Case Study

Helping Newer Leaders Find Their Place at the Table

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A boardroom table sits empty in a glass-enclosed boardroom. Photo by Benjamin Child via Unsplash.

The Challenge: To help grow the skills of three new leaders joining a highly seasoned and stable executive team.

The Background: Executive recruiting is nearly impossible in a remote, rural community three hours from the nearest commercial airport, so our client hospital has long relied on home-grown talent to fill top positions. Historically, that worked out well, as the CEO, CFO, and CNO put down deep roots in the community and served together for 15 years or more – even as various other executives tended to come and go.

But when the CNO left her position during Covid, the team’s cohesion was fractured, and the CEO realized that newer executives would likely struggle to find their footing alongside two seasoned veterans.

To develop the skills of younger leaders and help them find their place on the executive team, the hospital reached out to Ascendient for a one-year coaching engagement.

Our Work: Our leadership coach, Joann Anderson, started out meeting individually with the three executives on a weekly basis. In a safe space where confidentiality was assured, those early meetings were about learning the self-perceived strengths and weaknesses of each leader plus their expectations for the coaching process.

As time went on, the pace of meetings slowed – first to bi-weekly, then monthly. The new tempo allowed each executive to set ongoing goals for professional development and then report on progress.

One VP, for instance, recognized that instead of owning her views and her expertise, she was excessively deferential in meetings. Joann’s advice: “You’re at the table now, and you were invited to that table for a reason. Whatever you brought – chicken salad or potato salad – you need to serve it up.”

Armed with various tactics for boosting her confidence and presenting an opposing viewpoint, the VP reported steady progress in speaking up during meetings, and the organization benefitted from the expertise that she alone could bring to the table.

“Every organization has different leadership needs, and every individual brings different skills to the leadership team,” according to Joann. “A big part of coaching is to match the skills to the needs – and looking for the gaps where they don’t match up.”

As the months went on and all three executives achieved their individual goals around leadership skills, Joann added group meetings to build trust and break down silos. “We started with maximizing individual strengths and talents, but creating that sense of team has been huge,” Joann says.

The Outcome: Joann wasn’t the only one to recognize the value of team-based leadership coaching. At the end of her yearlong engagement, the hospital requested a second year of coaching so that the entire executive team – including the CEO and CFO – could go through the process together.

So far, the expanded team has met to establish expectations, core values, and assumptions for working together. In monthly meetings, they’ve agreed to hold each other accountable, including the freedom to call out a colleague who might not be living out the shared values.

“This is a story that’s yet to be written,” Joann says. “It’s their organization, and they set the expectations. I’m just there to guide them.”

The Takeaway: New executives can grow quickly when they’re given the space and the tools they need to grow. Without purposeful development opportunities, such as leadership coaching, hospitals won’t get the full benefit of the unique skills and experience that each leader can offer.

If your organization is facing a leadership transition, please contact us to discuss one-on-one executive coaching with Joann Anderson.

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