was running the Tropic Communications. Leland was also very helpful to me on a pro bono basis when Tropic was first getting started. I was dealing with a number of different issues with growing and building the company and dealing with founders. He’s just an excellent guy and an excellent executive coach.
A lot of people out there, especially entrepreneurs, are asking the question, “What is executive coaching?”
Leland: It’s having someone help you achieve excellence faster. That’s probably the simplest way that I could say it. If we’re good, then we all get there. We all grow, mature and develop through a series of experiences over years and years. What a coach does is to compress the entire process down to a matter of months.
If you’re in the startup world, you’ve got an infinite amount of new complexity that you may or may not be able or capable of dealing with. You have the ability to get there. That’s what the coach helps you do.
Patrick: When I hear you say that, I think through either a set of simulations that you put people through, or is it more through a dialogue with someone like you, and you can help them navigate an existing situation better? What are some of the methods that you use to accelerate the process?
Sometimes I think that you just have to go through certain things before you know how to deal with them. Maybe there’s a different way. I’m a little bit confused about what you’re describing.
Leland: It’s not a different way. It’s an additive. For instance, if you’ve never dealt with a board before, then a coach isn’t going to help you successfully deal with a board for the first time.
What they will do is put you in the position to have a perspective about dealing with the board. It’s a perspective about dealing with very difficult and challenging conversations and gaining the confidence in yourself that you’ll be able to deal with them.
You asked a question about method. Method takes probably three or four forms. One is the talk. You do want to uncover people’s blind spots. You want them to understand the assumptions that they are making that may be getting in their way.
A second thing is that you actually want them to develop certain skills, practices and techniques to, for lack of a better term, better themselves. You do that in the third thing, which is in a series of tests. You do a series of experiments in the moment.
One of the things that I think is important about coaching is that it’s got to be in the context of real work. It can’t be this additive because, again getting back to startups, people don’t have the time.
You’ve got all these pieces going. The last piece is getting good quality feedback. When you said earlier about the offense coordinator, which is primarily what you’d be doing and me being the strength coach, think about it from the athletic paradigm.
I asses what you’re doing and what you’re not doing well. I help you see your blind spots. I share with you a technique for getting better. Then I stay with you as you practice that technique, giving you feedback so that you keep getting better and better.
Patrick: Obviously the value of executive coaching is that you become much more effective more quickly. Are there other side benefits? Working with teams, what are some of the other benefits?
Leland: Let’s stay with the individual, and then we’ll talk about the teams. I think one of the benefits is self-insight. I would say that everyone, including yourself, that I’ve ever coached is better at seeing what they’re going through. They’re better at sensing what’s about to happen, seeing a potential roadblock or a blind spot and working their way through it. That self-insight is huge.
The second thing is resilience. In today’s work world, it’s hard. It’s difficult and complex. The potential for either failure, mistakes or looking bad is particularly high. You want someone who steps into that. You want someone who is not “fearless” but something close. That’s what coaching does. It’s helping that person understand how they can become better in that manner.
Patrick: I have to use a hypothetical because I can’t use names. When I was in the early days of Tropic, I was having particular issues with one or two members of my team. I would use you as a sounding board. One of the things that Leland is particularly good at is being a really good listener.
I think that has to be a key quality of pretty much any good manager but especially an executive coach. A lot of it’s not only listening but actually hearing and deciphering what’s going on there.
When we were going through that process, what particular things were you listening for? When we’re talking about, “I have this particular issue with this person.”
Leland: I wanted to understand how you saw it. The fancy term we use sometimes is how you make meaning of the situation. In this case, there was an employee or someone that you were working with, and how you understood it mattered to me.
I also wanted to understand what assumptions you were making. You were making some. Some of them were about the person that potentially were negative. Some of them were about the situation that was something of a rationalization.
We all do this. Having someone help point that out to you gives you clarity about both the situation and then potentially what to do about it.
Patrick: What are the qualities that make someone a good executive coach, especially in the strength coach area that you work in?
Leland: I think that, for themselves, they should have already gone through a certain level of development. You need resilience dealing with CEOs. CEOs can be challenging for good reason because, after all, they don’t have time to waste.
If they’re going to make an investment, then they’re going to want to see a fairly quick return. You need to be able to bring a presence into the situation.
