Practitioners Perspectives // October 22,2021

How Can Executive Coaches Manage Talent and Stay Relevant?

Featuring: Lauren Houghton , Global Executive Coach & Director at Breakthru Leadership Pte Ltd

Featuring:

Lauren Houghton Global Executive Coach & Director at Breakthru Leadership Pte Ltd

LAUREN HOUGHTON is an accomplished leadership strategist and master executive coach. She has over 27 years of corporate management experience designing and implementing innovative people and performance enhancement strategies. Lauren works closely with Senior Business & HR Leaders globally to build and implement culture, leadership talent and organization capability solutions that support market responsive business strategies. In this interview, Lauren talks about her journey as an Executive Coach, managing talent across cultures, the blind spots that companies are facing during the pandemic and the future of coaching.

What are the inflection points that have taught you the most?

For all of us the inflection points happen when we either hit a high or a low. We either have to push through it or learn through it and come out on the other side. In the last 27 years, one of the inflection points was when I moved from South Africa and tried to make a new life both professionally and personally in Sydney. It was a bold move, and I was lonely as well. It was something I chose to do and after having worked in a University in South Africa, I had to navigate this new world and find a job. I guess this period of adventure and separation really helped me understand where I was and where I was going. There were disappointments along the way. I remember looking for my first job and I got so many rejections letters that I could paste them on the entire wall. It was an eye opener and it redefined success and achievement. It helped me to relook at myself and detach myself from material achievements. I found within myself hope and optimism and built resilience. And this has stood by me through the years and helped me get through the last 27 years.

How has coaching reshaped your purpose? 

It was a very intentional decision. When I left my corporate job to start my own business, people thought I was crazy. But I had this pull and desire to help organisations thrive by facilitating, designing and delivering. I also wanted to work with leaders, executives and managers to unlock some of their mindsets and beliefs that might be holding them back and redefine their own purpose and direction. I felt I needed to go on that journey, and it has redefined my purpose. I could have continued in a corporate role, and I would have had a higher remuneration and more job security, but I wanted to assist and work with a range of different leaders and organisation. For me, the purpose was just knowing that the more people I went on a leadership or coaching journey with, the more of a privilege it was. I felt that they had trusted me to be part of their conversation, their silence, the interactions, moments of doubts and vulnerability and I thought it was a privilege. I have often wondered if I would be good enough for them and support them on this journey. But as you mature as a coach, you realise that just being there in that space, it is the most rewarding and fulfilling place to be.

What are your perspectives or thoughts on internal coaches vs. external coaches? 

I too was an internal coach in an organisation, but I was also occupying a position where I was making decisions that were not supportive, or was not seen to be supportive, of some of the initiatives that involved another part of the organisation, which I was also involved in. The internal coach role is fraught with tensions unless it is a dedicated position and/or there is a high level of trust. The human resource or people function is changing dramatically now. But most organisations still see the HR function as a department that delivers and rolls out foundational and necessary pieces, but this is very limiting to what HR can do. In the end, the foundation of coaching is all about trust. 

How can coaches leverage networks and partnerships? 

Each year the Executive Global Network (EGN) follow an incredible function where they allow people to come into the community and share in a safe environment. As coaches, we could be doing more of this too. I wonder about the relationships that have been built and the coaches that I have met along the way. We end up connecting and clicking and share some of our challenges or exchange thoughts. I do believe we can build these communities and it is a community of sharing. You can have a mentor to coach you and help you see things differently and support your own growth and development. So, we can bring together small communities of coaches to share and exchange and build learning, insights and values that underpins coaching. And through those conversations we can make the world a little better. 

How do you become a better coach every day? 

It is something that is a part of you, and it is a practice. I don’t behave one way with my client and become another person with my family. Learning comes from accepting ourselves with all our failures and frailties. Engaging in conversations is what brings people together and I’ve seen this in my own ability to help people. I get taken aback sometimes that the person thought that I helped them, and it makes me realise the power of engagement, the power of conversation, the power of listening, the power of questions and the mindset of being open and just holding that space for people to share what they are feeling.  

What is your mantra for managing time, talent and commitment? 

This past Covid year has helped me see the world through the eyes of a corporate warrior and the speed with which we had to react to time, deadlines, meetings and managing home. Sometimes you need to slow down and wait for everyone to catch up. We can then move forward together with purpose and engagement, and with full knowledge and clarity. It is a balance between the pace at which we think and operate and the expectation of wanting things to happen immediately. Time is finite so it is about what we choose to focus our time and energies on. 

What are the patterns and blind spots that you are seeing during this pandemic for organisations? 

Despite working with global multinational organisations over the past few years, there is a lack of appreciation of Asia and the complexities of doing business, managing people, leading people, and establishing new processes. And because it is different from one country to the next, it is a frustration point with many leaders and we are still struggling with the misunderstanding or disconnect between regional, local and global. This causes a lack of line of sight of business such as lack of resources, strategy alignment, leading people and not appreciating that the talent market is different in each country that the organisation is based in. We used to be able to travel and immerse ourselves into the culture and understand what is going on, but that is now missing.

Executive coaching should not be thought of as a privilege for a select few. What has emerged over the past few years is that coaching when provided to everybody like senior managers, managers, team leaders, etc. still gives the same benefit, contribution and value that the organisation is after. So, it should be made accessible to team members as well. 

What do you think would be the future of coaching? How will it evolve?

I think it is going to evolve and it is already happening. I was involved in a program last year which was around Global Team Coaching, and it opened my eyes in a different way to the possibilities of what a different world it would be if we could provide coaching to any community or social fabric. Also, working with teams is important. Working with individuals is one thing, but how do you turn that into greater power, impact and amplified end results that are lasting? You do this by working on the journey of the team through all those stages of forming and evolution and this is a continuous process.

This can be done across communities. Think of what all the social entrepreneurs have done. It is almost an extension of NGOs working in a collaborative way and getting insights and learning from each other. We could never consider this possible before but now technology has given us the opportunity of connecting to more people.

QUOTE IN FOCUS

Do not discount the power of words and the power of conversation to shape and change minds.

QUESTION IN FOCUS

You have worked across cultures. How do you think different cultures react to time, talent and commitment?

At the heart there are some core values, motives and needs that we all have – like wanting to be respected or honoured, and although it might play out slightly differently across regions, it is still universal, and it does not matter if you are in Russia, India, New Zealand or South Africa. We just need to understand the nuances and the subtleties within various cultures. Ultimately, we can all take time to just step back, slow down, consider and make sure everyone is on board and then move forward with the speed you need to. I have been doing a lot of prioritisation work with leaders over the last year and everything seems urgent and important. Business or talent – there is a way to draw the line.

LaurenPhoto Lauren Houghton

Global Executive Coach & Director at Breakthru Leadership Pte Ltd

LAUREN HOUGHTON is an accomplished leadership strategist and master executive coach. She has over 27 years of corporate management experience designing and implementing innovative people and performance enhancement strategies. Lauren works closely with Senior Business & HR Leaders globally to build and implement culture, leadership talent and organization capability solutions that support market responsive business strategies. In this interview, Lauren talks about her journey as an Executive Coach, managing talent across cultures, the blind spots that companies are facing during the pandemic and the future of coaching.

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In my career leading and building high-performing teams, I enjoy inspiring & coaching employees to unlock their potential for maximum performance. The team's success is my deepest delight. Global Coaching Lab provides the platform to put this into practice every day and fulfill my passion of making others great.




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