ICF Foundation Board Trustee
ICF Foundation Trustee Ann Dorgan, PCC, has spent the last five years as a member of the Foundation’s board. When asked what part of her board experience has been most rewarding, Ann replied, “Working on the ICF Foundation’s board has been a highlight of my career. It is a joy to sit on an intentionally built diverse board that represents 6 different regions of the world. Working on this global scale demands a shift in mindset. The shift is one from an independent national outlook to an interdependent global perspective, a shift from ambition for one’s own country to altruism between many countries. It provides coaches the opportunity to play a bigger game with much greater impact. The stakes are higher, and the business acumen required to be a good steward is as complex as the number of countries involved.”
Coaching a Scaling Up Organization
As for her company’s target market, Ann and her colleagues at Gumball work with scaling businesses. “Scaling Up” or “scaleups” are common expressions to reference any company whose growth has moved successfully beyond the startup phase. The organization is beyond funding rounds A or B, they have landed a viable product, there is a stable customer base, and shareholders have bought into the business’ future roadmap.
Usually, rapidly scaling leaders do not want, or can’t afford, big brand programs that many times end up being a “flavor of the month”, according to Ann. “They don’t want an ‘off-the-shelf’ offerings that introduce complex theory or mental models. Instead, they want customized experiences that can be applied immediately given their unique, and rapidly growing business. Ann and her team emphasize the importance of customization when servicing their clients and use action research to co-create strategic plans or to define coaching goals with their customers. “We don’t take for granted what we think we know,” Ann explains. “We use the phases of action research to test assumptions, both the client’s and our own. When applied right, it guarantees client inclusion. Ultimately the process helps to ensure we’re coaching on the right stuff or building programs toward the right solutions.”
5 Key Coaching Topics for Scaling Up Leaders
Ann has her MA in Applied Behavioral Science, which, in summary, is the practice of pattern-seeking in effort to reinforce or change behavior. Though not always, Ann says there seems to be a ‘topic’ pattern when it comes to coaching leaders in scaling companies, “At this point [when scaling up] leaders are building a more robust team, so they shift their primary focus from product creation and cash, to a focus on people and strategy. Execution is a given; everyone is always executing. So the most common topics that occur seem to center around: 1. Understanding Team Development Cycles; 2. Clarifying roles and Responsibilities (since the team is usually growing fast); 3. Decision Making Methodologies & Protocols; 4. Equity Allotments (who is going to get what if they sell?) and, 5. Conflict Management (how to conduct Necessary Conversations℠). Sometimes during this phase, it’s also prime for developing a leader into a coach.” However, Ann is quick to remind us that the topic combination listed above is ‘always situational’.
When asked what she thought the key to Gumball’s business success was, Ann smiled and said, “We know where we can be most useful, where we can bring the greatest impact. It took us time to nail that down, but with our customer’s input, we found it and it became our differentiator. The leaders we work with are leaders who understand the value of coaching, are doubling in size annually, are less experienced in their given Executive role, and are willing to invest real dollars in their Executive’s development.
ICF Foundation Trustee Ann Dorgan, PCC, has spent the last five years as a member of the Foundation’s board working to “accelerate and amplify organizations around the world who’s missions are committed to having a positive social impact.” Ann has brought to the board a wealth of experience and insight from her 20+ years working as a business coach with an assortment of “big brand” leaders. She is also founder and CEO of Gumball Enterprises which is a leadership development company in Seattle, WA. They are experts in executive coaching and strategic advising in innovation labs and rapidly scaling organizations. Over the last 25 years, Gumball has served fortune 500 companies around the world. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.