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Stakeholder-Centered Coaching With Frank Wagner

WOLI S2 E1 | Stakeholder Centered Coaching

Stakeholder-centered coaching is a concept that may not be as widely known but it is proven to be massively helpful to organizations and individuals. In this episode, Frank Wagner will teach you the principles of stakeholder-centered coaching, its benefits and downfalls, and how to apply them in your organization. As a leader, you will learn how to work with people at all levels in your organization and avoid power struggles in order to help them reach their goals. Tune in and enjoy our conversation!


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Stakeholder-Centered Coaching With Frank Wagner

In this episode, we are featuring Frank Wagner from Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching. He has been a teacher and a mentor of mine. Frank, I'm glad to have you on. Tell us what Stakeholder Centered Coaching is.

First of all, thank you for inviting me to join you, Margaret. It's always a pleasure seeing and working with you. One of the last things I worked with you was that you asked me to review your upcoming book, Ignite Culture. I was blown away by the quality of what was there. Probably one of the reasons is that it resonates well with Stakeholder Centered Coaching. Let me introduce what Stakeholder Centered Coaching is with a little bit of background.

You mentioned Marshall Goldsmith. He sent me a bio to send to one of my clients that he's going to come to do a talk. The recognition he got is unbelievable. I met Marshall back in 1972 when we started a PhD program together, and he is now considered the top leadership coach in the world and top leadership guru. All I'm doing is capturing and training people in his way of coaching successful people to get even better, and it's called Stakeholder Centered Coaching.

We have been doing this for many years. Stakeholder Centered Coaching has some parts that are not unique to the coaching world and some that are unique. In its essence, what stakeholders in our coaching are in his differentiators are it has a heavy involvement of what we call stakeholders in the coaching process, and we measure results.

Typically in corporate coaching, they don't have good measurements for whether it was worth the investment and whether or not a leader got better. We measure results through an anonymous survey of stakeholders. That's the essence of what it is and why it's called Stakeholder Centered Coaching. Why does our organization exist? One simple reason we believe every employee deserves a stakeholder-centered leader. That is the wave for the future.

What is a Stakeholder Centered Leader?

Stakeholder Centered Leader is a leader who puts together around them the involvement of every relevant stakeholder group. If you are impacted by what they are doing, you are involving them and working collaboratively with your stakeholders to improve things for the common good of all the stakeholders. Everybody benefits from it. I have been very fortunate in terms of having a relationship with a gentleman named Alan Mulally, who has been one of the top leaders in the world. He turned Ford Motor Company around. He led Boeing Commercial, and it's both its darkest hour when 9/11 hit through to the time he left there.

WOLI S2 E1 | Stakeholder Centered Coaching
Stakeholder Centered Coaching: A stakeholder-centered leader is a leader who puts together around them the involvement of every relevant stakeholder group.

He has a phrase he calls PGA. When I first heard PGA, I thought he was talking about Professional Golfers Association but no. It's Positive Growth for All. When you talk about your whole webinar series and work liberated, a Stakeholder Centered Leader liberates every person involved in impacted by whatever the work is that leader in that organization is doing. The Business Roundtable is one of the prestigious places. You have to be a CEO of a top 50 or 100 company, and they always classically describe the mission of the corporation as increasing shareholder value. In 2019, they radically changed that. It involves all stakeholders.

Your job is to generate profit. Give me the difference between both.

I will use Alan Mulally as an example. He turned Ford Motor Company around. They were predicted to lose $17 billion in 2006. It could be wrong by a couple of years. They exactly lost that amount of money. He turned them around. What he did was implement his working together management system, which heavily involved stakeholder-centered coaching because he had been coached twice by Marshall Goldsmith in this methodology. Everyone was involved in one plan, so the union was involved. They weren't considered to be the workforce that we have to manage. Their bankers were at the table.

What you mean by Stakeholder Centered is everybody who has something to say.

Not just to say but you are impacted by what you are doing.

They are all the people that are dependent on you.

Also, I should benefit from you in an all-encompassing collaborative methodology.

