Our client was a senior manager with a large financial services organisation, responsible for a major line of business in a complex and very diverse market.
We had coached her for a few months to support in development of her leadership style and, as a direct result, was becoming increasingly recognised as as a leader with high potential.
When the CEO role became vacant she was asked to apply and after much hesitation to do so. The hesitation was based on her belief that she would need more experience to fulfil the most senior role effectively. The coach helped her to recognise the value fo the invitation to apply and the opportunity this presented to gain feedback on her capabilities and potential
as well as enhance her profile within the parent organisation.
The election process went exceptionally well and that, together with an excellent track record of delivery, convinced the Board to appoint her as CEO, a decision which filled her with excitement and trepidation in equal measure.
As CEO the conventional wisdom is that you either know the answer to all the problems or can access an answer very readily and, as newly promoted CEO, our client felt a strong need to be the ‘expert leader’ that she had always envisaged such a role would require.
She realised very quickly that the breadth and complexity of their business meant
that acquiring and holding this level of knowledge was virtually impossible and so began to question whether she was the right person for the role.
As CEO the conventional wisdom is that you either know the answer to all the problems or can access an answer very readily.
Additionally, she had some difficulty becoming accustomed to the fact that she had very few people to turn to. It felt that many people were telling her the messages they believed she wanted to hear as opposed to the facts or their honest opinions.
How we helped
Through coaching we helped our client to recognise that her feelings about being unable to do the job were unfounded and, in fact, generated from archaic conditioning of inferiority that was no longer valid and certainly unhelpful.
Many of us have an inner voice that undermines our confidence by asserting that we are not good enough or as good as others, and she was no exception.
This problem was being exacerbated by the fact that when her work colleagues gave her positive feedback the inner voice commented “well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?” which negated any positivity from their feedback.
The coaching helped our client to objectively evaluate how she was performing in her role and to set realistic expectations about the role of CEO. She began to understand how she should actually drive value through provision of leadership and direction rather than trying to be an expert in every field or have an encyclopaedic knowledge of her organisation.
Having a grounded understanding of the role and an objective evaluation of her performance helped to quell the negative inner voice and she started to look for positive evidence of her capability to perform. Of course, there was plenty there to see once she started to look for it and this helped to create a positive spiral of confidence which displaced the negative cycle that she has previously experienced.
Having an external, objective, experienced coach to support her in these reflections and actions helped enormously and she quickly recognised that she was more than capable of fulfilling the role.
This confidence enabled her to delegate to her team and develop a strong trust in them. Consequently they were empowered to deliver their contributions in a purposeful and collaborative manner under her strategic guidance and leadership.
She continues to grow and flourish as a CEO and the organisation is delivering record results in a very competitive trading environment. All of this provides further positive reinforcement of her capabilities and that of her team.