Meet Steffan Surdek, Consulting Principal, Corporate Trainer, Integral Coach at Pyxis Technologies

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only organization for successful leading business and career coaches. In this spotlight series, we profile our incredible members and share their advice with you. This week: Steffan Surdek.

As consulting principal, corporate trainer, and integral coach at Pyxis Technologies, he helps organizations create and embrace change, and develop more conscious leadership. He also comes from an extensive background in software development and is co-author of the book A Practical Guide to Distributed Scrum. Follow him on Twitter @ssurdek.

What inspired you to become a coach?

I was fortunate enough to achieve a lot of fun things in my professional career. I reached a point in my work where I began playing more of a mentor role, showing others how to build better teams, better communicate, and get better results.

When I started coaching six or seven years ago, I had a very different definition of the word. Imagine an achiever trying to teach others how to achieve and push themselves; then, sit back and laugh at my surprise when I realized this was not a strong motivator for anyone!

During a very intense one-year integral coaching program, I learned a lot about myself and about how to understand people better and what makes them tick. Ever since, my coaching approach evolved around helping people in organizations develop their capacity and reach their full potential.

What one piece of advice do you find yourself relying on most? Why?

“As a coach, are you having the right conversations?”
When working with clients, I often pay close attention to the conversations going on around me.  What conversations are happening and which ones are not? What things live in the “said” and what things remain “unsaid” between people? I believe my role then, as a coach, is to enable the missing conversations, or create the space that inspires the courage that allows people to have conversations they need to have with others.

Another way I use this piece of advice is when I get lost in endless discussions in meetings. I often ask the question “Are we having the right conversation right now?” and one of two things happens:

  1. People acknowledge this is the wrong conversation and choose to move onto something else
  2. People explain to me why it is the right one and why it needs to keep going. Then to support their discussion, I can summarize where I think we are at, validate, and then ask them a question to get them back on track.

It may take some courage, it may take some coaching and support, but I find when people have the right conversations, magical things start happening that did not seem possible before.

What is the biggest hurdle your clients face? What advice would you give others struggling with this issue?

Many of my clients have leaders that struggle with becoming more co-creative and working with their teams to create lasting change in their organizations instead of imposing their ideas.

The main advice I give them is, although leadership in organizations is changing, they are in their role for a reason. As much as they want to unleash their teams and empower them to help them become more self-organized and engaged, this does not mean they should no longer say anything and step away. They need to learn to become a voice among the others on their teams, and bring their gifts and their experience as well for the benefit of all.