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Q&A with Brainard Coach, Jack Farnan

the experienced mountaineer inspires executives to bring passion into their career and personal development

Having scaled 7,000-meter peaks around the globe, Brainard Strategy coach Jack Farnan challenges leaders to bring the same passion for teamwork, preparation and excellence that is required for survival in high altitude mountains, into the workplace, in order to achieve personal and corporate goals.

BRAINARD STRATEGY: Why is coaching so important for leadership development?
JACK FARNAN: Coaching is so important for leadership development because it is an integral component for contributing to the growth and development of a leader. Leaders can and do learn a great deal from training programs, reading, observing others, and modeling best practices in their company’s leadership ranks. However, such development is incomplete without the final piece or the cornerstone of leadership development and that is the coaching piece. Only through coaching does one see long lasting change.

Developments in neuroscience have shown that when individuals discover ideas, strategies, tactics on their own, the changes that they implement are longer lasting. And this is what good coaches do – they assist the client, through a finely honed questioning process, in self discovery. This is extremely difficult to do on one’s own, but very doable through the coaching process.

BRAINARD: What separates a Brainard Strategy coach from other coaching that you have seen?
FARNAN: I think it’s the process. While each Brainard coach is unique and different, bringing with her or him their own coaching DNA, they nonetheless all use the same coaching process that Michael Brainard has developed and believes so firmly in. It’s that rigor wrapped in flexibility that I think appeals to clients and enables a Brainard coach to be successful in assisting their clients.

BRAINARD: Who is your ideal client?
FARNAN: My ideal clients are those who want to change their current situation and optimize their potential. I like clients who are internally motivated and who want to work at solutions to improve their leadership skills and their lives. As coaches, we are motivated by clients who successfully implement change in their lives. And motivated clients implement more successful change.

BRAINARD: Where do you see the greatest need for coaching in organizations? Mid level management, executives, or high potentials?
FARNAN: Yes! There is a great need for coaching with all three of these groups. Executives benefit from coaching because they are in the position to impact and affect the greatest number of people in the company. They are role models for corporate behavior and consequently need to reflect the values and culture of their organization each and every day in everything that they do. From their leadership style and management actions, mid level managers learn how to manage, lead, and be role models for first line supervision. It starts at the top and trickles down.

If we want first line and mid level managers to grow to become exemplary leaders, they need role models – hence the need for coaching executives. Mid level managers have a great need for coaching because they are most often squeezed between a rock and a hard place within companies and they need help to cope with their problems and learn new strategies for success. Many times as a group they have some of the lowest engagement scores in the company because so much is expected of them and they receive so little help.

Therefore, there is a strong need for coaching services for this group. The last group, high potentials, have a great need for coaching because these people have been identified as the stars in the company in whom the company is betting. If a company wants to retain these individuals and capitalize on their potential, they need to show them the interest in their development to ensure they maintain a high engagement level and remain with the company.

BRAINARD: When can coaching go wrong?
FARNAN: Coaching can indeed sometimes go wrong. Most often this occurs when the client fails to accept the concept that they have an area to improve upon. Their usual argument is “This is just who I am and I’ve been successful up until now so I don’t see why I need to change.” If there is no compelling reason for an individual to change, then change is very difficult. The other situation where coaching can go wrong is when the client is expecting the coach to tell them exactly what to do. When the client’s expectations include being spoon fed the answers, coaching usually goes awry. Clients need to be responsible for owning their issue as well as thinking through the solutions and implementing them – thus owning them.