Nicola Simpson Executive Coach and Career Coaching Case Studies
Here are a selection of case studies. It is by no means exhaustive, but, does give an idea about some of the more common issues that clients experience. Executive Coaching and Career Coaching is a confidential process hence I do not ask my clients for testimonials. Furthermore, with Career Coaching, in particular, many of the issues being dealt with are very private and not the kinds of things people want blasted all over a website. I have also previously worked professionally in marketing for 20+ years so I know all about testimonials and where they come from! This is why I advise people potentially interested in Executive Coaching and Career Coaching to arrange a free pre-coaching call/ Skype or meeting so we can discuss their situation and I will tell them how I think I can (or cannot) help. Then you decide.
Case 1 – Career Acceleration
An early-career executive approached me for coaching as she was seeking to accelerate her career within her organisation. She discussed her vision for the type of role she was seeking and together we explored different employment scenarios. Coaching helped her to clarify her goals and develop a plan of action. Crucially, it helped her to see how she could to leverage her MBA studies to build connections, access projects, solve organisational problems and, thereby, achieve the network and credibility required to achieve promotion.
B2B Case Study 1 – The New Senior Executive
I received an enquiry from a London-based PLC who were seeking a coach to work with an newly appointed Senior Executive. The organisation were keen to position the coaching as their investment in, and commitment to the development of this individual. My services included a 360-review followed by a series of coaching sessions focused on the key performance areas identified. As an external coach I brought the benefit of my professional experience into the coaching relationship, making it easier for the Senior Executive to be completely open and honest about their strengths, development areas and career challenges. As a result, the overall coaching experience was more impactful for both the individual and organisation.
Case 2 – Career Change
A high-performing and ambitious business executive came to see me. He held an impressive track record of having set-up and run successful businesses across a range of sectors and geographic markets, and yet once the thrill of the start-up had passed he felt a diminishing sense of job satisfaction. Consequently, he was seeking a new, more fulfilling career path and needed coaching to help him discern the options available to him and the actions he would need to take to move forward. He fed-back that the coaching really helped him to clarify his thinking about the type of work he wanted to do, and to plan and prioritise his longer-term career goals and actions.
B2B Case Study 2 – The Senior Executive Communication Breakdown
An organisation enquired about my executive coaching services and whether I could help a senior executive who was struggling with confidence and communication skills. I subsequently ran a couple of sessions with this individual who made rapid progress. The coaching enabled us to understand and work on the key issues in a neutral and non-judgemental environment. As a result the client was able to take the practical steps necessary to help improve his overall performance.
Case 3 – The Senior Executive’s First 90 Days
A client came to see me who had recently been appointed into a Senior Executive position at a new company. The role was a significant step-up and he recognised the benefits that coaching would bring to help him navigate some of the challenges ahead, including embedding a commercial mindset, restructuring the team, influencing internal politics and more. My role was to serve as a soundboard, to challenge his thinking and to hold him accountable for delivering on the goals he had set himself for his first 90 days and beyond. The coaching was so beneficial that he recommended my services to his organisation.
DO NOT be that executive turfed out after 12-18 months (it happens so often) because you did not plan your first 90 days! Sign-up for this essential coaching package now.
You can find details of my Planning your first 90 Days (Executive Coaching) package here!
Case 4 – Confidence Recovery
A new business entrepreneur sought my help as he was experiencing a loss of confidence. He was encountering numerous challenges and while many were common to start-up’s, his ability to manage them were causing him concern. We discussed the boundaries to his current knowledge and business expertise, identified the gaps and the risks these posed to the success of his enterprise. We discussed the options available to him, defined next steps and he committed to undertaking a number of key actions. He later fed-back his relief at having taken control of the problem and his renewed sense of confidence in his business activities.
Case 5 – You are NOT redundant!
I am really sorry this has happened to you. Redundancy, whether expected or not, can come as a shock. Like all change a redundancy sparks a period of transition and for many this can be deeply unsettling. It can trigger anxiety, depression and “why me”? mentality as well as tremendous sadness – the trust you had for your organisation has gone, along with your social network at the office. You suddenly find yourself alone at home wondering how you are going to get your next job and resurrect your career. What’s more, the clock is ticking, you need to take action and fast.
