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 or Google reviews (the latter of which are more fake than true anyway). 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 – 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 35 New Broad Street, London EC2M 1NH which is 1 minute from the Liverpool Street tube station (use the Old Broad Street exit!) and 5 minutes from Moorgate tube station. 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. Some people are under enormous stress and can get upset when the pressure plug is removed. It needs to be a safe space. There are also no people walking around with free pints of beer in their hands getting louder and rowdier as the afternoon wanes. You should also know that all coaches operate independently and most will have their own websites so go DIRECT! Going with a company that claims to be a larger provider does not mean big is better. The coaching will still be 1 to 1, you are just going to pay nose bleed prices. The self proclaimed market leaders in the UK are nothing more than shop windows and glorified portals that act as an intermediary that simply places a coach with a client. Websites claiming to be market leaders typically only have 1 or 2 employees. All their coaches are sub-contracted. So, when someone says to me that I am not as big as other coaching companies my reply is that I only have one less employee than the market leaders! The problem is the more people who want to get into the team photo and take their pound of flesh the more expensive the coaching. I would always recommend going direct to your coach because it is SO MUCH CHEAPER! 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 5 – Even Clark Kent was Bullied
I meet many very clever well educated individuals who have very impressive CVs and on the face of it who should be incredibly confident and successful. These people have had great jobs, done well and their career has progressed nicely. They have wanted for nothing and are those kind of people others look up to and think “I want to be like them”. And, then the duff job with the bully comes along and that super confident successful individual is crushed leaving them a broken. Their nerves are shattered, they are extremely unhappy, they start to question their own actions, stutter in meetings (with the bully), make silly mistakes and lose all confidence. How did we get from a Mr or Mrs Success to this? This is what bullying does and this is how it affects you. The problem is that we are ill-equipped to deal with it. Up until now everything has been great and we just do not have any reference points when it comes to bullying and we are unable to compute what is happening to us. Many do not have prior experience of being bullied as the career path has always been smooth and open. No one has ever chucked grenades at them, deliberately laid landmines in their path and sniped from afar out of malice just to mess with them. When an individual encounters this behaviour they are shocked and simply do not know how to deal with it. You are absolutely on your own as you cannot complain to HR because they will mark you down as “NOT LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL” and most likely add your name to the next cull spreadsheet (which is what the bully wants!). By now you are a bag of nerves and this has happened because you have never been tested and it can feel like having the floor beneath you removed. Someone reading this may think ‘this will never happen to me’, but, I guarantee no one is immune as there is always someone more powerful out there. Clients typically come to me after they have left/been exited and are broken and bruised and carrying a lot of baggage that is impacting their job hunt materially. They are suffering in silence at home. Career coaching is the first step in getting some help. With career coaching we will analyse what happened and then rebuild the confidence, creating some resilience markers so you can deal more effectively with bullying in the future. It will happen again. Everyone has a duff job on their CV (I have one I am not proud of), however, no one died so we will learn from this as it is what you do next that counts.
Case 6 – MBA…Now What?
Congratulations! You have graduated with an MBA like 5,000 other people this year. And, that is the point. There was a time when an MBA opened doors. Now it will at best get you in the queue outside a shut door. It is what you do next that counts. One of my clients had recently got his MBA, but, he was struggling where to go next. Especially as it soon dawned on him that after getting the MBA there was not the amazing job and utopian ideology that all business schools spin to get you to hand over massive amounts of cash so you can add three letters to the end of your name (if you are that vain). I describe the dawning realization that the MBA is not quite what it is expected to be as the ‘Wylie Coyote effect’… remember when poor Wylie runs off the cliff and keeps going for a while before inevitably falling. While completing studies you are highly motivated and enjoying the high quality peer interaction. However, once you get the MBA and everyone goes their separate ways you can come crashing down, like poor old Wylie, as you turn up to your old job. My client was in that hole. He now had a prestigious MBA, but, was still working in a role that was quite frankly beneath him. We worked together to identify and target the roles that would be of interest to him and befitting of his MBA. It was important not to jump at the first thing that came along. He had an MBA. It was critical he think deeply about the next role so that he could leverage off the MBA and his material investment. As I said to him “You are an MBA. You don’t just go for any old job. You are at the top of the pile. You go for the great jobs” (unfortunately like the other 5,000!). That is why he needed coaching so that he could career plan and then benefit from interview coaching so that he would have an edge. Nowadays those three letters are not an instant job offer. In fact, when someone says to me they are thinking about doing an MBA I always ask why? What are your goals? What do you hope to achieve? To be honest, if they cannot answer those three questions then they might as well save their money and do some short Executive Education courses at a reputable business school.
