The Executive Coach, a Sparring Partner and a Helping Hand: Michael’s Case

Executive Coaching, or individual support for executives and senior managers, is one of my specialties.

The leaders I meet face overwhelming responsibilities due to the arbitration of phenomenal issues, impacting thousands of people. However, in the exercise of this role, they find it difficult to find someone to share their difficulties, the pressure they undergo, their vulnerabilities, or even their exhaustion.

The isolation of the manager is a reality to which the Executive Coach listens attentively and confidentially

How to illustrate the support of Executive Coaching and its benefits for leaders? For this, nothing beats the testimony of a client.

So here is the story of Michael, 48 years old, a member of the Top 20 of a CAC 40 company. I have stayed in touch with this brilliant and friendly senior executive, who often asks me: “When are you going to decide to write your book on Executive Coaching? I would like you to tell my story!”.

With his agreement, therefore, and in compliance with the confidentiality inherent in our code of ethics, here is his testimony on Executive Coaching mandated by his organization when he started a new position.

Why Michael Received Executive Coaching? A Few Words About the Context…


The company wanted to offer coaching to Michael for his appointment as head of strategy at the French headquarters of the company, after many years in positions abroad and in a context of great transformation. One of the identified needs was the difficulty of cultural adaptation.

But, having already lived and worked in France in the past, Michael had, from his point of view, no problem on this front. However, he had a relational problem with his superior (CEO of the company) and a tremendous pressure that had led him to the hospital twice. He quickly confided in me the major difficulties encountered at his level of responsibility:

  • a considerable workload
  • crucial challenges to face
  • the feeling of not being able to set boundaries to better balance his time
  • the lack of space for reflection required to make strategic decisions


The Usefulness of Executive Coaching

From the first interview, I identified an underestimated physical and mental fatigue, and a risk of burnout.

We then worked on raising awareness of the risks involved, on both a personal and professional level, and on developing a sense of perspective.

Together, we dispelled some beliefs and misunderstandings so that Michael could make clear choices to better manage internal and external tensions, and implement the balance objectives he had set for himself.

Here is his testimony in the form of questions and answers. Thank you Michael for your trust!


Michael’s Testimony


How did you feel before coaching?

Before starting coaching, I felt very unhappy. I had no control over anything and I saw no way out because I couldn’t find solutions to satisfy everyone. I had a stomachache and I had been hospitalized.

My discomfort began in my previous position where it was a constant race, Always on the run. Some mornings, I wondered how I was going to get through the day. At home too, I wanted to do my best and show my children that I was there for them.


What are the benefits of Executive Coaching for you?

In a nutshell: your coaching allowed me to step back, which was one of the hardest things to manage.

I was part of the top 20 in a company of 360,000 people. I managed 1.6 billion euros and a team of 150 people. I was the only foreigner in the executive committee. I never had time to breathe. I lived in panic mode for three years, but I loved it! When there’s no urgency, I get bored… But at some point, it was too much.

Executive Coaching offered me vital moments of pause. It was essential to finally find a totally safe and impartial place, to be able to exchange with someone who appreciates me and who sincerely cares about me.

I came to your Executive Coaching office in Paris because I absolutely had to solve some of the ten points that were running through my head. I’m someone who analyzes deeply but even there, it was excessive, I couldn’t handle it anymore. I know how to analyze and segment things but I really needed help to progress and overcome all this.


In your opinion, what is the usefulness of an Executive Coach?

The most important thing for me was your total independence as an Executive Coach and your knowledge of the business world.

You understood that I was constantly in imbalance between my wife and my work. I wasn’t really myself anywhere. When I spoke to my boss, it was in a particular context and when I spoke to my wife, it was also. And everything could turn against me at any moment.

Your office is a protective and completely confidential place that allowed me to clarify many things.

Your help and understanding were essential. In your office, there was no one to judge me and to whom I was accountable. It’s an oasis of calm that finally allowed me to reflect on myself.


What did you appreciate about me?

Your maturity. I wouldn’t have respected a coach who was 20 years old. Your authority, your knowledge of the industry, and the fact that you were direct shows your interest. People in top positions like mine don’t need yes-men. And hardly anyone dared to contradict me.

Your frankness helped me a lot – No bullshit. It allowed me to finally break free from my cycle of thoughts. I trusted your expertise: if you said something, it had to be true because you had no interest in the story.

You were always direct and clear. You were able to provide me with theoretical examples that showed your objectivity and answered my need for analysis. It really motivated me!

What I also really liked about your coaching stance is your attentive listening.


Do you remember a key moment from our coaching sessions?

I remember one of the crucial turning points in our interviews: when you told me to talk to my superior. To talk to him calmly but firmly, without immediately trying to solve the problem, but to wait for what comes next. I did it and what was on my mind came out without guilt.

You guided me so that I could tackle the problem at the right time. That day, I left your office and took action. But before that, you had created a clear diagram of the situation I was in, which gave me a lot of confidence and serenity.

In fact, after each session, I did something concrete to improve my life!


Had you tried to break the cycle?

When I was feeling bad, my boss just told me, “Come back soon.” He didn’t even ask me how I was, neither did any HR. This lack of consideration really affected me. Anyway, I couldn’t talk to anyone about my discomfort, because there would have been only negative judgments and no support.

If you had received support, would you have stayed?

Yes, 100%. But that wasn’t the case, so I resigned.

Today, what is your next step?

I plan to change my life!

I’ve always wanted to run a family campsite. I’ve had an incredible career that I still loved, but I plan to have fun with this campsite. At the same time, I plan to invest in startups that need to build a real business model and boost their results.

H3: In your opinion, why is Executive Coaching still confidential among leaders?

There is a real market among top executives who don’t want to go to a therapist, who also know nothing about the company.

In France, top executives are afraid of appearing vulnerable. That’s why it’s difficult for them to promote Executive Coaching.

But if I hadn’t done this work with you, I would have ended up in the hospital…


In your opinion, why is Executive Coaching still confidential among leaders?

There is a real market among top executives who don’t want to go to a therapist, who also know nothing about the company.

In France, top executives are afraid of appearing vulnerable. That’s why it’s difficult for them to promote Executive Coaching.

But if I hadn’t done this work with you, I would have ended up in the hospital…


And if coaching were to be done again?

I would have wanted longer sessions. Sometimes, I didn’t want to leave! You touched on the right points, and I wanted to go even further.


Michael experienced his Executive Coaching sessions as breathing spaces conducive to reflection, in a neutral and benevolent space. Questions asked with kindness but without concession allowed him to progress quickly and with confidence.

At this level of responsibility, Michael rarely had the opportunity to have an open and authentic professional and personal exchange. His professional environment (peers, boss, or colleagues) had with him a dual relationship woven with personal issues and potentially conflicting reports.

In coaching, Michael received positive feedback but was also challenged on his behaviors. This is one of the key elements of the success of coaching for executives and the reason for its enthusiasm, even if, as Michael admits, few openly talk about it.

Michael chose to change course to reclaim his life and put back what mattered to him at the heart of his existence.

He decided to leave the corporate world for a while to see clearly and embark on a joyful and courageous project: buying a campsite in the South of France. He thus reconnected with other aspects of his personality and with deep values of sharing and proximity with his family and nature. Michael is insatiable. After experiencing the camping adventure, he now runs a green transport company in Australia.


Caroline Hercz

Executive Coach

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