In our one-to-one work with senior executives in large listed, private, government and NFP organisations, they are typically stepping up—into the CEO role, or from an operational role to a more senior strategic one, or from a technical role to a more general leadership role.  We are engaged to work with the individual to achieve sustainable behaviour change in line with the strategy of the organisation – so that they can be the best possible leader they can be.

What are challenges that we often see come up in such coaching engagements?


I’ll focus on three:

  • Firstly, In the words of US coach Marshall Goldsmith, “What got you here won’t get you there”.  In their new role, a key shift typically has to happen: their success will be based on being a leader – and leading their teams – rather than doing the work – which is now the domain of their teams.  So it is no longer about execution – and simply working harder is not going to cut it any more.  They need to make time to step back, think strategically and creatively, and self-reflect.


  • Secondly, many senior leaders have not focused that much on themselves to this point – having given much of their attention to their teams – and so may not be as aware as they need to be of key strengths and how they can leverage them.  So building their self-awareness around this – by gathering feedback about them from trusted colleagues, and also reflecting some of their behaviours back to them in the coaching sessions – can be a key element of the assignment.   Coaching is all about change, and it is important that the leader knows themselves well-enough to appreciate their starting point.  What are they really good at?  How could they get even better?  A key question is often “What do I want to be known for?”  And what are their development opportunities – and what can they do to minimise the impact of these possible derailers?


  • And, thirdly, I have found that senior leaders often take too short-term an approach.  Usually they will now have a broad array of stakeholders.  They may not have appreciated the need to manage them strategically – or to manage them at all!


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Heather Linaker is the Queensland State Director and an Executive Coach & Mentor with the Stephenson Mansell Group (SMG), one of Australia’s foremost leadership development firms.  For nearly 20 years, SMG has worked with senior leaders – at individual, team and whole-of-organisation levels – in some of Australia’s largest organisations, including more than 30 of the ASX50.