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A Successful CEO Shares His Story: Why An Executive Coach?



A long-running CEO of a multinational company helps to facilitate the merger of his firm with a larger company … and then decides to move on to the next adventure. Is this a job for an outplacement service? Or might that CEO benefit from the support of an Executive Coach? Here’s what happened for that CEO…in his own words.


Why an Executive Coach?


Guest Post by M.F.


In 2017, following a merger, I left the multinational company I was with for 27 years. I was the CEO of their North American operations for the past 11 years. From 2012 to 2016 we had an extraordinary run and the North American results were stellar. My termination was amicable.

In June 2017 I took four months off, after which I decided to look for my next opportunity. This was new territory for me. I had no resume, no on-line presence. My professional network was extensive, but I did not know how best to communicate my new status.

I had met Lenann McGookey Gardner of Lenann McGookey Gardner Management Consulting, Inc. three years before, as she helped our company audit the quality of our sales team. Following a brief discussion, she offered to assist me as an Executive Coach, convincing me that my new task was very similar to the ultimate sales job.

I decided to forego outplacement services and work exclusively with Lenann to help me decide my next steps and how to go about taking them.

Now, one year later, I am an independent consultant with a strong book of business. I am content, intellectually satisfied and my life is significantly better than when I was a senior executive. How did Lenann help me get there?

  • Lenann forced me to remain focused by insisting on a thorough review of my progress in the job search on a weekly basis.
  • She insisted on developing KPIs for the job search: How many key people are in your network, and how many have you contacted this week and to date?
  • Lenann also insisted that I focus on having actual meetings rather than just communicating via email. This is absolutely key.
  • She urged me to go to a number of industry conferences, forcing me “to get out there,” not always the most comfortable thing to do.
  • After a few months we developed an opportunity pipeline template, and she would ask on our regular calls what the next step for each was and whether an opportunity was still live or should be closed. As of today, the pipeline of opportunities is quite extensive.
  • Lenann was also very helpful building my resume and LinkedIn profile. This was a lengthy, iterative process. Her input was very good. It was only after a few months that we had a product worth sharing with the world. The wait was worth it.
  • Lenann shares key relevant articles and new research in my field, and on the topics of job search, relevant HR issues and thought-provoking leadership topics. This is generally practical, useful information; she wants me to be up to speed. And she quizzes me on those articles.
  • Of course, we would prepare together for interviews and key meetings, and debrief them to discuss the way forward.
  • Finally, Lenann has helped me price my services as a consultant.

The above steps may seem trivial, but they were not. An Executive Coach such as Lenann provides organization and focus and allows you to vent frustrations without the inevitable emotional content if you did your venting with a spouse or partner. Lenann also helped me realize that life is non-linear, that prejudices abound and that the digital world’s job search tools, which are so comfortable because they are so easy to use and somewhat anonymous, provide only a small portion of the tools needed for success.

The Executive Coach’s personality is key. Lenann needed to provide direction to an opinionated senior executive. She has the ability to handle strong personalities, remained at all times very professional but if needed was firm, especially about meeting deadlines and reviewing KPIs. It helps that she herself has held senior executive roles, and that she advises many, so her connection to the business world is fresh. Weekly calls with her force a discipline in the search and her mentoring was helpful because it was thoughtful, practical, rooted in the real world and never condescending.

Working with an Executive Coach, as one launches a job search, was not obvious to me. With hindsight I am very satisfied to work with a coach of Lenann’s caliber.

With her help, I easily transitioned out of the unemployed phase. I am now in full control of my new circumstances.


What do you think? Could the type of support this CEO received help you take full control of your career? What other ideas might work? Comment below or scroll down to schedule a time to brainstorm!

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What Too Many Women Don’t Get About Business (and how you can FIX THIS!)

I can just see the comments now: why are you writing only to women? Do you think men “get” everything about business … due to their … what … superior hormones?


There are 10 big issues that I’ve noticed many women in business are having problems with --and I have solutions. I have them because I’ve been consulting, helping people grow their businesses, for 25 years. I started out at Harvard Business School for an MBA, and then succeeded big-time in business. (Remember Rainbow Brite, the little doll that had the most successful launch year of any doll in history? I was product manager. Remember Xerox selling what we’d now call “enterprise software” -- to run most all aspects of a business? I was top sales rep in that company in my first year selling. Etc.) I led teams, and I helped my employers bring in big money. We brought in good profits, too.

