TLDR: We’re trialling an online group coaching program for leaders at EA organisations where you can get coaching from an experienced executive coach on your leadership and management skills for low or no cost. Apply here. Application Deadline: 23:59 UTC October 1st
I contend that there are a set of skills and behaviours that matter if you want to be an effective leader of an organisation – broadly speaking, you could call these 'executive' or 'leadership' skills
What kind of things do I mean?
- Technician vs Entrepreneur mindset. The tendency to do everything yourself vs focusing mostly on decision making; hiring; delegation; and using systems & processes to get things done.
- Consistently and consciously spending your time on your highest value tasks, meetings and deep work sessions each week.
- Being able to give feedback on employees’ performance that comes from a place of kindness and respect whilst also being timely, direct and actionable.
- Effectively managing psychological bugs that are particularly common and damaging in leadership roles like imposter syndrome, perfectionism and chronic stress.
The High Impact Leadership Coaching Trial will put a group of EA organisation founders and Senior Directors through a 6-month leadership coaching program designed to rapidly level up these types of skills. The program will be led by Parag Prasad, an experienced leadership/executive coach with 16 years’ experience coaching more than 70 CEOs and Senior Directors (including a number of EA clients at places like the Good Food Institute and Convergence Analysis). There will also be other accomplished coaches from the EA community including Tee Barnett, Sebastian Schmidt and Adam Tury lending a hand and running sessions too.
I expect a credible leadership coach to be valuable in 2 ways. Firstly by sharing and facilitating discussions around templates and best practices from the business world (e.g. Areas of Responsibility Documents, OKR systems) and secondly by coaching leaders’ on their individual mindset and behaviour change challenges.
Here are some examples to illustrate the second category
- One of Parag’s coaching clients described the realisation that he had not been enforcing minimum performance targets in new hires’ probation periods because it felt unkind to judge people so quickly. Investigation revealed that every such hire was let go months down the line regardless, which they agreed was costly for the organisation and ultimately more unkind for the new hires.
- Another coaching client carried out a time audit on her coach’s recommendation and discovered that she had been spending a full 75% of her hours on low value tasks that she agreed should be delegated, automated or ignored. After breaking down and working through the underlying issues they were eventually able to carve out an uninterrupted 2 hour ‘most important work’ block every day to focus on a predefined list of top priorities.
- And my favourite example, Jessica Almy, Senior Vice President of Policy at The Good Food Institute, who explains here how she was able to work with her executive coach towards taking a 2 week holiday during which she was able to completely unplug from work trusting her team to handle things whilst she was away.
A common story I heard when conducting research for this program was the idea that EA overvalues intellectual high achievers straight out of college and undervalues management experience. Personally I have a lot of time for small teams of audacious nerds who want to change the world unhampered by pointy-haired bosses, and I do sometimes worry about a failure mode where EA gets bogged down in management and bureaucracy. But I’m hoping there are ways to get the best of both worlds, and good executive coaches could be part of that solution.
About The Program
Where: Zoom + Chat/Email support
When: Group sessions Tues 10:00-12:00 UTC every other week starting October 31 (plus an optional 30mins progress check-in on alternate weeks, timing TBC)
What: Boardroom style group coaching sessions with 5-10 other EA Directors. Time will be spent in each session discussing some suggested topics, frameworks and examples from other top-performing EA orgs. Then participants go away and implement their version, come back, discuss, debug, share experiences. Participants are expected to be implementing and testing throughout the program rather than passively learning theory.
Parag founded The Business Growth Agency in 2007 one of Europe’s most successful business coaching practices. He has delivered >11,000 coaching hours, coached >70 CEOs and leaders 1 on 1 and delivered group based coaching to >400 others. He held senior roles at PricewaterhouseCoopers and British Telecom, is a qualified chartered accountant and holds a degree from Oxford University.
The public Google Reviews page for the Business Growth Agency is here.
In the EA community he’s recently worked with Directors at The Good Food Institute, Convergence Analysis and will be a coach for the upcoming Charity Entrepreneurship cohort.
The program has been designed with the goal of taking best practice on management and leadership from the business world and adapting it for an EA context, adding more epistemic rigour and focusing on topics that our research suggests EAs particularly want help with.
