Alex Kudinov Well hello again and it’s Tandem Coaching Academy’s Keeping Agile Nondenominational podcast. Here’s Cherie Silas and I’m Alex Kudinov
Cherie Silas Welcome, everybody, it’s good to have you and today we have our guest, Karl Van Hoey, and he’s going to be talking to us along the subject lines of Coaching as a Co-creative Process for Strategic Shifts. So, Karl, why don’t you introduce yourself and then let’s hear a little bit about what you–what you have on your mind today.
Karl Van Hoey Okie doke. With pleasure, Cherie, thank you very much, both of you to give me the possibility to share a little bit of my knowledge with the world. I am, actually, I’ve had two lives. My first life was one of a Human Resources Leader in a few big, multinational organizations. I did that until, I believe, seven, eight years ago and then I’ve continued my career as a Executive Coach, Team Coach, and HR Consultant on an independent basis, and actually, it is by growing through that coaching journey, first PCC, then MCC, that I’m on a continuous path of integration; integrating my HR experience, that I had from my previous career, with my actual coaching experience, and I’m enjoying a lot of that these days. Certainly in the last year, when a lot of crises have happened, companies, leaders, CEOs in the middle of a turmoil, and I’ve noticed that at those moments, the combination of these both experiences, HR and coaching, really has made a difference for myself and also for my customers. I think that the best way to present myself in one sentence, is actually, well: Coaching is my life and my life is coaching. That is the central line for the for the last six, seven years and before that it was ‘HR is my life and my life is HR’ and, well, I am privileged to be able to integrate them at this moment, both from our corporate clients for a team coaching training that has just been set up, and for private executive coaching, which I actually do most. Well, that’s about it; me in two sentences.
Cherie Silas Well awesome. I love your description of what your life is. So tell us a little bit about coaching and how you use that in a crisis situation. It would be really good to hear that.
Karl Van Hoey Yeah. That’s that’s a wonderful, wonderful question and I must admit that it is particularly the last year, the horrible COVID year, that I’ve been going myself through some shifts on that level as well. When it comes to CEOs or to executive committees, things like vulnerability, things like having the courage to say- the courage to admit that sometimes it’s very difficult, that sometimes they literally fear for the continuity of their business, that they fear for their own job, that they fear for their business model; this gives a particular context in which all of a sudden, things spontaneously come on the table, where they did not come yet on the table before COVID. So, I’ve been encountering a lot of situations where I met on the one hand, very reactive, almost fearful reactions, and also the willingness to finally be more proactively open to some strategic shifts in business, strategic shift in business models, and also strategic shifts in leadership behavior. So I’ve encountered specifically the last year situations where there was a part of fear, ‘Good heavens, we need to do something,’ but also the awareness that some proactive thinking, proactive strategic thinking, was was necessary. In those in those situations, I’ve seen that suddenly a lot becomes possible that was not yet possible before. That is a typical symptom of last year, and there coaching has been able to play an important part in what I did.
Cherie Silas So I hear you talking about not just executive coaching, but also team coaching.
Karl Van Hoey Yes. Yeah
Cherie Silas So how does that work? Many of our listeners don’t really do team coaching. This sounds interesting.
Karl Van Hoey Well, when — again, there we see interesting evolutions the last year or last two years — when I did team coaching, let’s say five, six years ago, it was often a kind of team facilitation. That is guiding a team through the development of a new strategic plan, guiding teams through having less conflicts, guiding teams through an aligned vision, those kind of things. Usually, one or two days, residentially, when you bring the team together in a more or less intimate atmosphere but there was oftenly a clear methodology; a clear strategy towards something. Now, when you would look at the Core Competencies of ICF, well, that’s actually not coaching, it’s more facilitating or guiding and sometimes even even advising, or training, and particularly the last two years, I’ve encountered teams, where they said, ‘Karl, we don’t know. We honestly don’t know and we do not even know how you could guide us through this process. We do not even know how we can manage to get ourselves through this process, we basically have to start from a blank page’ and that is where you really get a chance to work co-creatively with teams on all possible levels and to really start from a blank sheet. That comes closer to things like co-creative partnership, to things like being fully present, to things like being able to choose in the moment what to do to really go and explore what is wanting to happen. Because again, when your actual business model does not seem resilient enough to walk and survive through crisis, then well, it’s a matter of necessity and to stand open for new things and to start from a blank page. So I would say that perhaps strangely, but the horrible year that is that is behind us, I believe that that team coaching the way that, well, in my days when my credentialing body, ICF, looks at it, has become more powerful than before.
