Coach's Casebook

Coaching for Wisdom

Coaching for Wisdom

One of the key elements of leadership in any domain is that of wisdom.

So when looking for a leader in your succession plan, perhaps to replace a retiring CEO or chairman, wisdom is a key factor to consider.

As a coach, one of the questions I ask myself in preparing senior managers and executives for leadership is what techniques to use to help them develop wisdom.

Wisdom is the ability to read situations, people, events and options and then provide guidance or make decisions that are the most appropriate.

Wisdom, therefore is a mix of experience, perceptiveness, analysis and confidence.

So how do we coach a person into gaining the wisdom necessary for a more senior position?

Firstly, an assessment of the current level of professional wisdom can be useful. Consider it a 360 degree review for a specific context.

A suitable set of parameters to measure your clients ‘wisdom quotient’ could include some of the following:

  • Basic intelligence – Intellectual horsepower is a pre-requisite for senior management and so this should be a given.
  • General Life Experience – There is no substitute to having a full and rich life.
  • Perspective – Does your client have the ability to see the bigger picture, a more strategic view.
  • Business Knowledge – A knowledge of how things work in business, both specifically in the firm and more generally.
  • Bias for Action – Does your client get things done, either personally or through his team.
  • Critical thinking – The ability to find the wheat from the chaff.
  • Introspection – An awareness of their strengths and limits is critical, particularly when considering how much risk to accept in a particular situation.
  • Selflessness – Your client should be focused on the company and not their own progression.
  • Emotional Control – The ability to remain emotionally stable despite high levels of pressure and stress.

Having assessed your clients performance across these parameters, you can identify the areas to focus on.

Unfortunately, wisdom doesn’t just fall into our laps with age.

Yes, age allows you to develop life experience, but this life experience needs to be actively considered, reflected upon and internalized.

There are, however, a few strategies that you can use to help develop your clients develop either an increased degree of wisdom or the perception that they are wise.

1.  Have your client gain new life experiences and ideas. Have them:

  • Read a different newspaper.
  • Read a book, any book , but a business book or biography will increase awareness of how others have succeeded.
  • Try a new sport in an area that they have never tried before, Skiing, Climbing, Sailing.
  • Meet new people – network with different groups.
  • Watch the videos from to gain new perspectives.

2.  Have then work with a mentor or understudy a more senior person.

3.  Have them designate time for self reflection and for reflection on the results of their team or business.

4.  Have them develop a strong point of view and see everything in terms of that point of view. This becomes a personal vision for the business and for the client.

Employing these strategies can help your clients increase their wisdom quotient and gain a more strategic view of their business and how it can be improved.

As a coach, it is your role to find which approach your client can commit too, encourage them to embrace the strategy and provide feedback on performance. there is no short cut to developing wisdom but you can coach your client into making it a priority in a world that is constantly competing for their attention.

The bottom line is that experience is the basic ingredient of wisdom.  Gaining experience in new areas, mixing with new people and considering new ideas is a key element, but it is the reflection on these experiences that creates true wisdom.

Dare to Aspire

One thought on “Coaching for Wisdom

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