A Coaching Case Study By Wendy Spalding, Career Coach, SOUTH AFRICA
Coaching in the Context of Executive Search
I have spent most of my working life in the area of human capital. I worked for both local and multinational recruitment firms across temporary and permanent placements. My first introduction to coaching was approximately 16 years ago when I set up a small career coaching business called “Lifetime Learning” with a Psychologist and an HR professional. This business largely focuses on helping people transition into new roles by exploring their goals, values, strengths, etc. At the same time, I also worked with Dr. Merle Friedman on facilitating Resilience workshops for large organizations. These were intense team workshops built around a deep understanding of psychological theory and focused on the tools and techniques of developing Resilience as a skill.
Fast forward to 2021 and I now have had the opportunity to study Coaching with the ICA I better understand that the coaching that I have been exposed to thus far is a much more consultative style and what we know as ‘blended coaching’.
In this case study, I will take you through the development of a coaching approach that has evolved at Tuesday Consulting, an Executive Search firm established in 2004 in South Africa.
The Evolution of Coaching in an Executive Search Context
Tuesday Consulting was established (on a Tuesday) in April 2004. The founding members were management consultants who identified a gap in the South African market to provide a professional leadership search service aimed at fulfilling middle – senior management vacancies where they felt organizations were most struggling to manage their talent needs.
Many individuals supposedly at the pinnacle of their careers walked through our doors dissatisfied with their career choices and wanting to make a change. In the early stages of our business, the best we could offer was empathy, perspective, and some advice.
Case Study A
In 2014 we were asked by a key client in the banking sector to provide support to individuals who were to be impacted by an organizational retrenchment process. We set about building a formalized career coaching process and model to support approximately 90 people who were to be part of the outplacement program.
Whilst this was still very much a blended coaching model it was designed with the premise that the individual would need to feel empowered to make their own decisions around their career. It was therefore not Tuesday Consulting’s responsibility to facilitate job searches or make promises of placements. The individuals impacted by retrenchment were taken through a process of discovering their strengths and finding their passion downing their own careers. 3 one-one sessions were scheduled with each individual who covered a detailed 5 step process:
Session 1: Self-Actualisation and Skills Assessment
*Covers steps 1-2 in the process
- Clearing negativity
- Recognition of life and career stage
- Alignment of life and career objectives
- Skills profile assessment
- Establish “Who am I and where do I want to go?
Session 2: Career Strategy Planning and Skills Development
*Covers steps 3-4 in the process
- How to manage/drive the process oneself
- Personal brand building and networking
- Developing an effective CV/corporate profile
- Social media awareness and skills
- Interviewing and job negotiation skills
Session 3: One-On-One Follow-up and Support
*Covers step 5 in the process
- Personal check-in, recap, and review
- Where to focus energies and priorities -industries, companies, agencies
- Personal development –technical skills and skill development
This career coaching program was supported by various tools and techniques, such as suggested reading, (e.g. Mindset: The new psychology of success by Carol Dweck(2006, Ballantine Books); What you can change and what you can’t: The complete guide to successful self-improvement by Martin Seligman (2007, Random House); Loving what is by Byron Katie (2002, Rider)), personal reflection exercises including mind mapping, access to online self-assessment tools, personal brand advice, CV writing techniques, tips for using online job portals and advice on interview skills were all accessible.
Ultimately this career coaching model was integrated into Tuesday Consulting’s services and offerings and utilized for any candidate looking for career coaching support and therefore wasn’t specifically restricted to the outplacement program.
Case Study B
In 2019 we recognized the need for an additional coaching intervention to be developed to support the executive candidates that we placed to integrate and transition into new leadership appointments. It is our experience that individuals are under massive pressure to immediately have an impact and perform when hired into Executive roles. Our motive was to provide both the client and candidate with the assurance that the program would address “Doing what it takes to make the new executive leader a fully functioning member of the team as quickly and smoothly as possible”.
