After 15 years of rising through the ranks at an international law firm, Jenny Friedle took on the role of corporate technology PMO director—the first position filled at a new level of leadership within the firm. In this position, Jenny faced the daunting challenge of establishing herself as the leader of a global team that didn’t have the opportunity for regular in-person communication.
Coaching client Jenny Friedle
Chicago, Illinois, USA
The firm recognized the unique challenges Jenny faced as she stepped into this new role and offered her an opportunity to receive professional coaching. It was at this point that Jenny began working with Cathy Lieberman, ACC, an ICF-credentialed Executive Coach in Chicago, Illinois, United States.
Can you tell us a little about the situation that led you to partner with a coach?
I’ve been with my firm for about 15 years in various roles, moving up through the organization. I was promoted to a level of leadership team status and became the first person ever to serve in this new role. I was challenged with developing my department from the ground up, and bringing together a team that is based across the world, and doesn’t get to work together in the same room very often.
To help me succeed in this new role, my firm sponsored my work with a coach. They looked at it as an investment.
How long have you worked with Cathy, and how do you work together?
We’ve worked together for the past 12 months; we meet in person every four to six weeks. We also exchange emails and talk on the phone occasionally. Plus every session has homework and things of that nature in between.
Did you have any specific goals when you started working with Cathy?
ICF-credentialed coach Cathy Lieberman, ACC
My initial goal was just to improve skills related to my role. I wasn’t looking to gain a better understanding of what makes people work better and be happier, or how to truly lead my team.
I laugh about it now, but when we started working together, I remember asking Coach Cathy, “When are you going to help me find the training I need to take in order to do better at this, in order to fix that?”
She wasn’t giving me those quick fixes, and what I learned was that coaching isn’t about finding the quick fix, but taking the time to try new ways of working and see how effective they can be for you.
Coaching isn’t about the quick fix, but taking the time to try new ways of working and see how effective they can be for you.
What sort of results have you seen?
Within a relatively short timeframe, I was actually moved up within the organization to a new level. I’m now part of the technology leadership team within the firm and have tremendous new opportunities. I am managing new and more complex project loads. People are calling on me at a management level, and that was not happening 12 months ago.
Were there any exercises that led to an “aha” moment?
There was. As part of an assessment, my peers were asked to rate me on different levels of leadership. I was also asked to do a self-evaluation. I did this 12 months ago and I just did it again recently.
The first time I did it, I rated myself much lower than what my leadership had rated me, in almost every area. One of the things I needed to work on was my own self-confidence. That was eye-opening to me, and opened me up more to coaching.
We did the assessment again recently, and there were dramatic increases in certain areas, but they were also much more closely aligned, in terms of the peer ratings and my own rating.
Has coaching helped or changed anything in your life outside of work?
It has, and this wasn’t an area that I considered unhappy. But focusing on my role or the work that I’m doing isn’t easy to turn off when I’m not working. I found myself almost over-working, whether it was tracking email or making myself available and not ever shutting off.
I now know that I’m a person that needs balance between my work and life. I need to be able to step away, shut off and recharge my batteries. Learning that about myself and honoring that was a side effect, a very happy side effect from my coaching with Cathy.
Would you recommend coaching to others? What would you say to someone who is considering working with a coach?
With how busy everyone is, it’s not often that you invest in yourself, and take time to reflect and think about where you came from, and where you want to go. With coaching, this also made my goals actionable, and helped me learn to measure progress over the course of months and quarters in order to appreciate my own development.
Yes, I definitely would. With how busy everyone is, it’s not often that you invest in yourself, and take time to reflect and think about where you came from, and where you want to go. With coaching, this also made my goals actionable, and helped me learn to measure progress over the course of months and quarters in order to appreciate my own development.
Having someone else who can be objective and isn’t close to your work or personal life is really sometimes what you need. Someone you can trust.
You also need to have quite a bit of patience, and be willing to examine how you want to change, and what you’re willing to do to change. It’s not a magic pill; you have to do the work. But it’s definitely worth the effort.
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