Interview with Relly Nadler, Psy.D., MCC., Executive Coach, Leadership Consultant and Author

By Jeffrey E. Auerbach, Ph.D., MCC

Jeff Auerbach: Relly, you've been called one of the best coaches in the country. I think our readers will want to hear about how you got started. How did you get involved with coaching?

Relly Nadler: Actually I got started by working for Outward Bound Schools doing corporate teambuilding programs. Then in 1986 I came to Santa Barbara to start my own teambuilding company and begin my practice as a psychologist.

I started doing executive coaching full-time in 1993. At that time, my partner and I had a consulting engagement with EDS on leadership development. We designed a series of trainings around Peter Senge's and Stephen Covey's work. We incorporated a large coaching component in that engagement.

We found that coaching was a natural service for us to provide. Executive coaching allowed me to capitalize on the training that I had completed to become a licensed psychologist.

Jeff Auerbach: Were there training programs available to you to help you transition from a psychologist role to an executive coach?

Relly Nadler: No, there weren't. I had to create my own models as there was not much written about executive coaching then. I searched for tools that were applied and value-added for executives.

Jeff Auerbach: What is your coaching company's focus?

Relly Nadler: We focus on enhancing business objectives by developing leaders, teams and organizations to better manage change and their human resources. We also facilitates executive retreats, team building ropes courses programs, and do traditional organizational development and consulting.

Jeff Auerbach: How often do you usually meet with your clients?

Relly Nadler: I usually see executives on their site twice a month, although some of the coaching sessions are conducted over the telephone. We currently have coaching engagements at six different companies totaling around 35 clients. The usual length of time we see clients is for about a year, although we have some follow-up coaching contacts for over three years.

Also, we are doing some exciting leadership training at three companies where the focus is on developing "Star Performers" using the competencies of Emotional Intelligence. I'm certified, like you are Jeff, in the Goleman and Hay Group Emotional Competence Inventory and have found it an excellent addition to my coaching.

Jeff Auerbach: Can you give us an example of one of your favorite tools you use with executives?

Relly Nadler: Sure, one of the common weaknesses I found in most organizations is a lack of accountability. Leaders often say what they want to see happen but don't follow-up well especially when things fall though the cracks.

One weekend I was out running, and I started thinking of a CFO I worked with, who decided to get involved in an initiative that was unraveling just at the right time to turn it around.

I began thinking of leadership as a dance of stepping in and then out, and then in again, like when I learned the cha cha as a child dancing with my sister. The appropriate step at the right time is critical and there is a natural rhythm to it that a good leader understands. It is easier to step out when you know will be stepping back in when necessary.

I came up with the "Leadership Two Step", which is a tool I teach in the Field Techniques of Executive Coaching class, for the College of Executive Coaching.

I have executives rate themselves on these four steps and it differentiates quite well what areas they need to work on. It provides an easy metaphor that gives them a basic leadership protocol. Here is what the steps entail:

  1. Step In: Set the      vision, systems and structure, clarify expectations, identify the      deliverables and timetable, encourage and motivate.
  2. Step out: Leave      people alone and let them come to you if they have questions. Empower      encourage them to use their own best judgment. Redirect them to others, if      necessary rather becoming their answer person.
  3. Step in:
         A. If it's going well - Support and acknowledge people, spread the news,      codify what is working well to replicate in other endeavors.
         B. If it's not going well - "Right the ship". Understand what is      the key issue. Make a decision quickly after getting their input.      Reiterate the vision and deliverables.
  4. Step out: Leave      people alone and let them come to you if they have questions. Empower      encourage them to use their own best judgment. Redirect them to others, if      necessary rather becoming their answer person.

Here are some examples:

I had one executive who quickly assessed that he is not able to step out, which had consequences for him of not empowering his people and overburdening himself. He said, "The only way I can step out is to go on vacation." We worked on his ability to step out and restrain himself from taking their thunder.

Another executive, a president of an organization, found that when he stepped in when it was not going well he did so in a irritable and cutting manner that offended many people. He realized that was hurting his credibility and understood that he had to rein in how he stepped in and what he said when things weren't going well. He also used the "Leadership Two Step" as guide to tell him when to get back in the picture to make sure his vision was being implemented effectively.

Jeff Auerbach: Relly, thanks that is a tool that coaches can get a lot of mileage from. One last question, what is most exciting about coaching for you?

Relly Nadler: What I like is making difference for people and organizations, similar to what I did when I was in private practice. Now the systems are a lot greater and I feel I can really support organizations improving their performance.

I like having a window into different organizations and industries and enjoy the challenges coaching presents. We are at an exciting crossroads in the coaching field and I am glad to be a part of it.

Jeff Auerbach: Thank you, Relly.

"If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."

~African Proverb 


Shifting Mindsets: Questions That Lead to Results

Goal: Quickly change the mindset of your team — or yourself — from being “stuck” to finding possibilities and solutions. -

Read the full article at: Shifting Mindsets


Nano Tool:

Our mindsets are determined by the questions we ask. Some questions have the potential to catalyze breakthroughs and inspire transformations. Others lead to stagnation and demoralization. The difference lies in whether you ask Learner Questions or Judger Questions.