Alex Kudinov Yeah, and it’s interesting, hopefully, 2020 is behind us and I’ve been telling everybody that 2021 should be better than 2020 and it’s quite a low bar to clear at this point, right? So it’s really interesting that you bring up the topic that what you do with teams, ICF might just kind of scoff at or just look at like facilitation or whatever that is but that also brings back the topic is that we coaches not only coach, we serve the client the best way they need and if they need some knowledge, some SME, and you come with a deep HR background…why not?
Karl Van Hoey Yes, yes. This is an absolute legitimate observation and what I’ve noticed in myself, when being in front of a team, that is that, let’s say, holding space for the team, empowering for what a team wants to do, empowering for what a team wants to happen, and holding, if you wish, an energetic field of energy between you and the team for empowering the team to become what it wants to become has become much, much more, MUCH more important than guiding them through a process. Which I did, basically before COVID way too much. There’s also another element that is inside of me as coach; that is the element courage. It takes–it requires courage to let go of the methodology or the strategy that you have proposed the offer that you made for the team. The offer that they signed and say yes, Karl, you’re going to guide the students through that methodology; through that pathway. It took years that after one or two hour being together, the team comes to the conclusion, “Karl, you know, you can forget what we discussed earlier. We’re just gonna go create and you’re going to guide us.” It’s a wonderful moment that the team allows you to do that but it requires a bit of courage because you’re all of a sudden pretty much on your own, and you’re up to your intuition. You’re up to what the team is giving you. You’re up to the energy that you sense or that you that you do not sense. So basically, it requires that you also jump yourself in the swimming pool, and that you swim together with the team without falling back on your preparation.
Alex Kudinov One word that’s coming up for me when you say it requires, it requires mastering and that’s what you probably bring to the teams. So I’m wondering, in this year of turmoil, 2020, right, what do you think made coaching to be more effective than your usual kind of crisis management tools?
Karl Van Hoey Well, the the fact that the traditional crisis management tools, or crisis management decision making processes, if yet they already exist, did not seem to work anymore. I have three, well, two, three cases, where, actually, CEOs have called me and said, “Karl, please, you should help me but I do not exactly know what question to ask you.” Literally and that is fantastic because generally, you go to apply it with coaching, not as a solution, but coaching as a strategy of process and methodology to clarify things that don’t work as a strategy to process to develop things. That’s how you go with going to a client. But there’s always a basic question. “Karl, I need help with problem X or Y.” Well, I’ve had cases where they said, “Well, you need to help me but actually, it’s not clear what my precise question or niche is.” and then of course, it becomes very interesting, because then you can directly use coaching, on strategic level, exactly to build from scratch basically, to go create from scratch, what they basically need. I’ll give you one example; it was a beautiful example. It was a very, very small accountancy office and it’s not because it’s not huge, huge clients that the program was not of strategic order. Due to the crisis, and they lost quite some of their customers, because one, the customers couldn’t pay their bills anymore, couldn’t pay the bills of the accountants that have billing hours anymore, so they lost an important part of their customers. I applied their methodology, I will perhaps talk later a little bit more in detail about that, called strategic facilitation. I’ve also written an article on that in HR Director Magazine. It’s basically an approach where you challenge the entire team of a company to put together all the assets they have available for the company; not just the competencies and the assets that the company already knows about but also other assets; for instance, hobbies that you do in your free time, but your company is not aware of. One of the accountants that “Well, actually in my free time, I’m pretty good at making movies.” Ah, okay and that could be interesting. ‘Why haven’t you told us earlier?’ ‘Because nobody ever asked; I don’t need it here.’ So a new product that has been developed is they are now making movies, where their accountants explained literally in a movie, what exactly they do in excel in order to have the sheets validated and completed, and then start sending now those movies to their customers, where a part of the work can be done by their customers themselves and no longer alone by the accountant. It’s a very simple yet very powerful way of how coaching methodology has changed the entire business model, because with traditional crisis management and cost cutting approaches, you do not even come to that point. You simply fire accountants and you hope that you will survive and that is where coaching has made a difference
Alex Kudinov And you would have probably fired that video moviemaking accountant.