Case 7 – 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 8 – 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 offer Gold, Platinum and Diamond outplacement coaching packages. More details here.
Case 9 – 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 10 – 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 11 – New York, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore Executive Career Coaching – Found in Translation
Technology is a beautiful thing. Now it does not matter where you are in the world because we can still work together. All we need is a phone, tablet or computer. International coaching, for me, started with people I worked with referring me to their friends and family and before I knew I was working with people 1,000’s of miles away including one who was referred to me by her sister who lived in London and who dated a guy (once!) on Tinder who I had previously worked with! I LOVE THIS! How cool is that to be able to help someone change their life for the better and who’s path I would never normally cross. Executive Career Coaching is perfect for today’s modern communication technology as it is a conversation augmented with work sent to and fro by email. As a result, the international business has grown and I now give Google a lot of money every month to advertise exclusively in London, New York, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore which is why you are here. And, which is why I am here. My Executive Career Coaching model works really well with these places and is proven. We don’t need to be in the same room to work together. If you have friends or family in London by all means ask them to pop round and kick the tyres. Maybe they want Executive Career Coaching too! There is no risk and only upside. I trained as an Executive Coach at Henley Business School (the Henley Professional Certificate in Coaching is accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF), Association for Coaching (AC) and the European Mentoring & Coaching Council (EMCC)), invoices are sent via Square (which has conflict resolution and you are only invoiced in advance per session anyway) and I have a permanent office in the City of London (you can find me on Google Maps). I AM REAL! There are no borders anymore. Now you can choose the best Executive Career Coach for you regardless of where you are in the world. You can do great things!
Case 12 – 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 13 – I Applied for the Boss Job and Got a New Boss
Applying for the top role has great benefits – your career, status and money. However, you may not be the only one applying for the role and in my experience it all seems to go a bit pear shape when someone else gets the top job. You may have felt you were ready for the top role, and probably were, so this knockback really bruises the ego. Unfortunately, the worst is yet to come. I have never come across a situation where an external applicant who gets the top role does not then take it out on his/her competition. You will always be the threat to him/her because you dared to go for the top job. And, may still harbour that very ambition. It does not matter how reasonable you may have been. Clients I have worked with have been good losers, prepared to be collegial and extremely welcoming. However, every time it always turns ugly. When I interview coach clients going for the top role and against competition it is also important I make the consequences clear. If you do not get the top job you have to leave 1) because if the company does not want you another will and you are ready for the next stage of your career progression and 2) your new boss will make your life hell and do everything they can to exit you. No ifs, no buts. It is important you go into the interview process eyes wide open and give it EVERYTHING (hence the interview coaching). When some of my clients didn’t get the top job we worked together to develop an exit strategy. It will never play out any other way than you leaving either by your own volition or exited with extreme prejudice. Take control of your career and exit with style.
Case 14 – Ambush!
A client came to me who was having issues with his new boss. This had not escalated to the ‘My New Boss is Freezing Me Out’ case study yet, but, his boss’ behaviour was unpleasant. As a senior member of the team my client would have to report monthly to his boss and more senior management. Despite diligent preparation as soon as he would start to speak he would be AMBUSHED! Every month like clockwork. The client would struggle to recover in the meeting after a barrage of fastballs and was rightly concerned his performance was viewed negatively by senior management. The new boss clearly wanted to exert control and status and one way to do that is to make everyone else look poor. His boss would spin a positive ideology about himself in front of senior management who would then believe this individual was a great hire especially as the existing staff were clearly so low quality. This behaviour needs to be nipped in the bud and put back in their box. The immediate solution people think about is flight (and a new job) as that would be easier. But, it is not. The grass is not always greener especially if you make a knee jerk reaction and take the first thing that crops up. You will encounter this behaviour for your entire career so you need to learn how to manage it and instead of flight you fight. I worked with the client on a strategy for dealing with this individual and provided a number of tools and techniques to help him put his new boss back in his box. We also did career planning as it does not hurt in case the new boss moved on to Phase 2 (freezing my client out) and this gives the client options if they just decide they do not want to work with such an unpleasant character. The key thing is that you have to learn how to manage this. It will happen again. My client was now prepared in case he came across this behaviour in the future wherever he ended up. Take control of your career and exit with style.
Case 15 – 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. Take control of your career and exit with style.
Case 16 – Why Haven’t You Got a Blog or a Book?