Number two is listening. We already said that. It’s not only being able to listen with your ears but listen with your eyes. You have to really sense what’s going on in the situation. You have to see when the person is stepping into a potentially troubling situation and when they’re stepping away from a potentially troubling situation.
Patrick: On the flip side, what makes an executive coachable?
Leland: I’ve had a few that aren’t.
Patrick: We both have.
Leland: It’s a willingness to say, “I’m good. I may even be approaching great, but I can be excellent. There’s still a place for me to grow.” It’s that willingness to say, “I want to do it.”
You can use the sports analogy. It’s like some of us who have played tennis or golf. If we get to a point where we want to up our game, then we can’t simply say, “I’m going to think my way through it.” It’s not going to work. We need someone who is excellent who’s going to help us move forward and get there fast.
Patrick: I think the sports analogy applies again because all great athletes, no matter how great they are, have great coaches.
Leland: Yes, they do.
Patrick: I think the same thing exists in business. You need to have strong mentors. You need to have strong coaches. You need to have the right advisors to surround you to be the best that you can be.
I remember a time early on in my career, not when I was really young, but when I first got into executive management. I was working for the CEO of one of my companies. He wanted me to parachute into this particular situation where there were some trouble and issues.
Three to six months into it, he asked me how it was working with the guy that I was working with at that time who was my boss. I said, “He’s awesome except for the fact that he’s 35 years old and already knows everything about everything. There’s no room left to learn anything with this guy because he already knows everything.”
When I get into situations where this person isn’t coachable, that’s typically the conclusion that I come to. It gets back to these four quadrants of someone that is unconsciously incompetent. Maybe if I have an intervention moment with this person and get a breakthrough, then maybe they’ll get it.
Some people never get it. They’re either so egotistical, arrogant or maybe have low self-esteem that they’re overcompensating with too much ego. Do you run into situations like that where you think, “I just can’t coach this guy?” What do you do under those circumstances?
Leland: You really help someone get to a choice point more quickly. My first alternative when you’re having a difficult situation is to deal with that difficult situation. If someone has been working with me, then I’m hoping the first question that they’re asking is, “What can I, the manager, do differently? What is it I’m not doing, or what is it that I have been doing that may have been contributing, even unconsciously, to this situation? What might I need to be doing now?”
Patrick, at the end of the day, you could do everything right, and it’s still not going to work if the person doesn’t want to move. If someone is so guarded that they aren’t willing to admit that they still have whatever you want to call it, a blind spot, weakness or capability gap, then you’re not going to be able to help them. My goal there is to help you get to a choice point quicker.
Patrick: It was interesting. I had another situation later in my career with one of the companies that I was running. I had an executive that came through an acquisition. It ended up being a very senior position.
I didn’t feel that he could accomplish everything that I needed him to do, so I got him an executive coach. It was someone that he liked. It was a dual decision.
This guy was an excellent guy, by the way. The assessment that the coach had at that point was that he was not going to be able to get from point A to point B where I needed him to be in any kind of reasonable time frame.
Those are always difficult situations. That’s life sometimes. Do you run into those situations, too? The ones where the guy is coachable, but in the time frame that you need me to get him in a certain place, I just don’t think that I can get him there.
Patrick: How do you deal with that with that person’s boss or organization? What are the kinds of conversations? These are difficult conversations.
Leland: These are really difficult conversations. I want to assess two things. Obviously one is the individual. What is their current capacity? What are they capable of doing? What might they have some struggles dealing with?
You also want to understand both their current and their near future job requirement. What’s the level of complexity that’s a part of that requirement?
If the two don’t match up, the question is, “Can I help this person grow in whatever that time frame is?” We’ll say 3, 6 or 12 months. Can I help them get there considering the complexity they’re under, or are they truly just in over their head? They may one day get there, but not in the next few months. In that case, I’ll tell the person.
Then the challenging thing is that maybe we need to reset expectations about what you need that person to do. They may bring some great talent that’s useful to the company, but maybe their path right now isn’t the right path.
Patrick: In this particular situation that we were just talking about, we had this conversation and we were very open about it. We said, “Hey, we have this position.”
He had some executives working for him. One of those positions he could have actually done. He said he wasn’t interested. He said, “I’m in a different place in my career. I respect your opinion. I disagree with it.” He went off and did something else, which was his choice.
Leland: It’s a choice point.
Patrick: What are some of the common perceptions and misperceptions around coaching?