The Executive Leader Integration Programme had the following components
- A 3-month program aimed at actively accelerating the new leader’s contribution and preventing potential derailers
- Focus on 5 high impact integration areas
- The new leader is supported with integration coaching for the 3-month period
- A customized plan for each leader provides tools for team integration, culture interpretation, and a 360-degree reporting
The benefits of the program were outlined as follows:
- Accelerate integration of the new leader faster than the average 6 months
- The new leader starts driving their business forward significantly faster by building trust much quicker
- The new leader focuses on the most critical and impactful priorities
- It significantly improves the new leader’s retention and career success
- An integration coach provides objective and independent insights and support
Below I present a specific case study of a client who attended the Executive Integration Leader program and was coached by myself over the 3-month period:
Beth (not her real name) had an illustrious career working across government, non-profit, and banking organizations. Following an Executive Search process, she was the candidate selected to be appointed as CEO of a high-profile national association of domestic and international banks operating in South Africa.
Unfortunately, Beth had many hurdles to overcome in her new role:
- The previous CEO was a well-known public figure associated with the South African Anti-Apartheid Struggle and had held the CEO role for many years. Beth had to understand the imprint left by the previous CEO and decide on how to navigate this complexity.
- Four internal candidates applied for the CEO role and were not successful therefore she immediately faced resentment toward her leadership team.
- She had to build credibility and trust quickly with multiple external stakeholders: approximately 25 member banks who previously felt that the exiting CEO was irreplaceable!
- As a Black female candidate, she immediately experienced racial and gender bias.
- Soon after being appointed as CEO, South Africa went into a severe lockdown and the nature of the role required extensive crisis management.
Throughout our 3-month coaching engagement, I created a safe and supportive environment that produced ongoing mutual respect and trust. In each session, I actively listened to what she said without judgment and asked powerful questions (e.g. What is important about this? What are your options? What do you need to resolve? What do you need to put in place? What resources do you need?) The coaching sessions provided an opportunity for Beth to vent, reflect and gain clarity on the work that had to be done between our sessions. Very importantly as a coach I was able to acknowledge the enormity of the challenge and we focussed on the “why” she had been selected as the best candidate to fulfill the role of CEO. We often spent time on the greater life purpose of her role as CEO.
Despite the challenges, Beth most often could see the long-term goals she was working towards and the strengths and skills she would need to apply to get there. As an example, below you will find some of the goals, truths, and actions that the coaching conversation was able to crystallize and document for Beth:
- Beth has a desire to innovate, define a greater purpose, and introduce change to the organization but is conflicted by balancing this with the poor state of South Africa’s economy and the banking industry. There is a reluctance to challenge the status quo in such difficult times
- Beth recognizes the past successes of her mentoring capability and leadership style which comfortably aligns with her personal values. There is a need to address People development / Talent Management and Succession Planning in the organization. An emerging idea is to second appropriate employees to member banks and then to transfer the acquired knowledge amongst other possibly smaller members
- Beth has recognized the need to reduce the existing organizational silos and move to a greater organizational integration allowing the organization to operate more effectively and allowing her to focus on building more effective relationships with the team
Following the 3-month integration coaching engagement, Beth chose to remain in the coaching engagement on a long-term basis. She benefits from the safe thinking space, the opportunity to be heard without judgment, and an ability to get a clear perspective on her CEO identity and goals.
Case Study C
Tuesday Consulting has partnered with the 30% Club in Southern Africa for several years.
The 30% Club is a global campaign led by Chairs and CEOs taking action to increase gender diversity at board and senior management levels. Under the leadership of Global Chair, Ann Cairns, the campaign continues to expand its international footprint with presence in multiple countries/ regions around the world. www.thirtypercentclub.org
In 2020 we were asked to present to 3 cohorts of aspiring female non-executive directors who are registered to complete a Board Master Class. Following significant research and learnings from the ICA, we chose to facilitate sessions that enabled the groups to gain a better understanding of the difference and benefits of Sponsorship, Mentorship, and Coaching. We are hopeful that introducing the benefits of coaching to these groups will provide them with a greater sense of their abilities to play a more active role in their lives and their desires to grow their careers and ultimately pursue non-executive director roles.
The Evolution of Coaching Through a Network of Globally Certified Coaches
I am so grateful to have the support of the ICA, Tuesday Consulting, colleagues, mentors, peer coaches, and candidates in progressing my own skills as a coach. The ‘evolution’ has really only just begun. At this stage, we have a desire to grow the Tuesday Consulting coaching practice through a network of globally certified and experienced coaches who will provide coaching services matched to the specific needs of executives, leaders, and professionals.