By Anna Garleff - Founder of Garleff Coaching and Consulting Group (GCCG) | The Seeking Veritas Business and Leadership Column is an ongoing collaborative project between SG Productions & GCCG
Let’s just call him “Josef” - first because it’s a name I’ve always liked, and second, identities of clients and the coaching sessions’ content are strictly confidential.
I received the first message from Josef in September 2018. He knew someone who I had coached; and like many clients, he was a word-of-mouth referral. He said he wasn’t sure I was a fit since he dealt in technology and didn’t want just general coaching. Our mutual contact had been coming to me to identify some limiting beliefs and get rid of them for good.
Since my coaching methodology isn’t industry specific - but rather person specific - what the sessions look like really depends on what kind of coaching a potential client is looking for, and what they actually need. Nonetheless, I reassured him that I do have a broad grounding in tech, going back several decades.
Back in 1993, I was studying with The Open University (UK). It was right around this time that the whole world went digital. After graduating, I was offered a teaching role, and it was my cohort of lecturers who pioneered distance learning - making the switch from hand-written assignments received through the post to “e-assignments”, “chat rooms”, “email” and just a whole lot of incredibly new ways of communicating and teaching that all began with an “E”. I recall a months’- long discussion as to whether it should be E-mail or email, which seems rather humorous now. Anyway, those were the early days of digital; of online learning - and remote work.
Since then, I’ve qualified as a Scrum Master, ghost-written countless articles on cybersecurity, the Internet Of Things, and cyberphilanthropy; coached UX and UI designers, database engineers, Kubernetes wizards, and more.
So, satisfied as to my “tech background”, Josef and I set up a Meet & Greet, discussed price, how the sessions would run, what kind of written material would be provided, and the general flow of communication between sessions.
The thing is, the call ended up happening on the side of the highway between Manhattan and New Jersey with the phone propped up on the steering wheel as the traffic whizzed by. It was the only time between employment and a busy home life with Dad duties that he could manage. We continued to conduct the coaching sessions that way for months. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
Josef started in IT ten years prior as a DevOps engineer, and then had been promoted to CTO in the same organization. Now it was time to cut his teeth in a new job with an SaaS company, a diverse, global team and a direct CEO report. The entire weight of the vision and the budget was all on him. Even more daunting was building rapport with the boss - and convincing him to spend substantial budget on a transformation that he neither fully understood nor felt he had the budget for (but wanted - oh the irony!)
On top of that, my client also had a limiting belief. He was convinced that his poor social skills and fear of authority were a recipe for failure.
Certainly over the next few months there were several situations that triggered those limiting beliefs - but Josef was determined to apply the techniques we discussed in the coaching sessions, and stand his ground without either caving completely, or being inappropriately brusque. He grew to become unafraid to voice his needs and speak for the needs of both his team and his technology vision. In fact, it got so that he didn’t even think about possible communication conflict, and was able to focus only on the work that needed to be done, without the limiting beliefs springing up.
Josef achieved all his goals, and today is entrepreneur of a successful business operating across three different countries and with nearly a hundred employees. It’s a small business, and it’s growing. As soon as Josef threw off the shackles of regular employment, he said he felt the weight of the world lift off his shoulders. Make no mistake: he works twice as hard and twice as long (something he didn’t think was possible as the perpetually overworked for-hire-CTO) - but he’s absolutely on fire about his business.
Why am I telling you Josef’s story? Well, there’s a moral to it; some lessons learned that will benefit you as well. Josef may be a collage of clients I’ve helped over the years, but the path to success is remarkably consistent.
So here are 10 Career Steps To A C-Suite Role:
Build your technical skill set and cultivate a reputation for excellence
Rise in your organization to a position of management
Become a super-savvy communicator
Change your thinking from execution and tactics to relationships and strategy
Leverage the diversity of the people you lead to drive innovation
Dare to dream; dream big
Make the scary leap from your comfort company to the new, hairy big deal
Feel the fears - that’s what’s giving you the kick to grow and become more self-aware
Make some mistakes, learn, move on and do better
Be the leader you always wanted to work for
Whether you’re currently working with a coach or just thinking about it, I hope Josef’s story and his 10 steps to C-Suite inspire you to channel your curiosity and reach out.
About the Author:
Anna Garleff is an Organizational Psychologist and Executive Coaching. She works with C-Suite clients around the world, focusing on scaling up and leading diverse teams through Garleff Coaching & Consulting Group. She has been a ghostwriter for KPMG, Deloitte and PwC; and a former Director of the Open University (UK) operations in Germany.
You can contact Anna at: https://www.linkedin.com/company/garleff-coaching-consulting-group/