So now I “advise.”

I help people understand what’s working, and what isn’t, about their businesses (and sometimes their “business” is just finding their next job). I challenge them, support them, push them a little, and make sure they’re moving toward THEIR goals. (And if they don’t have goals, I help them formulate them, first, so anything we do can be measured against their own targets.)

Here are 10 “big-picture things” I’ve noticed that are hurting women more often than men in business, and the fixes:

1. Fear. Many women are afraid to really test themselves. They SAY they’re busy, and that they want to be careful not to take time away from their partners, children, pets, homes … but the truth is, they’re afraid. Probably they’re afraid of failure. Some are afraid of spending ANY money – and it’s often true that you’ll need to spend money to make money. THE FIX: don’t have a false dichotomy in your mind – it’s not true that you’re either a warm, loving person OR you’re a hard-nosed businessperson. You can be involved in business and still have time for your family and friends, if you act like an adult and structure your time properly.

2. Distraction. It seems everybody’s distracted these days. I’ve come to see it as a misguided reaction to too much stimulation. THE FIX:  don’t have multiple devices in front of you. Don’t allow “stress” to drive you from one thing to the next without any real focus on anything. When you need to get some specific thing done, tell yourself, “I won’t do anything but THIS for an hour,” set an alarm, and don’t allow yourself to be interrupted. Put a rubber band around your wrist, and when you catch your thoughts wandering, snap yourself, and remind yourself that you’re not doing anything but this one thing for an hour!

3. Bad attitude. It’s been said that there’s an epidemic of mental illness in the world. Perhaps that’s true. If you have any doubt about whether you might be depressed, see a professional therapist. But if you’re just dealing with the challenges of life, stop being such a Negative Nellie. THE FIX: I like Oprah’s idea of writing down 3 things I’m grateful for every single day. Even if you don’t write them, think about it – aren’t you happy to be alive on this day? Haven’t you seen a beautiful face, or a graceful tree, or a lovely sunset? Why wouldn’t you focus on those things, rather than the things that haven’t gone your way? Where you place your focus determines how you’ll feel about your life, and the attitude you project.

Do these resonate with you? Click here to read the rest of the list and join the conversation on LinkedIn!


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Are you serious about leadership?


Too many people -- more women than men, it seems -- are less than excited about their leadership role. They acknowledge that leadership is their job, but they aren't fully stepping up.

Leadership means taking responsibility, and it also means wielding power. It means really caring about your team members' development, challenging them to step up. And it means saying so if they don't ... or if their efforts are less-than-successful.

You help no one when you step back from the leadership aspects of your job. And you're stepping back when you blame senior management for what you're asking your team to produce.

The truth is that, from time to time, you'll need to ask for a push. For an extra effort. For a greater-than-usual commitment. And you have every right to expect your team to respond. If extraordinary efforts are regularly required, you need to be asking for increased headcount, and making the best possible case for that to your leadership.

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How Can You Lead When You're Overwhelmed?


Overwhelm is a state of mind. Balancing a lot of competing priorities is part of the job description of most leaders, and you're likely no exception. Responding in "panic mode," however, isn't required.

It isn't even a good idea.

Your team learns, from you, how to respond to pressure. If you're panicking, they are likely to do so, too. Instead, find your center. Take a meditation course -- or a little bit of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) -- and learn how to center yourself no matter what is going on around you. (I knew I had this down when I learned how to lower my blood pressure right before the doctor put the cuff on me!)

A quick cheat on this: take 3 very deep breaths, slowly. Breathe to the bottom of your lungs. You'll know you've done it when, as you inhale, your stomach pushes OUT. (When you exhale one of these breaths, your stomach goes flatter. Yes, that's the opposite of inhaling and pulling in your abs!)

It's never productive to visibly give in to your agitation and fear on the job. If you're scared, tell a spouse or trusted friend, but remember that, to your team, you're Typhoid Mary (or Michael), infecting each of them with whatever mood you display.

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Click the logos below for testimonials.

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I just landed $300K in funding from the Department of Homeland Security's Human Factors Group – historically a very difficult customer. The customer actually gave me $75K more than what I'd asked for. Since then, I have developed a trusted advisor position with this PM. She asks my opinion on program ideas and continues to send money almost without my asking for it. I attribute this success directly … specifically to the coaching I have been getting from Lenann.”