“What?”. I took on a client who had just started up as a career coach and who was struggling to generate a client list who asked me why I did not have a blog or a book. My simple answer is that I would rather spend my time helping people instead of spending hours downloading random opinions and feeding the infinite vacuum that is the internet. The other reason was no one reads them anyway. My career coach client was adamant that all career coaches must have a blog and a book in order to get noticed. This is a myth and falsehood peddled by companies offering SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) services (i.e. moving up the Google natural search rankings) and Coaching training companies. The latter will tell you that you need to be a thought leader to succeed and by creating a blog and writing a book you are ticking the thought leadership box. WRONG!… on both counts. There is a massive difference between opinion leadership (blogging or writing about an opinion) and thought leadership which comes from a research lead place. I am an academic. I have worked with many famous academics and not a single one has a blog… Thought leadership, in my view, is grounded in academia where one actively researches a chosen field and you have the credibility and credentials to back up what you are saying. Otherwise anyone can say, blog or write for that matter “Hey!, I’m an expert”. Thought leadership is all about the quality and credibility of what is being published. He or she who blogs/tweets etc the most is not necessarily delivering high quality content and is more likely potentially creating more noise to feed the infinite vacuum. Yes, writing a blog or book might serve to build brand visibility, but, it is counter-productive if the messaging falls short of making an authoritative thought leadership point and is just an opinion. And, here is the rub. When it comes to blogs most are not even written by the coaches. I get at least one email a week from companies offering ghost writing blog services such as “We help coaches brand themselves by creating content that positions them as authority figures and thought leaders in their market…”. … ‘thought leaders’… sure… ok. I spent two years developing my thought leadership research for my PhD (which I have parked for the moment). If only I knew back then it was so easy to become a thought leader I would not have wasted two further years in University after already gaining three degrees including two masters! So, not only is a blog not thought leadership and at best an opinion it may not even be the opinion of the person you are lead to believe it is! Personally, I would rather spend my time with clients than serve the google search engine overlords chasing search engine rankings. Am I really helping anybody writing blog? Nope. Am in the business of helping people. Yes!
Case 17 – Impossible Mission
A client came to me with a view to exiting her company after experiencing some increasingly difficult behaviour by her senior management. Despite being a senior member they had moved her sideways under the pretence of a ‘restructuring’ which left her isolated and vulnerable in this new role. The company then proceeded to grind her down with toxic and demotivational behaviour and as a result my client just leaked confidence as the company dehumanised her by removing all her power. Once we get to this stage the company will deploy the impossible mission in order to exit the employee and even Tom Cruise would struggle to succeed at this. The impossible mission sets the employee up for inevitable failure which means the company now thinks that gives it sufficient evidence to exit the employee easier and cheaper due to ‘poor performance’. By now, the employee has been isolated, told they have done a bad job and ground down to a point where they will take anything the company offers just to leave. Well that is what is supposed to happen, but, not if I have anything to say about it. By chance my client was already working with me on exiting when she got the ‘at risk’ notice so we diverted coaching resources to ensuring she got the best package possible. It was important that she documented every conversation, meeting or incident on a timeline (we will need that for when we deploy the lawyer and I will recommend a great one that is very affordable!). We discussed strategies for how to handle the meetings with HR as it is critical you follow the process all the way through to the appeal, ACAS consultation and ultimately lawyers. They will eventually pay up to make it all go away as it is very time consuming and distracting for senior management and company lawyers charge the earth, but, you have to hold the line. And, the best part is companies will pay up to £3,000 for outplacement coaching if you push for it. My client negotiated outplacement coaching as part of the package which meant she could not only take advantage of career and interview coaching masterclass sessions, but, she could also invest in her professional development with some tailored executive coaching with yours truly. Take the power back and exit with style.
Case 18 – Singapore Sling
Being made redundant can come as a shock and be incredibly distressing leaving you in a very confused state. What do you do? Where do you start? It’s overwhelming. At the same time the company is taking advantage of this and probably trying to screw you with your compensation package. This is when mistakes and bad decisions happen that you will later regret. Now throw in the added variable that you, and your family, are going to be forced to leave your home and be thrown out of the country in three months because your resident/work visa is tied to the job! ‘Welcome to Singapore… You will leave… we guarantee it!”… it’s not the best Tourist/Worker strapline, but, it is 100% true. You will leave. In fact, Singapore is making it harder for ex-pats as they want to replace them with locals. I call this the Singapore Sling. I work with clients who reach out to me after being made redundant and are facing the prospect of being slung out of the country imminently. As much as I would like to give them all a job and reinstate their visa I am not superwoman. But, what I am very good at is career planning. It provides structure and focus. It creates sense of the chaos that they are swirling in. You are in a maelstrom and I will help navigate you through the whirlpool. We will build a narrative, work on the CV and professional profile and develop a job hunt strategy. Clients will also be encouraged to reach out to the network. We have to be realistic since finding a job in three months is difficult anywhere even when the sword of Damocles is not hanging over your head. However, the important thing is you are now doing something positive about it. Don’t ask, don’t get. That is how it works. What career coaching will bring to a party is a normalisation, for you and your family, so that you can look for that job and manage the obvious stresses being applied on you. What will happen will happen. It is what you do next that counts. These sessions are conducted via Skype and work excellently with work emailed back and forth. Do not underestimate the power of career coaching. Drinking Singapore Slings every night panicking about having to leave Singapore in a few months is going to achieve nothing except a hangover the next day and bring the reality a day closer.