You went to school with Marshall Goldsmith. He wrote this amazing book called What Got You Here Won't Get You There. We use it in all of our leadership training programs, and I use it specifically with anybody I'm coaching or in our deep alignment. That's the first thing they have to do because I want them to get for themselves that there's a gap between where you want to go and where you are. If you are human, there's a gap. How did Stakeholder Centered Coaching get created from all that?

It started back around the year 2000. At this point, Marshall honed this methodology by working with successful leaders. I started our life as his teachers’ trainers. We did leadership development. This is leading up to writing the What Got Here Won’t Get You There book. You see the leaders in the front of magazines. One thing he realized because he's smart is that successful people have certain beliefs and we all operate fundamentally based on our beliefs.

These beliefs have both an upside and a downside for highly successful people. We started developing a methodology that both benefited and used the upside of these beliefs but managed the downside of these beliefs. I will give you an example. This does take a PhD from Marshall Goldsmith to figure this out. Successful people repress something. They are going to say, “You are capturing reality. I'm a great leader.” What is the upside of that belief? You have a high degree of self-confidence.

We all operate fundamentally based on our beliefs. And these beliefs have both an upside and a downside for highly successful people.

One thing we've also discovered along the way is that a leader, if we are going to coach them, has to bring something to the table. What they had to bring to the table were three things, they have to have enough courage, humility, and discipline. Those are the three things they need. If they don't have those things, our methodology, which is phenomenal, is not going to work. The methodology requires these people to have that.

One of the people at Marshall coach. I’ve met him on a couple of occasions. I don't know him. He is Dr. Jim Kim. His last real public job was he ran the World Bank. The World Bank wasn't doing too well when he came in. They are trying to reduce poverty and provide funding for things all over the world. He turned them into a phenomenally successful organization. This is one thing Dr. Jim Kim said about our methodology in Stakeholders Centered Coaching, “Everything these people talk about is easy to understand and difficult or hard. That's what scares people.”

When I say, “A leader needs enough courage,” it’s because our methodology requires courage. For some leaders, it's not a courage issue but they need humility to do this thing. In all of this, I don't care what you are talking about. What's on the news? The news is the World Cup, one of the biggest athletic events that occur every four years. There isn't a single athlete on that field that doesn't operate from a strong sense of discipline to get there.

WOLI S2 E1 | Stakeholder Centered Coaching
Stakeholder Centered Coaching: There isn't a single athlete on that field that doesn't operate from a strong sense of discipline to get there.

The same thing happens with leaders. Getting better requires discipline to get better. What Marshall did was he found a methodology to stick together over a number of years coaching other people. He asked me to take charge of designing and training people in this coaching methodology. That's what we did. When Marshall told me, “Frank, I want you to train people to coach like me,” I said, “Certainly.” I also said to myself, “You are not a very good liar. There's no way I'm going to train people to be like Marshall Goldsmith.” I could train them in a methodology that covers most of what Marshall does and in an unbelievably successful methodology.

I have been in the training, and they told me on my first job, “We are going to teach you what to do but we are basically giving you the doctor's bag and putting some tools in that bag. How you use those tools is your job and responsibility and personal discipline, the humility and courage to continue to keep moving forward.” I want to know a few of the pieces of the framework for Stakeholder Centered Coaching, and then I want to know a couple of success stories and when it didn't go well.

Like anything, Stakeholder Centered Coaching is based upon a certain set of principles or guidelines. The first one is, you might say, pretty obvious, emphasizing stakeholders in the methodology. Most coaches and everybody on the planet has an ego. Some manage it well. Some don't. The more successful people have, the more they have challenges in managing their egos. The thing about Stakeholder Centered Coaching, for coaches, it is not about the coach. You had mentioned responsibility.

You got the doctor's bag but you got to take responsibility for what you do with it. We put the responsibility on the leader and the leader stakeholders to manage the process of a leader getting better. It's not, “I will come into Frank Wagner's office, and we will have a private conversation.” You are going to go out and become a better leader.