Dr. Ann Speed
Cognitive Psychologist, Sandia National Laboratories

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Observing the positive effects of Lenann's executive coaching with a colleague, I reached out. I was impressed after our first conversation with how well she listened -- not just to the concept I was trying to convey, but also the words I chose to describe situations. As she reflected those words back to me with insightful questioning, I began to fundamentally understand myself better and what communication tools were needed to be more effective in management and leadership. What reinforced my learnings from our sessions further were the reflections and readings after our sessions. As Lenann heard about my interest in analytics she provided me with a very detailed overview of specific degree programs that were exactly what I was interested in pursuing. This again is evidence of how carefully and deliberately Lenann listens and invests in her clients. Furthermore, dedicated to her clients, Lenann was extremely responsive and always available. I have benefitted immensely from my time with Lenann and recommend her highly for anyone who finds themselves wondering how they can grow or improve themselves professionally. I use the tools and techniques I developed with Lenann's assistance regularly. My only regret is that I could have met Lenann sooner!”

Dr. Irene Krokos
Senior Regional Medical Director, Molina Healthcare (a Fortune 500 company)

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann, you’ve been a GREAT help!  Thanks for reminding me of so many important points for my work introducing new, bleeding-edge technologies to senior banking officials.  During my days as Managing Director, Head Trader and Head of Structured Trading for a leading global securities firm, my challenge was introducing new technologies internally; now that I am introducing them to organizations of which I am not an employee, the challenges are different, and I am happy to let you know that, just today, I have been asked to represent to some high-level banking contacts the technology of a Canadian firm whose work is exemplary!  I appreciate your Executive Coaching, communications and meeting strategy advice, and specifically your advice on communications with my newest client that enabled me to secure this monthly-retainer-plus-success-fee arrangement.”

Gary W.
Gary W., Ph.D. and Senior Technology Professional, London, U.K.

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“My partners share my high evaluation of your program and recognition of your skills. Thank you for the excellent program to help our leaders.”

Igor Rodin
(Former) Vice Chairman, Deloitte Central Europe

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Closed 5 deals last week!! Thanks, Lenann, for your support, guidance and belief. The Game On Sales Coaching program we are doing with you keeps me sharp on the follow ups, value estimation and most importantly the closing rates!”

Jase P. Choenni
Head of Sales & Marketing, TMF GROUP BRAZIL

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Thanks so much for the quick follow-up to our meeting today.  I was extremely pleased and excited to see how well your work was received.  It was a beautiful thing!  Yes, I believe your calculations are correct as to the additional revenue my team has committed to bringing in!  I am thrilled that we did this, and feel we’re all excited about achieving our goals for growing our business.  I do think my change in how I am approaching leading our business went over well – I am glad I was able to vocalize that, so now I have to do it.  It was good for me to put that goal out there!”

Karen Cooper
Owner, MedCare Senior Insurance Solutions

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I was amazed at how perceptive Lenann is about issues (both personal and professional) that were impediments to my reaching sales goals. She helped me to understand that selling is first understanding the client's frame of reference, positioning through powerful, provocative statements, and a process of gaining agreement to next steps. Lenann demonstrated specifically how this is done in both verbal and written communications. In our consulting session, she distilled all the latest research and what's working in today's environment. What she taught me should become basic to my approach with all prospective clients. Lenann is brilliant, enthusiastic, and above all, very personable. The experience of working with Lenann was surprisingly pleasant, and gave me the confidence that I could also improve my selling abilities by following her recommendations. She is truly inspirational. I look forward to continuing my work with Lenann.”

Wealth Management Professional, Major Financial Institution

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“The Coaching I received from Lenann was invaluable to me. My takeaways included: Learning how to understand your client as opposed to 'knowing your client' – this has made me a far better listener and more empathetic to my clients' REAL needs; Being the 'trusted advisor' as opposed to a service provider – I had an interesting experience that I would like to share with you. I was asked by a potential client to assist with a matter that I knew we did not have the 'firepower' to assist them with. In the profession, it is unheard of to admit that your competitors are ahead of you but I tried it with the client and it worked. Today, he FIRST talks to me about any assistance that he may need and does not even ask for competitor bids; Handling difficult clients. Lenann has been a great help in honing my skills in this area. I have found myself more prepared to 'walk the road' during the client's time of difficulty than before. In my business, we are supposed to be transaction-oriented since we deal with clients on a project-by-project basis. However, where I have invested the time to deal with a client's unhappiness instead of handing the matter over to my colleagues, to my surprise, the client has 'come around' to even admitting that his/her organization was the place where the fault lies – that is a major 'coup' for us since it is very seldom that a client does that. We have managed to build a sustainable business (revenues and earnings is way up on last years' and, most importantly, we have built an impressive team) under fairly trying circumstances – Lenann has played a role in enabling me to do this.”

