Coaching for Leadership

When Marie became director of a national education organization she reached the same hurdle that most managers either leap or trip over as their careers progress. A successful consultant with five years behind her, she was promoted to a new job that required an entirely different set of skills.

Like many, Marie relied on trial and error as she found her feet as a leader. Then, one year into her new position, she began coaching with Valerie to discover how to approach her role with purpose and a plan. Her purpose was to develop a management style that suited her, but ultimately, the plan changed the very structure of the organization around her – and her team fell into step beside her.

“It was about me finding my voice, discovering who I want to be as a manager,” Marie said of her coaching experience over that period.

Marie said her strengths used to be in “getting the work done,” and as a consultant she had loved working directly with clients. As Director she became responsible for a team of consultants and their budgets. It was overwhelming, but Valerie began by helping Marie to thoroughly examine Marie’s organizational chart to find out how she could adapt to it.

As Valerie asked Marie to talk through her role, she prompted her to examine it from a new perspective. They realized that Marie would be a more effective, productive manager with certain structural changes. Valerie also helped Marie work on how to pitch the new structure to the organization and how she would then implement it smoothly. Marie implemented the new structure to surprisingly little resistance and the ripple effect of her coaching with Valerie made its way through her team with profound results.

“There was surprisingly little push-back,” Marie recalls.

“It was more of an adjustment that had to happen. Every time I noted a difference in the people around me, Valerie would say that’s just because I was changing my dance step.”

She said Valerie’s dance step analogy was a useful tool to help her initiate change in the people around her.

“People get used to you working in a certain way. If you’ve always taken the lead and then you stop and change your step, people notice – but they adjust.”

With coaching Marie was able to develop her own management style and create the most effective environment for her team. It even helped her tackle specific issues that came up along the way, in a manner that aligned with the structure and management style she and Valerie had established.

“It changes a lot as we go,” Marie said. “For example during that time I had to terminate two people, which I’d never had to do before, and Valerie helped me to do that in a constructive way.”

For Marie, coaching is a continuing, evolving process. Valerie has become a regular sounding board, whom Marie values as an ‘Accountability Partner’. Marie said it was this partnership with Valerie that helped her identify where, and how, she could offer the most value to her organization.

She’s looking forward to continuing her partnership with Valerie as they embark on the next step in her career. And that next step may involve exercises on establishing boundaries, which Marie thinks is likely to be the next main focus of their coaching sessions.

“It’s an ongoing process,” Marie said. “After all, anybody who thinks they’re done growing is probably wrong.”

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