Can that work? To some degree, yes. It doesn't work nearly as well as involving the stakeholder in the project. What does that mean to involve the stakeholders? If they are going to be involved, they get to know that they are involved. One of the things a leader has to do Stakeholder Centered Coaching is they are working on getting better at something. They pick a goal. That's not unique to our coaching.

WOLI S2 E1 | Stakeholder Centered Coaching
Stakeholder Centered Coaching: One of the things a leader has to do in stakeholder center coaching is they're working to get better at something.

Anybody who's hired your coaching to get this achieved some results. A leader has to go public. Imagine you've got a leader, and the first leader-ever coach had to work on treating people with respect. He had to go to his stakeholders or the people who were going to be stakeholders and say, “I need your help. I want to become better at treating people with respect.”

How did they find out he needed to work on treating others with respect?

That's why they got him a coach. The guy was very disrespectful.

They said, “You are not treating people with respect. You need to get a coach.” There was no secret.

The management knew this person. They worked for a high-tech company in Silicon Valley. This particular young guy is in his 30s. He was considered to be the future of this whole division line of work for this tight tech company. Of all the people that became a stakeholder, he was the only single person. Everyone else was married and had families. This guy worked a seven-day-a-week job and had an anger issue.

This is what I find that, in coaching, he always had to pick up the phone and deal with a terrible customer situation on a Saturday, “Why do I have to do this? Everyone else is taking their kids to their softball game or whatever,” because he had an anger problem. He lashed out at people. Think about either the courage or the humility someone would need under that circumstance to go to people, look them in the eye and say, “I want to get better at treating people with respect.” Most people prefer to work on that but keep it private.

It takes either great courage or humility for someone to go to people, look them in the eye and say, I want to get better at treating people with respect.

They would prefer to have a diagnosis of some life-threatening illness versus admitting that they've got a problem.

This ties into the second belief of successful people. All this is based upon understanding the human nature that we are dealing with. The second thing that people have a problem with is that they are in charge of their fate. Successful people like to say, “I'm not successful because I won the lottery. I'm successful because of me and what I bring to the table. Remember, I am successful. I also choose.” It's amazing how superstitious they are and how much they will go through denial of things.

What do you mean by superstitious? “I start treating people with respect, I might lose my mojo. I won't have my edge anymore. This has worked for me all these years,” and that is What Got You Here Won't Get You There.

They are making correlations that don't exist. They think they are successful because they are disrespectful, suffer fools lightly or, “I don't listen. I'm ahead of everybody. Let's move on. You listen to me. I'm a successful reader because I'm a bad listener.” In the history of the human race, no one has ever been a successful leader because they are a bad listener. That's in the self-report in the back of these people's heads.

They might not be saying, “I'm successful because I'm a bad listener.” They would say, “I'm successful because I have a high sense of urgency. I'm diligent. I will get it done. I don't waste time with the wrong things.” What they don't see is that all of the wakes of their behavior on other people.

If we go back in history, they will get away with that because situations weren't as complex as they are now. It only relies on their own intellect and intelligence. Don't hold your breath, and be somewhat successful. The idea of the goal is to be a highly successful leader. My field is very simple like Dr. Jim Kim says, and everything I do is extremely simple. There's only one thing you need to be a leader. That's that people are following you. Why are they following you? It’s because you are influencing them in an effective manner.

Choosing not to listen influences people. It doesn't usually influence them in the right way. I’m not saying you listen to every single person and subject matter but in many cases involving others, and listening to them is a positive foreign influence, which gets them to follow you in the direction you are heading. There's a picture behind you.

It's a compass.

We use our compass because one other thing is human nature. I'm talking about the leader or a follower. We all do have a basic need to be going somewhere. We've got a path we are following. Otherwise, if your leader listens, rudderless, life is miserable. Getting back to what makes Stakeholder Centered Coaching. I said the first thing is involving stakeholders. The second thing is emphasizing something that is a term that Marshall did not invent but coined in our field called feedforward.

Let's talk about feedforward.

