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March 10, 2014 - Big Think

A CEO Coach’s Tools for Optimizing Your Performance

Big Think Editors

“In the twentieth century coaching was seen as a remedial activity: ‘Something’s broken – I need to call Steven or somebody else because I need to be fixed,'” says Stephen Miles, C.E.O. and founder of The Miles Group, an advisory service for executives. “One-hundred percent of my coaching today is actually not that. It’s about working with high performing people and helping them get better.”

How does Miles help high-performers become even better? He explains his four-step approach in the latest installment of Big Think’s Edge.

The Diagnostic

First, he says, he works with executives to identify ingrained leadership styles.

“So when I’m under stress or when I’m in a situation, I’m going to revert to my ‘base case,'” he explains. “And we want to understand that fundamentally. And then we want to understand, ‘Okay, when is your ‘base case’ the best leadership style? What situations is the application of that leadership style going to give you the best outcome?'”

Advance Preparation

Once a “base case” style is identified and understood, Miles works with an executive to modify his or her leadership style to produce desired outcomes. He works with each individual to expand a range of styles that best suit intended audiences and outcomes.

Listen for Content

Miles advises executives to foster dialogue by refraining from using “listening to win” tactics. He advocates demonstrating interest through non-verbal communication, asking clarifying questions, and fully immersing in what opponents have to say.

“A common trait in many executives at every level inside companies is just talking too much,” he says. “And if it’s not a monologue then what it becomes is ‘I want to win the interaction with you. I want to prove that I’m right and anything you say to me I’m just going to pick on that and you’re wrong.'”

Facilitate the Opposition

Miles advises executives to instead affirm an opponent’s point of view and take a Socratic approach.

“If you can hold your ground, not be defensive, facilitate them using affirmation to start and then facilitate them, you’ll end up in the higher place and the higher ground,” he says.

For more on Miles’ approach to coaching leadership strategies, watch Big Think’s latest installment of Edge.