Neven Hendricks
(Former) Partner Deloitte, United Arab Emirates

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I can’t wait to start having meetings with our techs about the daily Sales Tips you’ve been creating and sending me daily. I really like today’s in particular because I think our techs might believe that sales is a nasty word. This will help me get the dialogue started and hopefully help them see it in a more positive light! Again, thank you!”

Rhonda Stewart
Rhonda Stewart, Owner, RotoRooter, Victorville, California

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Here are some key things I learned from working with Lenann: 1. I like the concept of a “Challenger Salesperson.” The more interesting, engaging and informative we can be in a useful way to the client, the better. 2. I don’t spend as much time selling as I think I do. 3. The way people do business continues to change and evolve – and I have to keep my selling skills current to keep up with those changes. 4. Treat others the way they want to be treated (not necessarily how I would want to be treated if I were them). A big company we haven’t done meaningful business with in about 5 years is about to come back in a very meaningful and multi-million dollar way…”

Russ Conser
Key Account Manager, Oberthur Technologies

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann, you've been great, as always. You put me in the right direction every time we speak - you tell me to focus on the right stuff and 'build it right.' Thanks!”

Scott Price
Regional Director - Americas, Custom House Fund Services, Chicago

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann has been my coach for over 8 years now. The coaching conversations we have are worthwhile because they give me the opportunity to speak freely and honestly about the leadership challenges I am facing without fear of retaliation or negative thoughts from superiors within my organization. Her advice has often put me back on track to achieve my goals and career ambitions. The focus and accountability she provides has been extremely valuable for my success and advancement. Another unique aspect of Lenann’s coaching for me has been the female role model perspective. There are very few women throughout my career who have advanced their careers as far as Lenann has. The respect I have for her as a role model and as a professional businesswoman with a family has given me hope that I can do it all, too!”

Tina Sampson
(Former) Vice President Sales and Marketing, Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I am glad that, in addition to our Sales Training, I chose to have you sit down, one-to-one, with four of our key people. The observations you sent me about each of them are perfect and helpful, especially in cases and/or aspects which I could not put in words before, but had a feeling about.

Two of the professionals with whom you spoke continue to develop well, they are thoughtful, have considered the feedback received, and learned from it. Both have sold new engagements for us, and they are going out to sell more and more. It is nice to see how their level of confidence has increased!

Thank you again for helping me in this matter.”

Julia Varga
(Former) Managing Director, TMF Group, Hungary

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“The coaching I had with Lenann is paying off in SPADES. I’m pulling in money for other people, now. Recently I spent two hours with a prospective funder (who approached me), and followed Lenann’s selling approach (i.e., we took NO slides to the meeting and let the customer talk 95% of the time, only talking to ask questions – not to tell the customer anything about what we do). At the end of that time, I said, ‘What’s the next step?’, and the customer replied, ‘How do we send you money?’ You have to know how to conduct a conversation to make that happen – it’s 95% listening (literally!), 4% asking questions, and only 1% discussion about your content and capabilities.”

Dr. Ann Speed
PMTS, Sandia National Laboratories

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann is a very accomplished and experienced Coach, who builds her advice and coaching based on her own Executive experience. She understands the daily pressure of high level executives and through her advice is an excellent catalyst for increased productivity of her client – ultimately to the benefit of the company. She provides real value for the money, and I would any day again participate in a coaching program with Lenann given the chance.”

Claus Vorreiter Jensen
Chief Commercial Officer, Svendborg Brakes, Denmark

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann, your influence has been so positive for my career! I will never forget you. I keep close to my heart people that contribute to my growth, and you have definitely been part of my growth professionally. I hope we can always keep in touch.”

Elena Montiel
(Former) Executive of Global Business Development, TMF USA, Inc., Miami

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann was terrific! After her ‘Trust and Respect in the Workplace’ learning experience, we had the most absolute pleasant best day at work in a very long time!”