Like many people, you may realise that you are unfamiliar, or out of touch with the job market, you may not understand ‘how’ to promote yourself to recruiters and headhunters, your CV may need urgent updating and you may suddenly realise the importance of the LinkedIn network you previously ignored. As well as navigating the job search and application process, your interview skills and techniques may need some polish to help you to present yourself confidently, at a time when your confidence may have taken a knock.
As coach, I am here to help you to navigate the challenges of redundancy and to recognise that the short-term disruption to your life is just that… short term. You can do great things!
I also offer Gold and Platinum outplacement coaching packages. More details here.
Case 6 – Interview Technique
Your competition is strong and using an executive coach… so why aren’t you?
“Just to share the good news. I have got a job offer. Thought you’d like to have this feedback about the impact of your coaching. ”
“I GOT THE JOB!!!”
A client came to see me following another failed job interview. Having been job-hunting for some time he was starting to feel disillusioned by his lack of progress and frustrated by the constant rejection, which was now also affecting his confidence. We began our session by exploring his professional background, his career aspirations and his current approach to job search. Reflecting on the feedback he received from prior interviews, we explored his strengths and identified the gaps in his knowledge, skills and experience that may be holding him back. I also provided feedback on his CV and resources to help him better prepare for future interviews and secure his next appointment.
- Polishing interview skills and techniques
- Question practice and performance evaluation – may include video analysis (sorry, I know it is really painful and no one likes it, but, you have to see yourself how others see you and not just rely on how you think they see you).
- Unique Bespoke Question Deck
- Presentation development and feedback (if applicable) – If you are asked to deliver a presentation I will help you create one that will blow your competition out of the water!
- Converting Introversion into Extroversion
- Develop positive narratives, for example, to explain gaps in employment, a number of short positions, or a current or previous job that may of gone a bit pear shape
- Cross Cultural Tactics – Critical for female Chinese nationals in Hong Kong being interviewed for Executive roles in European or American companies / institutions where the culture is completely different. We will address the key issues so that you are not at a disadvantage to your competitors who are already used to being interviewed by, and working for, these kinds of businesses
You can view my Mastering Interview Coaching 101 and Masterclass packages here.
Case 7 – I Really Do Not Need 9+ Sessions
A client of mine who was a high achiever had recently been made redundant and wanted to engage in career coaching to sort out his CVs and to consider his options before he fell into the same kind of role again. This individual was highly focused, knew exactly what outcomes he required, and was adamant he did not need, and had no interest in, 9+ sessions. He just wanted some immediate impact. This is why I provide a transparent and flexible model. These kinds of individuals do not have time or interest in being tied into long commitments they do not require even if money, as in this case, was not a problem. We had three sessions covering his CVs and areas we needed to discuss and address. This was the first time in a long time the client had met somebody who would challenge positively his way of thinking and I must say the verbal jousting was something I looked forward to each session. In the end the headstrong client would yield and accept I was making valid suggestions. We got there in the end. After three sessions the client was laser focussed on what he wanted to do next and I am glad to say he also took advantage of my Mastering Interviews Coaching Special session for a MD role he subsequently got. Job done in four sessions!
Case 8 – Building Brand YOU!
Who are you? It’s a big question and yet one to which we must all have an answer. Our professional brand is our statement of purpose, vision and mission. It describes not only who we are, and where we are in our career, but also the value and benefits we bring to others through our work. This session is designed to help you to develop your professional brand, by selecting appropriate words, phrases and imagery you will be able to clearly and confidently articulate your brand – authentically. Whether networking, preparing for interview, presentations or pitches being able to communicate your brand is essential. Drawing on my extensive marketing and coaching expertise, this session will help you to define, develop and pitch your professional brand with impact.
