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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Observations for President Obama from an Executive Coach

First in a series of observations....

What an exciting day we all had this week as president Obama was sworn in. For me personally, it was a day for great celebration. That said, I considered the enormous task ahead for our new president and the country.

I’m typically called in to organizations to work with senior executives—more frequently these days to help new executives avoid costly missteps. A recent study revealed that senior executives transitioning into a new company fail at the rate of 40-50% and cost the company: $2.7 million. Imagine the cost to a country if a president missteps!

As an executive coach,I ask probing questions about client goals and objectives, provide a reliable sounding board for them, and then hold them and myself accountable to reasonable progress. Offering my personal observations happens either when the client asks, or when I believe such observations are relevant, and then only after the client is asked if he or she wants to hear the observation. Because my coaching engagement with president Obama isn’t likely to happen anytime soon—though I hope that in the future the president-elect does consider getting a coach outside the administration—I would like to put a few observations out there for Mr. Obama to think about based on what he’s already said in public:

1. Lead with your original theme of change: “Yes We Can.”
This won’t be easy, despite the power of its emotional appeal. Hardly anyone likes change. Pareto’s 80/20 rule applies here—80% of the people won’t want change. Fighting the strong magnetic draw of the status quo will be much harder than you could ever think. People are concerned about change because they’re more afraid about what they’d lose than excited about what they’d gain.

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