David C. Logan and John King believe that a real leader at any level is also a coach. The key to problem solving is identifying the right problem from the beginning and saying what you'll do about it. In this two-part interview to be published in the March and April issues of ASTD Links, they describe the values-driven approach they have used with their consulting clients, including Virgin Megastores, IBM, Genentech, Cisco, and Intel.

Q. What qualities make a solution brilliantly simple?

John King: We like a solution that is really a solution not simply a Band-Aid. The solution should have a broad cultural impact, which is ubiquitous. For example, after conducting a needs analysis and cultural research that involves interviews with key personnel, we might work with the client and their team to develop an individual and team core values-driven strategy. Next, we might support them to implement those strategies. I think it was Marcus Aurelius who said, "A question well framed is half the answer." This is the heart of the matter in coaching - working with the client so that they can actually, effectively, eloquently, and contextually frame their problem, their issue, and their concern.

David Logan: If you keep listening to the client and you keep inquiring, and you keep framing, the solution usually resides inside this framing process. The coach and client work together to pull the solution out from that discussion. Consequently, how well you coach is often a function of how well you listen and hear what was actually said. What is said, however, is not always expressed in words. Rather, it might be expressed indirectly in the attention paid to something or it might be inside of the values behind the words. What is driving this person? What mechanisms can be created to help them operate in a way that this driver is trued up to some sort of dream vision or noble cause that they are invested in? How do we cause a train wreck between their values and the noble cause so that their passions collide with the particular project they we are working on?

Q. As a coach, how do you determine what drives a person? Is it a coach's job to motivate people in the service of a noble cause?

DL: No, coaches don't teach motivation per se. As a coach, I'm not so much interested in motivating you. Rather, I'm much more interested in WHAT motivates you. What are the values that light your fire? How do I get you organized around living your life with some sort of correlation to those values? You'll motivate yourself once you are focused on your core values.

Q. What does it feel like to craft a brilliantly simple solution?

DL: It feels great. You know immediately that you have contributed something of value to the client.

Q. How do you know you've discovered a brilliant solution?

DL: The issues involved tangibly shift from one of entanglement to one of clarity and harmony. You can now see the forest and the trees and the way through the forest at the same time.

Q. How did you originally develop your coaching methodology?

DL: We developed our theories in conversations with each other, and the smartest people that we knew, or could get to. We alpha tested it on MBA students; beta tested it for two years on a high-power, world-class health provider. Next, we cleaned, corrected, and trued the model up. Finally, we customized the product for various clients. In fact, we developed most of the model five years before we wrote this book.

Q. As you developed your model of coaching, who were your most significant influences?

JK: We are influenced by the cool stuff going with the really cool thinkers out there. For example, the John Kotters, the Peter Senges, and other "hot thinkers" influence our work. The classical thinkers - the Aristotles, the Platos and the Socrates of the old world - heavily inform us. Dave and I are both humanists. We both have a liberal education and are heavily informed by that tradition. Dave's specialty is organizational communication theory. He is familiar with all of the people who are around that and fields that are associated with that, such as cultural anthropology and sociology. I am heavily influenced by quantum mechanics and chaos theory. I'm not interested in quantum mechanics from a physics point of view. Rather, I am intrigued by how chaos theory applies to people. When Dave and I sat down and had a critical mass of Starbuck's lattes in us, we began to talk and the models began to flow.

DL: We developed a series of coaching models for business, which we found have implications for how we live our lives. Most significantly, we are not interested in protecting the exclusive intellectual property represented in our models. This approach might work if you have the formula for Coke. In contrast, we developed our models by involving our clients as partners in the development of the material. In essence, we are committed to positively impacting a company and less committed to seeing our name on the bottom of each and every handout that mentions our ideas.

Q. How can others use your methods to construct their own brilliantly simple solutions?

DL: Our method is not a big mystery. To construct effective, elegant solutions, people need to learn to think strategically. The problem, however, is that most of us have not been trained to think that way. More often than not, our education system trained us to respond tactically. While useful, a tactical approach is insufficient when one needs to construct brilliantly simple solutions.

