Executive Coaching

Do you never have the time or space to reflect on how the business is really doing or to think through your options for the future?

At Elite Coaching we know that all successful executives need structured time away from the rough and tumble of daily business life to:

  • Improve your performance by working on the small margins
  • Plan organisational or culture changes in a confidential environment
  • Thrive under extreme pressure
  • Address difficult relationships, which may be harming the business or your own development
  • Become immediately effective in a new role
  • Stop and review the progress of your career.

We will contract directly with you or through your organisation for a specific number of coaching sessions and we will build in reviews as appropriate, but our work with you as an individual coachee is entirely confidential.

Elite Coaching’s approach is to listen attentively and actively, but also to challenge hard and urge you to hold yourself to account for the changes you commit to, because real behavioural change is not at all easy to achieve.

We have a variety of exercises and techniques which may help you to explore difficult areas, resolve dilemmas or break log jams. We use the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and a number of 360 exercises to focus sharply on your strengths and areas for development.

Case studies

Coaches at Elite have clocked up over 4,000 hours with executives across all sectors, so the problems we have helped to solve many and varied. Below are a number of examples of the sorts of problems executives face daily and, I’m happy to say, some examples of some of the solutions.

  • A new job: struggling with a change of culture

    DB has been the HR Director of a major regulator for two years, having worked her way up to a senior position for a cosmetics brand over the previous twenty years. She has found the transition from the private to the regulatory sector extremely taxing at times, becoming very frustrated particularly by the burden of parliamentary oversight and by the committee led decision-making structure. Together we have worked hard on identifying the real changes she needs to make, to slowly getting buy in for her ideas from her peers, her managers and from the non-executives, and to introduce them carefully and methodically. She is finally reconciling herself to the inevitably slower decision making processes, and to the elaborate processes involved in introducing major changes, but she is now really adding value, and is becoming less anxious about the time it takes. She is finding some techniques introduced from the “Mindfulness” body of knowledge extremely useful during periods of frustration.

  • Helping an MD make some difficult decisions on structure                                                         

    CW is the Managing Director of a UK division of a US conglomerate. He has recently been appointed to the role and is faced with some difficult decisions about the direction of the business and about its organisational structure, which is likely to lead him to make some sweeping changes to the organisational structure and to some of his top team. Whilst he works through his options, which will inevitably lead to some changes in role and some departures, he is not able to share his developing plans or confide in anyone in the business, so we are currently meeting on a regular basis so that he can work through his proposals checking them out particularly for consistency and logic and, in doing so, we are also exploring his own motivations and drivers.

  • Building confidence

    CD leads three teams across two sites of a large NHS trust. She is dissatisfied with her performance and wonders what she can do to improve it. She spends the first session describing the three roles, as well as some complex caring responsibilities outside work, and it is clear to me that she is doing an outstanding job in really difficult circumstances. She really worries that she is not doing any of the teams justice, but she is clearly held in very high esteem by her managers, her peers and her teams, as well as her family. Some of the work we do is just to get CD to recognise the complexity of her circumstances and assist her in taking some of the pressure off herself, to listen to and accept praise when it comes her way and not be suspicious of it and enjoy the fact that she is good at what she does. Nevertheless, there is undoubtedly a general sense of anxiety amongst senior manager cohorts in many industries at the moment, so some of the work we do is about being able to cope with the undoubted uncertainty about the future and to recognise that she is doing a good job day to day.

  • A new job: the first 100 days                                                                                                 

    TS was an experienced media designer who, in his mid-thirties, did brilliantly well to secure the position of Design Director with one of the UK’s leading national titles. But he also recognised that this is a huge step up, not necessarily in terms of his design skills, but certainly in terms of relationship with a charismatic, if somewhat maverick editor, and a highly experienced senior management team. He is also aware that he will be expected to make some significant structural changes in his first few months and he has little experience of managing a number of large professional teams. We met frequently in his “first 100 days” when he was getting to know his teams and easing his way onto the senior leadership team. It was a testing few months: there was very little feed back form the editor or very senior colleagues, so it was difficult for him to judge how he was doing, so we worked through a series of interventions he would make. Luckily, TS was pretty perceptive, seemed to make his moves at the right time, and waited to restructure until he was sure he was doing the right thing. We are still meeting, way after the “first 100 days”, and slowly he is gaining in confidence and becoming a respected member of the senior team. He has had to make his own way, as he got no encouragement from his colleagues, so his sessions with me have been important to test out his approach and his timing.            

