Q1 · 2023Your executive development

As leaders and executives, we all know that it is one of our priorities to constantly grow and develop in this ever-changing environment. One aim must be to define the right areas where your executive development should be focused on. A thorough reflection based on holistic diagnostics can be a really good basis for this.

Finding specialist support

Finding the right expert coaches to accelerate your development with the right input and advice is key. You don’t need to have made all the relevant experiences yourself to be successful. Actually, you can learn a great deal from others – I would go as far as to say that, with the right experts on your side, you can gain up to several years advantage over others who need to find their own way based on their own experiences alone. Here, it’s worth noting the often-cited statistic that it takes around 10 years to build advanced expertise in any field. Well, in my experience, if you partner with the right experts and coaches, this timescale can be significantly shorter.

One challenge in your executive development is making the impact of new input from expert coaching programs last a long time or, even better, changing behaviors for the good forever. Why are so many people not very successful in implementing new behaviors?

I’m happy to tell you that the solution isn’t a mystery. It lies in adopting the behaviors and techniques, connecting them to your “emotional why” – your deeper purpose, and then persevering with them until they become second nature and, ultimately, bring rewards.

Let me explain this more fully by describing just one of the techniques that I use in my coaching: Transitioning from work to home – and back again. This can be done with a short meditation you can learn, so you don’t just turn up potentially mentally and emotionally ill-prepared for your new environment. It works like this: If you’ve had a busy day, and your head is full of work-related issues, take a few minutes before you connect with your private world to prepare yourself for how you want to show up and be when you get there. Then, take three to four minutes and focus only on your breathing. Reduce your breathing frequency so that you signal to your brain that there is no threat or stress anymore. Then, visualize yourself behaving positively in the new environment. And now, with this positive mindset, start to connect with the people in your private environment. You can use the journey home to make the transition, maybe in a train, or park your car somewhere close to home to do the activity – or you can do it in your home-office whenever you decide that you will spend some quality-time with your loved-ones. It is so important, ensuring that you don’t just walk in and find yourself suddenly thrown into family or relationship situations that you are not ready to face.

Conducting this transition will detach you from work and connect you most positively with home in the evening, and vice versa in the morning. Like this, it will be easier for you to make a difference and enrich other people’s lives on a regular basis.

Embedding new behaviors

If you want to implement this as a new behavior, I would like to congratulate you for the decision to do so, but I also need to tell you that I have some bad news. With every change like this, there is a period where the benefits of the new functional behavior are not yet visible. In this period, which last for approximately three months of daily application, most people give up on the new behavior because they don’t think it’s working for them, because they don’t yet feel the positive impact or the effect of the new behavior. Actually, emotionally, it may even feel worse than before – at some point, you may think that the time and effort put into this is not worth it. It may work for other people, but not for you.

Well, let me tell you that this is the same for everybody. All of us need to go through this period where we don’t yet feel the benefits of a new functional behavior. Especially in this initial implementation period, the key thing is for you to regularly connect the new behavior with your deeper purpose and to activate your willpower. Do it for three months, every day, no matter how you feel, knowing that it will serve you in the long-term. Every time you complete it, feel good about yourself because you trained your willpower. Remember, after three months of daily application, the positive effects of the new behavior will start to click into place.

Ritualizing a behavior in this way, by practicing it daily based on connecting it to your purpose and activating your willpower, makes all the difference by embedding it. What began as a mental exercise will now ‘stick’, becoming a massive benefit to you and to those around you at home and at work.

Over the years, I have worked with many senior leaders and executives, in parallel of my work with world-class athletes, offering them personalized coaching in numerous techniques such as transitioning. The analysis of the coaching work has been very insightful and extremely encouraging. It indicates that the executives have significantly more energy, are much more engaged at and outside work, are more productive and know better what routines allow them to completely recover in stressful periods. The vast majority established at least one good habit following the coaching program – such as better focusing on the most relevant and value-adding activities, taking deliberate actions to manage relationships better at work and at home, or even things like getting the correct, individually calibrated amount of sleep to be fully energized.

Achieving lasting benefits

Crucially, our research has found that our techniques are not a short-term fix. Their positive outcomes are maintained regardless of how much time has elapsed since participation in the coaching program. Over 80% of executives consider the program to have made a significant contribution to their ability to sustain high performance. A similar proportion say it has made a significant contribution to their personal health, fitness and wellbeing, and that it has helped them to harmonize their professional life with their private life. Many executives have achieved promotions in the wake of the program. Invariably, they say the benefits of the program have lasted, and they believe they will continue to last.

You can do this too. Set yourself up with the right approach and mindset for your growth. Make it intentional. Seek support. Above all, make it stick – for the benefit of yourself and everyone around you.

With best wishes,