Having to let employees go usually tops the list of most hated tasks for any senior executive. Sarah Lafferty, co-founder and director of Round Earth Consulting, was formerly managing director of a US company’s European subsidiary that went through a restructuring two years ago. She acknowledges that being responsible for making redundancies put her under strain.
‘When you’re running the show, it’s hard to know exactly how you’re perceived by others. So I was interested in finding out how I was performing as a leader,’ she says.
Lafferty hired an executive coach for a series of two-hour monthly sessions that ran for nearly 18 months. The decision had major consequences.
‘I started to evaluate where I was heading with my career,’ she explains. That led to a life-changing decision: in October 2010, she founded Round Earth Consulting with a business partner.
Change of heart
Chris Stanley, MD at pension services company Go Pensions, first had coaching seven years ago and returns to his coach regularly. He started out expecting each hour-long session to yield at least ten points for action. That didn’t happen, but through the coaching he realised that his relentless focus on the business’s end goal was preventing him giving due attention to interpersonal relationships.
‘What I took from coaching was that if I engaged with people a little more, took my time and didn’t rush to where the business was meant to be going, it would be more enjoyable for me and more enjoyable for my employees,’ he explains.
Stanley now offers staff at Go Pensions the funding to receive coaching. He regards it as all the more important as the company’s policy of encouraging remote working means that team members often miss out on face-to-face communication. ‘In our quarterly reviews, if an employee identifies behavioural or personal issues that they want some guidance on but that we can’t provide internally, they might want to go to a coach,’ he suggests.
Dr Jeremy Ridge, chairman of the Association for Professional Executive Coaching and Supervision, says that one-to-one coaching has seen an explosion in popularity because it enables bosses to bare their souls in an environment of confidentiality. He adds, ‘What executives like about coaching is that it provides, at its most effective, attention to their unique circumstances. Especially at higher levels in organisations, life is more complex than the theory textbooks often present.’
Podcast: Interview with an executive coach and leadership trainer – “Why it’s not confidence that you really need to conquer your business goals.”