Karl Van Hoey I’m sorry?
Alex Kudinov You would have probably fired that video moviemaking accountant.
Karl Van Hoey Yeah. Yeah. Because it–one was not aware that he was good in making movies, and one was not even aware that accounting skills and moviemaking skills could be combined. At those moments you very clearly see that how even in the most horrible, miserable circumstances, well, coaching can make a difference, really as a strategic tool, and my personal mission is to make that even more clear in the business world.
Cherie Silas So how do you talk to your clients about how bringing some of these innovative practices and using coaching to really dig into the strategic?
Karl Van Hoey Yeah, well, yeah, Cherie, that’s a wonderful question and also a very, very challenging one. If I knew the answer to that question, I would, meanwhile, have become an extremely rich coach, because it would mean that I was always successful in bringing coaching and strategic level. I’m afraid the answer is more and more complicated than that. I do not always enter companies on strategic level. Sometimes I might coach line managers having difficulty with delegation and difficulties building trust, etc, etc. Sometimes I coach teams at line management level, very, very beautiful, interesting work, but not always on a strategic level. What it requires is first to build a relation of trusts, preferably immediately with the CEO. If that does not work with one or more members of the executive committee, when their turn, publish some noise in favor of your services with the CEO. So it starts with with building, trustful relationship with the decision makers at the top. Once you have that relationship, well, you can now and then afford to also act as an advisor, not only as a coach, but as an advisor. When you have a coach, when you have a CEO in the middle of a coaching session, say, “Honestly, Karl, I don’t know any more for what wood’s making arrows.” That’s a metaphor. I don’t know if you know that metaphor, it is this remark of desperation, not knowing anymore how to continue. In that moment, you can say, Well, have you ever considered to use coaching as a strategic process to reshape your business model? Often you’ll get surprised reactions. “Karl so far you’ve always coached me in personal matters, you’ve always coached me on my personal leadership, you’ve been my private and sometimes intimate, private coach. Are you saying to me that you can use coaching also for regenerating my business model?” And then the answer is yes. That’s also, often, for me the first time that I get the opportunity to talk about coaching in that context but…well, you cannot do that from the first meeting. If you are in a very intimate personal coaching journey of sessions with that person, sessions, for instance of two hours every two weeks, you do not always get the occasion to talk about coaching as a strategy for business innovation; you have to wait for your moment. Sometimes you get beautiful openings, where you can also talk about coaching in that area but you cannot get– I do not succeed in doing that from the first time. So trust is key. Finding the right moment is key. Then also being prepared to present coaching as a tool for for those kinds of decisions.
Cherie Silas I find it very interesting that as you enter the companies, you’re entering in kind of in the middle level, and then working your way up. That resonates. I’ve seen that happen in the field that I’m in also. I’ve also seen where sometimes coaches encounter resistance and I get the question from other people. What do you do? How do you deal with resistance and I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.
Karl Van Hoey Can you just repeat the last question?
Cherie Silas How do you deal with resistance?