Ellen Diamond
Mark Diamond's Jewelers, Albuquerque

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Thank you for your Sales and Closing Skills Class and follow-up program for our global team. I appreciate your response to my request for your thoughts on the

  • Selling Strengths you observed on our team
  • Selling Weaknesses you observed on our team
  • Leadership Strengths you observed on our team
  • Leadership Weaknesses you observed on our team
  • Implications of all of the above for the future of our firm, and recommendations.

I found your 5-page analysis to be succinct and immediately useful and I’ve applied the lessons there. Very valuable input!”

Koen van Weezel
(Former) Group Director, Global Sales & Marketing, TMF Group, The Netherlands

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“My prospect chose to invest $2 million today – and I say ‘Thank YOU a million, Lenann!’ I couldn’t have done it without your good sales coaching yesterday! This was especially sweet because the client had expressed an interest in a discounted up-front fee, had access to plenty of managers who don't charge those fees, and yet when I took the approach you recommended, the fee wasn’t a problem. I could not have gotten that result without your guidance, Lenann.”

Wealth Management Professional, Major Global Financial Institution

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann is absolutely the best there is! I've heard Zig Ziglar, Tom Hopkins, all the gurus, but I felt 'Yeah, I've heard all this before.' Lenann changes people's lives – the way they work, think and are motivated. She makes a very real, and quite incredible, difference!”

Patti Roland
(Former) Vice President Sales & Marketing, Stonebridge Homes

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“My Executive Coaching experience with Lenann has helped me considerably. My judgment of the value of Lenann’s Coaching can best be seen in the fact that I have encouraged other members of my staff to work with her, and they have. I have seen improvement in them as well! I particularly appreciate all the ‘homework’ Lenann had me complete to get me to look at my leadership behaviors, and see ways in which I can improve. I find myself sharing materials Lenann gives me with members of my senior staff, so the learning is shared in our organization. Lenann is always the first person I mention when others ask about Coaching.”

Patty Kehoe
CEO, Molina Healthcare of NM (a Fortune 500 company)

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“Lenann, I am proud to say that our volume is up – this is very, very positive. And the growth is interesting; there are no signs of slowing down in the trend of huge sales increases we have seen. The key executive whom you are coaching is making strong progress! Thank you for the monthly Coaching Report you provide – it is an extremely useful, clear picture of where we are.
Looking forward to continuing to work with you”

Roberto Schianchi
Chief Executive Officer, ZOBELE HOLDING S.P.A

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I enjoyed Sales Coaching with Lenann so much! Lenann is very good at assessing the situation -- with a couple of simple questions she gets to the bottom of things. The one-on-one nature of Lenann’s Coaching means there’s no way you can hide (as can happen in a classroom). I was continually intrigued by Lenann’s questions and constant feedback on performance…”

Wouter Plantenga
Senior VP, Head of International Structuring Americas, TMF USA, Inc., New York

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“(Lenann’s) coaching activities are very thorough, and are a part of a modern approach which makes a lot of sense. Our sales team had a great performance in this month, and I am convinced that Lenann’s (coaching) had a big influence on this result.”

Thierry Montfort
(Former) President and CEO, Heel USA

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I feel very good about the coaching that you provided to a professional on our team. Your coaching made a critical difference. His performance was much improved after his session with you. In fact, it contributed substantially to our success last year. Thank you!”

Dr. Will Swearingen
Executive Director, TechLink

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I attribute, easily, $10 MILLION in sales directly to learning with, and coaching from, Lenann.”

Mark Walton
(Former) Partner and Global Head of Operations Consulting, PricewaterhouseCoopers, London

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“I worked with Lenann about 5 years ago. Just this month, I once again applied what she taught me, and closed 4 of 5 proposals – over $300,000! Lenann Gardner is a combination of blazing intelligence and electrifying enthusiasm!”

Pat Davis
Vice President and Director of Consulting Services, Marketing Insights Practice, KantarHealth

What other Smart Bosses are saying

“The demands on consultants these days are immense and it's so easy to end up in a 'feast or famine' situation. When you're working an engagement with a client, it can become all encompassing. I am happy to serve as a reference for Lenann McGookey Gardner, who helped me with a Coaching program. Lenann has a very engaging personality, a person never to be forgotten. I consider the materials Lenann provided to be very useful. Most of all, Lenann's advice and tips are straightforward and readily implementable when you're engaged in demanding client engagements.”

John Corr
Director AlixPartners (A global firm of senior business and consulting professionals), Somerset, United Kingdom

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