  • Making the move into management

    JP is a highly talented structural engineer who has had a very progressive career in a prominent and high profile engineering company in the City of London. He works hard and is highly knowledgeable so it is no surprise that now he is in his late twenties, the firm is starting to look to him to supervise the work of some of the more junior engineers and manage elements of their major projects. Everyone, not least JP himself, was surprised when things started to wobble for both JP and the people reporting to him. I was brought in to help and it became evident that he did not quite grasp that not everyone saw the technical aspects of an engineering project as clearly or as quickly as he did, and they did not appreciate their work being improved or completed by JP after they had gone home in the evening or before they came in the next morning. It took quite a while for JP to really understand that each project would ultimately be more successful if the team moved in harmony. He is still finding it difficult, but he knows that he can either learn the skills of a good manager, or he will be ploughing his own professional furrow.

  • Promotion to the Board

    I had been coaching MP, who was Head of Client Services for a Customer Relationship Management company, for some months when she was promoted onto the management board, an ambition she had been working towards for a couple of years. There were a number of key issues for her to consider as she became accustomed to her new status: she had always been very outspoken in the wider management meetings and often quite critical of the management board, but now she was going to have to bear collective responsibility for the decisions of the board; she had been promoted out of her middle management peer group, who had considered her their champion in a number of areas, so she had to develop a different relationship with them, and she was now expected to operate at an executive level, having worked her way up through the business or some years. We worked hard on developing her profile without damaging her authenticity, and on banishing the spectre of “imposter syndrome”. After a couple of little wobbles, she’s doing well in her new role.      

  • Manoeuvring towards promotion                                                                                          

    CW was the Head of Operations for major supplier of blood products and contacted me because she knew her line manager, the Operations Director, was going to retire in less than two years’ time. She had two significant issues she needed to confront: did she want the role? And if she did, could she develop the profile to give herself a good chance of securing it. So, we worked on a series of tasks over an eighteen-month period. She started by consulting her family and examining her motivation for wanting the role and concluded, after a couple of months, that she and the family were up for the extra hours, extra travel with overnight stays, extra responsibility and extra stress. We then explored the gap between her performance as a “head of” and the expectations she would face as a director and she was able to identify a number of discrete areas of development she should work on:- in short, they were: to increase her profile, by ensuring that she managed a series of key projects which gave her genuine exposure to the Board of Directors at board meetings and way days; to demonstrate her willingness and ability to take difficult decisions about the future of her area of the business and follow them through with determination and efficiency; to develop her own ideas about the future direction of travel for the business and to find high profile forums in which to discuss her ideas. Progress is good. CW has not wavered in her ambition, the feedback from the board and her line manager has been positive, and he retires in six months’ time.                 

  • Making a jobshare work                                                                                                               

    SW and BA undertake a senior position in a retailer as a job share. SW has worked for the company for about six years, but BA has been appointed from the outside, so they didn’t really know each other before they were appointed. We are working together in two board areas. The first is to ensure that all the practicalities of the job share are nailed down: – when do they work, how do they hand over, are they both responsible for the entire job description, or do they each lead specific elements, do they manage their direct reports together or separately, how do they report into their manager, how do they cover holidays and sickness. This work had the benefit of exposing SW and BA’s markedly different styles of work, so we have been doing some work using the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, in order to understand each other’s psychological preferences and develop ways of working to each other’s strengths.

  • Managing your manager                                                                                                            

    DT is the Operations Director for a health provider in the private sector and is a very different character from the Managing Director, to whom he reports. The business is private equity backed and manages a variety of health providers, including care homes, primary care centres and telephone advice services. Whilst the underlying business is sound, the numbers are not making the progress expected by the investors so there is a constant pressure to improve performance. DT does not see the MD as strategic in his thinking, and also sees him as keeping his cards close to his chest, whereas DT has a fairly open style, and is always looking forward. DT knows the MD does not see him as a detail person, and not task driven enough. We have been devising techniques for DT to [CONTENT MISSING HERE] 

  • Coaching through organisational change                                                                               

    BC was a senior content manager working for the TV arm of a telecoms company which had proposed the closure of the site where he was based. The company was confident that the proposed relocation to Farringdon, becoming a “hub” for TV, would be very exciting for all the TV teams, despite a 40 minute train ride to the new site. For BC it could not be further from the truth. Although he was highly valued and respected, his first response was one of utter disbelief. He lived within walking distance of the current site, had a disabled wife and two school age children and had his life really well organised and balanced. It took two long sessions to even get to a point where he was thinking rationally about the move as he felt completely let down and abandoned. Slowly we started to talk about compromises he and the company might both be able to make to get to a point where he could continue his career and still look after his wife and children. Eventually he agreed with his employer to work two days at home on a flexible basis.

