Strategic Executive Coaching: A Success Story

The ultimate value of Strategic Executive Coaching® (SEC) is that it improves bottom-line results by enhancing the effectiveness of executives. SEC ensures that actions taken and changes made during the coaching process are consistent with the organization’s vision, values, and strategy. The following success story helps demonstrates the ultimate value of SEC.

For the purpose of confidentiality, we have used a fictitious name for the participating company and all executives’ names have been withheld. The company is a Fortune 100 company. The level of individual being coached is senior vice president or above with a salary of $250,000+. The organization highlighted here followed the SEC process.

Before continuing, I am compelled to make a very important point. I firmly believe that the only way a coaching company can be of any help is if the client organization and the coaching company act as partners in the process.

Phase 1: Careful Contracting helps ensure such a symbiotic relationship. The CEO, the management team, and the caliber of the human resources department, as well as the persistence of the coachee, are the reason for successes. At Executive Coaching Network, Inc. (EXCN), we work hard to ensure success for our client organizations by establishing these criteria up front. We could not take credit without first giving credit to the people who sweat through the process.

A Success Story
In this case, our client was the CEO of an organization that had recently spun-off from its parent organization. (We will call the company NEWCO.). EXCN’s assignment was to help the CEO of NEWCO spin-off from the parent and establish a competitive culture. As you can imagine, the challenges and opportunities facing the CEO in preparation for the spin-off and IPO were enormous, not to mention the long-term challenge of sustaining results once the spin-off was complete.
NEWCO’s spin-off from its parent company presented a wonderful opportunity to implement the SEC strategic component as well as to individually coach executives through the process.

The Strategic Component
Prior to the spin-off, we set out to conduct our strategic analysis. We interviewed a large cross-section of employees from the CEO to front-line supervisors to individual contributors worldwide. During the interviews we asked several questions, including:

  • Is the NEWCO vision clear and compelling?
  • What kind of leader will be most successful in NEWCO?
  • How will the profile of the successful leader in NEWCO differ from the successful leader in the parent company?
  • What leadership characteristics best support the NEWCO image?

Through the interview process, we discovered that the vision and future direction of NEWCO were not as clear as the executive committee had anticipated. In addition, employees understood the strategy, but they did not understand how some business decisions fit into the strategy. We also discovered that the qualities that made a leader successful in NEWCO were decidedly different from those that made a leader successful in the parent company. At NEWCO, much more emphasis needed to be placed on innovation, sense of urgency, diversity, financial risk management, and similar attributes, skills, and behaviors.
Based on the information collected during the interviews, we created the NEWCO mindset (i.e., values and leadership practices) with the CEO, the executive team, and the VP of Human Resources. Once a draft of the NEWCO mindset was developed by the senior team, we sent it back out to the field for validation by employees (some of whom were interviewed originally and some were not). After several iterations, the NEWCO mindset was complete. The CEO and senior executive team then conducted a worldwide communications tour to introduce the NEWCO vision, strategy, values, and leadership practices to employees.
The CEO’s message was effective. The vision, mission, and strategy to achieve results were made clear. The CEO made the point to all employees: deliver results and live the NEWCO values and you have a future with NEWCO.

NEWCO used the mindset as the foundation for a 360-degree assessment. Through a rigorous process of validation, we finalized the NEWCO 360 assessment tool. The CEO (who was already participating in executive coaching) and the executive team participated in executive coaching using the NEWCO 360 assessment as the foundation for feedback. The CEO was adamant about ensuring that the top leaders were “walking their talk” and setting the tone for leadership development throughout the organization. By participating in both the 360 process and in executive coaching, the CEO set the standard for achieving results while living the NEWCO mindset. The CEO, who was focusing on successfully leading NEWCO through the IPO during the coaching, was first in line to receive feedback on the NEWCO 360.

Conduct Individual Executive Coaching
To kick-off the executive coaching, the executive team met for a one-day, offsite meeting. The CEO started the program by sharing the individual action plan developed during the coaching process. Because there were many other executive leadership topics on the agenda, just a portion of the day was spent on the executive coaching process and how the executives could best utilize their coach.

During the afternoon of the off-site, each executive had an initial face-to-face meeting with his or her coach. As part of the meeting with the coach, the executives received their NEWCO 360 assessment feedback report. Since this was the first time the executives had viewed the reports, it was not expected that they would complete their action-plan during the meeting. The coach and executive used their discretion to determine when they would meet to finalize the plan. The content of the action-plans developed varied by executive, but the focus was always on the strategic intention of the organization, even if the executive was focusing on interpersonal issues.

The goal of the second major meeting between the coach and the executive was to finalize the action-plan and prepare for a meeting with the CEO, who would review the plan’s contents and provide any additional suggestions. After this meeting, the executive was expected to meet with her or his direct reports and peers to validate the action plan.

For a period of six months, the coaching continued through a series of sessions. All sessions were driven by the strategic intent of NEWCO and the individual executive’s action-plan.

Assessing the Impact
EXCN’s impact studies indicate that:

  • NEWCO has continued to outperform others in the industry.
  • NEWCO has been named as a top-ten stock pick.
  • NEWCO’s CEO received a standing ovation on Wall Street.
  • NEWCO’s CEO has exceeded all expectations set forth by the Board.
  • Employees revere NEWCO’s CEO (as evidenced by the unsolicited letters and e-mails).
  • The quantitative follow-up research related to the individual executives indicates extremely positive outcomes.

How the Coaching Helped

  • The CEO was better prepared for the challenges facing a NEWCO CEO.
  • The CEO had developed a clear vision, mission, strategy, and goals that were clear and communicated throughout the organization.
  • The CEO carefully identified all stakeholders and spent time with them.
  • The NEWCO management team participated in the communication of the NEWCO vision, mission, strategy, and mindset with face-to-face meetings.

Why Was This Process Successful?

  • The CEO and senior management team were willing participants.
  • The VP of HR was a partner with the external coaching firm.
  • Corners weren’t cut in the initial strategic components of the process.
  • The entire organization was involved in the process and engaged in decisions that impacted them.
  • The timing was right to use the SEC process in the organization.

In the end, the results are clear. The organization’s executive team led the most successful IPO in the history of its industry and its stock continues to outperform the competition. All stakeholders greatly admire the CEO.
Can we be totally sure that this was a direct result of executive coaching? No. Are we convinced that it made a significant difference? Yes.

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