Case 9 – My New Boss is Freezing Me Out
A client came to me because she was unhappy with how her relationship with a new boss was developing. Despite being collegial, welcoming and ready to support her new boss he just simply failed to engage straight off the bat. It did not help that both she and he had applied for the same role (it never will). After a few months the client felt that she was being deliberately excluded from conversations she would normally have been involved in. This is the first stage of a classic and deeply unpleasant strategy where the new boss follows a strategy to slowly drive an individual to a point where they are so unhappy that they resign. At this point the client is just a little paranoid and has a feeling they are being frozen out, but, has no evidence. The next stage is that the client is then excluded from meetings. Now the client knows there is a campaign against her, but, when she attempts to engage with the new boss she is brushed off and ultimately ignored. The final stage is that the new boss actively operates a negative PR campaign behind her back and as usual in order to save their jobs colleagues around her side with the boss. She is now totally alone. There are only two outcomes here. Either the client leaves or the new boss leaves (gets fired) – the latter only happens 1 in 10 times. My client was very distressed and ready to walk out which is what the new boss wanted as that meant no need for a payoff. I sat down with the client and we discussed a day to day coping strategy on how to deal with this toxic boss while we worked on an exit strategy. I am pleased to say the client got a better job and is a lot happier. Without his despicable behaviour my client would not have made a career move to a better job. After she was settled I also advised my client to send a ‘Thank You’ card to her former toxic boss so that he knows she is in a much better place and that it is all down to his toxic behaviour. It is important to take back the power. And, we’ll remember the colleagues who sided with him.
Case 10 – Coaching Teams – Accountability
An HR Director contacted me seeking a session to increase accountability from her team, individually and collectively. Working in partnership with the HR Director I developed a bespoke workshop, giving her the opportunity to raise and discuss this important topic with her staff. The workshop consisted of:
- A pre-session individual diagnostic
- An interactive workshop on the topic of individual and team accountability
- Group work planning how greater accountability will be achieved
- Facilitated discussion re: strengths and blockers
- Making commitments
- Post-session follow-up / reflection exercise
Bringing together my expertise in learning design and coaching, sessions such as this are carefully crafted to ensure objectives are met. For more information about how I can work with you to help your team improve performance please get in touch.
Case 11 – Return From Career Break
I met with a lady who had been out of the job market for some years, having taken a career break to focus on her family. With her kids now older she was starting to think about returning to work but simply didn’t know where to begin. Over several sessions we worked on her career plan, looking at her short, medium and long-term career goals and the steps she would need to take to achieve them. Planning to return to work need not be a daunting prospect, with careful planning and support my client made the transition back into the workplace she was seeking, while maintaining the life balance she needed to make that transition successful.
Case 12 – Say Goodbye to Impostor Syndrome
A client came to see me who was unsure whether he needed coaching or mentoring, but knew he wanted to speak to someone neutral about his challenges at work as there was no one he could turn to at his work without looking weak. This client had recently been promoted and was expected to chair regular meetings with important stakeholders and manage several projects in both London and the US. By consulting myself before important meetings at least once or twice a month so we could discuss the best strategy and approach he should take he has grown as a leader and built up his confidence. Furthermore, the client has also received excellent feedback from his senior management who have been impressed with his performance since promotion. Even his peers have ‘noticed a change’. Further career progression is inevitable. It is lonely at the top and so as coach I often perform the important role of business confidant / professional advisor, helping clients achieve clarity and perspective away from the gaze of colleagues and thereby, to retain their cool head, focus and high performance at work. Imagine making the right decision EVERYTIME! How cool would that be? Now you can. Turn Impostor into Imposing.
Case 13 – Surviving a Professional Shipwreck
When plunged into the open ocean of a professional shipwreck it can be helpful to draw upon the advice given to people who find themselves in a real-life shipwreck situation, that is, when plunged suddenly into cold water – don’t panic, float until you adjust to the shock and can breath again. This action will stop you drowning. Similarly, being unexpectedly fired or made redundant can feel like being plunged into the ocean of uncertainty. Don’t panic – let coaching support you and keep you buoyed as you do the work necessary to transition to dry land. As coach, I have worked with many people in exactly this situation, so if this resonates with you, please get in touch.
