The Value of Customised Leadership Development

We collaborate closely with our clients to design and deliver completely tailored solutions. We help organisations build the leadership capacity they need to achieve stretch performance goals. Our focus is on a leader’s ability to not only think strategically, but also implement that strategy effectively using core leadership competencies such as collaboration, influence and sense-making.

“standardised classroom training has little or no effect on leaders’ performance on the job” 

A McKinsey report (Gurdjian, Halbeisen, Lane, 2014) highlighted the billions spent annually on leadership development. Right now, some offerings from business schools can cost $150,000 per person. This makes sense in an environment where leadership development is a key concern for business,  but does it work? Contrast the fees with the only 7% of senior managers in one survey who believe their companies develop leaders effectively, and the gap between desire and delivery becomes blindingly clear.

Traditional training disregards the systemic nature of business, and does not leverage organisational wisdom

A fundamental reason for this failure is that leadership development as it has been, is an imitation of learning processes at schools and universities. There, theoretical knowledge is taught in chunks of internally coherent material through presentation/ lecturing and written content.  Recent research in the field shows this type of traditional classroom training has little or no effect on the performance of leaders in their roles. However, many organisations still see this as the core of internal development processes, and many leadership development organisations sell just that. We don’t.

Our approach of exploration and co-design for all our programmes, ensures that we commit the time and effort up front to ensure that any leadership development is targeted to address the specific challenges and context of the organisation, and allows leaders to engage their experience and organisational knowledge. This allows them to easily turn the learning into practical and implementable solutions.  Each learning opportunity within a program is aimed at providing either a specific tool for practical problem-solving, or creating a new perspective to allow for a different understanding of the context, and therefore a new way to engage with business challenges.

“We develop capacity to engage with the organisational system and thus create real impact”

Anyone who has been on a traditional leadership development program, realises soon after they get back to their desk that for some reason, all those great ideas that made so much sense in the classroom, now seem impossible to put into action. The reason for this is twofold.

Firstly,  academic teaching has as its basic aim the development of human knowledge, whereas leadership development, to be effective, has to to address real challenges in an organisation.  In order to practically use the skills and knowledge gained from traditional teaching based programs, leaders need to independently find ways to translate this knowledge into practical and contextual solutions, which adds several layers of complexity.

Secondly, The generic and non-specific nature of theoretical content, means that it does not take into account the immediate context of the organisational system in which it is meant to be implemented. Thus it disregards the systemic nature of business, where trying to change one part of it has repercussions on the rest. So any attempts to change the system, cause the system to push back and try to reach its original state of equilibrium.

This makes change very hard to implement and maintain. This type of program, also does not take advantage of leaders’ inherent knowledge of their own organisation, and thus does not leveraged organisational wisdom to create meaningful, practical solutions.

“we use the latest and most impactful learning tools and processes to ensure that real learning takes place”

We already know teaching and learning are not the same thing. Learning requires much more then sitting in a classroom passively absorbing content from slides and presentations. Our approach of customised design, incorporates the latest research and the most impactful methods to create learning experiences that provide leaders with the practical footing they need to go back to work and engage directly with the challenges they face more effectively.

This includes discovery journeys to other organisations, journeys of self discovery through mindfulness, solution-driven small group engagement, and a variety of other tools and processes that have shown themselves to be effective in creating meaningful personal growth and organisational change.

“our solutions address both current challenges and effective preparation for the future”

In order to maintain sustainable success over long-term, Organisations need to develop their potential talent in readiness for succession. However we do not just provide learning to deal with immediate problems and the challenges, we also support organisations in preparing for the future, developing a deeper leadership bench-strength and a strong pipeline of talent to ensure ongoing success through leadership transitions and changes.

While we help current leaders engage with immediate business challenges, we also help organisations develop their future talent to deliver the long-term vision of the organisation.  The development of an organisation’s talent pipeline is done in close collaboration with organisational talent management teams where possible.

