Executive Coaching Series . From Bull to President?

Executive Coaching Series . From Bull to President?

Welcome to our series: Executive Coaching . The Inside View with Barry Pogorel

Promoting from within has its own pitfalls for all concerned, especially so for senior management, charged with leading a company full of uniquely gifted and challenged people. 

Must those pitfalls trap you? This case study may echo one you’ve seen up close… or lived yourself.

A CEO’s Dilemma

The Chairman of a global company contacted me. He said that he was looking for the company’s next President.

His top performing executive had asked for the job. This man was his most effective EVP, however, at the same time was a significant liability. The executive produced outstanding results in developing new business. When developing a project, however, he would do whatever it took to make it happen internally.
Although many people appreciated him, and were even in awe of him, they also feared him. He would threaten, cajole, pressure, force whomever and however across the company to get what he wanted. He moved quickly, decisively, and was frustrated and impatient when others didn’t do the same or had objections or issues with what he wanted. Finally, and this was the last straw, he told the Chairman that if he wasn’t made President in short order, he would leave the company and go to a competitor.

The Chairman told me that if he promoted this man, many people in the company would call and say, “Are you out of your mind?!” The Chairman asked me if I could “make him into a president.” I said that that depended on whether he was coachable and willing to deal with the issues the Chairman and others saw and wanted resolved. I proposed to meet with the man and find out.

In our first meeting, I instantly liked him. I could see that his commitment and brilliance was dimmed by his forcefulness and impatience. He told me he was interested in executive coaching and was open to discovering how he could function differently. He expressed genuine excitement to have the opportunity to develop himself as a leader. Although he didn’t entirely agree with the Chairman’s assessment of him, he saw there were some points that were valid. We began to work together.

Can You Tame a Talent from Rough to Ready?

In the course of our coaching sessions he discovered something profound in looking at his past. Oftentimes the biggest barrier to achieving what we most care about is our own past and the life-altering decisions we’ve made (and now are unaware of).

In looking at the origins of his impatience and forcefulness, he remembered a morning when he was a child. His mother sat him, his brother and sister down and cried for a few moments, and then said that she and their father were going to divorce, that their dad had a new job in England and would be living there. He recalled being shocked, scared, and confused. He also remembered thinking to himself: “I don’t have a dad anymore. No one’s going to protect us. I have to do things all by myself.” He became a solo force in the world. To others, this manifested as a one-man, independent power with great impatience to get things done.

This was the origin of his bull-in-a-china-shop behavior.

Some insights are merely theoretical. Other insights gained through self-reflection are deep and life-altering. This insight produced a breakthrough and he felt released. His effectiveness in producing results was undiminished, while at the same time he began collaborating with people, listening to others, inspiring and moving people into action rather than threatening/forcing them.

A Revolutionary Result:

Within 6 months, the Chairman appointed him President.

Out of our work together, my clients gain the key insights required to liberate them from whatever is constraining or limiting, and they achieve what they aspire to.



Your comments and questions are invited. about this post or any issues you’d like to see in the series.

You may also want to visit “How to Choose the Right Executive Coach” for a winning approach to selecting the right coach for yourself.

A Butterfly Is Not a Better Caterpillar

A Butterfly Is Not a Better Caterpillar

The words “change” and “transformation” are regularly used interchangeably. Transformation is often considered a big change.

This conflation—collapsing together of two terms—conceals an enormous, difference-making possibility.

Numerous surveys of senior executives across industries indicate that 60-80% of transformational/change initiatives) fail, do not fully deliver, or sometimes make matters worse. 

Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, a 19th century French writer, composed this epigram:

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Why? Because changing something does not always get to the underlying issue.

Improvement is an example of change. It is a kind of extension of what has already existed. For example, getting better means better compared to what has been or already exists. So Karr’s epigram asserts that improving is somehow giving us more of the same in a certain way.

What is “transformation”?

Dictionary.com: “…change in form, appearance, nature, or character…” As is generally done, this definition collapses change and transformation. Let’s separate the two:

A change in form and appearance is very different from a change in nature, or character. Changing form or appearance does not get to the root or source. Sometimes reorganization, removing a particular person or team, reengineering, instituting a best practice—can produce incremental improvement (sometimes temporarily, and sometimes can make matters worse). But do these actions get to the root or source of an issue? Likewise, changing yourself as a leader—changing style, technique, strategy, emulating a well-known leader—can yield improvement. But does it fundamentally alter who you are and your power to lead?

Transformation is a different order of things.

Transformation deals with nature or character—of ourselves, our teams, our culture/organization. A synonym is “metamorphosis.” A butterfly is not an improved caterpillar. It is an entirely new creature, with possibilities that a caterpillar could never dream of.

The Wright Brothers’ flight, the invention of the American democracy, Einstein’s conceptions of the universe, great art, brilliant entrepreneurship and leadership—these all are expressions of transformation. Creating and realizing entirely new possibilities.

My work is a rigorous technology for causing the transformation of individuals, groups, and organizations so that they can create and realize wholly new possibilities, and achieve what was previously impossible.

Dictionary.com: “transformation…from the ancient Greek:  tekhnē =art, skill + lógos= rational principle that governs and develops the universe.”

The process begins by asking, “What is possible for myself, for my organization? Not what is predictable—not what would be an improvement on what now exists—but rather what might be possible?”

You have to put aside the “it can’t be done”, “it’s impossible”, “we tried that before”, “no one’s ever done it”, “what if we fail?”

You have to put the past aside, and open up to the question “What might be possible?”

• • •

Barry Pogorel consults executives to transform their organizations, to make happen what could not happen, and change the world. He is president of Barry Pogorel Inc., a consultancy for leaders worldwide.