By Eve Gumpel, California Business Journal.
Management consultant and executive coach Allan Rahn has energy to spare.
“I’m ‘all in’ all the time,” he says with a laugh. “My feet start moving without me. As long as I keep moving, I just keep going.”
That characteristic is missing in a lot of people. “When people start to question themselves, second- and third-guess themselves – they change their energies. That catapults them into dangerous areas.”
That’s why he tells his clients to “check your pulse.” It’s the reason his company is named The Leader’s Pulse. “There’s a rhythm to success,” he says. “There’s movement; there’s this tempo, and this tempo can’t be sustained without a number of things happening.”
The Leader’s Pulse is less than a year old, yet Rahn has three decades of experience developing and leading individuals and teams, senior leaders, executives and C-suite members in corporate environments, primarily in the realm of marketing, branding and advertising. Before becoming a Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coach in 2018, Rahn was chief strategy officer and consultant for Blue C Advertising.
Prior to that, he spent four years with BB&T Insurance Services, Inc. and 10 years as executive vice president of marketing for The Word & Brown Companies. “I’m the luckiest guy you’ve ever talked to – thanks to the great people and mentors I’ve had in my life and career.” Marketing and advertising have fascinated Rahn ever since he was an eight-year-old fan of – get this — the TV sitcom Bewitched. He remembers that “the lead male actor, Darren, worked at an advertising agency called McMann and Tate. Larry Tate was tall, friendly and everyone liked him. He was always happy, funny, made a lot of money and didn’t do much. I wanted to grow up to be Larry. So at the age of eight is when I started to think about the advertising space.”
Rahn still utilizes the marketing principles he holds dear in his coaching career, which in many ways is just a matter of “rebranding,” he says. Overall, he considers five elements essential to business success: Brand, leadership, strategy, marketing and promotion, and sales.
“A business and a leader have all of those things going,” he says. “They have a reputation, they have an identity and a personal brand – and they should work at protecting that brand.”
Strong leadership, brand and strategy are key as are promotions and sales.
Rahn first engaged with an executive coach to help him 10 years ago, when it became clear he was burning out his staff. Through that process, he felt the call to move into coaching himself, with the goal of providing both leadership and business support to successful leaders and businesses.
He landed his opportunity when a friend with an alcohol problem reached out to him for help. He’d already been certified as a professional coach. To help his friend, he added a certification in recovery coaching. “It allowed me to practice the techniques and help at the same time, which then led to other work with people.”
Rahn, a psychology major at UC Berkeley, focuses on behavioral changes. “When one looks at successful executives who go through changes in their career patterns, it’s rarely because of their skill set or business acumen. It’s related to behavior changes as the world around them changes. They become very consistent in their approach to things and, unfortunately, sometimes their perception blocks out some needs of others relative to interaction, coaching, recognition.”
Most successful executives exhibit a set of consistent tendencies. For example –executives are fixated on winning. The downside of such a behavior? “Leadership is about helping others as well,” Rahn says. “So that can become a problem.”
Similarly, being the smartest guy in the room can be a problem.
“Suppose you say, ‘I just heard a great idea about this plan we should consider in one of our operations.’ If I were to say, ‘Oh, yeah, we thought about that a week ago’ – then I just told you I’m smarter than you are.” If that happens three or four times, the person receiving the message will decide, “It doesn’t matter what I say. That guy’s always going to be smarter.
“Those little tweaks about sensitivity and communication, listening to people and celebrating what other people are talking about are very important,” Rahn says. He quotes his mentor, Marshall Goldsmith, who quotes Peter Drucker, “We spend a lot of time with leaders telling them what to do, but we don’t tell them what to stop.”
It’s “imperative” that leaders focus on creating respectful, safe, productive, fun, interesting work environments. “That should be our primary motive as leaders,” Rahn says.
Rahn focuses on moving his clients forward quickly. While some coaching engagements can take 12 to 18 months to achieve necessary changes, Rahn believes it’s possible to make the shift in far less time. “Within the first month,” he says, “I think people should see noticeable change in what is going on.” The entire process could be complete in six months, “with regular follow-up after the fact that diminishes over time.”
Rahn also offers his clients an outside perspective. In general, he notes, executives are so busy with their core business they don’t have time to focus on things that pop up that might be great opportunities. But an outsider — like Rahn — can recognize and act on them.
Rahn defines his job as both daunting and satisfying. “When you have people who believe in and trust you – there’s a powerful influence that you have to realize exists in the engagement; it’s not something to take lightly. You have to be ‘all in’ when some people consider you the key to helping them stay employed or get an advancement or promotion. Or helping them get through a disastrous time.”
As for the satisfying part: “To help good leaders avoid making some of the mistakes I made years ago – and see them do well with the people around them – everybody wins.”
He’s particularly proud of his work with a female executive leader who was hired to work in a male-dominated environment. She came to Rahn looking for mentoring “in just a couple of leadership skills she felt she was lacking,” he recalls. “She practiced some new techniques, built her self-confidence, and within 60 days, those practices became a habit – and it’s been going swimmingly for her. She’s on her own at this point,” he added.
“The best success I’ve seen so far is when my engagement is shortened because things work faster and better for people than we originally thought they would. It’s a great feeling.”
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