Ed: Leadership assessment and coaching can be very different between men and women. Cornerstone executive coach Jill Macleod coaches professional women who all highlight purpose, intention and alignment of personal and career goals. These are her observations.
Every executive coaching assignment is different, which is as it should be. The process is a personal one driven solely by the person that is being coached.
After coaching seven different women recently, it is clear to me that women have many similar priorities when they engage in a coaching experience regardless of how different they are. All seven were professionals, Partners or C-level, and established in their careers.
All were looking for a coach with a professional point of view, who understood the businesses they operated in and with whom they could discuss their career options moving forward.
More importantly, they viewed the coaching as an opportunity to discuss their careers, how happy they were in their current roles and how their careers were impacting their lives. They therefore wanted someone who not only understood the context in which they were working, but a safe environment where they could voice their thoughts, express emotions and better understand themselves.
Underneath the specific coaching issues, they wanted to be sure that they were making thoughtful and intelligent career choices that would bring both purpose and success in their lives.
I revisited their lives: the themes, patterns and trends that had evolved and what had happened to form the person that they are today. I did this from a skills, subject matter and competencies perspective but I also did this at a personal level, looking at how they evolved as people and what became important over the course of their lives.
The coaching environment was a safe environment where they could throw it all on the table, rework it and articulate it in a meaningful way, and one with purpose.
Their Reason for Coming:
All were very bright, courageous and capable women who had accomplished a lot in their careers. All had strong track records of results and accomplishments. Most were subject matter experts in their perspective fields AND had strong functional capability.
Some were in a difficult place where they were not “meeting the standard” in their existing culture or operating environment, or had come unraveled because of an incident or circumstance that they encountered.
Others were simply at an impasse – weren’t really happy or fulfilled with what they were doing and considering what came next in their careers.
They all had a tremendous work ethic, ability to take ownership, were hardworking, and got things done. When in an environment that was healthy for them, they all operated as engaging, confident and capable woman.
All put their personal interests and needs first. Their careers were “front and central” but it was critical to find intention and fulfillment in what they did as opposed to following their career for career sake only. They were willing to make trade-offs in environment, income or authority to do that.
All of these women were looking for a place where they could pull both the personal and career pieces together to find alignment with what they do and how they do it. They were also deciding what needed to be honored at this stage in their lives. Having intention and purpose, they were actively seeking out what would come next in their career and personal lives.
When they were not feeling personally fulfilled and those values were not being met they considered a change; sometimes to another company and sometimes another career entirely. Regardless of confidence levels and self-awareness when they started the coaching process the biggest common denominator was disengagement and unhappiness if the culture and environment did not align with their personal values or ambitions.
What worked every time:
There is a richness and insight gained if people revisit the past – their own personal journeys — and are reminded of the significant influences/events in their lives. Whether they are in crisis or just contemplating their next move they need to remember and acknowledge what they bring to the table, and what it is that got them there.
This is discovered through a process that involved a combination of personal interviews, psychometrics and customized exercises that help them articulate their strengths and weaknesses, the skills and cultures where they excel and the areas that are unhealthy for them. They revisit it, they articulate it. They examine the parts that they take accountability for and I guide them in that journey.
Being an executive recruiter as well as a coach, I am also able to give them an honest reflection of the marketplace when they ask, and supply a reality call from a career perspective around the options and possibilities moving forward.
All expressed the fact that what they appreciated the most was these two pieces — the career and personal — being offered in conjunction not separately.
One was at risk of being downsized and is still there a year later. Her superiors have seen visible changes in her behaviour and she is no longer at risk. She is not entirely enamored with the organization but has found a way to be comfortable with her role and understands why she stays there.
One left the firm she was with after 15 years as one of her firms International Financial Experts. She left the business world entirely, to pursue a career as an artist and has no regrets.
One has become the President of a Construction company for the first time and commented that this process gave her the confidence she could do it and helped her articulate that in the interview process.
One is currently positioning herself as President of her company following the resignation of her boss and has just called to ask me to coach her through that process. Another has been asked to take on a newly created, high impact role in the government and is using this process to help her decide if she takes it.
Women always put personal first unapologetically. They stuck with it, completed the process and kept incorporating what they learned, coming back to it.
Is this Gender Related or just a sign of the times – the need for baby boomers to find meaning and incorporate the personal with their work life? Or something more prevalent in women?
I welcome your thoughts. Please leave a comment below.