When he first told me, I immediately figured out what it was. I didn’t have to ask him. At least, I thought I got it, and I was correct. It's counter to feedback. Feedback is a breakfast of champions. It is all over the literature historically. When I got my PhD, it was all about giving feedback as a leader. Do you think successful people like getting feedback? No. They do. They like to get feedback and say, “You are wonderful. You are brilliant. I can't believe what you have accomplished."

Feedback is the breakfast of champions.

Even non-successful people like to get good feedback to make them feel better about themselves.

Way back in my first days as a college professor, they came out with a magazine called Psychology Today. I never forgot one cover. It showed like the platform at the Olympic Games, where you've got the top platform, the person who won the gold medal, and then he got 1 slightly lower silver and 1 silo for the bronze. They had that and it was a cartoon. They had about 50 people all hugging each other and standing on the gold metal platform. Everybody thinks better than average they are successful people. It's not just successful people.

Self-confidence is a belief. What comes out of successful people is belief but the other thing can be arrogant. These things are blown out through a microscope in a bigger picture. Their subconscious is higher, and their arrogance is higher. You asked about this superstition thing. They are worried that if they change anything that will probably help them won't be as successful. One thing is that they do not want to be as less successful in 2021 than in 2022.

I had that fear when I was 28. This young person is doing extremely well in recruiting. I thought if I changed anything, I would lose my edge. I wanted that edge because I was super successful. I started a business and then had employees, and that edge was good for my clients. That edge was not good for my employees, and then about 36, I started to look at I could improve and have that edge better. That shift is what got me into the coaching business in the first place for myself.

Let me finish feedforward. Everyone has difficulty with “feedback” that’s inconsistent with how they see themselves. If I see myself as a winner, I'm getting some criticism. If this doesn't connect, and even if it's true, it's worse if it's true, that same token is you can't do anything about the past. That is feedback. It is always about what happened yesterday or five minutes ago.

People feel bad.

What is feedforward? It has nothing to do with the past as to, “What could you do tomorrow?”

“What I’m going to do next time?”

It's a suggestion. There are certain marks that feedforward, and I'm thinking of suggestions. We spend more time focusing our leaders on tomorrow, not yesterday. when I say, “Emphasize feedforward is our principle,” it doesn't mean disregarding feedback. It said much more emphasis on tomorrow and what you are going to do. The last thing which will lead to what we specifically do is our job is to change behavior. Our type of work does impact mindset and all these things but we start at the behavior level. “What are you doing?”

How long does it take to typically change one behavior?

We never are changing one behavior, except that we usually have one goal. Our belief is, “I am not convinced someone is going to change for a year. This is not like you get six-pack abs by doing this exercise for two weeks. You can lose 50 pounds in 3 days by doing this.”

I find it interesting. We get calls at KeeneAlignment quite often, “We would like you to coach somebody for 3 months or 6 weeks.” I automatically say, “We can't.” First of all, we don't do that but second of all, people will take your money but you are not going to get your result because that behavior has been in place for however many years that person has been alive, whether it was Stephen Covey or Jack Canfield’s of 28 days to change your behavior. I don't know where those guys got that because it's not real.

It is true. They are speaking the truth but what they are not saying is, “Where is this person six weeks later?” How easy is it to quit smoking? It is super easy to quit smoking. Does it stick? People that have an addiction quit all the time like a rubber band. Snapped right back. He's still got the addiction. They still smoke. He's still doing cocaine, whatever. It's a very hard process to change. Our final principle is changing behavior, which is hard, even changing perception, which isn't why the stakeholders are involved. They can change too.

The stakeholders have to change along with the leader. A leader can become much more respectful. A leader can become a much better listener. Yet, people think, “I don’t think they are disrespectful people.” They think they are a bad listener. How hard is it for them to change their opinion of that person? The whole system has to change around them. Everyone needs to take the right responsibility and accountability for their actions. The stakeholders are asked to support this leader. Point out when they are doing a good job or not doing a good job. Be willing to treat them from what they are seeing now and not think too much about the past.