To learn to think strategically, you must be immersed in, think from, and operate in, a new domain that you have not been trained in. The literal experience would be something like a good basketball player being asked to operate effectively as a brain surgeon. He has all of the physical abilities, and even the intelligence - he has simply not had the training. After all, basketball and brain surgery are two different domains. As a coach, you want to take someone who can score, and then train them to operate in a very delicate area of people's brains - the environment that strategy ultimately works in. The good news is that it is not that hard, once you sort yourself out around your tactical education and begin to take on a strategic education. Learning how to think strategically is, in fact, fun for most people.

Q. Although corporations need their key people to become world class, many companies seldom get beyond a class or training model that assumes people don't need individual attention. Why is the traditional classroom-training model still so widely used if it is so inadequate?

DL: The classroom-training model was designed over a century ago as a solution to a particular problem. The problem was that children were running around in factories, getting hurt, maimed and even killed. The solution designed at the time was to warehouse the children in factory-model schools, where they were taught rudimentary skills until they went to work in the factory. The children were trained to come up with answers, rather than to think for themselves. They were taught to be patient, to be loyal to the school, and then to the company. Unfortunately, we forgot that this solution was merely a solution to a past problem and not a detailed template for education in a broader sense. As our culture transitioned from a manufacturing economy to an information economy, we did not match our educational model to our new societal objectives, which are to train people to be effective in an information and service economy. In other words, regarding our educational model, we are asleep at the wheel.

JK: I would add to that the classroom-training model is the easiest, cheapest way for people in human resources and other fields to prove that they are developing people. Trainers who employ the classroom-training model take absolutely no risk. For example, no one ever got fired for running a situational leadership-training seminar (that you can deliver to 60 people at a pop) even if it was ineffective or off the mark. Students - all of us - were originally trained to learn new things through the comparison and contrast method. When something new is presented to students, for example, it is often presented inside a comparison and contrast framework (which is what the classroom model uses). In a comparison and contrast framework, we have been trained to say, "I've got it. I've learned it. I know that." In fact, however, this is not always the case.

DL: Why would someone say, "I've got it. I've learned it." when they really have not? Education has three components: comparison, contrast, and experience. Education is inherently experiential. A subject matter is not understood until you can apply what you absorbed from comparison and contrast experientially, which is the hard lesson most college graduates find out after they leave college. Although they might have successfully mastered learning based on comparison and contrast in the classroom, in the workspace they discover that they don't know anything - until they can actually apply it experientially. Real learning, real application of the learning, then, doesn't start until you experience it. The classroom almost never provides that experience, but the people in the classroom actually believe that they have learned when they haven't. The classroom-training model is primarily effective if what you are teaching is rudimentary skills.

When it comes to refining what people can do, however, and trying to make them world class, the classroom-training model is totally inadequate. For example, can you imagine running a class for the people who are going to go try to win gold for the United States in the next Olympics? A class for U.S. gold metal athletes makes no sense at all. I guarantee you that every single one of those world-class athletes has their own coach.

Q. Olympians competing for the gold are all unique people, uniquely driven champions. They already know what they need to do; they just need help focusing.

DL: They also need to see where their blind spots are.

JK: No one really appreciates what he is truly capable of. Almost everyone thinks that they have gone 100 percent, when a coach looks at them and says, "You know what? You've gone 30 percent." I think for a lot of people that is their blind spot - they are blind to their true potential. In our consulting practice, we often find that many people are blind to their raw ability - they simply underestimate themselves. Or, sadly, some people think that they are capable of much more than they really are, which is another type of blind spot. Coaching, then, is all about focusing on the blind spots.

ASTD Field Editor George Hall teaches in the College of Business Administration at the University of Phoenix; Georgechall@comcast.net.

Dave Logan is co-founder and senior partner of CultureSync, a management consulting firm specializing in cultural change, strategy, and negotiation. Currently, he teaches leadership and negotiation in the University of Southern California's Executive MBA program and is on faculty at the Center for Medical Excellence in Portland and the International Center for Leadership In Finance in Kuala Lumpur, endowed by the former prime minister of Malaysia; logan@culturesync.net.

John King is a founding partner and president of CultureSync. King is part of the leadership development team at Sierra Health Foundation and is on faculty at Collier's University, CB Richard Ellis University, and The California Leadership Institute. He is also a frequent guest lecturer in the Marshall School of Business and the School of Public Policy, Planning, and Development at the University of Southern California; king@culturesync.net.

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