Developing Leaders Who Coach


Dr. Relly Nadler:
This week’s show is about the power of relationships developing leaders who coach, with Fred Harburg. We will take a closer look at how major global companies like Motorola and Fidelity Investments are teaching front line leaders to develop relationship skills that help them become first class coaches that produce high-performance in today’s challenging economy.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: He is a managing partner of Harburg Consulting, LLC. He is a respected consultant, writer and speaker in the disciplines of leadership, strategy, and performance coaching. He has served in several significant international executive positions as both an internal and external organizational architect for Fortune 100 companies. In 2002, the issue of Chief Learning Officer Magazine profiled Fred’s successful performance as a Chief Learning Officer and President of Motorola University, which at its peak had over 1000 faculty and staff and operated from 20 campuses around the globe.

In 2003, Fred became Sr. Vice President of Leadership and Learning at Fidelity Investments, and through these and many other demanding roles across Fred’s history, he demonstrated the ability to realize critical business strategies and developed talent in people.

Fred’s achievements in the implementation of performance coaching, organizational transformation, talent management, integrated performance management, succession planning, and leadership development from entry level to senior executive, has resulted in human performance systems that drive superior business results.

His work in organizational development for the President of Saturn Corporation during its start-up is particularly noteworthy.

His degrees include a BS from the US Air Force Academy, and an MBA from UCLA. He served as a member of the Center for Effective Organizations Advisory Board at the Marshall School of Business at USC, and he is a member of the Chief Learning Officer Magazine Editorial Advisory Board. That’s a publication for which he writes a bi-monthly column on strategy.

Welcome Fred, lovely to have you hear today.

Fred Harburg: Thanks Cathy and Relly. It’s great to be with you both.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Fred, what we like to do is start off finding out about you but then we’ll get very specifically into exactly what you do and some of your contributions. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who influenced your thinking and career most? Were there any kind of key heroes of folks that have really inspired you?

Fred Harburg: Absolutely. You know I started my career teaching at the Air Force Academy after graduate school, and I was teaching Industrial Organizational Psychology and I was also teaching the Honors Courses in Leadership with a man who was the distinguished visiting professor at the Air Force Academy.

Every year they chose three or four civilians to join the faculty. These are the distinguished visiting professors, and I had the privilege of working with one of them at that time. His name was Dr. Lawrence Silverman, he was from Harvard University. He had been a provost at the University of Colorado and he was a brilliant writer, historian, and student of leadership through the ages.

I remember a specific day, just a very quick story, after class he said let’s take a walk. So, I said, great, Larry. We were walking across the campus and that’s not a usual campus; cadets running everyplace, the tension and stopping to salute, scream “good morning sir,” on the plaza and the main campus area. I said Larry, we can’t walk across this, we’ll never get across the terrazzo because I have to stop every two seconds and salute the cadets and they’ll have to greet me, and it will just be a mess. He said, okay. So we pulled over into the air gardens and he watched the cadets screaming and yelling, and running at attention, carrying their books. He shook his head and he said, you know what is wrong with this place? I said, boy Larry, that’s a dangerous question to ask a graduate, because we make an avocation of saying what is wrong with the place. What do you have in mind? He said, there are no benches. There are no benches.

It took me a minute to get it, but he was saying, and we talked about it for some time, that the heart of growth of a leader is reflection. Reflecting on their experiences and their relationships. When they don’t take time to reflect, they don’t grow. So he was saying, boy, this is supposed to be a leadership development institution yet it’s so activity based where we are just running like crazy, saluting and so forth, and getting to the next class, and memorizing and regurgitating and going on to the next thing. Doesn’t that sound like corporate life? Doesn’t it sound like life in general that there is so little time for reflection.

So, Larry was a huge influence on my life as a very young man and thinking about how to help others grow.

At the same time, there was another huge influence, his name was Bill Rosenbach, he was the head of the department at the Air Force Academy. We were teaching a little known concept called, Situational Leadership at the time, by two guys named Hersey and Blanchard, professors at Ohio State. They had just written this textbook, and Rosie taught me; well first of all, believed in me and he opened a world of ideas and he was rigorous about reading and examining everything that was going on and being well informed.

Both of these men were huge influences in my life.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: You know Fred, I want tap into that a little bit. I had some experience at myself at the US Army War College so I understand exactly what you are talking about. But you have, and your company, a highly-acclaimed process called Creating Coaching and Capabilities. I wanted to talk a little bit about how you became a coach and how you now relate to people knowing what you do, using your Creating Coaching Capabilities process.

Fred Harburg: Cathy, I also taught at the Center for Creative Leadership. Years ago, in 1980 when I first was adjunct faculty at CCL. The CCL was sort of a leader in the whole motion of helping leaders gain awareness about themselves and had a process that we called Feedback Giving. It really was not even called coaching in 1980. This a more recent phenomenon. I think coaching really developed starting around 1985.

Feedback Giving was really more about leaders understanding themselves in particular and a whole set of psychometric instruments like the Myers Briggs, and the 360 Feedback that we used called Benchmarks; Psychometrics that you would be familiar with.

What we didn’t do so much was or actually, we were doing but not calling it was proactive coaching of helping people to create plans and strategies and then follow through diligently. I saw just how potent that was and realized another thing and that was when I asked, and I repeatedly and continue to do this today, to very successful leaders, “to what do you attribute your success? How did you become the really superb leader that you are?”

Almost never do they say, “you know it’s those seminars.” It just doesn’t come up on their list of things. What they talk about it their experiences and their relationships. The best relationships were those that helped them think about and reflect on, as Larry would have said, and consider how to do better with their experiences.

It was a natural evolution recognizing that when I could help, and when others like both of you do so well. Help leaders to reflect on and make better use of their thinking capabilities, that they start to grow immensely. When they own that instead of me owning that, then it was very huge.

By 1986 I found myself working at Saturn Corporation for the President as his Head of Organizational Development. As a part of that process, started introducing the idea of coaching our leaders to be more effective. They responded immensely well to that. Through the years at General Motors and Williams Corporation, Motorola and Fidelity and lots of other places; Disney and a variety of places, I introduced the idea of leaders coaching those that work for them and helping to build their capability.

Your question about creating coaching capabilities is about helping leaders to see just how important it is to their effectiveness to coach others and to gain the skills over time, like you’d acquire any skill. This is a learnable skill that makes a huge difference. If I could only change one thing in an organization to make it more financially and emotionally productive, it would be to introduce this notion of effective coaching relationships.

Listen to the entire interview above!



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