Most of the devices we use each day have two essential software components: apps and operating systems.
The best apps usually do a few things really well. The browser app on my iPhone makes sure I can view websites easily. The task management app makes sure I don’t miss a deadline.
I just looked and I have 149 apps on my iPhone. I have no idea how that compares with the general population, but my guess from casual interactions with others is that I’m not alone with a large quantity of apps.
That also means lots of updates. It seems like at least 2-3 of them get an update, just about everyday. Often, these fix a problem with the app or make it better in some meaningful way.
All of these apps run on top of Apple’s iOS operating system. Unlike individual apps that do one specific thing, the operating system provides a broad foundation for the entire device to perform well.
Operating system updates happen less often. They also take longer to install — usually 5-10 minutes instead of just a few seconds.
When the operating system gets better, the entire device gets more useful and also opens up the potential for apps to do a lot more. While iOS alone don’t make the iPhone useful, it provides an essential foundation for everything else.
The overall strength of iOS has enabled a robust ecosystem of apps from developers to flourish — and turned the iPhone into the most successful consumer product of all time.
The reason I’m illuminating this distinction is because I get this question all the time when I open up applications for our Coaching for Leaders Academy:
What’s better for me? Hiring an executive coach or applying for your Academy?
If you can appreciate the difference between updating an app and updating an operating system, it will illuminate how I respond to this question:
Talented executive coaches like my friend Tom Henschel are really good at contracting with leaders and organizations to help them get better at a couple of key areas over a short period of time. When there’s a specific behavior or skill that’s holding you back (or would benefit from focused refinement) coaching is a great way to go.
Good coaches are masters at catching things quickly that aren’t working and noticing the thinking errors that you may be making. They will challenge you and help you change your behavior quickly, assuming you are willing and ready.
That’s just like getting an update for an app. It’s specific, it’s focused, and ideally, it’s done in a fairly accelerated period of time.
Unlike coaching, our Academy is far broader in focus. While we do zero in tactically on specific commitments, the overall aim is comprehensive leadership development.
The Academy helps leaders get really good at articulating what the future should look like, assess where there are today, and develop a practice of implementing tactical commitments that help them and their teams achieve results. Plus, they learn how to give and receive objective perspective from others who are outside of their organizations.
A leader with a strong foundation in these areas has the ability to do a lot with it — and the potential to take a lot of other people along with them.
While coaching is usually done one on one, our Academy members work together with me and the same 5-6 colleagues over an entire year. It means that, each person moves slower than they would with one on one coaching, especially in the initial stages. But it also means that they get a far broader perspective, because they benefit from (and implement) the discoveries their colleagues are making along the way.
While I’m always thrilled to see people getting results from their commitments, the real achievement is at the end of our Academy year when leaders have made behavior change a practice for themselves and their teams.
That’s an operating system update. It takes longer, but it’s a comprehensive change that enables leadership development as a consistent behavior.
It reminds me of this proverb:
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
Regardless of how we do them and what order we do them in, app updates and operating system updates are both important. Rather than asking which one to do, the better question is:
Which is most important for you, right now?
And if it’s the operating system update, the Coaching for Leaders Academy may be worth your consideration.