Michael Koest – Seeing Outside the Bubble | Conversations with Coaches | Boxer Media

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Michael Koest | Conversations with Coaches | Boxer Media

A former professional windsurfer & CEO of a listed Fortune 500 subsidiary, Michael has always been a passionate listener, supporting people in motivational, change, performance, and leadership aspects. Having consistently delivered outstanding results in both worlds, he decided to support leaders in shaping their business & personal growth journeys.

In our enlightening conversation, Michael talks about the importance of looking forward and not backward when it comes to personal and professional development. “What got you here might not get you there,” is a Marshall Goldsmith quote that naturally came up.

We also discuss how crucial it is to have someone from outside of your bubble to coach and guide you on how to move forward in your business. As it is sometimes said, “You don’t know what you don’t know,” and the external perspective of a coach who has the expertise and understanding to help make clear what the future will look like – whether in a few years or tomorrow – is simply invaluable.

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[00:00:00] Kevin Stafford: Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the Conversations with Coaches podcast. I’m your host, Kevin. And today I have the pleasure of meeting and immediately sharing with you Michael Kost. Michael is a former professional windsurfer and CEO of a listed Fortune 500 subsidiary. Michael has always been a passionate listener, supporting people in motivational change, performance and leadership aspects.

Having consistently delivered outstanding results in both worlds, he decided to support leaders in shaping their business. And personal growth journeys. Michael, I like, I like that approach because I feel like we separate those at our peril. And so I’m excited to talk to you about like, how you, how you, how you coach that, how you, how you live that as well.

So it’s great to meet you and I’m glad to have you on the pod today. Thanks for having me, Kevin. Yeah. Let’s, let’s start not at the beginning, beginning, but let’s start at like your beginnings as. As the coach you’ve decided to be today. Um, how did you realize that you really wanted to take this approach, this sort of personal and professional hybrid?

Cause a lot of times a lot of coaches will really focus in and hone in on one or two specific elements of someone’s personal or professional development. How do you, how did you find yourself being called to try to be the coach that works with both sides, merges them together? How did, how did you find yourself in that position?

[00:01:19] Michael Koest: Yeah, where, where it all started was in my job. Basically I’ve been coaching people internally for, for many years and quite successfully too. You see these people getting promoted and everything. And then obviously that’s very exciting and very rewarding too, because you like to think that you made a small contribution.

But what, what I also realized is that, you know, personal growth comes hand in hand with what an organization is doing and how they’re shaping their own future. So for me, it’s always been a matter of combining, um, the personal and the business growth through shifting perspectives. And what I mean by shifting perspectives is simply, uh, going from Looking backwards to looking forward sounds really, really simple, but a lot of companies, if you think about it, keep looking backward, you’ve had an excellent year, great, you know, great bonus in this and the other.

Um, the following year, everything goes bad and employees are getting laid off and this and that. That’s just because they were hit by something they didn’t see coming. So by looking backward, your chances of succeeding and sustainably being successful in your field of business is fairly limited. So you’re going to look forward, see what’s coming.

And I’m a big advocate of creating basically a, call it the, the disruption department. Not someone who works alongside the top team or whatever, doing a bit of thinking. No, someone who deliberately tries to kill their own business. Not in the intent to kill it, but to determine what comes for a more successful and sustainable future.

Now, along with this, obviously the people are a key component. And when your business strategy moves from A to B, which it has to, um, research shows, uh, most businesses reinvent or evolve their strategy every two and a half years. That’s, that’s crazy. In the past, it used to be like every 10 years or whatever, but now it’s every two and a half years.

And if you don’t, well, guess what? The likelihood is, um, you might be less successful in the future. So from personal perspective, it’s the same thing. I’m in a job today. And I look backward. Yeah, I’ve done this. And I’ve been very successful. I’ve done that. I’ve been very successful. The problem is as a manager or as a leader in my organization, my leadership brand, the thing that I see myself in or how I am is really coinciding with what the company sees.

Um, so what, what happens is I’m the manager and I’m doing a great job. Now, this other guy is getting promoted and there’s a vacancy coming up and I think I’m super good in what I’m doing. Therefore, I qualify for the, for this job to take over, but you know, the company selects somebody else. And I go, why?

I’ve done this in the past, I’ve been successful doing this, and I’m good at that, and so on and so forth. No, no, no. Because the new job has new requirements, right? So if you’re a team member, let’s say, who does the day to day, and so on, and you get promoted to the manager of that team, You can no longer act the way you did.

