Executive coaching is still pretty new to most professional service firms. Accounting and law firms, in particular, have been slow to embrace leadership development. Yet, it is a strategic tool that could help such organizations deal with a wide-spread issue: how to retain their rising stars and nurture them to eventually take the helm.
Here is an example of how executive coaching can help a professional service firm gain a competitive edge.
THE PROBLEM: TOP TALENT LEAVING TO WORK FOR COMPETITORS
A well-respected Midwestern accounting firm was seeing many of its female managers leave after a few years to go work for other firms. Unable to identify the cause of the problem, the firm hired a consultant to perform an engagement survey. The survey revealed that many of the remaining accountants did not feel respected and valued by the senior partners. At that point, the firm decided to do leadership development for their Executive Committee.
ASSESSING THE FIRM’S EXECUTIVES FROM NEW ANGLES
We kicked off the program with The Leadership Circle Profile, a performance feedback tool designed to provide a 360⁰ view of the situation. All members of the Executive Committee were rated by:
- The rest of the Committee
- Their firm’s practice groups, for example, tax, audit or special services
- Those working in areas of expertise other than their own, with whom they had less interaction
- The managers that worked with them
- Their support staffs
Areas of evaluation included (among others) how they related to others, how authentic they appeared to be in their interactions, and how controlling or protecting others perceived them to be.
This approach generated some concerns at first as it put the Executive Committee members outside of their comfort zone. They were used to being evaluated using measures like hours billed, the new business sold, and client fees, so this was a very different type of assessment for them. However, it was necessary to unearth the core issues at the root of the firm’s challenges.
Once we started reviewing the gathered insights, the members saw the value in looking at their leadership performance from a new perspective.
FOCUSING ON KEY LEADERSHIP AREAS
Each member had two coaching sessions to review their feedback and identify the one or two most crucial areas where they needed to shift to make a positive impact on the firm. Some of the key points that emerged for the firm’s leaders were:
- Providing accountability on client project work
- Improving their listening skills
- Increasing collaboration within their teams
- Speaking up earlier when issues arise
- Learning to keep controlling behavior in check
- Giving others more of a voice when it comes to the firm and client work
The members are now addressing these areas through 1-year coaching engagements.
Professional service organizations are often reluctant to engage in executive coaching because they are afraid of stirring the pot and the change that might come with it. There is much to be gained through the coaching process and having an unbiased third party assess the leadership dynamics in new ways. It can help your organization stay ahead of the competition.
Contact me to discuss how I can assist your firm.