Written by R. Giri Venkatesh
Mark is a successful executive, honing his professional sales and marketing management skills over the years across the Asia region. He has been a one company man, moving across functions and countries as he rose through the ranks. He worked hard for more than 20 years to reach the current stage in his career and felt it was the right time to make the next move if the opportunity arose. This opportunity came in the form of a role as Vice President for Sales in a multinational company. The challenge for Mark is that he is moving not only into a better role but also a new industry. He is a focused person and always relishes a challenge. However, getting into a different industry presented a new challenge for Mark which caused some nervousness.
Since this would be Mark’s first move to another company and industry, he wanted to make sure he was well prepared. In the past, he gained good experience in functional roles in Country A and additionally had P&L responsibility in Country B. Mark really enjoyed and thrived in the P&L role. Now, the role of Vice President of Sales for the region covers both areas and was what Mark was working towards. He wanted to make it a success and leave his mark as leader who made positive changes for the good of the company and himself.
Mark decided to engage me as his coach to help him through this move. Having received coach training himself, Mark is very familiar and knows the coaching protocol. As such, he was comfortable to use it to guide us throughout the coaching engagement. Since both of us knew each other well during our coach training, we decided it was not necessary to spend time on the Trial stage. Mark already knew my coaching skills and was comfortable to openly and honestly discuss his thoughts and issues as we had good rapport to build on for this coaching engagement.
We started the Contracting stage with a thorough understanding of what Mark wanted to achieve during the coaching relationship. As part of the coaching protocol, I explained that we will primarily establish the goal that Mark wants to work towards. In doing so, we agreed on exactly what he wanted my help on and his commitment towards ensuring the success of achieving his goal throughout the coaching engagement.
Mark and I spent ample time at the Contracting stage. The important aspect here was firstly to ensure presence of mind for both of us. As the coach, I prepared by being available and free from other encumbrances 10 mins before our meeting. This was to ensure that as coach, I am calm and present to engage fully with Mark. This is an important step because the
presence of mind will help me be fully focused on helping Mark arrive at the goal that he wants to work towards. In the initial stage of Contracting, my aim was to also bring Mark’s attention and focus to our conversation. A casual and relaxed approach worked by speaking about his current life happenings. This also helped me understand his readiness to move forward in our conversation.
It was important to ensure that even at this very start, active listening skills was employed to grasp Mark’s state of mind. This fundamental coaching skill is something acquired and drilled on during coach training so that as the coach, I was able to not only understand Mark but also detect any disempowering frames thereby enabling me to focus on him as a person.
Mark and I spent a considerable amount of time discussing what he wanted to address. It was clear that despite being a successful career executive thus far, this new opportunity presented a different challenge but one that he relished. He was looking to ensure a successful transition to his new role as Vice President of Sales for Asia in the new company. The transition needed to be successful within a 3-month time frame. At the end of the 3 months, Mark would undergo internal stakeholder evaluations which was an important milestone and would lay the foundation for him to continue succeeding in the role.
We agreed that his primary coaching goal was to Successfully Transition as the new Vice President for Sales in his new company within 3 months. Thereafter, we discussed the role that he wanted me to play which was to guide him to make the transition successfully. As a corporate person myself, Mark wanted me to use my experience to help him cover the necessary bases that he may not have thought of during our coaching engagement.
As we moved into the Discovery stage, I was curious to understand what made Mark make this career move now. A simple question explaining my curiosity revealed that Mark had been working all these years towards this moment. He took me through a brief journey of his professional career, which included P&L and functional roles in different countries at different stages of his career. The experiences he gained which included having more accountability and autonomy proved that it was a good opportunity and time for him to move jobs.
Having had many experiences, I sensed there were instances throughout Mark’s career where he would have had to make transitions. The only difference being that previously they were within the same organization whereas this was to a new one. Through the discussions, it became apparent of his fear that it wouldn’t be the same since it is going to be a new place. At the same time, he wanted to ensure that he was seen as being a significant member of the management team. As we continued the conversation, Mark began to feel more empowered
when we uncovered his past strengths which would be valuable in this situation. Mark started to become aware of past experiences and strengths which served him well and would be relevant here.
This feeling of being empowered with his knowledge of previous success was evident when he identified the first area that needed to be present for a successful transition, which is building credibility across stakeholders, especially internal ones. The success outcome here for Mark was ensuring a score rating of 8 out of 10 across the 3 groups of 360-degree evaluations. Mark identified the groups as his superior, peers and immediate/direct reports. If he could achieve a score rating of 8, it would prove that he has built enough credibility to achieve his goal.