*(McKinsey Quarterly – January 2014; Why leadership-development programs fail By Pierre Gurdjian, Thomas Halbeisen, and Kevin Lane)

Executive Coaching for Leadership Transitions

“40% of new executive transitions are declared failures after 18 months” 

While our executive coaching engagements help leaders deal with a variety of challenges, our core focus is supporting leaders going through leadership transitions.  Ram Charam, Steve Drotter and Jim Noel’s book, “The Leadership Pipeline” (2001) comprehensively describe the different skills and approaches that leaders need at various stages or levels of the organisation. Over a decade and half on, the model they created based on their experience in over 100 companies, is still relevant in many situations. Having use this approach within companies ourselves, we have seen firsthand the benefits to both leaders and organisations, of considering the differences in the way that time is applied at various levels of the organisation, and how the values drive the leaders decision-making must change from one stage to the next in order to sustain success.

“Leaders cannot think in the same way at different levels of the organisation and expect consistent success” 

However the research shows that significant numbers of leaders struggle to successfully make the transition from one level to the next.  In fact, of the thousands of managers that get promoted internally, or are appointed into roles, McKinsey reports that “40% of new executive transitions are declared failures after 18 months” (McKinsey, 2013). The hit to productivity, and the ineffective use of organisational resources, that these failures cause, is immense, even leading to a rippling out of poor performance, from the leader to their reports.  Even where several weeks are allocated upfront for executives to orient themselves and come up to speed, success rates are not much higher. Few leaders, no matter how skilled or experienced at their current level, have the capacity to single-handedly shift their thinking, their approach, and their decision-making values to engage with their new context effectively.

“a structured transition process can significantly increase success”

Our experience in our own work, as well as in partnership with Accelerance ( , has shown that a structured transition process including the use of an executive coach over a period of 6 – 12 month, can significantly increase the probability of a leaders success in the long-term.  Whilst such a process can be beneficial at all levels of an organisation, our coaching solutions address two specific types of transitions:

1. in medium to large organisations, the transition from functional leader to general management (Process to People), and

2. in start ups, the transition of the founder’s role as they move from managing a small team, and contributing significant technical expertise, to becoming the leader of more than a few dozen people (Maker to Leader)

In both instances our approach Focus is not only on building capacity in specific areas such as strategic thinking, but also on engaging with the leader’s core values and building self-awareness,  allowing them to learn and adapt effectively for the long-term.

Our approach to coaching is based on the psychological background of our lead coach combined with his significant corporate and entrepreneurial experience.

Our colleague at Accelerance, Mike Maffucci has written a great article on the need for managed executive transitions:

For a free consultation, get in touch by clicking here.

Finding the Right Coach for You

As the use of executive coaching grows in Thailand, there are many executives who, having seen how coaches have helped other executives in similar positions achieve great success, and are considering engaging one for themselves. However, while they are making this decision, most are probably unsure about how to select a coach for themselves.

“is choosing a coach like choosing a doctor?”

Could this be like selecting a doctor? You go to the hospital and if you have something mild, the General Practitioner gives you a prescription and off you go to get better. If its something more serious, you get sent to a specialist based on what the problem is and they can hopefully fix it for you.. The difficulty with this approach when it comes to coaching is you don’t want to be spending time going from coach to coach until you find the right one.

Is it more like choosing a car? You decide on the brand based on its reputation and feedback from other people you trust, and make your choice? In a way, this is how people choose consulting firms. The problem with approach, is that unless you are choosing based on an individual’s reputation, you may end up suffering the old “bait and switch” trick where you choose a company because of the good standing of its top person or, on occasion, people, but in fact, you end up with someone who just happens to available at the time. You may be lucky, you may not. And in the coaching world, membership with one of the bigger self-proclaimed “accreditation” organisations is no guarantee of actual quality.

“is google the best way to find the right coach?”

Choosing a coach to work with probably has similarities to many selection processes that we go through in our lives, and different people may use different techniques. However, because the choice of a coach can often have a significant impact on your career and potentially your life generally, it is an important decision and needs to be made carefully.

