Executive Coach Mack Arrington, PCC
Four Case Stories
1. Frank: I’m Already Successful, Why Do I Need a Coach?
Frank was doing quite well as a senior member of a national business development team. This would be the year his company focused on personal and leadership development which included contracting a coach for the team. “Getting a coach is a sign of weakness,” he thought to himself, “I am already successful and am being groomed for my next position. Why do I need a coach?”
This would be a challenging year for Frank. The company products were changing, the territory lines were being re-drawn, accountabilities were shifting, and the economy tanked—and this was just the business side. Frank was wrestling with some personal and family issues too.
The company contracted Coach Mack for six-months of coaching the national team. The coaching was by phone, three times per month for each member of the team. The sessions were an hour each. Frank didn’t favor losing three hours a month he could put towards something he felt would be more productive. He had no idea that this would become a seven-year relationship that would touch every aspect of his life.
It took a couple of months for Frank to realize he could trust Coach Mack. The Coach did not tell him what to do, but became a thought partner and confidant in expediting Frank’s process with the big changes that kept coming faster. As they worked together Frank realized that the Coach was helping him see and clarify the rules of his own “game of life” and how he could adapt and contribute to win.
At the end of the six-month agreement, Frank continued the coaching relationship at his own expense. During this continued time, Frank was promoted and the Coach was extremely helpful in the transition. In coaching several of Frank’s direct reports he saved Frank innumerable headaches and hours of detail work with the team, and was credited with helping one team-member save a major account and another with hitting stretch goals for the territory.
Frank’s perspective on coaching had changed. He realized that he often performed below his potential. Like a golf pro or actor, he needed a coach to give him an honest, constructive perspective from the outside.
The Way He Wanted It
In the sixth year of the coaching relationship, Frank was diagnosed with a terminal illness. It was difficult for family and friends to talk about it. Throughout the next year, the Coach provided a safe place to vent the emotions and to deal honestly with the challenges he was facing.
Some might think it kind of strange, but in their seven years, they had never met face to face. Frank never even sent the Coach a photo of himself. That’s how their relationship developed, that’s how Frank wanted it, so that’s what they did.
2. Dave: The Personal Turnaround
Dave was a favored colleague on the management team when he was asked to develop and launch a new product. He pulled together the team and they developed a sure-fire product and marketing plan and kept it on schedule. According to Dave, “Just before the product launch, the company decided to go in a different direction. They pulled the plug on the project and wasted three years of my life. I was pretty angry about it and I said some things. I knew I had to fix my attitude or leave the company.”
Coach Mack was brought in to assist in regaining his effectiveness as a leader. They began with a short assessment battery that indicated areas where Dave needed to improve. They focused on life balance as well as executive development. Dave took control quickly and within six months was back on track.
It is important to note that this coaching agreement was with the company. It required confidentiality and trust between the coachee and the coach. Within the coaching agreement, the coach is dedicated to the success of the coachee—wherever this leads. Near the end of their coaching program, Dave was contacted by an executive search firm concerning a Vice President position at another company. Dave discussed the VP opportunity with his coach to gain additional clarity and perspective. Coach Mack supported him in taking the next step to discuss this with his boss. In the end, he left on good terms with his company and took the VP position.
Dave continued with the Coach to transition and integrate into the new position. For the next six years, the Coach assisted with online assessments that reduced turnover and helped Dave get the right people into the right jobs. Dave and his team became recognized as valued, leading contributors to the success of the company.
The merger-acquisition was in process at Dave’s company, and the last thing he wanted was a surprise. Dave and Coach Mack were discussing some changes in company personnel, and the Coach asked him about networking for his “safety net” in case his name was on “the list.” That question was a wake-up call. Dave realized his key position in the Senior Leadership Team might not be enough. In the coming weeks he re-energized his network. After he accepted his severance package, he was between positions just a few months before stepping into an equity position with one of his suppliers. And this is where he is today.
3. Ellie: From Corporate to Owner
Ellie had a great relationship with her CEO until the market slumped for their products and services. There was a growing tension in the company, and the culture was changing in ways that made her uncomfortable. She had met Coach Mack when he was a presenter at a conference, and so she called and engaged him as her coach.
They considered her options and created opportunities for her to choose. A couple of small companies had contacted her about consulting with them. She liked the idea of becoming a consultant and contractor, but this would not replace her salary. How could she make the transition?
The Coach supported her in planning a meeting with her CEO with the idea of becoming a consultant and contractor. The CEO was open to the idea, so they met to see if they could agree on the details. It turned out that it would be to their mutual advantage, and so it wasn’t long before Ellie launched her own consultancy and design firm. She continued to work with Coach Mack for a year while she developed her business and balanced her family life. By the end of that year she had made strategic alliances and created her own product line.
4. Mark: The Succession Plan
Mark had been the CEO of a manufacturing company for decades and needed to figure out how to retire. His family owned the controlling share of the business, and he was weighing the options of simply selling the business, bringing in a good CEO to take over, or promoting his son from VP to CEO to do the job.
Mark was a take-charge and get-it-done leader, and wasn’t completely sure his son would work out. He also had some personal challenges that worried him. Mark realized he needed someone outside his usual circle who could put some fresh eyes on both the business and family issues he was facing.
What started out as business coaching with Coach Mack quickly expanded to include personal concerns and family. Personality assessments revealed that his son was very creative and competent, but that their leadership styles were very different. In a three-way conversation between Mark, his son and Coach Mack, Mark realized that he needed to become more of a mentor. It came down to a moment of truth when Mark said to Coach Mack, “You’re basically telling me that I need to shut up and listen to him.” You could have heard a pin drop when the Coach said, “Basically, yes.”
In the two years of coaching with Mark and his son, Mark shifted his role to become much more of a mentor. He listened more as his son stepped up to diversify and run the business, increase their profitability and improve their visibility in the community. Bit by bit, Mark started taking more personal time away until he saw that his son could lead the business and that his retirement option was a reality.
Three Reasons a CEO Sometimes Wants a Coach
1. To grow people on a fast track.
It can be a major career investment to get the right people in the right seats. You want to develop them quickly. You want to integrate them with a minimum of risk and controversy. Sometimes you have to put someone in a position before they are ready. Sometimes you have to expand their responsibilities beyond their immediate limits. Sometimes you simply don't have the time and energy to mentor them by yourself.
2. Rescue and Restoration.
3. Perspective and Feedback.
You invested in their development, they became a valued contributor to the success of the company, and then something happened. It could be job-related or personal. Their productivity drops, their performance suffers. You need them to get back on track for their expertise and perspective. HR might not be in a position to fully address the matter for legal or other reasons. A coach can often go where others cannot.
You can’t see yourself as others see you. Sometimes you need someone who can listen and hear the difference between what you say and what you really mean. Sometimes you need to see different connections and different perspectives. Sometimes you need someone outside your circle to nudge your thinking with questions like: Do you mean to come across like that? What do you really want to have happen? How do you really want to approach this? At what point will you take this to the team? Like an elite athlete, you need someone to observe, give feedback, and keep you at the top of your game.