One of the things in the coactive leadership model is to begin again. When we work with people on culture, what we work on in our deep alignment is that we are committed to focusing on going forward or staying in the past, being upset about things that happened 6 months ago, 2 or five years ago. If you are holding a grudge against your boss for a day that they had a bad day or maybe bad behavior, you are also holding grudges against everybody else in your life. This changing perspective, I want to underline it because that is a piece of culture.

I have a client whose name shall be secret but she is a real go-getter. She has people working on fifteen different, completely disparate things at a time because she's driven to make a difference in the world. She wants to change because she knows she's retiring in the next few years. The people around her are like, “You know how she.” That's how she is.

If she wants to change, why wouldn't you support her in changing? Why wouldn't you ask her when she says, “Things are going to be different. I'm going to step back. I'm going to step out of the limelight.” Her old behavior shows up as being in the limelight. Why wouldn't you say to her, “Let's check in? Do you realize you said this but you are being that? How do you want to get feedback?”

Instead, what people do is they will go to each other and say, “I told you she wouldn't change.” First of all, it's irresponsible. I also think it's pervasive in that person's life everywhere that they put people in a box. There's a great book called Leadership and Self Deception, and they leave them in the box. “Once a failure, always a failure.” Once a hard ass or disrespectful, always that way. If a person truly wants to change, “I believe in my heart of hearts. That’s why I do the work I do,” they can, but everybody has to be in it together.

What you said is true. People can change. They can and do change. That leads to a much better life. With that background, let me explain because now people reading can get a concept of what I describe and why it's powerful.

People can change. They do change. And it leads to just a much better life.

What is the person getting the coaching? What are the three things they need? What are the principles?

You said, “Do they work on one behavior?” They are going to work on something like being a better collaborator or holding people accountable. You might say the main focus of my work with them, that they are also exercising the muscles of courage, humility, and discipline at the same time. This is all interconnected on this. The leader needs even to get started with enough courage, humility, and discipline.

The principles that we developed around Stakeholder Centered Coaching based upon Marshall’s work is that we involve stakeholders more about them than us. They become real day-to-day coaches versus us. The second thing is that we emphasize the future much more than the past, and we call it to emphasize feedforward versus feedback.

The third principle is that we change behavior and perception in parallel. They both have to encourage them. That all takes time to become the new reality for people. Here's how we do it. The first thing we do is work with a leader to choose a goal. Most of the time involves doing some form of data gathering, 360s and behavioral interviews.

WOLI S2 E1 | Stakeholder Centered Coaching
Stakeholder Centered Coaching: As a leader, the first thing we do is work with a leader to choose a goal.

The leader then uses that to choose what I want to focus on. Once they've done that, we have the leader choose, “Who do you think are the right people to get involved in the stakeholders?” They know they are stakeholders if the leader has a goal. Marshall worked years ago with a large financial institution of an international automobile company. He coached the president and CEO. Later they asked me to coach the chief operating officer.

The chief operating officer was seen as a bottleneck. We had to learn to be more effective delegators. He worked on delegation. Once he picked the goal of delegation, I said, “This is only simple when you pick something like delegation. We know who your stakeholders are. They are your direct reports. All those direct reports were stakeholders.” They went well. In fact, the good news is that this guy is now retired. I learned that on LinkedIn not too long ago but he became the next CEO of this organization.

A couple of years after coaching him, I got a phone call, “Would you come in and coach our new chief financial officer?” I said, “Why?” They said, “Japan told us to fire the prior CFO. I never asked why and they said, ‘Get someone from outside of the automobile industry.’” They went to Wall Street. Personally, it could have been a bit of a mistake but at least it made a challenge for this new CFO.

This CFO didn't own a car. He lived in Manhattan. He took either taxis or subways to work. Everyone else on the executive team loves cars. They have motor oil in their bloodstream. This guy didn't even know whether a car in 2 or 4 wheels. I did my interview to help them pick his goal. It turns out that what he had to work on is building relationships with his peer group.

We didn't have a set of stakeholders that we had to goal. His goal was the opposite of the first guy coached. We've had direct reports say, “Here are the other nine members of the executive team that he was working on.” You don't pick stakeholders. They are the ones that have to be most relevant to what the leader is working on. Step one is not picking a goal. It is picking stakeholders. That's unique to us because most coaching doesn't involve stakeholders. The last part of this is that they have to meet with their manager to go over the goal in the stakeholder list and get their approval.