Leland: One of the most common ones is that coaching is because someone’s got a problem. Someone needs to be fixed. There’s something wrong with them. I do think there’s something wrong with that.
My feeling is that when I want to coach someone, I’m coaching someone who is talented. Typically, they are at the senior level. They are talented, and they are good. My goal is to make them excellent.
I usually start from a high level saying, “We want to go a little bit higher,” as opposed to saying, “You’re down here, and we want to bridge this huge gap.” I don’t think that’s either realistic or fair to the individual.
Patrick: I think it’s totally BS. If you look at a Serena Williams or Roger Federer, they have coaches and sometimes change coaches. They’re the top people in the world at their game. Yet they want the best possible coaching that they can get.
I agree with you. Sometimes in organizations people say, “What’s wrong with that guy? Why does that guy need help?” There’s this kind of bravado that goes on. I think it’s ridiculous.
I welcome help. I welcome help from my board, team or if I need a coach. Those have been some of the most enlightening experiences in my career.
When I was a first line manager, I was fortunate to be with a larger organization where they provided 360-degree feedback as a manager. Talk a little bit about that. What is 360-degree feedback? Why is it important?
Leland: One of the things that we talked about earlier was the ability to have accurate self-insight. We are all limited.
Patrick: Well, speak for yourself, Leland.
Leland: I stand corrected. I and perhaps others are limited in our ability to see how we show up. We have a perception of how we are, but it may not always match the perception of someone else.
That’s really what 360-degree feedback is. If it’s done well, then it’s targeted clear questions that go into depth. It explores how this person shows up under this circumstance.
How do they deal with decision making? How do they deal with conflict? How do they deal with influence? How do they deal with difficult and conflicting situations with stakeholders?
Patrick: Basically with 360 you do an assessment on yourself. Your boss does an assessment. Your subordinates do an assessment, and you have peer assessments.
Leland: True. I prefer doing those as interviews as opposed to doing them as purely an instrument. The instrument has value because it does give clarity. Everyone is answering the exact same question.
Patrick: Do you do both? Do you do an instrument and an interview? Do you just do the interview?
Leland: The answer to the question is sometimes both. More often than not it’s just the interview. I do use other assessments because depending on what the situation is I may be targeting something in particular that I’m curious about.
One that I particularly like is something called the TAIS. It was, interestingly enough, developed for Special Forces of the armed forces like Navy SEALS and Army Rangers. The idea was to identify people’s traits to be able to deal with pressure, difficult and timely situations and be able to deal with them effectively.
Patrick: That’s critically important in the startup world.
Leland: This company then decided to do this with world-class Olympic athletes. They changed the instrument slightly but made it work for athletes. Then they thought, “What’s next?” Of course, it was executives. There’s been probably a few hundred thousand executives that have been through this so they validated the instrument to make it normative.
Patrick: There’s a database that you’re being compared against?
Leland: Yes. You can say, “I’m a small, medium or large-sized company. I’m a CEO, senior level manager, mid-level manager or entry-level manager.” You’re actually compared against that exact same group.
Patrick: Have you found that to be a pretty accurate instrument in your experience?
Leland: Yes. This is important. It’s like any other instrument. Patrick, you aren’t an instrument. I know this because people do a Myers-Briggs. You’re a color or four acronyms.
Patrick: I’m a piece of work.
Leland: You are a piece of work. Having said that, I think an instrument only suggests a tendency that you have. It helps the coach and you understand that this is a tendency that may be getting in my way. I’ve got to shift it.
A good example of TAIS is that my need for details, information and control are really high. That combination could be trouble because they lead to a certain level of micromanagement. The question with the 360 interviews becomes, how does that actually show up?
Patrick: That gets to the thing about can you teach an old dog a new trick? In other words, when men and women that are in their 40s and 50s, what are we really talking about here?
I use the analogy of changing the channel because I’m a Baby Boomer. When you’re younger maybe you can actually change the channel, but now we’re talking about just fine-tuning.
Are there coaching things that you can do with a more seasoned senior executive that’s middle-aged and really move the needle with them? Maybe something shows up in the TAIS or something shows up in the 360 feedback that’s a limiting factor for them. Have you actually seen people change in a way that removes that obstacle and allows them to get to the next level?
