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Was Tinkerbell an Executive Leadership Coach?

By Rosanne Model, JD, MPA

Last week, in Singapore, I attended a fabulous production of “Peter Pan” that had been adapted to the local culture. While enjoying the show, I realized that, like Wendy and her brothers, I had recently been sprinkled with Tinkerbell’s magic fairy dust.

If you love the story as much as I do, you will remember that using a combination of fairy dust and positive thinking – which the author, J.M. Barrie, refers to as “lovely wonderful thoughts” – the characters are able to fly from London (or from Singapore in the adapted production) to the mythical island of Neverland. There, they engaged in a classic good vs. evil battle with Peter Pan’s arch-enemy, the one-handed and very cranky pirate, Captain Hook.

I’d love to be able to fly without the aid of Singapore Airlines and whisk myself off to another magical island in Asia, relying only on some positive thinking and fairy dust. I have this feeling, in particular, when I need to refresh myself and avoid risking my passion for business ethics. But, despite my attempts, I just can’t make that happen. When I occasionally hit a wall at work and find myself lacking enthusiasm or inspiration for my latest anti-bribery gamification, or even feeling bored with a new due diligence project, I can try short-term fixes – focusing on my favorite projects or on my contributions to our team and organization. But for a longer-term solution, I need a more effective option – someone to sprinkle me with some of Tinkerbell’s fairy dust, help me understand the crankiness and how to fix it, and propel myself forward. And that someone turns out to be an executive leadership coach.

“Aaaarrggghhh! Blimey,” you say in your best impersonation of Captain Hook. “What does Tinkerbell have to do with an executive leadership coach?” Well, more than you might think.

Recently, a number of close friends shared, privately, that they were using executive leadership coaches. Suddenly, I understood that more people than I had imagined were engaging coaches to help with a panoply of work-related challenges. Some friends turned to coaches for specific projects, such as meeting a specific operational goal or making a career change, and others relied on coaches for longer-term help with successfully managing a career.

When I looked around on the SCCE blog for articles about retaining a coach, I found an excellent post by Kris McGuigan, President of Professional Courage, LLC, that describes the benefits of such help from the perspective of a coach. But I couldn’t find much written from a client’s point of view. So, I decided to share how a coach has benefited me.

My experience, so far, has felt much like I have been sprinkled with the magic of Tinkerbell’s fairy dust – and has been very much as Kris McGuigan describes. It is helping me to understand what makes Captain Hook disappear and to focus on leveraging my gifts, standing up to my hesitations, and building confidence to reach the next destination. These steps are not necessarily easy, but they’re definitely exciting, empowering, and impactful.

When I’ve shared with friends that I am working with a coach, they’ve been intrigued. At the same time, however, they have not quite understood how, in practical terms, a coach might help them with achieving professional goals.

To these friends, I have explained that my coach has made me accountable for really understanding my career destination. For example, what would my work look like if my professional and personal goals could intersect successfully? The coach has also held me accountable for setting the weekly path for reaching that end point. And I have used a few well-respected assessment tools to help me better understand how I can shape my skills and leadership style to guide me on my path forward.

Each week, I set goals. If I am being too conservative, my coach pushes me, and then, a week or so later, I share the results of my efforts with him. In between sessions, I can see my plan unfolding and the destination getting closer. With this effort, Captain Hook stays far away and the fairy dust of Tinkerbell keeps me glowing, better than a Korean beauty mask.

So if you are feeling cranky like Captain Hook and need some of Tinkerbell’s fairy dust to help you leap into 2020 with confidence, try consulting an effective executive leadership coach. To find one, talk to friends or colleagues you admire and ask if they would be willing to share names of coaches they know. In my experience, referrals can be a great place to start flying forward – and to think those lovely wonderful thoughts.

Rosanne Model, JD MPA is an international commercial lawyer and global ethics and compliance officer in Singapore and the US – and she loves her work.