Case 14 – The Toxic Boss
An executive came to see me who was struggling to deal with a toxic boss, a leader who was pursuing my client on a daily basis, with unreasonable, unpredictable and unprofessional behaviour. Thinking he was to blame, he sought coaching. I helped him to make sense of the situation – which was a clear case of workplace bullying. Together we explored the many career options available to him, as a result he planned his exit, undertook a higher education programme and is now happily pursuing a much more satisfying career path.
Case 15 – The Passive-Aggressive Workplace
Clients in this scenario often report that while everything looks good on the surface of their organisation they just can’t shake this feeling that ‘something’ isn’t quite right. Perhaps you sense an undercurrent of fear or aggression in your company? For example, perhaps you have a colleague who shares just enough information to be helpful, but holds back on the one critical piece that could help you to solve a problem, choosing to take pleasure in your trouble and difficulty instead. Is it me you ask? No, you are working in a passive-aggressive environment and such behaviour is infectious. Coaching can help you make sense of this situation and determine your response, including your future career decisions.
Case 16 – The Working Mother
A working mother came to see me to explore her career options. With three young children, a long commute and mounting childcare costs, the strain of being a working mum was taking it’s toll and she was pondering her ability to ‘have it all’ and whether she even wanted ‘it all’ anyway. It’s true that upon entering motherhood many women (myself included) are dismayed by the work/life juggle and just how challenging this can be in practice. It can leave you tired, anxious, stressed and guilty and that’s even before you’ve arrived at work. Working with my client, I wondered what ‘having it all’ meant to her and whether her focus may need to shift to ‘having enough’ and enjoying life more. We explored her options and in this case she decided to make a soft exit from her full-time employment and transition into a portfolio career which afforded her greater flexibility, and having ditched the daily commute she found she had even more time to be with her young family.
Case 17 – The Emotional Executive
I recently worked with an executive who was very emotional about her professional situation. Having been made redundant numerous times in the past she was feeling very insecure about her current employment situation. She came to coaching for support and to explore whether it was time to make a career change. Within her professional context we explored her options and a number of strategies she could use to help her to take control of her work and her working environment. Simultaneously, she undertook counselling to address her anxiety issues. The combination of counselling and coaching enabled her to effectively tackle her inner feelings, while taking practical steps to improve her immediate professional situation and formulate a new plan for her future.
Case 18 – The Portfolio Career
If you just can’t find ONE job that meets all your career priorities, or if you are seeking more flexibility between work and the rest of your life, then you may want to consider running a portfolio career. Clients frequently come to see me to learn more about what a portfolio career is and how it could work for them. Key areas of our work include: how to make the shift to a portfolio mindset, how to design a portfolio and how to successfully launch and manage a portfolio career in the long term. More and more people are working in this way and so if this is of interest to you please get in touch.
Case 19 – The Entrepreneur
Perhaps you just set-up your business, or you are an established entrepreneur seeking to develop your brand and grow your enterprise into the next phase of its development. In either case, understanding how to manage your business and your-self can be tricky. I work with clients to help them to better understand the mission, vision and values for their business, to set goals and gain a deeper understanding of their target market. We work together to develop your value proposition, brand identity and more to help you to maximise your impact and revenue potential. Sessions will be tailored to meet your specific needs, enquire today for more information.
Case 20 – You might be on probation, but, so is your company!
I really do not like the use of the word probation in business given its important use in the criminal justice process. It is just not a great word that screams positivity. How often do you hear someone who has started a new a job shout out “Hey, I’m on probation! How great is that?”. Probation hangs over an employee like the sword of Damocles and a stick to beat the employee if they dare step out of line or to make them do unreasonable requests. It is also used as a semi-bullying tactic by the business that can leave a new employee completely helpless and subservient for fear of losing their new job. So, we need to remind the company that the door swings both ways and while you may be on probation so is your new employer and there is no guarantee that you may take the job after probation ends.
I will work with people who have had a bumpy start who want to give it a go, despite, already having some misgivings about the new job. Unfortunately, in my experience that gut feeling is usually correct so it is important to work on Plan B at the same time! You’ll give the job a go and I will help coaching you through this period advising you so that you will know that you always gave it your best shot. But, if the job does not work out as was promised you will have the confidence knowing that if YOU decide not to take the role permanently you already have a new strategy in motion. Remember, you decide to work for them, NOT, the other way around. This is YOU taking the power back.
