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Leadership CoachOne of the biggest struggles many executive coaching clients have in identifying goals and next steps as a leader is understanding the criteria that are important to them as they strive to reach their leadership goals. They fail to recognize how this criterion can operate congruently with their role as an executive.

The first step in moving towards this understanding is identifying the context for their goals. It may seem like a simple step, but so often, people jump past this point as they run head long towards reaching their goals. I instruct coaching clients that context is anything within their lives that needs improvement or clarification. Many assume this context simply sits within their career, however other influences of relationships, lifestyle and health can also play a dominate role in that context.

Once the context is identified, we work towards coming to an understanding of the criteria within that context. For example, “What is the most important thing within your career, your relationships, your personal obligations, etc?” It is important to not pick just one area to work with and to not to stop with one answer. Often times there are several criteria that play into each context. This is why it is important to keep asking “what else is important?” In my experience as a leadership coach, most clients have six to twelve criteria for each context.

After the criteria have been identified, I ask clients to rank the importance of each. I instruct the coachee to write each criterion on a piece of paper and then arrange them on the floor in the order in which they were identified. They take some time to stand beside each identified criterion and ask if this is the most important thing about the identified context. If the answer is “no” then they rearrange the order.

When the client moves past the first criterion to number two, I challenge them to really dig deep. I ask them to consider the idea that if they were unable to have this criterion (number two), but instead could have the most important (number one), would that be acceptable? The purpose of this is to ensure the ranking is secure. If they answer is yes they can move on to the number three position. However, if the answer is no, they should replace the number one criterion with the number two. The process should continue in this manner until they have worked through the entire list, ranking each with regard to their level of importance.

After clients are comfortable with the rank order of the criteria needed in their identified context, it is crucial to ensure that all the necessary criteria for success have been identified. For example if we are exploring how to be successful in supporting a family, but there are no criteria relating to how to make money, it is important to re-examine the list to determine if that criterion has a place.

The process should be taken one step further, by considering the idea that there might be some necessary changes needed within the list. It can be easy to forget that there could be a downside to living in alignment with the list as it was originally designed. This step allows the client to determine criteria that might be changed in light of new thoughts and ideas.

One final step that might be explored once the client is ready is to anchor themselves to the new criterion hierarchy, includes taking some time to step into the first criterion and really anchor to the idea. Once they are comfortable with this, they should move backwards into the second criterion (making sure that the first is still in sight). In this criterion they should understand and be comfortable with the idea that it will support the number one criterion. They should continue this process working all the way through the list, understanding that the preceding criteria allows a firm foundation to reach the one after. If there are any disconnects or uncertainty, the list should be re-examined to ensure that the hierarchy is correct.

I also encourage clients walk through the list starting with the lowest criterion, looking to the next highest. The understanding is that the criterion in which they are currently anchored will be supported by the one at the next highest level. Again, the list should be examined for any inconsistencies.

Understanding how our life’s contexts play into the criteria we set for them is not only an important part of developing as a leader, but more importantly as an individual. This simple exercise is an important NLP tool that helps executives understand their role and create a pathway to understanding and ultimately success within their role.

If you would like more information on how to develop clear criteria for specific leadership contexts, please feel free to contact us at the Academy of Leadership Coaching and NLP, ALCN.

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