    RD was the Head of TV in the same company. RD had to run the change programme and was, frankly, petrified. He was a very good line manager who took his management responsibilities seriously; he was perfectly capable of managing poor performers and difficult sickness absence cases and prided himself on being approachable but very fair-minded. The relocation of 35 members of his team was of a scale he had never experienced before and, at first, he wasn’t sure if he even agreed with the decision to relocate as it had been taken at the top of the company without any consultation with him. He did seriously consider his own position, but having spent significant time with his director understanding the full rationale, he got fully behind the programme. We met regularly both to work though the technical HR elements of the changes, but also to work through his own complex feelings about the whole programme. He know it would eventually settle down on the new site, but there was a genuine grieving process for a team he had built up over the previous 15 or so years, complicated by the fact the he had to lead the change programme. He did really well, but he did have his moments!

  • Career Transition Coaching                                                                                                        

    ME has had a successful career in contact centre management, which has taken him all over the world, but his parents are ageing and he has reached a point where he no longer wants to spend four nights of the week in hotels. We are working through whether he bides his time and waits for a position close to home, or has a more radical change of career direction. He is seriously thinking about becoming a personal trainer and has looked into the length of time he would need to train to obtain useful qualifications, but he is also over 50 and, having just recovered from a tricky shoulder injury, is worried that the second career might be relatively short lived, or interrupted by injury when he would not be earning. We have used force field analysis to help him order his thinking and, at this stage. The work is continuing.

  • Do I remain an expert or become a manager?                                                                             

    DD had a very specific issue. He had reached the position in his NHS career when he was facing the familiar dilemma of continuing with his rewarding clinical work, for which he would no longer continue up the NHS pay bandings, or pursue a career in management which might ultimately add 50% to his salary, but was not the reason why he came into the NHS in the first place. He also had a young family and money was tight. We worked through all the pros and cons and, after just two session reached the conclusion that there might be a compromise to be made if he could influence the right people. He might be able to take a management position but retain his clinical work one day per week, so that he wasn’t entirely burning his bridges. He was very enthused by the idea and, being well respected in his division is currently negotiating s solution that just might work for him for at least the medium term.

  • Coaching through maternity leave                                                                                               

    AG is a senior communications manager in a major government department. She has had a very progressive career through private agencies into government, specialising in “insight”. She is accustomed to being in tight control of her career and her day to day work. We started to work together as she was expressing some real fear about leaving her work behind as she went on maternity leave, and on how she would cope when she returned. She had good support from peers, family and friends in a similar position, but she wanted to work with a coach to focus entirely on the work element of her situation. AG is very well organised so her preparation for maternity leave was meticulous. She had twins and took nine months’ leave, and we agreed to speak on the phone at the point when she was starting to think about work, which ended up being about three months after the births. AG’s return to work was fraught, however; it was in winter and the twins caught every bug going and passed it to and fro as well as to AG and her partner, so it was at least three months before she did a full week. We spoke often in this period, really for reassurance and support, and she did not relish the loss of control over her working life during this period, but she learned to cope really well, developed mechanisms for letting go the things she could not change, and ended up being promoted before the twins were more than a year old, which was extraordinarily impressive in the circumstances.

  • Coaching through a major health event                                                                                    

    AH is a board director in one of the large London teaching hospitals. He contacted me when he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and was anticipating a major operation with a three to four-month period of convalescence. The trust was in the process of appointing a new chair and chief executive, so AH he wanted to make sure that he made good judgments on the cover he prepared for his position and on the level of contact he had with the new leaders. AH’s departure went well and the operation was a success. I visited him twice at home as he started to prepare his return, which also went well in the initial stages, but after a couple of weeks back at work he was shocked at his lack of energy and the fatigue he felt towards the end of each day. In his head he was going to hit the ground running on his return but, in the event, the most difficult period of the whole episode was the slow return to full fitness for his demanding role. He had to learn to continue to rely on the team around him and not to expect too much of himself in the three to four months after his return.