You have to learn new skills. You have to learn delegation, also hard conversations when the performance is not there, you have to learn new things. So your past success is no guarantee for future success. And this is where I love to work with organizations in terms of, um, redefining their strategy for the year to come, as well as, uh, working with their leaders, creating.

Call it a joint purpose, like a strategic leadership agenda for the company, which basically is like in sports, you know, you, you design a new Jersey, a new color, new flag, new outlook, uh, uh, ambitions and so on and so forth. And the path to get to, um, that, that future

[00:05:12] Kevin Stafford: ambition. I, man, I really, really, really liked that.

This is something that’s it’s a couple of subjects you touched on come up repeatedly in conversations. on this podcast and off this podcast with, with coaches and leaders and whatnot. And I, that, that transition from as you’re, as you’re successful moving through your career, that transition from doing whatever the job was, whatever the role was you began in.

And as you, as you grow and develop, as you move through the company or move through your career, there’s that transition moment where the skills required to continue. Begin to change. And like you said, there’s just, there’s, I still, even though we talk about a lot, I still find that there’s not enough attention on how many really promising potential leaders get lost without the guidance they need to make that transition.

They get, they get stuck looking backwards and wondering why what they did before won’t get them where they want to go. And that’s why I always find myself gravitating back towards that phrase. What got you here won’t necessarily get you there. I find that it’s a really good shorthand to kind of like open up that conversation because that’s once you accept that, then you can begin to not just cling to past accomplishments or skills that you’re very comfortable with and still good at, but look forward and with some guidance by a coach like yourself, really trying to select and look for and embrace the acquisition of those new skills.

That will then demonstrate to the people who would be in charge of promoting you up and promoting you along. It’s like, ah, I see this person’s looking forward. They’re starting to pick up the skills they need to actually lead as opposed to just follow. Let’s talk about that. Yes,

[00:06:48] Michael Koest: very true. Everything you say.

And I think Marshall Goldsmith expressed it very nicely. Um, and, and it’s correct. I mean. When you’re good in your job, it’s awesome, but being too good in your job also doesn’t make you promotable, because who’s going to do your job, right? So you’ve got to be really careful between being good, but also displaying some behaviors that will make it possible for you to succeed in the next role.

And you see a lot of companies as well, promoting people who… Miserably fail after their promotion, which is a shame probably because there’s a lack of guidance in terms of, um, you know, just sharing with those people what this new role entails and what you like doing and what you’re good at is actually no longer part of this role.

Instead you’ll have to do with this and this and this, are you comfortable taking up this challenge? So all of these things need to happen and they’re good conversations to have in an organization, be it internal or with the help of an external coach.

[00:07:48] Kevin Stafford: Yeah, there’s it’s it’s one of the worst feelings in the world is promoting someone who you genuinely like and admire and respect and you move them into a role that they’re that they that they’re no longer good and they’re no longer suited for and you basically you it’s two losses because you lose the leader that could have been and you lose the high performer that was.

And that’s just, that’s, it’s the kind of waste that’s just like, it’s, it’s, it’s the lose lose situation across the board. And I just, I love the, the, I love the attention being paid to that transition because, I mean, start with simple questions. Like, really identify whether or not someone’s genuinely interested.

In that promotion and what it entails. Maybe when you actually really asked them those questions, they find that within themselves, like, you know, I don’t know if I’m ready or I don’t know if I want to develop in that way. I really like what I do. Maybe they are truly content where they are, but they need to be asked that question by someone who’s willing to listen to their answers and discover that answer together.

And that’s, again, I know I’m kind of. Sort of sideways complimenting you, but I just I really, really respected, admire, and I’m grateful for coaches like you being focused on that transition because there’s such there’s such potential for loss there, and there’s such potential for gain, both personally and professionally.

Yes, that’s true. And also, I wanted to, there’s something I wanted to go back to because you mentioned, um, you didn’t quite say it this way, but you were speaking to almost a sort of disruption department where it was sort of your job to sort of, and I, I really liked like the department of disruption got stuck into my head as a phrase because I really, well, I appreciate the, the, the, the, the ling, the, the linguism on that, but also I really liked that concept because there’s something, there’s something about intentionally testing the resilience of your organization.

