Celebrating the launch of the Executive Central Coaching Academy, Reyna Matthes shares a simple and elegant model used by Executive Central coaches in their work with clients. “I love to use coaching models and techniques that are immediately actionable with clients. A saying attributed to Leonardo da Vinci is, ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’.
While referencing some more complex ideas, the I-WE-YOU model is good common-sense and provides a refreshing approach to leadership development.” In the Coaching Academy we share all of our Executive Central coaching resources, and the I-WE-YOU model is just one of the approaches that Coaching Academy participants will be able to put into practice with their clients.
So what is I-WE-YOU?
This model describes a shift of focus and values as one transitions through different stages of leadership. It references the work of several leadership theorists. Charan & Drotter (2001) in The Leadership Pipeline describe six passages in the life of a leader, from managing self to managing others, then managing managers, managing a function and so on up to enterprise management. With these passages there is a shift of focus in operations, strategy, and people management. The essential changes are around one’s place in the organisational structure, and one’s changing responsibilities.
Jim Collins (2001) in Good to Great describes five levels of leadership, from capable individuals through to contributing team members, competent managers, effective business leaders and executives. While also about the gradual expansion of domains and the transition through a hierarchy of roles, Collins’ model is more focused on organisational culture and relationships within that culture, as well as the inner development of leaders. "No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it" Andrew Carnegie
A further concept that informs the I-WE-YOU model is the idea of Servant Leadership, popularised by Robert Greenleaf (2002) and others, but actually having its roots in antiquity: in Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and the teachings of Lao-Tzu. The Sage is self-effacing and scanty of words. When his task is accomplished and things have been completed, all the people say, ‘We ourselves have achieved it.’LAo Tzu (C.500BC)
In our executive coaching work we look for a shift of focus from self, to others, to organisation. This shift occurs at a micro level within a conversation, and at a macro level within an overall career. This shift of focus has a profound effect on the executive’s relationship with the organisation. It’s a shift from a transactional and instrumental approach to others, to a relational and visionary approach.
How do we use the I-WE-YOU model?
The beauty of a simple model is that you can adapt it to different contexts. We use the I-WE-YOU model in three layers, moving from micro (skills) to macro (strategy). At each layer there are a range of developmental tools – conversations, diagnostics, reading, challenges, projects – to support change.
As coaches, we notice the use of language. Discussing the use of personal pronouns leads to a critical conversation about the allocation of responsibility and credit as a leader, amongst other things. “I notice the words ‘I’ and ‘My’ cropping up a lot when you talk about your work.... Can we talk around that a little?”
I-WE-YOU provides a solid platform for structuring skills development for an individual executive. First we want to focus on the client themselves, with diagnostics, feedback loops, and the self-awareness elements of Emotional Intelligence. Secondly we might focus on the ‘WE’ through team building skills, developing consultative and collaborative approaches and managing change. Finally our focus will shift to a more strategic perspective on networking and the broader influence on the organisation.
I-WE-YOU provides a characterization of the lifelong leadership journey. It gives an overview of the life stages, if you like, of leadership. It provides a template against which executives can assess their own leadership journey in concert with the organizational values and vision. This is a philosophical and strategic dialogue about their goals for themselves and for the organisation. Collins’ (2001) description of a great leader as ‘a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will’ is apt. This leader is ambitious for the organisation rather than for him or herself, inspiring others to grow and shine. Servant leadership is a natural expression of the leadership Collins describes. A servant leader encourages and enables others, both individuals and organisations, to reach their potential. Using models such as I-WE-YOU we support our clients to grow their own leadershipand that of the broader organisation.
"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more and become more, you are a leader."John Quincy Adams