Case 19 – Cardiac Consulting
A client came to me who was in his early 50s and desperate to leave the consulting as he realised that he was in what I call the Cardiac Zone. After 25 years in the consulting industry the client like many others had come to the conclusion that it never gets easier and only harder the older they get and higher they climb. High pressure environments and working 24/7 is a young persons’ game and by the time the big FIVE O comes it is just not sustainable hence the 50-60 years old zone is the what I call the Cardiac Zone (much like the death zone for climbers who venture beyond 8,000m) as they start dropping like flies. Sad, but, very true. The problem was the client had been a high achiever consultant and just did not know how to get out as consultancy had consumed his entire working career. Job interviews were easy to secure particularly with the senior civil service given his track record, but, the job offers were just not forth coming. We reviewed interview technique in Interview Coaching Masterclass Sessions and it was clear what we needed to work on. An interview is not a meeting. It is a totally different beast and thus must be trained for. Even if you are amazing in meetings and a rainmaker when it comes to an interview everything resets back to zero. It is not a conversation, it requires a totally different skillset and approach. It is a sales pitch and you are what you are selling. Unfortunately, it can take a long time for the ego to admit defeat and try something new like coaching. Two Masterclass sessions for two upcoming interviews later and the client got two job offers including one from another consulting firm… someone has to climb to the top of the mountain after all.
Case 20 – 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 21 – Someone Else Chose My Job For Me
This happens! It really does. Typically you are young, just out of school or university and someone else has a GREAT idea… “Hey why don’t you come and work here…!”. And so it begins, the unintended career path you actually had no input in as it was effectively decided by someone else. You are young and you are making money, life is good, but, your career satisfaction is unfulfilled. A client came to me after ‘falling’ into a job after university which he had stuck at, and even progressed at, for 10 years. At which point, he came to the conclusion he hated what he was doing and could not understand how he had got there and how he was going to change direction. That is quite common. People think they are stuck in the same career for the rest of their lives. Wrong! You can do whatever you want. Welcome to career coaching! In a sense we have to go right back to the beginning and start over and deconstruct the decision making process that got you to where you are now. Think of it as the process of starting to undo what has been done. Once we have worked out where it all went pear shape we then set about making it right. This process starts with the ‘Where am I now?” stage. We then look at “Where do I want to be?” and “How do I get there?”… Do the career YOU want and not the one someone else chose for you!
Case 22 – 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 23 – 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 24 – Promises Promises… Loyalty is a One-Way Street
I had a client who was a high achiever and incredibly loyal to his company and his senior manager he had worked with for many years. The reality is loyalty is a one-way street and the only beneficiary is ALWAYS the company. You may think you are being loyal and the company cares about you. It does not. At the end of the day we are just names on the spreadsheet and if costs have to be cut then a tick goes next to your name. It doesn’t matter how loyal you may have been, going the extra mile, working ungodly hours. The company could not care less. Employment is a binary transaction. The company pays you to do a job and you do the job. Loyalty is just something the company will take advantage of if you give it. Which brings us back to this client. He was incredibly loyal as his senior manager had promised him equity and promotion. None of which were forthcoming, however, at every review it was dangled in front of the client like a carrot. As it happens the client was approached by another company who offered a role with increased responsibility and an extremely attractive six figure package. The client told his senior manager who responded extremely negatively, saying it was too much of a leap, and he would be better staying where he is as this elusive promotion was just around the corner (as it had been for the last two years). Basically, the senior manager panicked as he had been called out and realised he was losing his best asset and even tried everything to stop the client from handing his notice in. The senior manager’s concern was always focused on himself and how this made him look in front of his boss and others as questions will be asked and by trying to delay informing HR he was buying himself time to manage the fall-out. See, absolutely no loyalty to the client! I advised the client to think about whether they wanted to afford the senior manager this advantage, and if not, email HR and finish the job. My client was wavering as he was so loyal to the company, and his senior manager so controlling and manipulative, that he even started to doubt his abilities in the new role following the negative narrative and passive threats his panicking boss was hitting him with. It was a leap, but, nothing my client could not handle. So, I supported him as he handed his notice in and then we developed a 90-day plan to make the onboarding at the new company as seamless and enjoyable as possible. The only person you should be loyal to is YOU!
