We Asked Two Seasoned Alumni For The 411 On How To Excel In The C-suite. They Didn’t Hold Back.

Life in the c-suite is not what you might expect. Hand in hand with the perks, power, and prestige of senior leadership positions are a unique set of challenges that often reach beyond the scope of traditional leadership. Enter Sharon O’Connor (GRS ’89, SED ’95) and Ephraim Schachter (Questrom ’85); Two alumni dedicated to supporting those executives who aspire to or currently reside in the c-suite.

Both Sharon and Ephraim are expert career coaches and consultants working specifically to cultivate the leadership capacity of senior leaders and c-suite executives.

We caught up with them to talk about their coaching styles in advance of an upcoming Online Speed-Networking Event where alumni aspiring to or working in the c-suite will be able to connect directly with one of our coaches for a ten-minute instant messaging conversation.

1. What makes executive coaching different from traditional career coaching?

Sharon: The goal of executive coaching is to develop, progress and thrive in your current organization. Career coaching is about identifying what you want to do, then creating an action plan for how to get there. With executive coaching, clients often struggle with building a network and finding mentors, negotiating for more money and opportunities, gain powering and exposure in the organization, and finding authentic ways to promote their accomplishments. For the senior executive, it is about discovering their authentic leadership style and deploying it effectively.

Ephraim: It depends on the coach since there are some variability and overlap between what different ones offer. That said, for the most part, executive coaching supports coachees with an emphasis on individual effectiveness and with frameworks, approaches, and skills for leading individuals, teams and organizations. Career coaching tends to stress the packaging and marketing of the coachee to secure employment, like resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, etc.

2. Can you tell us a little bit about the model you use to draw out and deepen the leadership capacity of your clients?

Ephraim: Our proprietary CSuite Accelerator™ Model helps talented mid-level leaders quickly grow into thriving C-Level executives who excel in a CXO (Cheif Executive Officer) role. The model has nine areas of focus that support three core transformations for every leader: (1) Wielding Influence: from competing for it to leading with it; (2) Building Profile: from internal anonymity to corporate rock star status; and (3) Readying Promotability: from career plateau to ascending roles. Methodologies include assessment & feedback, one-on-one and group coaching, and online learning modules.

Sharon: My partners and I developed a proprietary model that is grounded in principles and strategies from Positive Psychology. We draw from the best practices in management consulting, behavioral change, and advocacy. We focus on each individual’s strengths and build upon those to help leaders build effective teams, improve productivity, and progress (get noticed) internally and externally.

3. What types of metrics do you use to measure progress and define success in your work?

Ephraim: There are both results-focused and process-oriented metrics having value. From a results-focused standpoint, increased responsibilities, autonomy, and actual job/title promotions demonstrate success. From a process standpoint, the most predictive is the consistency of demonstration of new behaviors. This work is not about simply gaining understanding and knowledge. The value is in applying the new insights, knowledge, and tools consistently.

Sharon: We tailor everything we do to each client’s specific needs and we measure success by their personal, and professional growth. The majority of our clients come to us as referrals from previous clients.

4. Do you have a favorite anecdote that you might employ to demonstrate the impact of executive coaching?

Sharon: We worked with a partner in a major law firm who was underpaid based on the revenue that she was generating for the firm. Despite several attempts to increase her salary over the past few years, she remained underpaid. We coached her to identify specific ways to negotiate on her behalf including collecting data, documentation, creating allies, and most importantly, how to effectively present a business case to justify the increase in salary. She prevailed – her earnings have now increased by 25% and she received a promotion in the process.

Ephraim: I’m fortunate to have had many talented, high-achieving clients over my 20 years of executive coaching. “Chris” was a nearly dismissed Assistant Accounting Officer who earned two promotions to CFO North America after executive coaching.

Chris was a whip-smart technical expert who pushed himself and others to produce results. During an annual performance review, his boss explained that despite Chris’ consistent delivery against deadlines, he was perceived as leading through intimidation and overly intense. Colleagues tended to give in or avoid him and his boss admitted to limiting Chris’s visibility to key executive leaders including the CEO.
Chris engaged me and we worked on his abilities to :(a) develop real and trust-building connections with colleagues; (b) foster mutually beneficial work partnerships with colleagues by listening and expertly framing win-win solutions, and (c) learn to navigate the organization’s dynamics and stakeholders.

After six months we ran a second 360. It showed a dramatic increase in the organization’s perception of him as a collaborative colleague and admired leader. The two promotions followed in short order.

Sharon O’Connor (GRS ’89, SED ’95) is a management consultant, developmental psychologist and co-founder of DKS Consulting Group with an innovative coaching model dedicated to strengthening leadership capacity, understanding organizational dynamics and transforming goals into success.

Ephraim Schachter (Questrom ’85) is an award-winning executive coach and consultant and founder of CSuite Accelerator™ a groundbreaking approach to helping senior leaders wield organizational influence, build internal and external profile and ready their promotability to the C-Suite.

If you are a BU graduate looking to break into the c-suite or a senior leader looking to begin a conversation with an executive coach, we invite you to our upcoming event on January 16, Online Speed-Networking: Excelling in the C-Suite where participants will have an opportunity to speak to Sharon or Ephraim in a ten-minute, one-on-one instant messaging chat.

How To Excel In The C-Suite