But it's not just the doing that's at issue for McCracken. It's also becoming a
leader of others. To aid that, McCracken submitted herself to a leadership survey,
where Cramm polled her boss, her peers and her subordinates to rate how often she
demonstrated inspiration and leadership. McCracken was surprised at some of the
"I'd always thought articulating a vision was part of my makeup, but my group
didn't feel I'd talked about where we're going or provided any future perspective,"
says McCracken. "When I told Susan how surprised I was at that she looked at me and
said, 'Give me the compelling image of the future you think you've shared.'" Well guess
what? It wasn't that compelling. That was a dramatic realization for me of what I'm
supposed to be doing, combined with the whole concept of leadership and inspiration."
Despite her initial misgivings, McCracken has become a coaching convert -- crediting
her work with Cramm for making her a more effective business leader. Of course, it
helps that she was at the right stage in her career. And that's a key issue: How do
successful managers know when to tap the expertise of an outside coach?
Clearly, transitioning to a more challenging role represents a good time. So, too,
when executives assume a role with no clear-cut definition. A coach could be in order
when executives decide to sharpen their skills for the next new thing, or when they
just want help setting the proper business goals -- fine-tuning what, for the most
part, already works. Or maybe they are so completely overwhelmed that they need a
trusted outside expert to point out the land mines before they hit them.
"At that very top level of a major company, it's hard to get good feedback because
you hold people's careers in your hands," says David Dotlich, senior partner of CDR
International, an executive coaching and organizational development company in
Portland, Ore. "A coach can gather information about that person's blind spots, and
also advise the executive on what to do with it. And that's where coaching is an art,
not a science. Because the coach has to say this is what other CIOs, facing similar
problems in similar companies are doing.""
Presumably, Dotlich and his company are true artists, given that CDR's 20 executive
coaches are working with the top management at such companies as Johnson & Johnson,
Levi Strauss, Nike and The Limited -- not to mention working with the top 2,000
executives from Bank of America and NationsBank as the two organizations undergo the
largest bank merger in the country.