Leland: Change is meaningful. That is the way I look at it. The answer is yes. I think that I was a product of an individual in my 30s. By the time you’re in your 30s or so your personality is pretty much formed, and that’s it.
Then you’d hear these comments that said, “Yes, this person’s maturity has grown.” You thought, “Well, wait a second. If their maturity has grown, then something about them has changed.” Through my work, I’ve come to understand what some of those changes are.
Take your classic example of the seasoned executives that may not even be in their first CEO role, but it is a more complex situation. The question becomes, can they grow? The answer is yes. You probably want to know how.
Patrick: I’ve seen it with myself. I think you have to put yourself into a situation where you remain coachable and teachable with a thirst and desire to learn and be more effective and productive. You have to want to be a better leader.
Is my fundamental personality different now than when I was in my 20s? It probably is quite a bit. I was having adinner with a bunch of my peers, guys that had kind of come up through the ranks in technology companies and become CEOs. I knew a lot of them when they were in middle management. They were very similar to me, or they were just hard charging type A alpha male type of guys.
Some are still like that. Some have kind of mellowed a little bit. Some are able to kind of be situational in their management styles the way I call it. If the house is burning down, then you act one way. If you’re building houses, then it’s a different management style.
I believe what you’re saying. I used to hold that same perception where I thought with this guy there’s nothing that I can do with him. Now I definitely see that if you remain teachable and coachable, then you can continue to learn new things throughout your life. Some great thoughts come from a very experienced life coach las vegas. This way, you’re able to remaining discovering yourself and the greater meaning of life.
Leland: The more common thing that I’ve run into in the last five years is what I’m going to call agility. It’s not agility to just situation, although you’re right. Here’s the situation. We all of a sudden found out that a competitor is about to launch a product, and we have to react to it.
We’re going to react one way more likely and to the benefit of the organization if we are very much more assertive. We are action oriented and have a sense of emergency. Whereas as you’re saying, if we’re developing our culture and trying to build the company, then we may be acting a different way.
What I’ve seen in the last five years is agility in the moment. Right in that meeting at that moment in time, can you turn on a dime? What I mean by that is, can you be in a mode when you hear something that you don’t like or doesn’t quite make sense to you, as opposed to reacting to it, can you stand back and understand it? Can you ask questions about it? Can you see what’s really behind it and then step right back into the mode and say, “Yes that’s a great idea,” or, “No. Let’s move over here.”
That’s what I call agility. That’s what I call elegance. That’s the next step up I would say for most of my CEO coaches right now.
Patrick: If you’re managing startups or emerging growth companies, then you have to be able to do that. Before I got my first CEO job, I worked for a company called C-Cube Microsystems in California.
It was a high-flying Silicon Valley company. It ran into a little bit of problems. They had done an acquisition, and there was a little bit of slower growth than people had initially expected. They brought me in as the head of strategy.
One thing that I noticed about this company is that it had grown so fast that there were no processes. It was a very chaotic environment. That was perfect for me because I’m much more entrepreneurial. I can bring my structure with me. I don’t have to have the structure established.
Eventually, we continued to grow again. We sold the system company to one company. We sold the semiconductor company to another company. I was working for LSI Logic who bought CQ.
After being the number two or three guy at CQ Microsystems, I was now a general manager in a much larger organization having this agility. The organizational bureaucracy and politics associated with a larger organization didn’t allow me to operate in a way that I would think makes sense.
The example I would use is this. We could get five people in a room and not rush to make a decision. Instead we could collect data over a period of two or three weeks and could make a very good and very intelligent decision. If it wasn’t perfect, then we could course correct along the way.
That same exact decision in this large bureaucratic organization would take six to nine months. You would completely lose your advantage from a market and competitive standpoint.
I think that these larger companies and organizations put these processes in place so that some bonehead won’t make some decision and tank the company. Don’t let that person ever grab the wheel because it could be the Titanic.
I think that hurts some of these big companies. If you’re competing against more nimble startups, then it will kill you. Especially in the internet era, it will kill you in a relatively quick period of time if you’re not able to have this agility.
You’ve worked with large companies and smaller companies. Talk to me about individual agility versus organizational agility. Can you actually help companies with their organizational agility? If so, how do you do that?
Leland: Organizational agility is a hard one, and as a result I’ve migrated smaller companies at earlier stages. My feeling is that you can’t create your own culture. You can develop your own culture as a young company. Otherwise, your culture will create you.