Case 25 – 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 26 – 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 27 – The Great Start-Up CONtroversy
A client came to me for some career planning after having had enough of the start-up she had poured her heart and soul into and was deeply dissatisfied with they way she had been treated. She was working all hours for a fraction of her previous salary at one of the Big 4 on the promise of equity riches that were clearly not forthcoming. I see this a lot. It always follows the same pattern. Start-ups have no money and need talent. In order to attract this talent they woo the potential executives with start-up bright lights, success and equity. There is a pool of talent out there desperate to get out of the rat race so finding people is not difficult. Start-ups entice that talent to leave their high paying secure jobs and take a risk for lower pay, but, with the promise of great riches in the future… and even better you can turn up every day wearing jeans with turnups, flip flops and a bushy beard if you want. The start-up gets all this experience on the cheap. The problem is that for some the equity conversation never happens and is forever delayed while the start-up extracts the services of the talent much like leech. Eventually, it becomes clear there was never any equity and the last two years working 16 hour days in Shoreditch for peanuts has been a waste of time. At which point my client, and others, need to get back in the game, earn some real money and put the career back on track. We needed to develop a positive narrative around this waste of time so that any future employer would view the detour as a learning experience that allowed my client to develop new skillsets that any future employer would see beneficial. I work with clients who want to get into start-ups and I work with many clients who want to get out. It is a revolving door. Working for a start-up sounds really cool. But, will it really further your career? Most of the time no. Especially if it fails. Then you have to expend energy developing a positive narrative around your time spent at a place that crashed and burned. Every future job interviewer will want to know why you failed. It is exhausting and unfair when taking a risk is viewed as failure, but, it is in the UK. Conversely, I once met a US entrepreneur who introduced himself as a serial failure. He had created multiple start-ups that failed, however, instead of viewing each failure as a negative he viewed it as experience. He kept trying and is now a multi-millionaire… if you don’t succeed...
If you do choose to work for a start-up you must be careful of the terms of engagement and get the equity nirvana in writing. Otherwise words are just sounds in the air you claim someone else said which they deny. And… do not do what one client did and join a start-up and be coerced into investing your life savings leaving you with an illiquid asset you cannot sell and the value of which was decided by your former boss; Or the client who found out after one month in that the start-up they had joined did not actually have the financial backing she was told they had and the start-up was leeching her time for free (that’s a popular one!). GET IT IN WRITING!
Case 28 – LA LA Law… Some General Counsel
A lawyer client of mine was applying at his company for the role of General Counsel and was up against external candidates. However, despite having been at the company for a number of years it was not necessarily a shoe in. In fact, the company made my client jump through hoops of fire with repeated interviews including an external Korn Ferry assessment which, to be honest, I felt was totally overkill. However, the company clearly wanted to level the playing field which meant that any goodwill he had with senior management was worthless and he, like the other external candidates, was starting from zero. As a result, we had to develop a professional narrative for the client for how his working relationship with senior management would play out. He had to step up, convince management this was his role and demonstrate he was the best person for it. We had three interview coaching sessions preparing for several stages. He got the role.
Case 29 – LA LA Law… “I hate it!”
A client of mine had followed family members into the law profession, however, it soon become apparent that he did not like it and desperately wanted out. This is great! Why do something you hate for 40 years? It is not failure. It is realisation that you want to do something you enjoy. Furthermore, the law training is not then a waste of time. On the contrary, there are so many transferable skills that would fit into so many other careers. Just because my client trained as a lawyer does not mean he has to be one for the next 40 years. Therefore, with some focussed career planning we identified transferrable skills, interests and values. When you put it all down on a flip chart you’ll be amazed how clear everything becomes (the light bulb moment!). My client successfully made the transition via a Masters in the subject area that was important to him. No one is trapped in any job they do. Sometimes you have to take one step back (transition and maybe lower salary) in order to lay the foundations for two steps forward (a new career you love). Honestly, don’t sit in a job you hate. Just don’t. You get one life so please make the most of it.
Case 30 – 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 31 – 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 32 – 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 33 – 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 34 – 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 35 – 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 36 – 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 37 – 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 38 – 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 39 – 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 40 – 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 41 – 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”.