I’m just back from the International Coach Federation’s (ICF) Midwest Conference held in Cleveland, Ohio, June 19-21. The Midwest Conference is hosted annually for professional coaches to engage in skill development, networking and professional growth. Since joining the ICF and being appointed to the Michigan Board of Directors, I’d been looking forward to the opportunity to connect with the international membership and further invest myself in the organization.

Attending the conference was a wonderful way to accomplish that goal. I attended workshops that helped me enhance my coaching skills, collaborate with several of the 400+ attendees, and learn about advances in coaching practice and scholarship. As a result, my passion for helping clients align with their personal vision and live on purpose was reignited.

During the conference, I attended several workshops, some provided new information and others reframed existing theories in terms of coaching principles. One such workshop was focused on the Competing Values Framework introduced by Cameron & Quinn over 10 years ago (Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture, 1999). The workshop reinforced the importance of organizational alignment.

The Competing Values Framework is comprised of four organization types derived from two discrete continua. The vertical continuum is concerned with an organization’s appetite for flexibility or stability. The horizontal continuum considers the organization’s primary focus – internal or external. An assessment of the organization’s preferences, defined in relationship to each of these continua, places it in one of four primary orientations: Clan, Adhocracy, Hierarchy, or Market (see insert for further definition). Each orientation is aligned with different outcomes, embodies distinct values, and requires a specific leadership style. To be most effective, an organization must align purpose, people and organizational practices.

Compet Values 1

Employees also exhibit preferences along the two continua previously defined. Where some employees are proficient at creating (Adhocracy orientation), others are more effective at collaboration (Clan orientation), controlling (Hierarchy orientation) or competing (Market orientation). Alignment and balance are key considerations and leaders play a critical role in promoting organizational alignment (see insert below).

lisa 2

For example, if an organization that is looking to introduce innovative products or services to the market before its’ competitors attempts to do so in a culture that favors participatory decision-making, its leaders must determine how to balance these competing realities in order to align people and practices to achieve this purpose.

Likewise, employees with a preference for an unconventional, flexible, fast-paced environment are likely to experience discomfort when placed in an environment governed by rigid internal processes. In this instance, leaders must be prepared to support employees’ in achieving successful performance amid the competing realities.

The lesson? As a professional development coach, I support leaders in their quest to become exceptional performers. If a leader is unaware of the organizations’ values and orientation, or unsure of their own preferences, they may work to strengthen the wrong skill set during the coaching engagement thereby intensifying the misalignment. I now have an additional tool to help my clients assess their environment, their employees, and themselves and negotiate these competing values to ensure organizational effectiveness.