When a culture is deeply embedded by processes, rules, ways of behaving and what’s accepted and what’s not, it’s hard to change. I know that company after company comes in talking about organizational change. You see the data that 15% of companies that go through a significant organizational change actually make the change. That’s 85% that don’t.
It’s a challenging situation. I’ve heard of companies that break themselves apart, which is where pharmaceuticals is going. Pharmaceuticals no longer have R&D as the mother ship. They are tangential to the mother ship because they need to be able to do it that way. That would be the example. My goal is to do it early. Get in early.
Patrick: Get in early at an organizational level. You’re willing to do individual coaching within larger organizations. When you start looking at organizational development or organizational change, then you like working with smaller companies?
Leland: I do.
Patrick: How do you measure results? I know that a lot of times as a CEO any time that I get a potential vendor, supplier or partner coming in, that’s a question that I’m always curious about.
I may have my own idea about how I’d measure results, but I always think it’s always good to hear how someone responds to that. Especially in coaching, digital marketing or social media, I ask, “How do you measure results in your business?”
Leland: One of the ways it starts is with what you’re going after. What’s the target? When I say that I’m going to help someone become faster, better, smarter, bigger or whatever it happens to be, I want them to understand what that means exactly. What are we looking for? I’ll give you both an individual example and a team example.
In an individual’s case, it’s because they’re not soliciting input on a regular basis. They occasionally ask questions, but they pretty much talk over people.
Patrick: You’re saying this is an example. This isn’t a generality?
Leland: No, this is a real life example. What we’re going after is the person being able to fluidly take in input but then act. It’s not just taking in input and stalling. It’s taking in input and acting. That was the goal.
They weren’t doing it before, so used through 360s we actually were able to describe very specifically how they were. This is what they weren’t doing, but they wanted to be doing. Whatever it is, three, four, five or six months later, you assess again. You ask people not generally what’s better, but be specific. What happens?
They say, “Well, she’s not interrupting. She’s stepping back and asking me questions. He’s not just asking me questions. He’s asking me penetrating questions. He’s really listening to my ideas. She does not always agree with me, but I know I’m being heard.”
Then I’ll always ask for why. Why is that true? Why do you say that? I have concrete examples to show to someone. This is how you were. This is how you are now.
I do a second thing. I want to know what that person has made a contribution to in terms of company results. Then we try to understand through questions when we talk in the 360s with the people around them or with them directly. What about the work that we’ve done may have contributed to that result?
I can’t point a direct line. I don’t think any coach can. You can’t say, “Oh, because of me, you got these results.” You can say, “Because of the work that we did together, there’s been a contribution to that result. We believe it’s a better result than we would have gotten otherwise.”
Patrick: There’s kind of a quantitative and qualitative part of it?
Patrick: When I would be working with my team, I’m very goal oriented. I’ve been this way since I was a kid. As I’ve grown in my career, I’ve gotten more refined in what we call the “as measured by.”
How do you know that you achieved this goal? You do SMART goals. You have a very clear “as measured by.” Either you’ve met it, or you didn’t meet it based on that.
You’re kind of doing that. On the up front process, you’re setting goals and saying, “These are the things that we’re trying to achieve. These are the ‘as measured by’.”
You’re doing the “as measured by” by going back to the same people that you had feedback from in the beginning. There’s also a real effort, at least on a qualitative basis to say, “This is also helping us as a company or as a decision making engine to make better decisions.” Are people buying into that when you have those conversations?
Leland: They are. Part of the experience that you would have as a client is having those SMART goals. The SMART goal was that I’m going to be more open to input and to people’s feedback. Then we do mini experiments and tests to try it out. We assess the results.
We actually have them identify someone who’s actually in the moment there with them to help them assess the results, learn from that data and then do the next exercise. Then we do the next exercise.
At the end of the day they’ve got six, seven or eight exercises where they’re in a real meeting dealing with a real issue. They’re doing personal feedback and getting someone else’s feedback on how they showed up at that meeting.
Patrick: You mentioned that you were going to give me two examples, an individual example and an organizational example. What about the organizational example?
Leland: I’d say it’s a question of decision-making. I always want to know what that means to you. People say, “We’re taking too long to make decisions.” This is a recent example again.
