From SVP to President with Clarity through Executive Coaching

The challenge

Graham was an SVP at a tech company when he met with a Boda coach as part of another executive’s 360 review. As the meeting wrapped up, he said, “It’s been a few years since I worked with a coach and really looked at how I’m leading. Maybe I should try that again.”

Graham had two coaching objectives. First, he had recently become part of the senior leadership team (SLT), and he wasn’t sure how to interact with his new SLT colleagues. Second, he suspected that the leadership paradigm that had served him well for many years was now outdated, and that he wasn’t as effective as he could be. He wanted a new approach for his leadership as his role continued to expand.

The Boda approach

Meeting with his coach every two weeks, often for two hours at a time, gave Graham the opportunity to dig deeply into his experiences as a leader, his values, and the organizational context. He closely examined his assumptions, beliefs, and perspectives on leadership.

To help Graham think about how to navigate the SLT and consider a new leadership approach, his coach conducted an extensive 360 review, talking with all of his direct reports, his SLT peers, the CEO, and a few other senior stakeholders. The coach asked them about Graham’s strengths and development areas, as well as what it was like for them to work with Graham and what hopes they had for him in the future. Graham also participated in a quantitative 360 assessment.

The 360 process uncovered the range of Graham’s valuable strengths: strategic insight, vision, the ability to make sense of extraordinarily complex situations, poise under pressure, and deep caring for his team and colleagues. It also revealed that the company wanted Graham to act more quickly and decisively, to exert more of his well-earned influence in the SLT, and to push back on the CEO more frequently. Graham and his coach learned that he was under-using many of his strengths, and the company wanted him to bring them forward.

Working with his coach, Graham realized that his leadership style had been hands-off, relying heavily on delegation. Though this approach had proven valuable, the company was embarking on a massive shift in strategy that would require him to be more directive and hold the bar much higher for his team. He realized he needed to shift from the mindset of “I’m here to help my team succeed” to “I’m here to support my team and make sure we achieve our objectives.” This mindset shift was subtle but important.

Learning how to navigate the SLT was more nuanced. Conversations and exercises with his coach helped Graham see that he often second-guessed himself with the SLT and subconsciously believed that he didn’t have as much to contribute as the others, so he kept quiet. Once he realized this limiting belief and what he actually brought to the team, he started participating fully in the SLT and received a positive response from the team.

The results

Two years into coaching, Graham has a new vision for his leadership that leverages his strengths. He’s more engaged and decisive. He contributes as an equal member of the SLT and led the development of the company’s new strategy. He was recently promoted to the role of president.

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