November 2016

Harold V. Langlois

To my recollection I don’t remember making a conscious decision to design my career with the intent of remaining relevant in the academic community while pursuing significant leadership positions in the financial industry. Given my personal preference to opt for influence over power, I developed supportive relationships with colleagues who would eventually occupy senior leadership positions in both national and regional firms. Before the role of “coach” had been coined outside of the sports world, the work that gave me the most satisfaction focused on building teams that were collaborative and driven by mutual trust.

From the outset of my academic career I had been coaching Board Chairmen, Chancellors and University Presidents well before I became immersed in the world of finance. The challenges of coaching requires one to restrain from taking a position or expressing an opinion that would insert yourself into the organization’s political arena, and thereby blur the boundaries of your responsibilities. To be effective and helpful, it’s necessary to have open and candid conversations with the leadership in order to help these decision makers reflect on their mindset by asking questions that inject alternative perspectives into the discussion. This entails learning to ask challenging questions in order to leverage their intuition. This is not about offering advice. Rather, it’s about constructing a relationship predicated on knowledge, understanding and trust.

Once in a while when I think that things are slightly out of focus I play one of those old Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire movies. One is quickly mesmerized by the flawless execution, complete fluidity, and their seamless performance. With all that talent in motion it’s inevitable to find yourself “Putting on the Ritz.”

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