There's accountability built into the entire coaching model. That's one of the reasons at KeenAlignment. We love Stakeholder Centered Coaching because otherwise, you are coaching people in a vacuum. You are only getting their perspective of how good they are doing or what their challenges are. Mostly their challenges are with other people.

Leadership is a phenomenon. You can't be a leader without it being an interpersonal situation in terms of that. The second thing then is now the leader has to swallow their pride, go to their stakeholders and then roll the stakeholders. Someone is on a stakeholders list. What does that mean? They don't know they are a stakeholder. They didn’t know what the leaders were working on.

WOLI S2 E1 | Stakeholder Centered Coaching
Stakeholder Centered Coaching: Leadership is a phenomenon. You can't be a leader without it being an interpersonal situation.

The leader, the coach or together do these new stakeholders. It's a volunteer experience. They ask them for help. They share their goal. We explained to them what a good stakeholder is. The last thing you would ask of them is, “Could you send two suggestions feedforward on how they are going to achieve this goal?”

Step three is building what we call a stakeholder-based action plan. In most tasks, you can have a goal but you need a plan. Our action plan ore the behaviors that this leader is going to implement to achieve improving in this goal, whether it's treating people with respect, listening, collaborating with delegating or whatever it is. We build the action plan as the coach with the leader based upon as best we can, the input from the people that are impacted by it, and you are giving ideas and how to do a better job. We build an action plan, and then the action plan gets sent out to the stakeholder. What is public here in the situation and coaching? The leaders’ goal and their action plan are public, “These are the half dozen behaviors I'm going to use now so that I will be a better listener.”

What I remember about going to the training that I’m listening to you is, isn't your whole logo on Stakeholder Centered Coaching a compass and then inside each piece of the compass is what you are doing?

The exact same shape as the compass. It is a circle. For the leader in the middle of a circle, you might say, “It is myself. I got to manage my beliefs.”

Humility, courage, and discipline.

That's the leaders’ middle of their compass. I got to demonstrate, practice, and exercise my courage, humility, and discipline. The stakeholders are the people that are going to be providing the day-to-day feedback and feedforward to the leader. They are the people that choice points are going to get an anonymous survey. We call it a mini-survey to assess instance leader improvement.

What are those points, 3 or 2 months in or 6 weeks in?

Different coaches use different methods. I have a pretty common one. I coach a leader for a year. I do it in 6 months and 1 year. The six-month is a wonderful thing but it doesn't count. It only counts what the score is at the end.

How often are the stakeholders giving the thumbs up or the thumbs down? I know it's a pretty simple scoring system. Is Magi better or worse at having less meetings?

What I call the informal and the formal times occur. This is where the discipline part comes in. This is step four. Remember, Step 1) They got a goal stakeholders agreement. Step 2) They enroll the stakeholders. Step 3) They build an action plan. Now the real work takes place. Step 4) Implementing the action plan and checking in and following up with stakeholders. We've got so much research that shows the best way to change both behavior and perception is follow-up. We require the leader to follow up with each stakeholder personally once a month.

It can be on the phone, at the end of a Zoom meeting or face-to-face. It doesn't matter. My friend says they are on the road doing some roadshow. They have been doing it religiously for eight months. I would say, “This month, do it by email.” I'm not going to let anybody hide behind email. Follow up once a month. This is not a meeting. Its minutes. This is a very focused conversation with a person.

You have been having a meeting with this person around business stuff. You say, “I need five minutes at the end of this meeting. Can I have it?” Sure. “Now that the five minutes are up, I'm trying to better collaborate. Here’s my action plan.” What have you noticed? Capture, but we put them to charm school like how to ask, how to listen, say thank you, and show gratitude.

Who is the only comment to ever give when somebody gives you feedback or feedforward?

