Regan Bach is an executive coach, leadership consultant, and President of Irontree Consulting. He has worked with some incredible companies including Facebook, Zynga, eBay, Paypal and a number of other leading technology businesses. Regan is also a friend and I thought I’d ask him some questions to help support you in case you haven’t had the chance to work with a leadership coach.
Q: Hi Regan. You’ve worked with Facebook, Zynga, eBay, Paypal, and many other tech leaders. What’s the biggest challenge or opportunity Irontree helps them handle?
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with some very exciting tech companies. Some of them come directly from my Irontree Consulting business, and others through my strategic partnerships with companies like Mariposa Leadership and Tilt.
I have a background in Sociology, Human Services, and Organization Development, which are all very human/behavior-centric. It’s important to share because I approach my coaching and consulting work through those lenses.
Although each leader/business I work with is unique and requires a certain level of customization, I find that all leaders, whether working in large companies or small startups, experience challenges in a few key areas.
On the surface, this may seem surprising, but if you think about it, businesses are comprised of human beings, and many of the leadership issues they face are related to human behavior and human dynamics.
The minute you have more than one person involved in your organization, the more dynamic the relationships become. It only becomes more complex and potentially complicated as your company grows.
Here’s a Quick Hit Top 4 list of some of the most frequent issues/challenges I face with clients:
Whether it be for CEOs or new managers, setting a clear vision for yourself and your team is mission critical. From there it’s all about articulating that vision to others, identifying an “actionable” strategy to execute on the vision, mitigating roadblocks, and tweaking the roadmap/trajectory given internal and external inputs over time.
I help leaders to a) get very clear on strengths and areas of opportunity to improve and b) articulate personal/team/company vision, and c) help identify action steps to begin executing on a trajectory for success.
2) Going Slow to Go Fast
In today’s fast pace work environments, leaders jump from task to task, project to project, and large-scale initiative to initiative. Rarely do they take time to slow down, unplug, assess the Big Picture, and reflect on what’s working, what’s not working, and what they want to do DIFFERENT moving forward.
I act as a forcing function to help support leaders in unplugging, assessing themselves and their environments, and then identifying areas that need their attention. What’s critical is helping today’s leaders not only identify where to show up, but also how to show up.
This is an area where almost everyone can improve. I have found that individuals, regardless of title, greatly underestimate (and thus under-utilize), their ability to influence others.
I spend a great deal of time working with clients to help identify effective and efficient ways to influence both vertically and horizontally throughout an organization.
4) Feedback/Communication and Relationship-Building
As I mentioned earlier, organizations exist because humans create them. Thus, many leaders continually struggle and are challenged by behavioral and/or human-centric issues.
At the core, it’s all about communication and relationships. I help leaders create clear lines of communication, implement durable feedback loops into their work, and get clear on how and when they message things to others.
Q: What are some typical questions tech leaders ask you about?
I look relatively young, so often when I’m first introduced to potential clients I get questions around
“What do you think you can really tell me about my business, youngster? You don’t know anything about what I do.”
I’ve become very good at anticipating client’s early reactions to both myself and the process in general. I let people know very early on that they know their business better than I’ll ever know it.
But I’m also very good at what I do and I know my business better than they ever will. Together, collaboratively, we can do incredible things.
Truth be told, I only work with people who want to work with me. I say “no” to potential client work quite frequently merely due to fit.
For any of this leadership stuff to stick long-term, you must have collaboration and full buy-in. It takes time to build rapport and trust, but once you have it, there’s really nothing you can’t overcome.
Q: What has surprised you most about the leaders you work with at these tech businesses?
How smart and passionate they are. Everyone I meet these days is stoked on what they are doing. There is so much creativity, innovation, and opportunity to make an impact these days that it’s almost staggering. I also often work with the “honor roll students” of the work world.
What I mean is that I work mainly with leaders that show tons of promise and are actively engaged and seeking out ways to improve their game. These are extremely smart individuals that often come from the best schools and programs in the world.
The unique challenge is that it’s no longer just about how smart they are as an individual, but rather how they utilize their talents/brains and bring those smarts to life.
Q: Help us picture the typical leader you work with — what’s their age, background, skill set, etc.?
It’s extremely varied. I work with young up-and-comers, very senior leaders, and everything in between. At the end of the day, I firmly believe that each and every one of us has the capacity to improve. If that’s true, then it means that the learning only ends when you decide to quit looking for opportunities.
Q: What part of your curriculum is most impactful for your clients?
I’ve created a framework I call the Learning Loop that focuses on 5 Key Areas. They are:
- Decision Making
- Actions, Results
When working with clients, I help them heighten their self-awareness and awareness to others, which in turn shifts the types of decisions leaders make. This then puts certain things into action, which finally drive some sort of result.
From there, I support clients in reflecting on what worked, what didn’t work, and what they want to do different moving forward. It’s a highly iterative process.
Also, as part of that process, I make sure they find time to recover and refuel the batteries, so to speak. It’s often overlooked, but extremely important.
Q: If one of our readers can’t afford your awesome services, what are some affordable resources you recommend they turn to?
There’s so much out there…it’s just a matter of finding the needle in the haystack. Read a book or article to start things off. Books like Good to Great and Primal Leadership, are great places to start.
I also highly recommend the HBR articles “Leadership that Gets Results” by Daniel Goleman, “Harnessing the Science of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini, and “The Necessary Art of Persuasion” by Jay Conger.
They’re older articles, but the content is evergreen. So much learning between those pages…
Mariposa Leadership, one of my strategic partners, also does a great monthly live teleconference called Wise Talk with experts, authors, and guest speaker. They record the hour long calls and put them on their website for free download.
Q: What can you tell us about Irontree’s pricing?
I do value-based pricing so it’s hard to do hypothetically. My goal is to get uber-clear on my potential client’s needs prior to submitting any kind of pricing. I then customize my pricing based on value and on the scope and scale of the program or intervention.
This allows me the opportunity to work with huge corporations, as well as small family owned business, and set my pricing accordingly. There’s never a time when my pricing doesn’t directly equate to value for the client.
I’m in the business of building long-term relationships so clear communication and honest pricing are critical to that component. I never do hourly or daily fees.
Q: If someone wants to get in touch with you and Irontree, what’s the best way for them to do so?
Our new website is a great place for this. Simply visit IronTree Consulting and you’ll find access to general info, our overall consulting framework, a list of recent clients and a blog I’ve just begun.
We also love hearing from people directly, so if there is interest in learning more or if folks simply want to connect, they can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It doesn’t get any easier than that!
This has been really fun, Rob. Thanks for the opportunity and I hope this helps folks wrap their heads a bit more around the fascinating and ever-evolving world of leadership development and coaching. Have a great day!