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Coaching approach

The name of my company was derived from my approach to coaching and leadership:

I believe “strong back, open heart” leadership is the key to building great companies. The strong back is represented by fiscal discipline, strong process, and accountability. The soft, open-hearted front are values, purpose, connectedness, and compassion. Organizations and people are at their best when they manifest both in equal balance.

In my coaching practice, I try to focus on the "strong back" and "open heart" in equal measure to help leaders grow themselves and their businesses.

Strong Back

The “strong back” represents the “operating system” of a business. Below are just a few of the areas that I work with clients on along with the kinds of questions we discuss in our sessions:

  • Culture. What kind of culture do I want? How do I set it, measure it, and continually shape it as my company grows?
  • Executive team and org structure. How do I build the most effective management team and overall structure for my company? Do I have the right mix of talent, and if not, what do I need to do to get there?
  • Strategy. How will my company navigate our competitive landscape to achieve our objectives?
  • Setting goals and objectives. how do I set corporate goals at the board level and translate them throughout the company so that every team and employee knows what is expected of them?
  • Recruiting, hiring, and interviewing. How do I find and keep the best talent in my company while shaping the culture in the direction I want it to go?
  • Feedback and performance management. How do I deliver the most effective feedback and hold my team and others in the company accountable for meeting high performance standards?
  • Working with the board of directors. How do I build the most effective board of directors given the stage of my company? How do I communicate with the board most effectively?
  • Financial performance. How should my company be performing financially given its stage and trajectory? Do I have enough money in the bank to fuel my strategic plan? Am I on track to meet expectations for my investors in the short, medium, and long term? Am I giving the appropriate attention to both top and bottom lines of my business?

Open Heart

The “open heart” is the stance that feeds the inner life of a leader that ultimately binds an organization together powerfully in a common cause, bringing out the best in the people around the leader:

  • Purpose. How do I articulate the larger purpose of my company and align it with my own purpose?
  • Values. What is most important to me and how might that manifest in the company I am building?
  • Communication. How do I communicate clearly, compassionately, and authentically?
  • Connectedness. How do I inspire and motivate people from all backgrounds and keep them feeling connected as my company scales?
  • Accepting and processing feedback. How do I model accepting, processing, and integrating feedback as a leader?
  • Work/life integration. How do I honor and succeed at my other important roles in life (mother/father, son/daughter, friend, member of my community) while delivering high performance at work?

Typical engagements

Each of the engagements below are multi-faceted long-term engagements that span the topics above but I’ve included color on specific experiences below so you can get a feel of what working with me is like. Each of these case studies are from existing multi-year engagements:

Founder/CEO to Executive Chairman transition via hiring of new CEO. Originally, I was working with this founder/CEO to find a COO for his business so he could step away from the day-to-day. During our engagement, we probed what he really wanted out of his life and his work. He realized he wanted to hire a CEO to run the company and act in more of a Chairman role. I helped the client in the search by reviewing the position spec for CEO, introducing him to a well-vetted executive recruiter who I knew well, and helped him find a top-notch CEO. The transition to the new CEO was well-executed and the company is doing very well (I am coaching the new CEO).

Founder/CEO building his next generation executive team. I helped a founder/CEO with a highly successful private SaaS software company build a roadmap for his next-generation management team, which ultimately included new heads of product and engineering. As these new leaders came on, we worked on strategies on how to best integrate them into the company while driving positive growth-oriented cultural change.

C-level executive in public company interviewing for first high-profile CEO role. I have been working with a C-level executive at a public company who decided she wanted to interview for a high-profile CEO job. We had an honest discussion about her strengths and challenges and how to position her best for this exciting role. She was a finalist for the role but ultimately an inside candidate was named to the job. We took a step back and discussed what she really wanted in her career, which was to lead a company. To help her explore other CEO roles, I introduced her to top CEO recruiters in her industry.

CTO scaling from pre-IPO through post-IPO growth.I have been working with this CTO on a number of issues in the run-up to an IPO then post-IPO growth and scaling, including creating the appropriate management structure to scale for the next three years, presenting a long-term technology strategy to a board of directors, and important but difficult feedback conversations with peers and team members.