I can say, “Thank you for being a good practitioner.” The only thing you say is, “Thank you.” The thank you has nothing to do with, "This is the greatest idea I've ever heard in my life.” Thank you is, “Thank you for having the courage and willingness to help me.” Christmas is coming up. Someone gets a gift. What do you say when someone gives you a gift? You don't say stinky gifts or worse gifts. You say, “Thank you for that gift. I can use that to regift to someone else.” Does that what they want to hear? No. You show gratitude for getting that help from the person.

All the work gets done in the fourth step. It’s implementing your plan and following up with your stakeholders. The final step is the measurement piece. It's a five-step process in Stakeholder Centered Coaching. Let me give you a couple of examples. This goes back a couple of years. I was brought in to coach the CFO of a large public utility in the Midwest of the United States. The reason why I was brought in is that they had a set of values, and they had one value was number one. It wasn't, “Here are five values, and they are all equal.”

The number one value is caring. They have stepped behind what caring meant. The problem is CFO was probably the second most prominent person in the organization and was seen as a perfect poster child of non-caring. It was a CHR who I first talked to, and then I talked to the CEO. This misbehavior was going on for a long time. I was brought in because they finally bit the bullet when CFO took apart the chairman of the board in a board meeting.

The chairman of the board is like, “You better get coaching it out.”

I get brought in to coach the guy. We did our due diligence. I'm assessing whether I'm going to work with this guy or not because I didn't think this guy was willing to change. I'm not going to invest my time, energy and effort in this. I assessed that he was ready to change. Here's his problem. I realized this when I first assessed him. I flew there, and this was before COVID. Some of the coachings took place during the first part of COVID. He didn't have many live interactions with stakeholders. When I'm seeing the guy, one word I could describe the guy is very charming.

By being a smart guy, he could have been the next CEO at that time, as far as I was concerned. He has business sense. He had all the charm and all that stuff. Here's the thing. If something happened a certain way, there was like a light switch went off in his head. He became ruthless. He was triggered by this thing. That's what he had to work on. At the end of the story, we measure results and unbelievable improvement. Every single stakeholder saw him as getting better. Some pretty dramatically get better after a year.

I haven't done an after-action review of how things went. I said, “This is your story of what you did over the year because I want you to remember what you did over the year. I suggest you might send a copy to the CEO.” He sends a copy to the CEO. There’s a very good leader and a tough woman. She calls me and says, “We need to have a little Zoom meeting between the three of us, you, me and the CEO.” I knew it was a good result. I wasn't anticipating anything negative.

She blew me away with what she said. She opened the meeting by saying, “You are my new best friend.” I spent no time with her besides the interview at the very beginning. I try to stay in the background. It's not about the coach. It’s that the leader and stakeholders take responsibility and be accountable for each other and change. Stakeholders are changing perception. He changed his behavior. It’s a success.

WOLI S2 E1 | Stakeholder Centered Coaching
Stakeholder Centered Coaching: It's about the leader taking responsibility, the stakeholder taking responsibility, being accountable for each other and changing.

This is what you said that blew me away. I almost cried reading his after-action assessment and talking about a success story on that. We did not start off well. Let me give you another example, probably the worst scenario. I was brought in. This is a large retailer, basically in the State of Texas, and the grandson of the founder is the chairman of the board. I'm being brought in to coach this woman. She's on the C-level of the organization and works in the corporate headquarters.

When the president and the CHRO talked to me about her, this woman I'm going to go coach, they said, “An interesting fact about her is she has fired three bosses.” I'm confused here. “I've never heard of anybody firing their boss. I guess that means I quit,” but she was still there. Everyone bosses she fired works in the C-Suite. This is over time. “She fired her last coach. Her last coach was a psychiatrist. She fired him on the spot when he told her you should be on drugs.”

I flew to Texas to meet this woman. I'm going to describe Stakeholder Centered Coaching to her. I did this in a polite way but a very direct way, looking at the face and saying, “You may not have enough courage, humility or discipline to do this. I'm going to fly home. I don't want to hear from you until at least Monday. You decide whether you want me to work with you.” I worked with her. She called me up on Monday and said, “I want to go to work.” I said, “Great.” I worked with her.