Case 21 – The Ejector Seat!
There are many reasons why you have to press the red button and eject from a company. I would normally advise you wait it out while we deploy a strategy that creates a soft landing such as a temporary role in absence of a full time job. However, your current job may be unbearable and you are under extreme stress from bullying and being expected to work all the hours. As a result your mental and physical health is suffering. This cannot go on, you will have a breakdown. It is inevitable. We may need to get you out of there ASAP. Remember, your company has no loyalty to you and if it can it will make you redundant. In fact, it probably is already planning to which is part of the reason you are so stressed. You need to think about yourself. It may leave colleagues in a difficult situation, but, you have to look after number 1. It is, after all, you who pays the mortgage.
You need a plan B. However, like many people, you may realise that you are unfamiliar, or out of touch with the job market, you may not understand ‘how’ to promote yourself to recruiters and headhunters, your CV may need urgent updating and you may suddenly realise the importance of the LinkedIn network you previously ignored. As well as navigating the job search and application process, your interview skills and techniques may need some polish to help you to present yourself confidently, at a time when your confidence may have taken a knock. This is all about you taking the power back and taking control of your career. It is important to remember you will get another job. Time to eject!
Case 22 – Gross Misconduct
A client of mine came to me after being fired for gross misconduct. Understandably the client was severely distressed after making a silly mistake which ultimately lead to the termination of their contract. The client understood they had made a mistake and was desperate to make amends. It was also clear to me that the company was partly at fault as it was clearly obvious the client had also been a victim of politics and their silly mistake had given the company all it needed to remove them from their employment. If the client had come earlier we could have navigated the exit more cleanly and if necessary supported by legal counsel. Unfortunately, this was not an option and this individual was in a situation where they will have to own up to previously being terminated for gross misconduct on future job applications. We developed an effective narrative around the dismissal, a strategy for applying for jobs and how to approach the elephant in the room during interviews. The client was a high achiever who made one silly mistake and I am glad to say they got a new job offer within eight weeks and a couple of coaching sessions. They will not make that mistake again…
Case 23 – The Indecisive – Should I do Coaching?
I had a client who could just not decide whether to take the plunge and arrange a free 30-minute pre-coaching call / Skype or meeting by appointment. He would visit the website daily for two weeks and just ‘lurk’ at lunchtimes. Clearly, a little voice in his head was telling him to come here and yet each time he stopped short of arranging a free call. I cannot make it any clearer on my website than already. My pricing is totally transparent and flexible. For example, there is no pressure to sign up for 9+ sessions and it is Pay as You Go. I do not run the typical coaching model that relies on the unethical ICF trained strategy of acquiring a small number of vulnerable ‘whales’ and locking them into long commitments with full payment upfront. For many coaches that is the only way they can make a profit. Hence, when we do have a call/meeting it is just an open conversation discussing your situation. At the end of which I will tell you what I can or cannot do for you and if necessary I may suggest coaching. There is no obligation for you to agree then and there. I would rather you went away and had a good think about it. One thing I can guarantee is that if you do nothing everything will stay the same. Is that what you want? Anyway, this client finally made a booking, his coaching focussed on several career progression limiting areas and ultimately he got promoted. See, it wasn’t that hard was it?
Case 24 – How Do I Know I Have a Good Coach?
I had a potential client ask this. My answer is this. It is very easy to become a coach. Too easy. I would always advise whoever you go with to ensure your coach was educated at a reputable business school or Russell Group university. Coaching training schools are a dime a dozen and there will be an enormous difference in the quality of learning between a coach trained at a top business school or Russell Group university compared to one who trained at a churn and burn coaching training centre located above a Fish n’ Chip shop in Ealing. I was trained at Henley Business School. More worryingly, I have even met coaches who have not had any formal coaching education operating in the market! Speaking to a potential coach is important and even better if you can meet them in the place of coaching so you can get a feel for the set up. I have a permanent office at 60 Cannon Street on a long lease. It has 4 walls and privacy glass. You are not in the open so your conversation will not be overheard as it would be in an open plan office/environment (such as WeWork) and you will not be seen. Privacy is paramount. There are also no people walking around with free pints of beer in their hands getting louder and rowdier as the afternoon wanes. I would also advise some simple checks like the coach being on the coaching register where they claimed they trained and background checks on LinkedIn are also advised. For example, was their previous job a shelf stacker at Sainsburys? Not that I have anything agianst shelf stackers, but, you get my point. If a coach really insists on a full multiple sessions upfront payment make sure you ask about the refund options. I operate a Pay As You Go Model. You will only ever pay for one session in advance unless you really want to pay in full upfront.