Karl Van Hoey Well, again, there are tremendous differences, as it happens, before and after COVID. Before, COVID resistances were important elements to work with, resistance against change but also resistance against coaching itself. It does happen. Well, I’m sure that you both have also experienced that. The leader of the coachee, so not the coachee still, but the leader of the coachee, says to you, “Karl, yes, I really hope that my collaborator can be open for coaching because I think that he’s going to need it, but he’s not yet aware of it himself. Could you please have an intake with him, try to explain what the added value could be, etc.” There indeed, Cherie, there’s sometimes can be a lot of resistance, depending on the culture in which you are. In some cultures, when you have a coach, you have a problem. In other cultures, when you do not have a coach, you have a problem. It’s very touching to see how on a cultural level, a lot of resistance against the phenomenon of coaching can be integrated. That’s based oftenly on a lack of knowledge about what it really is and what it really can do for you. That’s the first part of resistances. Another part of resistance is can be “Well, yes, I agree that I need coaching but my boss needs even more coaching than I do. So yes, I agree to take a coach on condition that my boss also takes a coach.” Ahh okay. These are, these are interesting elements to play with and to explore. Generally, when you listen very carefully, when you ask open explorative questions, without any judgement, when you allow resistance between between two of you, until it gently fades away. Those are resistances that are easy to work with. Now, after COVID, that has changed. The way I have experienced it, a lot of resistances all of a sudden have faded, faded away. Often the simple question can be asked, “Now tell me if even at this moment, when your company is really in a face when its survival has become critical, when also your personal job has become critical. Tell me what is it that you exactly fear at this moment? What resistance that you feel, could probably be powerful enough to even now say, ‘Thanks but no thanks’ to coaching? What do you have to lose?” These are questions that are now much more clear than before. So when…how should I formulate it…the preparedness of people to work with those kinds of questions is much greater now than it was before COVID. For me, as a coach, my being prepared to ask those rather confrontative questions straight from the beginning, is bigger than it was before COVID. So I myself and become also a more courageous coach in terms of asking confronting questions right from the beginning than I was before COVID.
Cherie Silas Yeah, I can’t imagine the differences that may come in as you’re working, I’m sure, remotely with people and the experiences that they’re having, where they’re turning to a coach, when before it was, you know, there was something they might have resisted. Now, it can really just be a good help for them and a stress release. So if we assume for a moment that the company does embrace coaching, and they’re like, “Alright, Karl. You said we can use coaching change our whole business model.” What needs to be in place for them to even get started?
Karl Van Hoey Well, if they start with saying, “Change our business model”, the first thing that I will answer is “No, no, no, no, no. You are going to change your business model and I’m going to facilitate you through that process.” There are many companies that in the midst of crisis have had the courage to take decisions that they were not capable of doing before. Another client that I coached in the middle of the COVID crisis, it’s a company here based in Belgium, you’re not going to know it, but for reasons of discretion, I won’t mention it, it’s a company active in the production of water equipments, pipelines, etc. You do–not necessarily COVID itself– but you do restrictions in trade, imposed by Russia, and at a certain moment, also imposed by the United States, some important customers could not benefit anymore from certain tariffs or reductions that they had on their contracts. So that means the conditions for the buyers had become much worse all of a sudden. So they saw disappear, I believe 30%/40% of their customers in just a few months time. Above that came COVID were also their internal customers in Belgium, all of a sudden, left the building. So dramatic, dramatic decrease of the business and I really encountered quite emotional circumstances there. Then the CEO said, “Karl, you once said, ‘I believe that coaching could be so powerful, that it could change the entire business model of the company, please tell me a little bit more about that.” Then I explained again, the strategy presentation that I did at some other companies. What you basically need in order to redesign a business model, Cherie, is not so much redesigning the business model itself but allowing yourself allowing yourself a bottom up approach, where important competencies, skills, and expertise that once again, before, did not even come on the table, because they were not part of the functions they were not part of roles that were actually that moment, allow assets, that