All three of the women she had fired and reported go on Stakeholder. She was willing to bite the bullet and do all this. I left the United Nations in New York, and the phone rang. I got my little mobile phone and say, “Hello.” This woman introduces herself. Gives the name of the company. I know what I know. She's a stakeholder. I know the name. I've never met this lady. She says, “Are you coaching?” I said, “Yes.” “I have been asked to be a stakeholder.” I said, “I know you are on the list.” She said, “I don't want to do it.” I'm sitting myself going, “What do I say next or should I didn't say anything?”

She adds on, “You probably don't know this but she fired me once.” I didn’t admit that I knew it. I kept it to myself and said, “I have a terrible relationship with this woman but it's probably the best it has ever been. I don't want to jeopardize that being a stakeholder.” I'm setting myself going, “You got to be kidding me.” I was biting my tongue not to laugh at this lady. I stopped and said, “It is a volunteer experience. You do not have to be a stakeholder.” I sense relief on the other side of the phone. This thing I said in closing, “I'm going to be coaching for a year. Anytime he wants to come back. You are invited.” I hung up.

Three months later, she became a stakeholder because he saw the progress this woman was making. Everyone talks. They said, “She was trying.” No one said three months. She was a different person. The reason why she was a sacred cow there is that the chairman of the board loved her. I don't mean it in a romantic sense. He was the kind of person like that woman you mentioned, a phenomenal philanthropist in Texas. He will come up with this idea, “She's the person that makes it real. She will put the plan together.” She couldn't be fired her. In the end, she got better. All stakeholders get better. That's what we do for a living here. I love use cases like this.

I want to recap one more time. If I want to use Stakeholder Centered Coaching with a client, that client has to be willing. They have to have the discipline, courage, and humility to look in the mirror, which is Chapter 1 of Ignite Culture is to look in the mirror and say, “What's not working? What am I?” Sometimes they are too friendly or too agreeable. They want everybody to love them. Sometimes they are too scattered and flighty. Sometimes they go to anger. None of it works because if we are polarized in any of our behavior, it doesn't work. The four steps are?

Step 1) Pick a goal, then Stakeholders, then get a sign-off. Step 2) Enroll the Stakeholders. They can know their roles. Sending in some suggestions on how they are going to achieve the goal. Step 3) Activate the fingerprints of the stakeholders on it, which goes back to them. Step 4) All the heavy lifting is done. You have to change, implement the plan, and follow up. The 5th) Measuring the results.

I want to let everybody know that Frank can be reached at?

Frank is doing two trainings as part of our Culture Catalyst program to teach people about Stakeholder Centered Coaching. Part of our Culture Catalyst program is a year-long mastermind with leaders from different companies who want to learn what the pros know and teach so they can take into their companies.

Frank is one of our guest teachers, and Goldsmith, who I don't know anybody on this show knows, wrote the foreword for the book, Ignite Culture. If you want to get a sneak peek at Ignite Culture, you can go on, a pop-up will come, and you can start reading sneak peeks. The book's official launch is January 18th, 2023. Frank, thank you so much for being here. I'm glad we are working together. Thank you for sharing Stakeholder Centered Coaching, which is an amazing opportunity to build transparency, and trust in an organization, and develop leaders and powerful followers. We appreciate the time, energy, and love that you give to everybody you work with.

It was always a wonderful life to be able to work with people like yourself and our clients. One quick little thing is probably my favorite coaching assignments are working with people that are already considered great leaders, and they pick a strength to get better at, and it works there too.

Thank you so much. We'll talk to you soon.

Take care.

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About Frank Wagner

WOLI S2 E1 | Stakeholder Centered Coaching

Been in the leadership development area for over 45 years. In the first 5 years it was primarily conducting leadership training for a wide variety of organizations. For the last 20 years it has primarily been leadership coaching along with training and mentoring coaches. Lived the first 40+ years in Pacific Palisades, aa suburb of West Los Angeles. Since then, I've been living in the Pacific Northwest. Interesting fact about me is I build and maintain Japanese Gardens.


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