At this moment, the conversation was flowing smoothly which I attributed to the sense of presence and open/free flow style of conversing. The next important area that Mark identified was understanding and adaptation to the culture of the organization. Specifically, he recognized that he needed to be more agile and less rigid with processes and structure. This meant he needed to understand and navigate through a new way of working. Mark identified that the building relationships outside of normal office hours at least twice a week was important. This would enable him to understand the nuances and ways to navigate his way in a more agile way compared to what he has been used to.
The last but equally important area that Mark needed to be present for him to successfully transition to his new role was to gain quick wins especially in developing sales strategies. He did research on his own and recognized that one area of change that would give him a quick win was expanding the geographical coverage by setting up new sales teams in areas that are underrepresented. At this moment, we agreed to document the outcomes that Mark targeted as they will serve as a reference point to be evaluated later on in the coaching engagement.
From Discovery, we dived into more details for him to work on during the Deep Learning stage. Here we brainstormed together on what specifically he needed to do based on the outcomes that were identified previously. As his coach, I wanted to ensure he moved forward and thus asked him to prioritise the outcome which would give him the biggest impact first in order to achieve his goal. Mark realized that given the 3-month time frame, the first area he needed to act on was to ensure a minimum of 8 score rating in his 360-degree evaluation.
Mark needed to quickly organize meetings and prepare a pitch for himself to specific people among the 3 groups i.e. his direct reports, peers and his superior. He identified that he would
get down to it with the help of his assistant over 4 weeks. When I probed why he felt this important, he realized his tendency to be focused on his work that he could sometimes forget the need to ensure the bigger picture is dealt with. This awareness and learning during the deep learning stage highlighted the need to ensure accountability. We agreed to document this detail and Mark wanted me to hold him accountable to ensure he doesn’t slip this important step in the course of his daily work.
When I first heard about coaching, I didn’t really understand what it would entail. In fact, I almost dismissed it as just another form of advice giving. However, being a person who loves football and having obtained basic football coaching training in the past I was intrigued about what Executive and Business coaching could do. The coach training that I experienced at Corporate Coach Academy opened my eyes to a whole new world and has equipped me with a skill that will last forever.
Coaching has enabled me to Give my time and thoughts to help another person especially a fellow Executive or Businessperson. This in turn helps him/her to better their situation. In doing so and through coaching, there are many things I have picked up and learnt too. If I were to choose 3 things that I have Received back, they would be:
There are many quotes and great sayings about the importance of being present. Coaching has really taught me that physical presence is nothing without proper presence of mind. It is the foundation for the primary essence of coaching which is deep listening skill. I have trained myself to take deep breaths and calm my mind before a coaching engagement. To ensure preparedness, I read up on notes and be ready from at least 10 minutes before the coaching session. This helps me to get into the ‘zone’. Although it may seem a simple thing to speak of, it actually trains the mind and in doing so I believe helps me deliver better value to my coaching client. Personally, it continues to push me even in my family interactions especially with my children. This has been a big win.
- The Real Power of Questions
One of the world’s renowned business magnate Richard Branson was quoted “Listen more than you talk. Nobody learned anything by hearing themselves speak”. Perhaps nowhere is it more evident than during coaching conversations. Coach training has helped me be more specific about what I say. In doing so, I continue to learn a better way to ask questions. And asking the right questions simply not only reveals answers from the coachee but has the ability to raise awareness or create moments of ponder for them. These moments which could be
just 1 or 2 during the course of a coaching conversations has the power to identify and shift the thinking of the coachee. In the case of Mark, such a moment was realized when we spoke about the Culture that he needed to adapt to in his new role and organization.
- Coaching techniques at the workplace
I have been blessed to be trained and taught by many good superior’s past and present at my workplace. And part of my duty is giving back and training the next generation of leaders and colleagues. Along the way, I have learnt many aspects of leadership and problem solving. Coaching has helped me to stretch my mind at the workplace by using existing tools such as 5W1H and other internal thought patterns and cultures by fine tuning them and being more specific. Especially with the younger generation of colleagues and the faster paced digitalized corporate world, I believe a coaching mindset continues to help me as a leader.
Thank you to Corporate Coach Academy and Dr. Michael Heah for continuously developing my Coaching Journey.