Case Studies

Here are a few examples of how we work with leaders and executives to help them chart their course to success.

Client: Vice President of Operations, financial services company

Concept: Executive and Organizational Assessment and Coaching

I was headhunted to the role of Vice President of Operations for a rapidly growing financial services company. This position had been open for over six months and it was a promotion for me. I had the technical and leadership skills for this position, as I held a similar role in a smaller organization where I had worked my entire career. The company was facing significant financial challenges and a lot of employee turmoil because of rumors of layoffs and other changes. Leadership consensus was, since I was new, it would be ideal if I led the expense containment assessment in my division. The expectations about my ability to achieve this was high since I had done so successfully at my prior, albeit smaller firm. Concerns were – I was new, my colleagues were not fully briefed on the issue and many were suspicious regarding my role. I knew I could do this but what was missing was internal strong relationships to rely on and a consensus from the team and leadership of what needed to be accomplished. On top of that, my predecessor had created a lot of bad feelings when they led a similar effort several years ago.

After gaining a clear understanding of the mandate and broader implications for the organization, I sought and got approval from my boss to engage a business coach to help facilitate the kick-off retreats with my colleagues and with my teams to ensure we got off on the right foot. I engaged Vanessa Williams because of her operational and financial services business expertise. She knew the language and the challenges. She was able to conduct one on one conversations with key colleagues, stakeholders and staff prior to the retreats to ensure the correct context was established and concerns or any issues were raised. We worked together to formulate an approach to prepare for the meeting to ensure there was full engagement to leverage my assets and highlight me to the team as a creative, big-picture and highly collaborative colleague and leader. This was critical since I was very new to everyone and we did not want the mandate to be interpreted as my mandate. Vanessa was able to gain insight from the advance conversations and from observing during the retreats, feedback that was instrumental to help me improve and develop in a faster pace within the organization. She helped pinpoint specific behaviors that I needed to adjust or highlight to ensure others saw me as a leader. Following the retreats, Vanessa helped to open my thinking on how to create advocacy from others for the plans we crafted and how to gain that buy-in. As a final project, we developed a one-year plan with concrete milestones for my professional growth and to monitor the business mandate I was hired to execute. Part of that plan was feedback from key constituents on what was important to them, key milestones they felt were essential and commitments from them to assist me during my first year as a new senior executive.

My work with Vanessa gave me the confidence to ask for help and that resulted in my ability to lead this critical effort. I was able to create a collaborative team outcome and build credibility in a new organization. Vanessa was able to help me break the ice early and fast tracked the relationship and trust building process any new executive faces. With her help, I was well versed and practiced prior to making my presentation on the plan to the board. Our plan was accepted. I still call Vanessa from time to time now to get her opinion. She is always gracious and will to listen and help me to ‘hear my thoughts’. She helps me to sift through the issue and get clarity about options.

Client: Not-For-Profit Development executive, healthcare

Concept: Executive Coaching

A few years ago, I felt ready to confront the fact that I was bored with what I was doing and at a critical junction in my career. I frankly wasn’t sure if I should change my career and leave to start something completely new or if I should aim for a promotion and a new title. My current boss was leaving and I loved my job and was committed to my agency’s mission, but felt that, in my early-60s, if I didn’t aim for ‘the top’ at that point in time, I’d lose the opportunity to advance, particularly given the ageism that is still (sadly) embedded in the reality of the workplace. On top of all of this, there was a lot of internal fighting within the department for this role and I was not confident with my ability to compete. Thankfully, however, as I grappled with this decision, a trusted advisor recommended that I turn to Vanessa Williams for help.

Vanessa and I connected by phone and I learned that she could coach me without meeting face to face, and she was happy to meet me in person if it was mutually convenient. Given my long hours and daily commute, and my routine evening business development schedule, having the flexibility to coach by phone was ideal. During our work together, Vanessa challenged me to drill down to examine my values and dig deep to understand what was behind my indecision and lack of confidence. She pushed me to take a set of fresh eyes to answer my questions. We examined my previous assessments and performance reviews – Vanessa mapped the consistencies and we talked through them. We were able to see that the same issues kept reappearing and the result was always a feeling of dis-satisfaction and low confidence. When we discussed what surfaced for me, she challenged me again to get real with my deep-down goals. With her guidance, I saw beyond the promotion and title, and began to examine what was and is most important to me.

I made a bid for a promotion and it was rejected. As it turned out, the rejection was a big bonus to me because it allowed me to see that the ‘new’ work that I wanted was work that I could do meaningfully in a different setting. I gained the confidence to begin looking for the right fit for me professionally and emotionally. I would not have been able to see that clearly if I had not been working with Vanessa as these events unfolded. In identifying my interests, strengths and core values, in addition to my need to shift to the next level of being an ‘influencer’, I was able to see how I could carve out – in extremely satisfying ways – the exact work that I wanted to be able to do, and define the right setting.

My boss, my colleagues, my team and I have all benefited from the clarity that came from my work with Vanessa because they saw the job was not the best fit for me and I was not giving them or the organization my all. Vanessa used powerful questioning and emotional intelligence to help me to dig deep. I use these tools today and as a result of working with Vanessa, I gained the courage to begin my next career phase. I have become infinitely more empowered.

Client: Customer Service executive, with a manufacturing company

Concept: Executive Coaching

I have worked for my company for almost 20 years starting at a very entry level position and progressed to an executive position – something I’m very proud of. My current boss is new to the organization and comes from a long list of pedigree schools and companies and he constantly points out what he considers my performance gaps in public situations but won’t discuss specifics with me. I am interested in getting a new role and am confident that my boss has created a universal view that I have hit the ‘glass ceiling’ of my capability. I am so burned out by the drama and can’t talk with my boss without getting into a huge disagreement. My boss’s boss really likes me and has stepped in to try and resolve the situation. They have said that based on the feedback they’ve gotten from my boss and my staff they need to see substantial change or my role may change. So, with the support of my CEO, I decided to hire an executive coach. I chose Vanessa because I was impressed with her extensive experience and her personalized approach to coaching.

Vanessa conducted one on one interviews with twelve people. I thought I had great relationships with all of them so I was shocked when the feedback came back. Seven people felt they had a less than ideal relationship with me and frankly thought I had gotten promoted simply because of tenure. Getting the feedback was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through and knowing that people knew (because everyone talked to each other) made it worse. Vanessa talked me through how I could handle the feedback and most difficult of all, how to ask my boss for help. I worked with Vanessa to start rebuilding relationships and to establish new ones. She did a fabulous job in facilitating the feedback session with my boss and my team. We walked out there committed to work together and help each other to be transparent and not hold on to perceptions going forward. Vanessa worked with me and my boss on a joint plan to improve our relationship and she stayed in touch to monitor our progress. Vanessa began coaching my boss as well and that has been very helpful for my colleagues as well.

Working with Vanessa has been eye opening for me and many others in the company. Her coaching has helped me achieve the result I aspired to achieve – I got a larger role and the results are great so far.