CASE STUDY 1
CASE STUDY 1: Transition from Technical Leader to CEO
Coaching is a vital component of making a successful transition to a new role. It is especially valuable when the individual is transitioning from a technical or functional leadership role to that of a CEO. Many soon discover that” the skills that got you here won’t keep you here.” The CEO focus must be on creating and communicating the company vision, mission, and overseeing execution of key initiatives to grow the business. A CEO is also responsible for setting and modelling company culture, recruiting talent and managing performance and career development. This requires different skills and perspectives than in earlier career roles.
My client is a young CEO in his first CEO role, having previously been a successful engineer. He has a proven long-term track record of success in the aerospace industry as a global operational leader. We were introduced by one of his key investors. Our coaching process has allowed him to successfully navigate the transition from technical leader of others to that of a respected effective CEO.
When we began working together, my client had been a CEO less than one year. He had investors and ambitious goals for the organization, including growing revenue tenfold in five years. To do this he knew he needed a highly engaged workforce, the right people in the right roles, and a culture of accountability. He needed to set the company vision and key initiatives and clearly communicate those. He had also never before worked with a Board of Directors. Moreover, due to the lack of certain key roles being filled in his first year as CEO, his emphasis had been more tactical than strategic. He wanted this to change. He was in the process of building his team while also reducing the number of direct reports. He had a strong desire to work with an executive coach to learn “how to be a better conductor of the business so it can really grow.”
We started the engagement with a Leadership Circle 360 Assessment. This allowed the client to see how he was being perceived as a leader. He received valuable feedback on his leadership strengths, as well as key opportunities for development. His training as an engineer made him comfortable with accomplishing tasks. Yet as CEO, he needed to increase his capability to collaborate with others. This included learning how to ask more questions and to involve others in key decisions. He created a one-page leadership development plan that served as the blueprint for behavioral coaching. A few months into the engagement he noted: “this is making a significant difference in the way I communicate, articulate and behave. I’m expanding my capacity in a structured way. I’m thinking differently. This is awesome stuff.”
The next step was for him to complete a Leader Dashboard for his role. This in-depth process served as a blueprint for the business. While developing the company vision, he learned the importance of adding adequate detail and specificity, along with inspiration so that teams would become excited. After a number of months refining the Dashboard, he was ready to share his draft with direct reports at the company’s first Leadership Retreat.
The retreat agenda was Strategic Planning and Goal Setting, as well as Building a High-Performing Team. The client wanted a roadmap for execution and to increase the cohesiveness and effectiveness of his team. Preparation for the retreat included pre-retreat interviews of the entire team to discover what was important for each of them. The team engaged in a series of breakouts to discover the most leverageable actions to grow the business, crafting a company culture, and engaged in an intensive team effectiveness exercise. The client reported that the retreat was extremely useful. They immediately experienced improved communication and more trust, along with having clear direction. The client reported that he “had learned a lot more about each one of my team; we have gone from dysfunctional to functional.”
While working on strategy and team development, my client enhanced his regular meditation practice with learning about how his way of being and communication impacted others. As a result, he reports “a deeper connection with others; by my being relaxed and calm, I’m assertive and trust opens up.” He practiced this at the time of a major customer visit, and had great success. He reported you need to create space inside yourself where the customer can meet you.” He also shared that the ongoing support he receives on increasing his mindfulness at work has helped him “go from a peak state to a more relaxed, yet focused state and this has been very helpful.”
The client had a keen interest in learning more about how to communicate simply and powerfully. We offered him learning on a variety of communication styles, and assessed when each one would be helpful. He explored messaging, body language, and vocal tone, self-rating and looking at the gaps between where he was and where he wanted to be. He noted how” important it was for him to be an excellent and authentic communicator as the leader of the organization.” He practiced how to share the company vision with colleagues, and how each of them fit into the company’s growth. He reported “I am really able to focus on them now. I can feel it and it’s good. This has transformed me as a person.”
This client continues to participate in bi-weekly behavioral coaching. The engagement also consists of monthly Group Coaching calls with the leadership team to solidify the gains and provide accountability for results and an annual two-day leadership team retreat for planning and goal setting.
The client reports that the groundwork that was done last year “allowed us to come into 2020 with clarity.” The client reports that he is listening, leading and learning in ways he never had before. Evidently that has paid off. In the first month of the new year, revenue is up 40% vs. 2019.
Step Up Leader ©2020
CASE STUDY 2
CASE STUDY 2: Obtain the CEO Position
Client is COO in a NASDAQ-500 company. He has been with the company over fourteen years, and was identified as a potential CEO replacement upon retirement for the current CEO. The client has a proven long-term track record of success in the industry and is widely regarded as respected industry expert. Although he was seen as an effective COO, the CEO focus of a publicly-traded company required more, including a strategic focus, enhanced communication with the Board, as well as with external stakeholders. His earlier career as a technical manager had not fully prepared him for the entire breadth of CEO responsibilities. We were introduced by an executive search firm who was working with the company.
