Your Guide to Optimisation 101

For an insight into the benefits of having an executive coach, we speak with Jill Williams, the founder and president of 2StepExec - a strengths-based executive coaching firm based out of Austin, TX focused on delivering leadership and sustainable performance solutions for high-achieving leaders.

Why should more leaders consider executive coaching?

Executive coaching is well spent talking time. It is inquiry-driven and outcome-based. It’s not training or consulting. It is non-directive curiosity and facilitated discovery. It is a whole-person solution to improving capacity and leadership, focused on removing barriers and opening up opportunity for the win.

Executive coaching is part replacement of inherent deep-thinking space stolen by podcasts, 24-7 email and text communication and part professionally hosted personal awareness, tradeoff awareness and outcome-based thinking workshop. The benefits of executive coaching ultimately are accomplishing what you want within your real constraints. It’s optimisation 101.

One of the most valuable aspects of executive coaching – and often one of the most difficult obstacles for clients to embrace – is that the client chooses what to optimise, how to optimise, and when and with whom to optimise. It can take time for a client to begin to problem solve without being led, especially if at the starting point the objective seems overwhelming. But by doing so, the client’s mindset shifts. Self-efficacy blossoms as small successes change the way obstacles are addressed. Resilience grows. The client begins to think like the coach when they are not on a coaching call, asking themselves powerful coaching questions throughout the day. They begin to ask more powerful questions as they lead and manage others, modelling for them this optimisation mindset of movement through resistance to desired results.

How would you describe your coaching methods?

I describe my coaching and the coaching we engage at 2StepExec as hospitality. Instead of hosting someone in my home, I host a conversation that invites my client to be known for what’s on the inside, not just the results they accomplish on the outside. Sometimes they don’t really know themselves.

We believe that being known is more valuable than being productive; it’s the source for effective and enduring achievement. We’ve built our executive coaching partnerships around this value.

Step One of our two-step 2StepExec™ Partnership process uses the Gallup CliftonStrengths assessment to help our clients get to know themselves at a deeper level. Step Two utilises ongoing coaching conversations to positively and strategically apply what they learn to optimise leadership influence and build sustainability into their innate and extraordinarily driven nature.

We are like high-octane gasoline made for high-performance vehicles – except we service high-performing leaders to keep them moving forward with more energy, confidence, fulfilment and fun.

What are the most common challenges executives in the financial sector struggle with?

Executives in the financial sector are good at what they do; their struggle is often finding balance between career and family. They strive to serve their clients with excellence, and they want to discover ways to do so without compromising their value for relationships in other areas of life. In addition, they want to lead their teams in ways that drive both the bottom line and better relationships.

When I think about executives I’ve coached and the common challenges they face, the particular business sector they work in seems to take a back seat to their simply being human.

How do you help them overcome them?

We help our clients see their challenges in light of their overall desired outcomes. Then, we help them choose to take appropriate steps to get where they really want to be. Executive coaching is comprehensive thinking that leads to appropriate action. It engages feelings, values, beliefs and asks the question: “How do you want to respond?” closely followed by the question: “When will you do it?”.

Clients gain valuable processing time and a sense of empowerment, even if it means the only answer is to acknowledge nothing much changes. As they envision what it is they want, consider the trade-offs, the cost of changing what they already have of value and gain awareness of what’s going on inside of them, they may realise the step they want to take is to do something like a shift to an attitude of gratitude, choose joy more often, refining their understanding of limits and life, of fulfilment and fun. Overcoming obstacles is personal and something the client discovers and chooses for themselves, not something the coach dictates or prescribes.

Executive coaching is well spent talking time. It is inquiry-driven and outcome-based. It’s not training or consulting. It is non-directive curiosity and facilitated discovery. It is a whole-person solution to improving capacity and leadership, focused on removing barriers and opening up opportunity for the win.

What do you think has been the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on leaders?

I think the pandemic pulled back the curtain. All leaders were put into the winepress – the pandemic hurt. Leaders struggled to one degree or another because change inherently brings a challenge. I observed, however, that leaders who were healthy when the pandemic hit the lead with more power and influence through the storm, driven by their desire to serve others. Even when changing strategy daily, and holding on by a thread, they lead with dignity and strength – along with tears. Leaders who were already unhealthy and just holding on experienced the loss of some of their coping mechanisms and distractions exposing their need for help. This showed up sometimes only in their private lives.

What’s your advice when it comes to juggling many things at once?

Some people are made to juggle. I work with high-achieving leaders. I am a high-achiever. The last piece of advice I need to hear is: “Stop doing so much”. I’d die on the vine. I am made to do stuff. Many people are made to do stuff. I think we need to ask ourselves the question: “Am I identified by all the things I’m doing, or am I serving others with the things I’m doing?”. If I’m finding my identity in my work, I may be juggling more than I need to be juggling. Connecting my value and worth to opportunities that come my way inherently makes me more apt to say ‘yes’ to more than I have the capacity to handle. If I’m freely serving others, I’ll likely be driven more by my ability to serve them well, making me more apt to say no when I’m aware that my results may be compromised by one more thing.

What’s your overall advice when it comes to achieving success and living a happy life?

I would say two primary things about success: the first is that while we love performance that meets or exceeds the measure of the results we want, success is acknowledging people are worthy of love, not their performance. The second is that we’ll never get any results if we don’t do the courageous thing and step into our story, right where it is just as we are and do what we can. We get to choose to make it a success.

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