Not just having things happen and then seeing how you respond, but really having people whose primary or a significant part of their job is, let’s see if we can break this. It’s very, very common in like development and coding, et cetera, where it’s like testing is all about, let’s see if we can break this, let’s see where it breaks when we apply pressure and that will give us maybe some clues as to where we need to put our attention, how we need to build that resilience and that agility that we’re going to need.

If we’re going to navigate a world in which we have to reinvent ourselves every two to three years, which you say that loud like that, it’s terrifying to think about. It

[00:10:07] Michael Koest: is. And, um, well, the main issue is the most of the companies I’m familiar with. And if I look at the so called Um, you know, stress test that you run internally and how to check whether you can actually break things or whatever it might be.

Um, one, one fundamental issue remains with those departments, um, which is they tend to act inside the bubble, right? So say You’re whatever in, in the sports goods industry, uh, for argument’s sake, and, um, you know, uh, maybe Nike, Puma, Adidas, and, and, uh, Under Armour and, and, and what have you. We’ll look at, oh, how can we do better shoes, better than Nike, better than whatever.

And they’ll use some new material and they’ll do a lot of marketing on it and they’ll price it up because it has a benefit. Obviously the Gillette. One, two, three, four blades every time it gets more expensive, but at the end of the day, all it does it change, right? So anyway, um, but that that’s what’s happening a lot.

So people look inside the bubble. But now what if Mr X, Y, Z, uh, comes from, uh, Tim book to and he, he enters, um, a market. It’s an unknown competitor, right? So, and this is where a lot of companies actually can go wrong. And this is where a lot of the internal stress testers are probably not geared to think outside of the bubble.

So everything that is done tends to be run within the industry that the company is in. Rather than trying to go a little more crazy and, and outward looking. And I mentioned Gillette for a reason because, um, everyone knows the dollar shave club. I imagine now when Procter bought Gillette, it was a hefty 53 billion price tag.

And, um, four or five years later, the dollar shave club, the guy in, in, in his backyard, so to speak, shipping out razor blades on a subscription model, uh, came, which obviously. Made Procter sweat quite a bit now. No one thought about this dude, right? Everyone thought about the traditional razor blade manufacturers and then what have you.

Um, and no one thought about this one. So it happens and it happens at a higher frequency nowadays than it used to happen in the past. And it has deeper consequences as well on established businesses. So it’s crucial to look forward. And when I say look forward, I don’t mean. The year two or three, but it’s really where do you want to go as a company in the next 10 years?

And, you know, you could completely redefine, uh, the company as, as it operates currently and, and, um, and envision, uh, operating in a completely different field in different industry. And, um, there are examples of, of

[00:13:06] Kevin Stafford: such companies too. One thing about success, especially wild, long term success, is that it has a, it has a blinding effect.

And it’s a very natural effect as well. It’s not something that you need to try to necessarily combat within yourself, but you need to have a strategy for facing that, understanding that as you move forward, your vision will It’ll just, it’ll narrow just by the nature of the size and the scope of the organization you’re running, the business you’re running, the success you’ve had for the amount of time you’ve had it, and someone like a coach, someone who is outside of your bubble, and yet it has intimate and intimate expertise, very precise knowledge of what goes on inside that bubble, and yet exists outside of it.

Someone who can come in and both know your company and, you know, have an inter be, have an interaction or relationship with you, that is, is very, very much like, I am on your side. I’m your ally, I’m your guide. I’m help, I’m helping you to, to transition or to move through whatever happens to be happening.

And yet has that outside perspective and can see not like, you know, with the vision of Nostradamus. This is, this isn’t like, this isn’t certainty in prediction and that’s why we get lost looking in the past because we can pretend that we’re certain about what we, what’s always been true. And kind of stay away from the uncomfortable what might come around the corner.

But that ability to just forecast and you know, maybe poke at the bubble and be like, you know, someone might come along. Maybe it’s someone in their backyard. Maybe it’s someone who’s highly capitalized. Maybe it’s someone, maybe it’s an executive from a rival company who breaks off and start something new because they see something that might disrupt the industry.

Someone like you with that. outside perspective, but insider knowledge, insider expertise. There’s just really, there’s nearly nothing like it. It’s why I gravitate so strongly towards coaches and so many different elements of life because that, that inside outside combination, there’s really, it really can’t be beat for seeing what’s coming and being prepared for it.


[00:15:00] Michael Koest: I agree. But I think the advantage of the outside coach versus the inside coach is a lot of companies promote coaching internally, right? And that’s a great thing. And it’s a, it’s a fantastic tool. Um, my, my personal experience, though, is that these coaching sessions. At times can turn a little bit into an assessment.

