Guest Post: Coaching the CEO of The Gap

      Our business landscape was rapidly growing and changing. We had nimble competitors and international challenges of opening offices in different countries. I needed to focus on a few fundamental issues. As my job had changed, my coach suggested I do a reset on my priorities.

      I loved my old position. I was running a small boutique consultancy. Now I was Senior Vice President of Human Resources for a $700 million high tech firm growing 30% annually. I felt I was in over my head. The business offered a coach to help my transition into this new job.

      Roger, my coach, gave me three pieces of paper. The first page said “My Past”, on the left-hand side in the bold font it said “key priorities”, on the right-hand side it said “key relationships”. Then he folded the page and had me spend 15 minutes writing the answer to the following question...

      “In your old role what were the five key tasks you must execute well?”

      After I was done this first question, Roger folded the page over and asked me to write about the 5 key work relationships I needed to pay attention to. I wrote them down on each column of a piece of paper.

      He gave me the second page with the heading “My Current Role”. He then asked me the same questions as before, but regarding my new role. “What are the key tasks I need to achieve?”, “What are key relationships I need to invest in?”. I wrote down my answers.

      I was stunned looking at the two pages. I needed to work harder it seemed as I began aligning the different relationships and key tasks.

      As he gave me the third page it was titled “Transition Plan”. He then asked for a printout of my calendar and examined the past three months in terms of what my real priorities were.

      • What meetings did I attend?
      • What meetings did I need to start attending?
      • What meetings did I not need to attend?
      • What tasks / relationships did I need to put more time into?

      It was startling to see my time was allocated for 2-4 low level priorities and little time was targeted toward the number one priorities. But the key question he asked me was “what was your transition plan?”.

      I remember reading in Steve Job's book how he spent every Tuesday meeting locked in a white room for hours working on the new product developments. Each Thursday morning, he spent locked in reviewing Marketing.

      I did the same exercise as the coach for the CEO of the GAP. The huge "Aha!", was when we saw where his time was being spent in contrast with his priorities.

      The hard part was actually identifying what he wanted to be doing. He needed to pull back from some activities, and delegate much more time to others. He dug into the transition plan, writing furiously, and making decisions, “I am not going to this meeting anymore. I am resigning as a member of this committee and delegating this priority."

      'As we worked through letting go, delegating, and increasing his attention on the most fundamental priorities, he was lit with appreciation. He said he felt lighter and less encumbered with administrivia.

      As I left his office he said "You freed up for me 8-10 hours a week. Thank you!"

      We wrote a 13-page transition plan mostly focused on delegating and re-positioning his stated priorities in accordance with my calendar.

      Your real priorities are what you spend the most attention on.

      How aligned is your time with your priorities?  



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