Over the 12 sessions we will cover topics including
- How an EA org leader could optimally use their time, including how they could think about about prioritisation, delegation and using systems and processes
- The psychology of ownership, blame and imposter syndrome
- Setting and tracking organisational, departmental and project level goals
- Team coordination and communication systems including how to run various types of meetings effectively
- Recruitment systems including: job adverts, interviewing, assessment tasks, referencing and onboarding
- How EA culture causes unique leadership, management and recruitment challenges and how to overcome them
- Team performance, Key Performance Indicators, career ladders, development plans, giving and soliciting honest feedback
- Several open sessions reserved for free form discussion, progress review and troubleshooting implementation challenges
What do we mean by “a trial”?
This is a beta program which we are running for the first time. I expect some sessions to work better than others and I expect the coach and participants to be working things out collaboratively as they go.
This is a trial program which is offered on a pay what you want basis with the agreement that participants provide feedback. We will try to make this as quick and easy as possible but you will be expected to fill in a pre and post program assessment questionnaire, spend a minute or two scoring each session and to attend 1 feedback interview on Zoom at the end of the program lasting up to 1 hour.
You are invited to pay what you want. This can be zero pounds.
I believe offering coaching free of charge tends to result in noticeably less committed coaching clients, so I’d prefer participants contribute a nominal payment each month as a commitment device.
If you’re able to contribute £50 or so per session please do. But if, for whatever reason, cost is a barrier I’d much prefer committed and serious applicants still apply, as we do have funding available.
Fill out this short application form (10-20mins) to apply. The deadline is 23:59 UTC October 1st. Be aware: applying earlier may give you an advantage vs applying very near the deadline.
The best-suited applicants will be invited to book a 45mins trial coaching call with Parag. This will give you a chance to experience the style of coaching, test client-coach fit, tell Parag a bit more about your goals and ask any questions you have about the program. We will then ask you to confirm whether you want to take part. We aim to make these calls valuable irrespective of whether you end up joining the group or not.
- You need to be a Founder/Senior Director at an EA-aligned organisation with at least 3 team members.
- You must be available to participate on alternate Tuesdays 10:00-12:00 UTC Oct 31st onwards for approximately 6 months
- We’re especially looking for participants who are motivated to work on themselves, willing to question their normal ways of doing things, willing to be honest and vulnerable with the group, interested in supporting and building friendships with other EA Directors in the group and who can offer us honest feedback as they go through the process.
Will a group coaching program be customised and bespoke enough for me? I have specific problems which I want to be coached on that I’ll select myself.
This is a common concern. There’s a certain amount of trust and a leap of faith required here. Just know that a lot of thought has gone into the design of this program and I’ve often received feedback that people prefer the group coaching format to 1 to 1 coaching despite expecting the opposite to be true. I think tight-knit peer groups, ‘friendly competition’ effects, and the impact of seeing how other smart people approach the same problems you’re working on might explain this.
Having said that, if you’re dead set on 1 to 1 coaching all of the coaches involved do offer 1 to 1 coaching which you could certainly do alongside or instead of this program.
What do you mean by “Founder/Senior Director” in the Eligibility Criteria?
This program isn’t designed for mid-level managers or people working towards Senior Director roles. There’s no value judgement implied here — we need great leaders at all levels of EA organisations, but this program assumes participants have the authority to make organisation-wide changes themselves right now. Exactly what constitutes this level of decision-making authority might be a little blurry and can certainly be discussed during the application process.
Have you considered ways this project could cause harm?
Yes. The main potential for harm in this project is where the benefit provided is less than the cost of the time the coaching and homework assignments consume – and I think the time and attention of EA org founders is extremely valuable.
I would hope participants would recognise this and leave if they’re not seeing any value. Another possibility is they think it’s helping but it’s not (or not versus other ways they could be using their time and energy). There’s a weird dynamic I sometimes see where a coach, trainer or educator ends up optimising for generating shallow moments of epiphany or the feeling of progress rather than real improvements in performance. As much as possible we will try to tie the program to real world outcomes e.g. whether participants end up using their time differently and how their employees rate their management and leadership skills before and after the program.
I have another question not listed here
Great! Put it in the comments below or send me a direct message. I’ll try and check this every day or two and would love to hear any questions, feedback or ideas you have.
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