When we began working together, my client was in the COO role. His Board of Directors was supportive of investing in him to develop his skills as an executive leader in order to become chosen as CEO. Overall, the emphasis was on executive presence and increased effectiveness with communication. They requested a short-term engagement of six months which was soon shorted to four months in order to be completed by calendar year-end.
We began the engagement by interviewing selected Board members and the Director of Human Resources in order to clarify the desired behaviors they wished to observe from the coaching. Once these were identified, we developed a behavioral inventory. It was circulated and approved by all key stakeholders.
Shortly thereafter we conducted a Verbal 360 interview to learn more about the client’s growth opportunities. Next, the client participated in a formal Leadership Circle 360 Assessment. This offered detailed quantitative and qualitative feedback about his development opportunities as a leader. The outcome was the creation of a one-page leadership development plan that served as the blueprint for behavioral coaching.
The next step was for him to complete a Leader Dashboard for his role. This in-depth process served as a blueprint for him, allowing him to effectively present the company vision at the next Board meeting.
In order to focus on strengthening relationships with Board members, the client engaged in a thorough process of evaluating his powerbase. He assessed the nature and quality of his key relationships, determined what each of them needed, and created a plan of what actions to take. As a result, his Board Chairman indicated that all the targeted relationships had been improved significantly.
Next, we focused on his executive presentation and overall ability to communicate simply and powerfully. He learned to present for a specific audience, and only that which is critical for success. He learned the six key communication styles; assessed his own strengths and weaknesses with each, and created a plan on when to use each one. As a result of paying attention to his strengths, and managing his vocal tone and emotion, he reported increased confidence and success in presentations and interviews.
The engagement ended at the four-month allotted timeframe. Although the CEO selection has not yet been made, the client expressed satisfaction with the learning, stating “I’ve never invested so much in myself. It was a very positive experience. I would definitely recommend working with you. It was a little rough to do in four months. I would have liked a bit more time as I couldn’t put in the level of work I wanted to do. We accomplished 95% of what we set out to do. I’m walking away with a good experience from our work that will help me in my future.”
CASE STUDY 3
CASE STUDY 3: Effectively Navigating a Career Transition
Career change coaching is an invaluable resource to executives in transition. My client was a veteran healthcare executive with over twenty-five years of experience in the same organization. He had not conducted a job search since he was in graduate business school. Our coaching process allowed him to explore much more than just a career, and to land a new opportunity that was outside his initial realm of possibilities.
My client was a health care executive with over twenty-five years of experience with one prestigious company. Due to structural changes in the industry, he found himself needing to make a change. He was unsure about what he wanted to do next. Fortunately, his CEO spouse had gifted him career coaching. For the first time in over two decades, he had time and support to reflect on “what’s next?” and “what matters” and “why.”
We started the engagement with a series of self-reported assessments. These included an autobiography sketch for the client to explore his skills, gifts and passions, and to learn the difference between them. He appreciated the process in which he stated: “we are crafting what a job search needs to be, and rooting it in my internal drivers.” It also gave him a good picture of how he had over-relied on his analytic skills, and not developed other strengths that were more aligned with his current level of leadership maturity.
The next step was for him to complete a Leader Dashboard for his career. This in-depth process distilled a range of complex information in a simple form. He was then able to use the findings to create key initiatives. These included outreach to industry executives in his network, Board opportunities, speaking, and his alumni network. He learned about what was critical for him to be satisfied at this stage of his career: to be a change agent in the healthcare industry as part of a team; to make a difference in the lives of others; to leverage his depth and breadth of industry knowledge, as well as his contacts.
We dived deeply into the self-exploration phase of the coaching. We engaged in helping him change his perceptions about what an effective career transition should look like. We offered him techniques to improve his communication abilities through becoming more curious, flexible, and open.
Our client appreciated the time to engage in reflective thinking. The coaching uncovered new career options, including academic and non-profit possibilities, which would utilize his background and potentially place him into a more fulfilling environment. We analyzed how his skills and experiences would fit into these types of positions, and layered in his work and life needs. He stated “I wouldn’t have valued new opportunities as much if I hadn’t done this work. I’m now asking: “what could this be?”
At this point in the engagement, he was ready to move into the tactical phase of career work. He was enthusiastic about the possibilities for what his future career would look like. We explored his powerbase, where he developed a detailed analysis of his key relationships and how critical they were to helping him target potential opportunities. We created a functional resume to showcase his breadth of skill and experience, as well as a Linked-In profile and outreach campaign. He began the active process of networking and job search, and our coaching continued with personal branding, an action plan, and interview role plays.
The entire coaching engagement took place over six months in seventeen sessions.
At the end of the engagement, my client was deeply immersed in job search, utilizing the networking skills he had developed in coaching. He was excited to move into a new career path, and had accepted a position in academics, with the addition of consulting, as a bridge to the next phase. He intended to continue to job search to find the “ideal job” for this stage.
At the end of our engagement he stated: “I’ve noticed more possibilities that weren’t there before, not only in terms of how I add value, but the way I engage. Before coaching, I was a man who had to have an answer. Now I’m the man that helps people find their answer.”
CASE STUDY 4
CASE STUDY 4: Team Unity Enhanced During Intense and Rapid Organizational Change
TEAM COACHING CASE STUDY