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Executive Transition Coaching: Recent Research


 A leader transition is a significant shift in a leader's role due to a promotion, expansion of their role, or joining a new organization. One of the most critical factors impacting the success of a transition into a new organization is the ability of a leader to understand and adapt to the culture so that they can gain support for their efforts and achieve results quickly. Executive transition coaching can play a critical role in helping C-suite leaders integrate successfully into their new job and organizations, according to researchers McGill, Clarke, and Sheffield (2019).

Leadership Transition Study Design

The researchers conducted a qualitative study of six people receiving coaching to support their transition into C-suite roles within global corporations. In each interview, they explored participants' new roles, experiences, and challenges at each transition stage, and the experience of being coached. The study participants were employed by financial services, media, retail, insurance, and food and beverage organizations.

Key Study Findings on Leadership Transitions

The researchers identify two major findings from their study:

  • Executives experienced substantial and unprecedented challenges, mainly as a result of interactions with others, including their boss, triggering a variety of emotions from confidence and elation to overwhelm and self-doubt.
  • Executive coaching helped research participants manage their frustrations, gain new perspectives, and solve problems in a safe space, leading to lasting, positive change.

Consistency of the Study Findings with Other Sources

These themes are consistent with my work as an executive transition coach working with healthcare and pharmaceutical leaders. For example, I recently coached a new healthcare leader who was formerly a full-time physician. The shift in her role and joining a new organization with a very bureaucratic culture were overwhelming and frustrating. We explored the need for her to adapt her leadership style in working with non-clinical colleagues, adapting to and learning from setbacks, and how to pick up on critical unwritten rules for communication. As a result, my client was more successful in her attempts to sell her ideas and enlist support from key stakeholders.

The study's findings align with other researchers who have suggested the three most effective approaches to supporting leaders in transition, including executive transitions coaching, support from internal mentors, and a customized assimilation plan. In that regard, it truly takes a village to support the successful integration of a leader into a new role.

McGill, P, Clarke, P. and Sheffield, D. (2019). From “blind elation” to “oh my goodness, what have I gotten into” … Exploring the experience of executive coaching during leadership transitions into C-suite roles. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, 17(1), pp. 3-18.

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Dr. Kevin Nourse is an executive and team coach specializing in coaching newly hired or promoted executives successfully integrate into their role. He is the founder of Nourse Leadership Strategies, an executive and team coaching firm based in Southern California. For more information, contact Kevin at 310.715.8315 or kevin@nourseleadership.com.

(c) 2023 Kevin Nourse


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