Historically, coaching was used as an intervention tool. Now it is a staple of purposeful professional development.

In this two-part feature on leadership coaching, we talk to executive coaches Beverly Landais, Steve Lee and Lisa-Marie Sikand about the challenges facing today’s professional services leaders and ask how coaching enhances performance and personal impact, helping to drive clear thinking and easier/better decision making.

Part one: The power of coaching
Executive coaching is a performance tool that accelerates performance and delivers a high return on investment – an average of seven times the cost of employing a coach, but it can be far higher. This is according to numerous pieces of research, including surveys conducted over consecutive years by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and PwC.

Leaders who are given coaching support better understand their core drivers, values, interests and leadership style, giving them added confidence and insights to succeed in any role they undertake. This then pays dividends in terms of improved team and firm-wide performance – ensuring coaching’s reach extends far beyond any one individual.

In this two-part feature, we explore the specifics of how coaching supports individuals, teams and firms to harness opportunities amid the complexities of today’s more uncertain markets. We do so by sharing the perspectives of three expert coaches who have built a stellar reputation for coaching that consistently delivers tangible results.

Meet the coaches
Totum works with a panel of executive coaches who offer both individual and team coaching across the professional services sector. They each bring to their coaching long experience in professional services leadership giving them a deep understanding of the challenges today’s leaders face.
In this piece, we talk to three of them:

Beverly Landais spent nearly 30 years in business, culminating in roles as a CEO of a commercial barristers’ chambers, as well as Director of Marketing and BD (including at board level) in legal, insurance and professional services, and latterly at a wealth management firm. Here, she also worked as a business coach, gaining a professional qualification and post-graduate certificate at master’s level in business and personal coaching. Her management style, using questioning and  challenging people to think through their options, led naturally into coaching. She set up Beverly Landais Executive Coaching in 2015.

Steve Lee came to executive coaching from a background as a chartered accountant and partner (and managing partner – Partner Matters) at both Andersen and Deloitte. He describes the collapse of Andersen as a career-defining moment where he worked with people dealing with ‘a series of circumstances they might never have reasonably been expected to face’. He was also a Chief Operating Officer and Global Head of HR before becoming a NED, Consultant and Coach at Rosewell House LLP.

Lisa-Marie Sikand experienced a rapid rise to seniority – joining the legal industry in 2005 before being appointed to the C-suite at just 33 years old. She became EMEA Chief Marketing Officer for a global law firm in 2014, combining vast responsibilities with a reputation for straight-talking advice, warmth and ability. In 2020 she recalibrated her life following a series of life-changing events, including burnout, setting up her consultancy, coaching and mentoring business Soulitude7 to maximise leaders’ and firms’ effectiveness and performance . She is ICF, C-Suite, Positive Psychology and Mindfulness for Coaching accredited.

Why coaching?
Coaching can come into play at any time in an individual’s career development. ‘Typically there would be some sort of inflexion point – a transition into a new role would be a very obvious one, or the acquisition of additional responsibilities,’ says Steve. ‘Or it could be the accumulation of a whole series of little things when someone begins to feel they just need some headspace to think things through.’

Coaching can support people to step up to a leadership position, move from one organisation to another, rise to senior equity, relocate to a new office, manage retirement, handle team dynamics or difficult aspects of communication, or reevaluate career choices – a phenomenon Beverly thinks has increased since Covid. ‘More people are wondering if they made the right choices with their career. Is there something else out there? Do they want to retrain in some way?’ she says.

This has led to her spending more time on what she describes as ‘whole being’ coaching. ‘I look at what people want from their lives, how they want to develop their talents and skill sets, and not just in the workplace, but for things that give them fulfilment,’ she says. ‘I don’t just coach the job title, I coach the whole person.’

Lisa-Marie takes a similarly holistic approach, blending coaching, consultancy and mentoring in her business to not only meet the executive performance piece, but also business strategy and development needs. ‘Blending coaching with insights into strategy and development means that I have an integrated view of what is required to be successful in business,’ she says. ‘And it helps that I am a subject matter expert when it comes to law firms and business development, having spent so long deeply entrenched in the coal face of the business. I understand people, the inner workings of a law firm, the legal industry and the dynamics that are at play.Coaching to meeting sector-specific challenges

As they have all worked and been embedded in the sector, our coaches understand the unique considerations it presents.

‘The whole (much needed) modernisation of the legal industry has thrown up so many changes for the people within it,’ says Lisa-Marie. ‘An example is that it’s gone from being ‘them and us’ partners and business services, to the rise of business services professionals in their own right. More business services leaders are now sitting on the board – some have equity, and they face into the business and out to clients. And that’s a fundamental shift from the hierarchy of partners and then “support” services. On top of that, a lot of lawyers have far higher IQ than EQ (a learnable skill), which requires a different approach to navigating the ecosystem of a law firm. It is all very nuanced.’

‘I think in professional services and particularly in law, there’s a real onus on having the right answer – underpinned by the fact that many lawyers have a leaning towards perfection in every circumstance,’ adds Steve. ‘But today’s professional services firms are too complicated and nuanced to be realistically able to expect that now – if leaders can get 50-60% of the multiple difficult decisions they face every day right, then they’re doing well.’

Coaching through uncertainty, supporting market modernisation
Our coaches not only understand the cultural factors shaping leadership in the professional services sector but can also apply their deep industry understanding to the context of today’s tough market. They can therefore provide the ideal conditions for informed discussion that identifies opportunities and promotes sound decision making.

‘We have an economy with rapidly increasing interest rates, inflation is higher than most people can remember in their professional careers and technology, hybrid working, wars, pandemics and goodness knows what, give a backdrop that I suspect most leaders have never seen in their careers,’ says Steve. ‘Today’s leaders don’t have a playbook for handling this host of challenges, most of which are new. Solutions need to be thought through very carefully.’

‘To thrive in this world, you’ve got to be able to adapt quickly to lead effectively and communicate your vision,’ says Beverly. ‘Coaching gives leaders dedicated time to pause and reflect before acting. It provides time to think through critical options, question assumptions and not act out of fear or hubris. As a coach, I am there to provide structure, support and a safe space to explore issues, identify goals and look at things that might derail meeting objectives.’

Lisa-Marie’s coaching helps people to become sustainable self-leaders. ‘It’s about resourcing yourself, continuously refining your skills, mindset and attitude to be effective and healthy over the long term in demanding roles,’ she says. ‘It’s about how you continue to evolve, how you nurture yourself to modernise.’

Those who integrate coaching into their leadership career development are not just getting a step-up to help manage the dynamics of a specific role, they are building into their lives the structures to support sustained success.

In the second part of our feature delving into leadership coaching, we will look more closely at how coaching helps individuals and teams, the array of specialist coaching skills on offer to meet all requirements, and we provide guidance for finding the right coaching support in 2024.

Download our PDF here, or by clicking on the image to the left, to find out more about coaching services and the benefits you could gain for yourself and/or your firm by working with one of our expert panel of executive coaches. 

For further information about coaching services or to access your next leadership coach via Totum, contact [email protected]