About my work
I train and coach senior leaders – CEO / Founder / Partner / Exec Team / Director / EVP – to optimize their style, interaction patterns, and decisions. The common thread among my clients is a rich curiosity to challenge status quo, openness to unusual perspectives, willingness to experience discomfort in the service of growth, and a desire to uncover the more significant, deeper themes underlying human dynamics.
How does someone choose the perfect coach?
With two good options, we will likely make a great choice; with dozens, we may make no choice at all. Between local coaches and those who work remotely, you have an abundance of choices when you are seeking leadership support. Below is a list of questions that may help you find your perfect fit. Many are questions I ask potential clients to assess our compatibility; some are questions they have asked me. Your responses will help determine if we are a good match.
If we aren't, please let me know if I can help you find a great coach. I have strong relationships with incredible colleagues and I’d love to connect you. Having a great coach in your corner is such a valuable catalyst for your growth, so please don’t let the process of getting started stop you from moving toward finding the right support. If you have questions, I would love to talk with you.
How long has the coach been in practice?
Every excellent professional starts somewhere, but how long a coach has been focused on her craft will tell you something about her experience with multiple types of engagements, how many mistakes she’s already made (and learned from!), her comfort with tricky situations, and her ability to adapt to changing organizational dynamics.
My first leadership coaching client began our work together in 2003 (we finished in 2004), and today he is in the c-level role of his profession at an incredible institution (10,000+ employees). I will always be grateful to him for giving me a chance to begin my work, and I can attest to how much I have evolved as a coach in the past 17+ years. Since then, I have worked in a wide variety of industries, witnessed the effects of many types of personalities and temperaments, and refined my ability to predict outcomes given complicating variables and players.
Does a coach specialize?
Whether a coach specializes is a shortcut to recognize those in the highest demand. When we are building our practices, we are naturally less specific. The more work we have, the better able we are to take on those opportunities to make the best use of our particular skill sets. In some ways, I still like new engagements of many different kinds, and I will always have room for a new challenge. That said, years of experience have revealed my specialties to be clients with a great deal of power (Founder/CEOs), partnership dynamics, interpersonal skill-building, and optimizing complex executive teams. Structurally, I gravitate to closely-held private firms and private-equity-funded businesses.
How did the coach develop expertise?
The professionalism of coaching increases every year, yet the barriers to entry remain very low. As a coach who believes my effectiveness is as much art as science, I do not believe certain credentials are necessary, and I know several highly gifted coaches with non-traditional and surprising backgrounds. All said, the training a coach has completed is one signal of her dedication and capacity that may be helpful as you make a decision about the best coach for you. Luckily for me (and hopefully for my clients) I knew at a very young age I wanted to study and influence leaders, so I focused every bit of my graduate training (two masters and a doctorate) in service to this profession. Since then, I have invested in varied professional development and continuing education courses, and I will continue to learn as much as I can as the work evolves.
As you consider a coach, you’ll likely see a close connection between formal training (or lack thereof) and style. If you’re hoping for a coach to tell you how to pitch to investors, don’t hire a psychologist. If you need help decoding stakeholders’ complex personalities and motivations, you’ll need someone with more than an MBA. If you want to talk, a great listener comes with many different – and sometimes no – fancy letters after their name.
What is the coach's philosophy?
Does the coach think deeply about the framework she brings to her work? With which lenses does she see the dynamics facing her clients? Knowing something about your coach’s perspective will tell you a lot about what she prioritizes.
I am strongly influenced by work as values-based self-expression; social interaction as a core human need; commerce as a mechanism of sustainable good; organizations as opportunities for positive social life; and people as naturally gifted and motivated for development. I am not shy about my foundation as a psychologist, and I believe I am valued as a partner as much for my practical experience with organizations as my academic training as a social scientist. Theoretically, I draw from sociological symbolic-interactionism, psychoanalytic group process, and positive organizational scholarship.
What does the coach look for in new clients?
A coach’s answer to this question tells you a lot about her values and style. In my case, I look for self-motivated, curious, ambitious leaders. Self-motivated, because I don’t have the patience or interest to hold people accountable to simple tasks. (I will gently ask you how you did with that thing-we-talked-about, but I won’t chase.) Curious, because I don’t know exactly where we will go, and I hope you’ll be interested in the possibilities and willing to explore options together. Ambitious, because I want our work to be deeply impactful to you and to others. Leaders, because I get the most satisfaction working with clients with responsibility to other people; knowing that your increased skillfulness and satisfaction will positively influence your colleagues, your teams, and your clients gives me a great deal of joy in my work.
How will we work together?
Many (most?) professional coaches use a defined process of some kind. As a client, you may seek an experience with a great deal of structure or one that is more flexible. The perfect coach for you will offer you a framework for your engagement that will feel right to you. I’d encourage you to find your inner Goldilocks and express your expectations with your coach. You’ll help the person you choose do their best work for you when they know what helps you learn.
Although each engagement feels very different to me because every client is so unique, my process generally follows this outline:
We will spend the first session (or a few) drawing a basic map of you, your company, and what brings you to coaching now. Some leaders come to me with a very defined idea of their goal and the outcomes they want to achieve, while others have more diffuse ideas.
As we explore the issues, your goals and needs become more clear. Rarely are they the exact thoughts you started with. Usually, there is at least a new (maybe unexpected) layer and often the core dynamics are quite different than you may have first realized. Different may not mean more complicated, either. As the goals become clear, you may immediately feel encouraged at the possibility. But yes, sometimes this first revelation makes obvious a deeper or more systemic issue that can’t be quickly resolved. (But then at least you know what it is.)
Once we have a good idea of what we are working with, we get to it. It might involve data gathering in the form of assessments or 360s, it might include a session with other stakeholders, or it might just look like a comfortable cadence of conversations. This phase is active, though…you’ll be focusing on aspects of your leadership, learning new concepts and skills, and refining your style to bring about exactly what you want and what your organization needs.
There will come a time when at least one of us knows we did what you came to do. Usually, I sense it before my clients, and I tell them I can feel we are ready to wrap. I don’t use contracts or commitments because I can’t predict this stage. Some clients have new focus areas as their original interests are resolved, and we rinse and repeat. How long we work together is a joint decision, but I am hugely supportive of your decision to pause or end coaching any time you like. When coaching ends, I often ask for a concluding session to reflect together, and those conversations are some of my favorite moments of this work. Leaders learn so much through this process; it is really incredible to witness.