so far, were not important yet, that so far, we’re not even known yet, allow these assets to come on the table and allow yourself as a company to connect them, perhaps, in different ways. That’s how you generate a new business model and that cannot be done until you give yourself the opportunity to listen in Co-creating. The example of the accountant with the movie was one but in the other company, the water equipment, is another one. Well, it’s the pipes that you have, and the instruments, and the machines that you produce. For what other purposes can they be used? Well, that that’s not so clear. Well, not the machines themselves but in the machines is a part is a very, very useful…well, how do you say that…in the machines were very important tools; tools that could easily be used for other industries. But it requires that at a certain moment you basically destruct the machine that you’ve just produced, it comes close to the idea of ‘Once you’ve produced a car, a beautiful car coming from the machine, well destroy it. Destruct the car, disintigrate the car and take these tools out of it that can be used for other industries. That requires a shift in thinking, so are you actually saying that our final product should no longer be our final product? Yes, that could be the consequence. So you take from the product what you need, you add another service to it, consultancy for instance, and a part of your product, together with consultancy, which is new, that becomes a new product. Again, I did not build that product myself, honestly, I don’t have a clue technically on how it’s constructed but I facilitated coaching in a coaching way to that process. S ooner or later you arrive at a new business model.
Alex Kudinov It sounds like COVID was a catalyst for these new ways of thinking and coaching was just that, I don’t know, like, just fell on the fertile ground and helped to grow that thinking. I’m wondering with COVID, eventually going away, what would prevent businesses to go their own merry way and kind of old way?
Karl Van Hoey Before COVID, we had a thing called, “You need to burning platform before people are willing to change.” You hear literally say that in executive committees. “Yes, Karl, but we do not have a burning platform, yet. There is not yet a sense of urgency to change. So we’re not going to change.” Okay. Well, COVID has no doubt accelerated the burning platforms and the senses of urgency. So that’s one thing. The hope that I have, and I don’t know if that will be confirmed, I hope and I cross my fingers that we may have learned from COVID one lesson. That is, do not wait to change, do not wait to innovate until there’s not a crisis. So I hope, I hope but I’m honestly not sure, that a sense of strategic proactivity–leaders being prepared to prepare the future to be innovative, even when there’s no crisis. An example that is often quoted so many times these days is of course, Steve Jobs with Apple. But actually, when we are really honest, that’s not a good example, either, because Steve Jobs was brought back into Apple at a moment that Apple was I think, pretty, pretty close to being broken; pretty close to failure. So also there the most innovative companies, at least now, you see that the most radical shifts they’ve made at the moment when the water was here. But it’s my hope, that from now on, we may enter sooner in a proactive way of thinking.
Cherie Silas So what advice would you give to other coaches who want to do the same work you’re doing?
Karl Van Hoey Ah,well, my two most important really key learnings of the past two years, and that had to do with two things, me becoming Master Certified Coach and secondly, which COVID that is, if you are perfectly allowed, dear colleagues, to to be more courageous. Perhaps you are already courageous but I was not yet as courageous as a coach as I am now. With courageous, I mean, that’s another beautiful example. I’ve coached a member of the executive committee of a large bank, really a large bank. You know, these guys always in this huge, etc. So when you invite them, “May I please invite you to pick a chair in this room, no matter what chair that represents for you, your future. Imagine yourself there, Peter, in 2025, take a chair here in this room that represents 2025. For you go and sit in that chair, close your eyes and start breathing in, breathing out. Honestly, the first time that I did that, the guy literally went back to his coaching agreement, well his coaching contract, and he said, “Karl, did we agree to do these exercises?” *laughs* And I said, “No, but I never explained in detail my methodologies. You do that in a coaching agreement. You do that by choosing in the moment I did not write my own possible exercise and you go to your country that has no sense. So what do you have to lose? Honestly, Peter, Well, okay, I can imagine that the first time not just the coachee, but also you as a coach that you do that. You really should be jumping into the unknown. You really jump into the unknown water. If there’s one bit of advice for my colleague coaches, become a little bit more courageous in experimenting with exercises that may be far out of the comfort zone for your coachee, but also for you.
