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Lost in Transition?

Opinion Pieces person Written by Mark Latuske

Clarendon’s Mark Latuske is seeing a spike in the number of Northern Ireland based firms using external executive coaching to manage key periods of transition, but he says more need to understand the concept and embrace it for the benefit of individual and organisational success.

Working with leaders and organisations across Northern Ireland, there is no doubt that external executive coaching has moved into the mainstream in the last number of years. However, critical moments of transition or change risk being overlooked when we employ a broad-brush approach to coaching. Take golfer Rory McIlroy. He employs a number of coaches for different elements of his game – for his swing, putting, nutrition and so on. In a similar way, our clients are increasingly appreciating the value, both for the individual and the business, of a tailored approach to their coaching, by retaining external coaching support at key points of transition.

This support isn’t simply a ‘nice to have’ but provides proven business benefit – CEB research shows that businesses with well-engineered and executed leadership transition processes can boost revenue by three to five percent.

What are these transition points?

‘Old’ thinking suggests that there was only one real moment of ‘Leadership Transition’ – the moment an individual went from being ‘led’ to becoming a ‘leader’.

These days, such thinking has evolved, and whilst each transition is different, increasingly our clients talk to us about three typical scenarios that impact individuals and the wider business:

  • Talent Acquisition – the moment where a ‘new hire’ moves to a new company and potentially a new sector
  • Talent Management and Succession – whether through a planned succession approach or accelerated through business need, an individual already within the business is given an enhanced role at the leadership level (or their first leadership role)
  • Organisational Change – a significant period of adjustment where for example a traditionally family-managed business blends it leadership team with an external hire

Regardless of its form, we see many individuals and organisations inadequately prepare for these ‘transitions’, slowing the speed with which high performance is achieved after the transition happens, and potentially resulting in the failure of an individual, team or worse still a whole enterprise.

Why Transition Coaching Matters

Executive transition coaching and coaching in general should be set in the wider context of a company’s organisational talent management strategy.

Businesses invest significant time and money in seeking out talent both from within and from outside their business to fulfill leadership and other roles critical to the delivery of their vision and strategy.

Unfortunately the rigour, focus and attention often given to the recruiting process doesn’t always carry forward to a solid commitment to positively integrate new executives. It is often assumed that they are the finished article and investing in their development and growth is not required or at least not a priority.

But the transition period for a new executive is often one of the most challenging times in his or her professional life and precisely the time in their careers they need both internal and external support most. They must contribute, and contribute fast, to corporate productivity and to the success of direct reports, all while attempting to gain a footing in a new setting and to embrace new responsibilities.

When navigated properly, this period can offer unparalleled opportunity to lay the foundation for success – it’s a time for the leader to build momentum, develop credibility, win trust and engage key stakeholders. With early wins in place, the leader sets the course for their ability to drive business strategy in the long-term.

On the other hand, a reactive approach to managing transitions – perhaps relying only on an internal ‘onboarding’ team – significantly contributes to the volume of who leaders fail within the first few months in the job. As well as a sense of personal failure, derailment can be astronomically costly to the organisation in terms of resources, reputation, impact on morale and on the bottom line.

Modern executive coaching – the approach

Enhancement is key. Coaching and transition coaching isn’t about ‘fixing’ something; it is forward-looking, progressive and focused on results. A good coach helps already successful leaders achieve positive, lasting changes in behaviours that allow them to transform themselves and their teams, ultimately leading to better overall business performance.

Executive transition coaching in particular is essential for helping leaders successfully make the shift and accelerate the value they bring to their new role and increased responsibilities.

Having worked extensively with clients across Northern Ireland on the identification and selection of critical leadership talent, the team at Clarendon understands the benefit that comes from a well-managed executive transition process that combines established in-house onboarding processes with the support of an external executive transition coach.

We work with the individual on accentuating their strengths and addressing both the development needs that they are carrying (not least from feedback from the selection process), as well as any concerns, challenges, or vulnerabilities that would be better tackled than suppressed.

Throughout the process we partner with the leader, their broader transition team, and their HR partners to align the coaching work with the overall organisational strategy and culture.

Change is coming – preparation is key

Business never sits still; change happens, planned or not. Successful leadership transitions rarely happen by accident – they are the product of thoughtful planning and deliberate execution.

Whatever your ‘transition’ might be, the team at Clarendon can offer an external coach to provide the support needed to help properly navigate your business through the change.  Businesses that make a commitment to purposeful, dedicated external executive transition coaching will reap the benefits of any investment and thrive. Don’t get lost in transition!

If you or your business would benefit from Executive Transition Coaching or to find out more about Clarendon’s talent management and performance services, email