Becoming the coach I am today
“An Edge For You“ is my credo as a coach: to provide an edge through new perspectives that open new possibilities. Working with my amazing clients keeps me challenged and allows me to grow and learn every day. I love working with senior managers and business owners who want more out of life than just a successful career… and my Espresso for Your Career blog is intended for anyone who shares this ambition. It provides insights, tools and know-how on how to develop a career you love. More on me below and on LinkedIn. And since it is always more powerful to let others speak, here are some references about my work from LinkedIn.
Profile: I work with business owners, GMs and executives in production, finance, procurement and sales functions, professional services. Projects address not only the role, goals and strategy of my client, but given their scope of influence, also their values, and organisational structures to support these. Since 2000, I’ve operated in 3 languages, with over 7,500 coaching hours internationally. Before turning full-time coach, I was a managing partner of a medium sized consulting company.
Credentials: Studies of economics & economic history at UCL London, Masters degree in psychology from Hamburg University; Professional Accredited Coach-Supervisor (CAKO); Completed and taught systemic coaching and supervision trainings.
More (much more) about me here:
- Very high or significant benefits of coaching for me personally 85.7%
- Very high or significant benefits for my entire team 85.7%
- Significant ROI from the coaching for my company 57.1%
- Very high or significant private life improvement 57.1%
Results of client survey; 26 responses from top executives, business owners, and partners of professional service firms
My life path is reflected who I have become as a coach. Being a pragmatist unafraid of complexity brought me into change management with automotive companies implementing Lean Production and Lean Management. After living and studying in several countries, I relocated to the Czech republic to co-found and manage a consultancy for manufacturing companies.
A crucial moment for me was in 1998, when our consultancy had some 20 consultants and was still growing. To everyone around me, it seemed that I had it all – but that was not how I felt about my life; an experience many owners of successful businesses can relate to. I had succeeded in attracting engineers and developing them into amazing consulting talents, we had found clients who valued us, and asked us to do ever more ambitious and technically challenging projects that were also increasingly profitable. On the flip side of the coin, I had become caught up in an ill-serving pattern: I was the one who’d do the things that I felt needed to be done, even if they were not my priorities. This pattern was familiar from my family of origin, and very convenient for my co-MD: it left him free to pursue his objectives while knowing it was safe to leave the rest to me. As a result, he had time for networking, while I was stuck in the office until late, working on B and C priorities, which didn’t count much in my partner’s eyes. Fantastic…!
Many MDs can also relate to this experience: one of the partners – typically the more outward-facing, visionary type – downplays the role and achievements of the other to owners and staff alike, clearly not appreciating the importance of the consolidating, structuring, consensus-building yet also more “constraint-oriented“ partner. A long-term sound company (as opposed to a successful start-up) needs both roles to be balanced. For me, at the time, this infighting became intolerable, and I had to acknowledge that my attempts at using rational arguments had failed. I then began a coaching training – not with the explicit goal to position myself differently with my co-MD, but like many managers, I found that my new insights and practices helped me do just that. How I treated myself and others changed significantly: I started seriously pursuing my personal goals, and valued my time more; I was no longer available to work on other people’s goals, and on things nobody except me valued.
Back then, I somehow punished myself for not having set clearer rules and expectations at the outset, and for having misjudged the personality of my partner. I felt trapped and doomed to stay and “protect my baby”; the fact that several people joined the company because of me, and that I doubted the company could thrive under a sole owner who was consistently blind one eye, didn’t help. At this stage, health issues signalllng that my body was suffering, helped me disentangle and put my personal wellbeing first. This was no easy decision though…
Since my co-MD rejected my proposal to remain an silent partner, reasoning that he would need my share so that senior consultants could become equity partners, my resolution to cut all ties was clear. At that time, I had already completed a couple of years of coaching trainings, and was having first coaching sessions with new clients, and otherwise busy training two successors for me. By that time, I had gained some valuable insights that I still feel strongly about:
- I am responsible for living and working in an environment that suits me; there is no merit in wasting my life where I’m tolerated and can never be appreciated;
- I need to leave a mark in life, and have everything it takes to do that;
- It was time for me to start working with my strengths again, not busying myself with covering up other people’s mistakes or downright neglect;
- Things can change when I change; I cannot change everything, but I am free to give up goals that aren’t essential.
The way things played out before I finally left gave me a real taste of crisis management, and made me solely responsible for the company for a period. A personal tragedy left me not much choice than to apply my learnings, and showed me that what I had learned was working even under the most strenuous of conditions.
Our consulting practice, dealing with executives and company owners also strongly determined my coaching approach. During those days, we would plan projects with our clients, and then sometimes had to watch them stop in the middle of the implementation. This seemed to make no sense! Of course reasons varied, but issues among the board or the group of owners were a very frequent cause. I could observe dynamics in management meetings like the positioning of the project initiator weakening, or nobody being willing to confront a powerful stakeholder when he didn’t act in alignment, or nobody willing to address the elephant in the room. Already back then I had a strong desire to work with the decision-makers on creating renewed buy-in for the project, or provide what would disarm valid concerns. This would have required some candid conversations, for which only did I not have a mandate. I also frankly had no idea how to support people beyond expressing their needs – because that would have involved very personal work – like how to confront issues, challenge powerful people, or create buy-in without manipulation… I seemed a daunting task back then… I am glad that even then, I sensed that producing even a spot-on label has very little value for a client; they needed support with resolving these issues, and that usually included working through their stumbling blocks :).
It took many years of training and practice to develop the know-how and personal standing to confront deeply unsettling or even just uncomfortable questions. Yet time and again noticed that as soon as I had learned to stay completely with my client’s needs, and didn’t get scared by difficult topics, it became possible for them to go much deeper.
Today, I have the privilege to work with people who don’t just want to develop their personal career, but also want to contribute to building a healthy corporate culture. Balancing long term goals with their current ambition creates valuable insights that lead into successful coaching – like that they need to (re)position themselves in order to have the lasting impact they seek. And then we can work on how to do that. Simple 🙂
Helping people make the most of their options in challenging situations while staying true to themselves gets the best out of me. With literally decades of psychological and coaching training and practice under my belt, I quickly sense my client’s personal values and motivation, and what they measure their efforts against. On the other hand, I can also relate to the objectives and constraints they face as managers, entrepreneurs and people. I like people who have big dreams… I’ve become the kind of coach who I would have appreciated back in my business owner days, to help me find more and better options when I confronted problems in my business.
Today, I enjoy the luxury that almost everything that triggers deep interest in me, in some way links back to my work. Not just training in management and psychology, and systems theory, but also 20+ years of interest in philosophy, history and sociology helps me put things into different perspectives, and provides valuable examples so that people develop insight into the constellations they are caught up in. My interest in neurobiology allows me to suggest the most powerful ways to learn, and outsmart the “paleo instincts” for the benefit of more conscious, and less ego-driven decision making. And my interest in health and stress management helps me find something that works even for people who will never have time for yoga retreats or extensive meditative practices.
In the below interview published in BusinessWoman, find out more about my consulting days in Prague, and what fires my work. Just click on the picture (if you read Czech)!