Cherie Silas Well, Carl, I want to challenge you, I want to ask you to pick the chair in the room that represents your future and tell us a little bit about what’s going on for you today and what do you have a head that you’d want to share?
Karl Van Hoey What’s happening today? It’s, first of all, I’m glad that I’m still surviving, because honestly 2020 has been a very, very challenging year for my business, a lot of huge contracts that have been postponed. I see now that, and also in the last quarter, that things are going a little bit up again; it’s been challenging. So where I am now, I’m in a mixture of individual executive coaching that I love a lot, team coaching that I love a lot, sometimes on strategic level, but not always, sometimes, and more and more, it is. Besides that, I’m also starting activities in a brand new team coaching program where we will train upcoming ICF coaches that are willing to specialize in team coaching, that’s also new. Last but not least, and that’s new since a year and a half, I’m also developing activities as a mentor coach for upcoming PCCs and MCCs; more MCCs than PCCs because usually, PCC have a ready package in ACTP. program,so mentoring is already included. I have at the moment, I think, 110/115, something like that, mentees, as we call them. I love to do that and honestly, I had not thought two years ago that I would start those activities. With it’s been smoothly, some PCC that you may have lost. “Karl, could you guide us because you’ve just gone through the process yourself? Would you be willing to to share some of your knowledge? Would you like to be our mentor?” Wow, what an honor. Someone asked me for my mentor, and it’s grown organically, but actually I like it. What I see for the future 2025 Cherie? That’s a good question. I hope, but I’m not entirely going to visualize it for myself. I’m gonna close my eyes for a while. What I see is that I’m gonna move back to individual coaching and be the coach of more and more decision makers. That’s what I see. I do not see yet how I will arrive there but I see that that’s what I’m going to do within five years. I’m also going to focus on strategic guidance for executive committees. I may even return to what we call strategic facilitation. So I see a combination of team coaching in the ICF way but also strategic facilitation, the way I did it earlier. I think the combination of both of them could be powerful. What I also see but it’s not yet clear how, is that I’m going to focus on another term; that is the term of personal mastery. When I see executives struggling with their lives, that is way too busy, way too hectic, when I see them struggling in combining their professional life with their private life, a more holistic way of looking at that is by stopping building a wall between those two parts and by integrating them into kind of what I would call holistic coaching, and wheat I offer coachees is the possibility to explore their life as a whole. That has got more to do with with personal mastery, in fact, than with simply their leadership skills or their management skills, or their private skills. But the way forwards is not yet clear because that could also mean that for me, my business model needs to needs to change because you’re in another segment of the market there and it’s not clear yet how to how to swim to there. But I see it as a combination, everything that regards the strategic coaching area, individually and in teams, the personal mastery area, and what I also would love to do is to continue mentoring coaches to their MCC or Advanced PCC. That’s what I’m sensing when I’m sitting in 2025. But the way to that is also, for me, a challenge.
Alex Kudinov It looks like it’s going to be an absolutely fantastic and great year of 2025 for you because all comes to pass. Karl, I would like to thank you all very much for the insight, for the openness, and for the courage to talk to us about what’s going on in your business and how you work on your courage. And yeah, it takes it takes a lot. So, really wishing you luck between now and 2025 with your undertakings, with your mentees, and definitely really good to have you here. Thank you.
Karl Van Hoey It was my pleasure. Thank you both
Alex Kudinov This was Tandem Coaching Academy’s Keeping Agile Nondenominational podcast with Cherie Silas and I’m Alex Kudinov. Goodbye.