You want to quantify what “too long” means. A topic is brought up. Then it’s deferred to the next week then the next week and the next week. All of a sudden, six weeks later we still haven’t made a decision about it.
What I do is two things. One is understanding what’s been getting in the way. More importantly there’s also probably a technique or procedural piece that’s missing. A classic thing in companies is that people, organizations or teams don’t do a very good job of what I call decision framing.
They don’t identify clearly what it is that we’re actually deciding. When does it need to be decided by? What’s the process that we’re going to use to make that decision? Who’s going to be involved and not involved? What is the criteria that we’re going to be using?
I now know that a decision has to be made, but not in six weeks. We’re going to make it in three. Six people are going to be involved in making the decision, but one of them is the actual decision maker. You call that out.
You turn around and say, “Wait. With the other six people, we are going to have you involved in making the decision.” We’re going to call out what the criteria is, whatever it is. It may be cost, quality or speed. It’s predefined.
What we find is that we look later and ask how they are making decisions now. It’s the same kind of a thing. They can actually say, “Here’s what we’re doing differently.” They can point to very specific things.
Patrick: Does it go smoothly like that or do you run into sabotages and people undermining the process? Do you get mixed results there?
Leland: People sabotaging in an organization? Yes, it’s hard sometimes. Does it go smoothly? Sometimes it does, but sometimes not so smoothly. At the end of the day you need to make sure that the group as a whole is committed to being better. If someone isn’t, then where are we going to go with this?
Patrick: Then you can at least pinpoint here’s the potential problem of why we’re not able to do this.
Leland: Exactly. That’s what you want to do.
Patrick: It’s kind of like management business 101 stuff. How to hold an effective meeting. How to provide constructive feedback. It’s amazing how many people or organizations don’t know how to do those things or completely ignore what would be the best practices way of doing something.
Do you run into that? Is it like a naivety or lack of knowledge? Is it like I used to know that but forgot? Is it I don’t really want to do it that way, so I’m going to do it my own way?
Leland: I don’t know why. The motivation, I can’t completely tell you where it came from. It’s probably behavioral that’s learned over time. As much as you say, “Gee we’re going to practice good behavior,” we’re practicing anyway. Often we just practice bad behavior and bad techniques.
At the end of the day, what we’re trying to do is get teams and individuals to create the shift and create that commitment. It’s often, as you say, really basic like setting an expectation or meeting a commitment. People don’t.
You ask them, “Did you set the expectation?” They say, “Well, yeah, I told them. He should know how to do it.” You ask, “Was it clear what you were asking for?” They say, “Well, it was clear to me.” It’s little things like that. It’s amazing.
Patrick: It’s like tomato seed management. The harder you push, the quicker it squirts out.
Leland: We’re talking C suite people of fairly good-sized companies, yes.
Patrick: There are obviously a lot of business coaches out there. What is the Sandler Group’s competitive advantage?
Leland: I would say two things. One, I think I’m a strength coach, but I’m probably not alone with that analogy. That is what I’m going after. I’m trying to make someone who is good, excellent. I’m trying to do it in a way that’s faster, but at the same time better. I don’t want people to be reckless in making changes. I want to build their capacity. I want to make them bigger and stronger.
Here’s the second thing that I do. I think I’m very good at helping people see for themselves what they need to be working on and what might be amiss in their world. I think I’m very good at helping create a roadmap for how they’re going to get better. Not only how they are going to know they’re getting better, but how people around them will know that they’re getting better.
Patrick: If there is an executive team, CEO or founder team out there looking for guidance, then are you referenceable from your “as measured by” or the things that you just talked about? In my business it’s important to have case studies, customer testimonials and things like that.
Patrick: This has been super helpful. As always, I enjoy our conversations, Leland. I always learn something. I think that, for the entrepreneurs out there, Leland’s practice is now starting to focus more on startups and emerging growth companies.
I think that what Leland and I do are very complementary. He’s what we would call a strength coach. He’s really focused on individual coaching around process oriented things.
I’m more a guide around strategy and things like that. I’m more of an organizational performance driven focusing on how you make better decisions more from the standpoint of business processes.
You’re more focused on individuals and some of the softer side of things. Although it’s a softer side, there are still ways to measure it.
This has been great. This is Patrick Henry, the CEO of QuestFusion, with The Real Deal…What Matters.
This is Patrick Henry, CEO of QuestFusion, with The Real Deal…What Matters.