Um, and, and what happens is obviously during the annual talks, uh, promotions, people changes this and the other, um, you know, some of these coaching sessions can be, uh, held against you, so to speak, which isn’t a nice thing. If you think about the internal coach with the external coach. I think it’s completely different.

And the beauty of it too, is that the external coach will be so far away from the day to day and, and, and not necessarily know the industry, but what the external coach is able to do is use proven methodologies to unlock through conversations. Through challenges for the coaches, but also with homework for the coaching to hopefully get better over time and train some of those behaviors required for the next promotion.

Um, and, and to be future fit and basically being able to deal with. Whatever might be hitting the organization and the person

[00:16:19] Kevin Stafford: itself. Yeah. I find that to be so true personally and professionally where it’s to speak personally, like you never know you have these relationships you’ve had for a long time, people that know you well that, you know, trusted confidants who have guided you in the past, but the one thing that a coach doesn’t bring to the table is baggage or obligations from, again, from the past.

And that, that’s one of those things where it’s like sometimes you need someone who’s got that level of ability to guide you, that level of commitment to you, that level of, of, of bond, that level of awareness without all the baggage that might come from, you know, quarterly or yearly, annual, annual reviews that might, their, their coaching might play into that because then it’s, then it’s not just coaching, it’s also like internal evaluations and then it gets, it gets, it gets mixed up.

There’s a lot of baggage that comes along with that. And there’s something very. Very clean and powerful about having that outside coach come in and really. Actually coach literally guide the, the, from the top to the bottom, the organization towards wherever they need to get to next. I’m, I can talk to you about this stuff all day.

I can be like the, the, the kind of high concept, you know, precise, like I love this stuff, but I just looked up at the clock and realized we’ve already been talking for a while. I haven’t even asked you like about the specifics of your business like and you’ve already kind of touched on quite a bit of it but I like to I like to give give my guests a chance to talk about who they coach specifically if they have a particular uh character profile that they that they have they coach a lot of these individuals or a lot of these organizations so who they coach um and how how you coach them say like one to one or if you do smaller groups or even larger groups or sometimes You know, a course or a keynote might be better if you have any books that you’ve either written or that you tend to work off of for your framework.

So yeah. Who, who do you coach and how do you coach them today? Okay.

[00:18:04] Michael Koest: Um, to describe a typical profile will be really, really difficult. Um, what I can say is people tend to be senior, very senior. Um, people tend to, um, sit at. at junctures in their careers where either it’s going to be a key personal decision to move on or stay more on a lateral trajectory or perhaps a big personal change by a changing company or changing a role within the company, which takes them to another country and so on.

I mean, myself, I’ve been an expat for the majority of my, my career. And I think I do understand fairly well what it takes to succeed in a completely different environment, but also to make the choice potentially to not. Move up and carry on for what you’re doing. But the industries I work with are very diverse.

I mean, is there anything from logistics to finance to consumer goods? Um, so it’s, it’s really diverse. And as I said, for me, my, my whole coaching system, if you like, looks a lot deeper at people, but also culture or how. Team performance impacts an organization, um, as well as obviously the individual and, and, and so on.

So I think from a, from an approach, um, what I always do is I like to work with teams alongside the one leader, because I need these guys to help. the code she, um, developed. If I have a one on one conversation, I can challenge, I can, I can prompt, I can use techniques to have a good conversation, potentially have a bit of a mirror in front of the person that is one, but I cannot assess, I cannot say how the colleagues perceive this person.

This is why the stakeholder centered management, uh, stakeholder centered coaching for managers and, and, and teams, um, is a method that really, really works for me and also for the coachee or the team that is being coached.

[00:20:20] Kevin Stafford: Nice. Where can, I’m, I’m very conscious of the time that I let, I let, I let us stay too long in the high concept stuff, but I love that.

Also, I really do, I want to do identify how. How across so many different kinds of industries, a lot of these principles are the same. I think people get again, they get stuck in their bubble and they think that their, their industry specific concerns, whether it’s on the individual level or the organization level, or even like the small, medium or large size team level.

They think they’re very specific to their industry when largely with a little bit of translation or just a little bit of a shift in perspective. A lot of these. Issues, these obstacles, these hurdles, these pathways to success are common across organizations. And that’s, again, another reason why I love the outside coach, the outside voice to come in and just, you know, know, but also let people know it’s like, no, this happens.