Case 25 – I Don’t Need a Coach
I had a client who came to see me after an unhappy exit from his previous company. He was clearly rather bruised and battered from the experience leading up to and the actual exit. The client quite rightly figured that some coaching would help him make sense of what had happened and get his head straight and focused for a new job. After a productive first session the client revealed he was in the frame for several interviews including one job that was a perfect fit. I advised that a Mastering Interview Masterclass session would be recommended especially given the wounds were still quite raw. The client thought he had it covered and felt he did not need any more help. Unfortunately, the client failed to get both jobs leaving him even more dejected than before. It did not help that there was an unnecessary focus on the client’s previous job and the unhappy exit. The client still had some negative baggage and the potential employers picked up on this. Employers want someone who can step in and do the job. They are not interested in acquiring someone they are going to have to carry and repair. If they detect you are even slightly wounded they will drop you like a stone. No one wants damaged goods, it is just not their problem. They want to generate revenue and profits and not waste their time massaging someone’s pride. There is a time and a place to air your frustrations (with a partner or your coach), but, it is definitely not in an interview!
If the client had done a Mastering Interview Masterclass session we would have addressed this head on, developed a positive narrative around his exit, and role played the appropriate response. After, the client admitted defeat and came back and had a few more coaching sessions and did finally get a job he wanted in the end. The point is, yes, you can save money, but, that might mean you experience more knockbacks in the meantime and it definitely takes longer. You might think you know everything you need to know. You do not. Taking up coaching has two benefits… 1) it gets results QUICKER and 2) while it does cost, so does lost opportunity and that costs A LOT more i.e. every month you are not working that is lost salary. Do the maths. And, if that was not enough while you are looking for a job there is your mental wellbeing to consider as well which can have a negative impact on those around you. You do need a coach.
Case 26 – The Expat
An executive working for an investment bank based in Hong Kong contacted me about career coaching. The client was planning to return to the UK with his family after working abroad for over 10 years. He had negotiated a very attractive severance and was looking for a role in London. In order to facilitate this the client engaged my services for career coaching while still in Hong Kong. The coaching sessions were initially via Skype and focused on making the client highly marketable (CV / LinkedIn reviews) and how to position himself in the employment market which had changed considerably since he was last in the job market. When the client landed back in the UK he was good to go and because he had done all the ground work previously interviews were quickly forthcoming. The client then took advantage of my Mastering Interview Masterclass package as it had been a number of years since his last interview and in the end got offered several jobs. If you do the work, you will see the results.
Case 27 – The Too Polite Female Chinese Executive
A Female Chinese national executive based in Hong Kong employed my services to help her prepare for a senior appointment at a well known European Brand. Her experience and education were excellent and on paper the role was hers. However, she struggled to sell herself. I see this a lot particularly with female Chinese nationals where culturally they still find it difficult to say what they want and be more forthright like their American and European counterparts. Our sessions looked at confidence (you can do this!). It sounds simple, but, if you don’t ask you don’t get so we needed to add a little ‘edge’ in a nice way. Her competitors will certainly be telling the company why they are so good and should be employed. It was critical my client did as well. When you go to an interview you have to own it and show them that the job is yours and that you are the solution to their problem. If you want the job you are going to have to destroy the opposition. Nice guys and girls always come last. If you are sitting there hoping you will get noticed and rewarded. Forget it. You have to take it and make it yours. These sessions were all done via Skype and I am pleased to say the client “owned it”.