So what does an executive who is in the market for a coach do? Does he put out an advert in the Bangkok Post and wait for the best fitting coach to come to him? Does she just google coaches in his area and make a random selection? Any executive who is successful enough to be in a position to get a coach is unlikely to be so irrational. He could just ask his friends who are in the same position as he is about their experiences and ask for referrals, or he could ask his HR people to suggest someone. While both of these latter options have merit, the relatively small selection of coaches available in Thailand, and the even smaller group who live here and understand the culture while also having an international perspective, makes it more of a challenge than it might be in other parts of the world.


“it is essential to look carefully at a coach’s experience and background”

Whatever the method used, it is essential that the executive has a clear set of criteria that he can use to help him decide which coach to engage with. Having been on both sides of the fence, as an external coach now, and previously being responsible for the selection and contracting of coaches into a very large corporation, I have found that there are some basic fundamentals that an executive needs to ensure are present in any selection that he or she makes:

1. Business Experience – Coaching as a formal profession is very young, and at this point there is no formal global or even national agency that manages the quality of coaches in the market in same way that there are legal qualification boards in almost every country for medical doctors, or actuaries, or accountants. There is really no quick way to check the level of expertise a coach has merely by checking a title or membership of an coaching association.

Also, because coaches come from so many different professional backgrounds, such as psychology, business, sales and in some instances nothing more than a 2 month coaching course, it is essential to look deeper into the person’s background to ensure that they have the right background and experience to work with you professionally and effectively. While a coach, unlike a mentor, does not need to understand the technicalities of your business at the level of an expert, it is very helpful if he or she has had some type of business experience, having worked in corporates or other types of companies.

“avoid someone who is easy to be with because they don’t challenge you”

The coach may come from a similar functional background or something completely different, but as they not working with you on technical issues but rather on helping you more strategic and interpersonal challenges, they mainly just need to understand corporate dynamic and how they can affect your performance so they can guide you through them more effectively. For example coaches who come from an entrepreneurial or start-up background may focus on helping young entrepreneurs as they kick-off their business but may not be as effective with CEOs of large multinationals.

2. Methodology – It is important that the coach understand the process of coaching and can articulate it clearly. This is not about giving a step by step account of what will happen in the coaching, as this will be influenced by the client and the challenges being faced, but the coach should be able to communicate and share the framework that they use, the timeframes that they generally work within, the type of work and challenges that they have experience in dealing with, and the broad framework of the process. This is to ensure that you are being taken on an actual, measurable, goal-focused journey, rather than a meandering personal conversation with no clear objectives.

3. Fit -this does not mean that you need to like the coach, and in fact, it is expected that a coach can challenge you and move you you from your comfort zone (albeit in a respectful and humane way), otherwise they would not be doing their job, but it is important that you believe that this a person that you can work with and that you can comfortably and securely share confidences with and be completely open to. If you cannot, the coaching process will at best be slowed down and at worst completely ineffective.

4. Flexibility – different problems require different approaches but there are many coaches who will focus only on one technique or approach because that is all they know. While expertise in specific tools and approaches is very important, it is just as essential that the coach will be able to work with you in a way that best suits you and the challenge you are currently facing. The old saying that the person with a hammer sees every problem as a nail is apropos.

5. Gravitas – The coach should come across as credible, both in their experiences and background, and in person. They should be seen to take their role as a senior sounding board seriously.

Psychological Awareness – While coaches should not be expected to be psychologists, and they should never be doing therapy with clients, a strong foundational understanding of psychological theory and its practical use is essential to achieve everything from building rapport to influencing the coachee within ethical bounds.

There are many other things that may be important in your own selection of a coach, but don’t let that stop you from finding one soon and focusing on taking your performance to the next level!

For a free consultation with no expectations, please get in touch. If we do not have the right coach for you, we will gladly help you find them.