My career journey has been one of corporate executive assignments that led me to discover my passion for helping people to form high performing collaborative teams. My journey in corporate life spanned over 25 years in Intel including managing organizations of hundreds of employees, hundreds of millions of dollars of budget, and finally as a General Manager of Strategy for a global organization of six thousand.
What I discovered was the challenges and opportunity for breakthroughs in team performance that large organizations provide. Before I learned about breakthroughs I discovered that I had to learn more about myself, as I have also found with most other leaders. I had to face a moment of failure that provided the learning to open up the possibilities for dramatic successes.
I had a career of continuous successes and promotions that led to me being appointed Director of Sourcing, Procurement, and Payment Systems. I was confident and had a vision of being the CIO for Intel some day. But as I was to find out I wasn’t prepared for this leadership challenge. I was in the posture of being the expert telling people what to do, which I have since learned is not a powerful, or often even effective leadership style.
I made some big mistakes and went from someone who “could do no wrong” to someone “who could do no right.” It was humbling, and fortunately became a learning lesson for me. I was assigned an executive coach who helped me open up my world. It was my first experience with coaching and was a powerful experience for me.
My coach, who was qualified in generative leadership, began by asking me what I cared about. This was a new question for me and surprisingly one I hadn’t considered. I had lived in the automatic story that career was obviously only about working hard and advancing. After some deep introspection I realized I really didn’t just want to be a “senior leader” – what I really wanted was to be able to work with people to collaborate to produce great outcomes. I really wanted to make a valuable difference with others.
This helped me to take on my next challenge in a new way. Based on my prior failure, I was put “aside” by being put in charge of the lowest performing group in my organization, the Supply Chain Support group of about 300 people. They were a problem-solving group that was handed the problems in the system.
In my new approach, I didn’t take the lead as the expert but had new conversations that I was learning to have. I asked my team what our shared purpose was, and we had conversations that group had never had before. I invited them to take on a challenge that they accepted to reduce costs by 10% a year without firing people. I also challenged us to achieve this not by working harder and doing more, but by working within our capacity and reducing the demand we were facing through our improvements. Our approach was ultimately simple – to remove defects in the system.
Our result was that we achieved our goals. We eliminated 50% of the defects in the system in two years, reducing annual costs by many millions of dollars. What I was most proud of was that the measure of our team’s employee satisfaction took us from dead last in the greater organization to the #1 ranked team and one of the highest scoring teams in the company!
As a result of our success, my career took off again, this time in a much healthier manner. I was promoted to General Manager of Strategy for the Information Technology (IT) department and became responsible, among other things, for professional development in a 6,000-person organization.
My success with the Supply Chain Support team really inflamed my passion for working with teams and confirmed for me that team performance is all about the people, their conversations, and their coordination on behalf of meaningful work. I decided to learn more about coaching people based on my experience of being coached and became certified in the Newfield coach training program. It was a powerful introduction to coaching but still left open many questions about how to bring coaching to organizations.
I followed up with joining the Coaching Excellence in Organization (CEO) program offered by the Institute for Generative Leadership (IGL) and continued to expand my leadership and coaching skills in this three-year program. I found myself actively doing internal coaching with leaders in my organization. I helped many struggling leaders produce career turnarounds and elevate their contribution to their teams and the organization.
I found the themes I was learning about generative leadership involving lifetime learning and requiring continuing practice paying off for me and for those I was coaching. I also found helping leaders elevate their leadership and their own place in leadership to be the most enjoyable part of my job.
When Intel offered separation opportunities to senior employees I took the opportunity to follow my passion. I’m the founder of West Haven Coaching, have formed partnerships with other generative leadership coaches and have a thriving and growing practice. I’m doing the meaningful work that I am made to do helping leaders elevate their success in the context of a good life.
My learning in generative leadership has helped me see how to make bigger offers in my career and move into a bigger world of opportunities. I have a new game where uncertainties are now my possibilities. In my learning in the CEO program, I found it relevant to my work, results and offers all the way through the entire three years. I found not only the course content relevant, but was surprised by the value and power of participating in a community of practice, both as a student and now as a graduate.
I’ve gone from being afraid I couldn’t make a living with a coaching practice to knowing that I can; from my tendency to fly solo to forming partnerships to make bigger promises to my clients; from being anxious and stressed to working within my capacity and having a good night’s sleep.
I’m not just a coach or a leader, and I’m also a person living a committed and meaningful life within my capacity. I am thankful to the Generative Leadership discipline for enabling me to create this.