All over the place. I see it everywhere. Let me tell you what I’ve seen. And let’s talk about what you’ve seen. And let’s see how we can maybe make those, make those align a little bit. I just, again, another, another great, another great reason to hire someone like you and bring someone like you in. Because

[00:21:28] Michael Koest: here’s the thing, right?

Coaching, it’s all about leadership, right? It’s not functional technical training. So tell me what leadership behaviors are different in industry A, B or C, um, you know, behaviors, um, and, and team cultures, team performance, how it doesn’t matter at which sports team you look at that performs really, really well.

They have things they do and because they do them, it helps their performance. And the same happens in a, in a company. Um, I don’t think. Industry specific coaches are necessary because, um, as, as you just described now, what I’m emphasizing is behaviors. Human beings are all the same. It doesn’t matter what industry they work in, how to develop a leader, how to change behaviors, how to amplify the good ones and stop the bad ones is something that.

Um, you can do as a coach, if you have no clue about the industry,

[00:22:26] Kevin Stafford: clearly. So if anyone, if anyone listening wanted to tap into your expertise and, or, or just find out more about you and your coaching approach and your life or whatever, how can people best find out more and then connect with you? If they want to start a conversation, whether it’s just personal curiosity, or if they’re, you know, professionally looking for someone exactly like you to help their organization or to help them personally, where can people just learn more and find out more and connect with you?


[00:22:53] Michael Koest: I mean, uh, I’m, I’m a curious person myself. I, I love the, the interactions with human beings and, you know, meeting new people is always nice. So if, uh, someone’s really curious, I’m, I’m, I’m going to try and satisfy their curiosity a little bit. Um, so yeah, sure. Um, So, sorry, the question

[00:23:11] Kevin Stafford: was, Oh, where, where, if, if, if anybody wanted to do that, whether it was just a curious conversation with an interesting human all the way up to, I would like to talk about what you do and how I can hire you for my business or for me personally.

So like if people just want to start any kind of conversation with you, where’s the best place to do that? Right.

[00:23:28] Michael Koest: Okay. Sorry. Um, yeah. So the best place to reach me would simply be to drop me an email. Um, so I don’t know, Kevin, you can, you could share. I’d be happy to help you. This email, right? So yeah, I’ll put it in the show notes.

And whatever question you have, whatever you’re curious about, I’m going to try and, and, um, set up something I’m, I’m, I’m here. Basically, I choose to, um, work the amount of work I, I, I like to do, but I don’t really go beyond that because I have a few passions. I started playing pedal. So now I play pedal quite intensively.

I barbecue a lot. Um, and well, other than that. Uh, anything, everything about me is not traditional. Um, you know, I was a professional windsurfer. I studied philosophy. I ended up being a CEO of a fortune 500 subsidiary. So, and, and I’ve lived in seven or eight countries. Um, Yeah. So if you want to hit me up, feel free and we’ll have a nice little chat.

Uh, no, no obligation whatsoever.

[00:24:34] Kevin Stafford: Oh, I love it. You have such a, you have such a beautifully curated life. I feel like we could have a whole separate podcast episode or two just talking about that. Maybe, maybe I’ll have you back on and we’ll, we’ll just discuss life construction and how you built the life that you’re currently living because it sounds fantastic, but we’ll save that.

They’ll say that conversation for a different time. And in the meantime, Obviously, I’ll put your email address in the show notes here. You’re on LinkedIn. I think that’s how we found each other is through mutual connections here and there. So if you want to find out more, you can go there. You can just email them directly.

And Michael, thank you for sharing some time with me today. This has been, it’s been a fascinating conversation. I feel like we just scratched the surface,

[00:25:11] Michael Koest: but it was a very pleasant experience. Thank you, Kevin.

[00:25:15] Kevin Stafford: You’re welcome. Yeah. I try to keep it short and sweet here. Just enough. to tease and to really like get into some of the nitty gritty and then just leave a lot of big questions hanging so that people take action.

Which, to the audience out there, if you’re curious at all about Michael, do yourself a favor and reach out, just email him, just check, you know, check him out on LinkedIn. You can, you can find him in all the usual spots, but do yourself a favor and at the very least learn a little bit about this fascinating individual, um, and maybe what he can do for you depending on where you’re at.

So thank you to the audience, thank you to Michael. And we will get a chance to talk to you again here on conversations with coaches very soon.

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