Next Chapter Career Program for C-Suite Leaders

Are you an executive who is ready for change?

Do you have a sense that a new career or life chapter is calling you, but you are not sure what your next chapter looks like yet? Perhaps you are approaching “retirement”, transitioning out of your company, just sold your business, or you are considering a fresh start due to a change in life circumstances?

Or, perhaps after many years as an executive you are wondering: Is there a fulfilling life after being a top executive? What will you do with yourself?  It’s time to proactively define your next chapter.

We have recently launched a 9 month coaching program to help C-suite leaders to answer these questions and more.  Our Next Chapter Career Program for C-Suite Leaders is a 9-month program beginning in October 2018 and running through to June 2019. The program begins and ends with a two-day workshop at the beautiful Brew Creek Centre close to Whistler BC (meals and accommodation included).

Other elements include:

C-SUITE COHORT Throughout the program you will be placed in a cohort of up to 12 other C-suite and senior executive leaders. Each cohort member will meet our admissions criteria, and sign a confidentiality agreement. Your cohort will help you come up with high value ideas that are likely better than what you could possibly develop for yourself, share their experiences, and support your personal growth. 

EXPERIENTIAL TOOLS To help you consider your whole life, and how different elements inter-relate you will receive a suite of tools and workbooks that incorporate experiential exercises related to transitions and life design. Many of the tools come from Design Thinking1, a methodology that advocates coming up with best case scenarios and prototyping new directions. 

VIRTUAL PEER LEARNING & SUPPORT Throughout the program there will be three 90-minute webinars which include peer advice, and relevant topics.

EXECUTIVE COACH In addition, there will be four one on one coaching sessions with a Waterfront Coach, giving you the opportunity to think more deeply about your next chapter, examine your mindset and attitudes, and take fulfilling steps.

To learn more or to register please contact:  Natalie Michael -


Is Your Work Stress Impacting Your Family?

Do you ever get stressed? That’s a pretty silly question because everyone experiences stress, especially in the corporate world. Some executives handle stress well, while others are plagued by it’s nagging consequences. As pressures of fall start to hit your calendar and you strive to get things done, it’s a good time to stop and think about how stress effects you and your family, and to be clear about how you want to keep yourself in the healthy and productive zone at work, and in your relationships.

According to WebMD, more than 75% of visits to doctors are because of stress-related issues. Stress can lead to headaches, high blood pressure, asthma, arthritis, depression, cancer, anxiety, and a whole lot more.

The bottom line is that stress hinders your ability to get things done, and it negatively impacts your fulfillment, and how you show up in life – at home and at work. Typically, it impacts your relationships with those closest to you. So, what can you do about it?

It would be silly to tell you not to be stressed. Have you ever seen that work before?  I remember a high school coach who would say: “Just relax…”  Just before a big game.  It didn’t work.  Telling you what not to do or what to think can be counterproductive.

In my view,

the real cure for stress is knowing what is important to you,

and sticking to a plan.

Top executives who do great work and make it to their children’s birthday parties, and manage to be both psychologically and emotionally present, often think about how they are going to spend their time.  They think about the time they want to reserve for work, family, and personal pursuits including their spiritual and physical health. 

For example, one of my clients is the COO of one of the fastest growing companies in Canada, and next in line for the CEO.  This is a huge job!  Every Monday he color codes his calendar to ensure he has his daily workouts, his children’s pick ups, his key work commitments, wife time, and church.  His career is at an all time high, and his wife and kids love him to bits!  He also has about 7percent body fat.

When you are clear about your priorities, and you know you have a set amount of time to get something done, you make more precise choices, and you tend to get more done in a focused, short amount of time.  You also will likely discover that you have less time available for work then the driven part of yourself would have you believe, so you need to be focused about what you get done.

If you can say yes, you have the option to say no.

So, think about:  What do you want your life to be like six months from now?  What do you want similar to today?  Different?  What changes would you need to make in your calendar to make this a reality?  What would you want to say yes too?  What would you need to say no to?  These are questions you need to ask yourself every month, and week, and then stick to your game plan.  If a new opportunity comes up, ask yourself again:  What is most important to me?

Bottom line is that stress can take years off of your life, and it sucks the life out of you.  You probably know someone right now whose health and relationships are crumbling as a result of their priorities, and their persistent stress.  You don’t want to become one of these people.

So, here’s my recommendation—stop right now and block out time on your calendar to be with your partner, invest in your kids, and do something other than work. Your family deserves the best in you.

Don’t less your personal stress

keep you from being who you want to be

with the people who matter.


Upcoming Workshop January 21 - How To Conduct A Talent Review

Please join us for an upcoming webinar on how to conduct a talent review on January 21.  To register, please contact or any of the HR professional associations across Canada.

This webinar is designed for Business and HR Professionals who are responsible for designing and implementing a talent review, as part of their succession strategy. The purpose of a talent review is to collectively define the required leadership talent and leadership pipeline in the organization, one that will support organizational health and growth in the long term. The webinar includes a starter toolkit.

You Will Learn:

  • What is a talent review and how to link it with workforce planning?
  • The talent review agenda.
  • What to do before, during, and after a talent review to ensure success.
  • An overview of key discussions such as who is promotable, who is a flight risk, and who has critical skills.
  • The politics and pitfalls associated with talent reviews. 



9:15 am - 9:30 am MST: Login Time 

9:30 am - 11:00 am MST: Presentation

This webinar is designed for Business and HR Professionals who are responsible for designing and implementing a talent review, as part of their succession strategy. The purpose of a talent review is to collectively define the required leadership talent and leadership pipeline in the organization, one that will support organizational health and growth in the long term. The webinar includes a starter toolkit.


You Will Learn:

  • What is a talent review and how to link it with workforce planning?
  • The talent review agenda.
  • What to do before, during, and after a talent review to ensure success.
  • An overview of key discussions such as who is promotable, who is a flight risk, and who has critical skills.
  • The politics and pitfalls associated with talent reviews. 



9:15 am - 9:30 am MST: Login Time 

9:30 am - 11:00 am MST: Presentation

Transitioning Your Successor: The Politics of Letting Go

During a succession transition the departing executive needs to let go of control and set their successor up for success.  Sometimes this goes well and sometimes it does not.  One CEO who did this beautifully focused on the symbols of letting go.  He gave his office up right away, would defer to the new leader when asked strategic questions, and he made himself available during the transition but stayed out of the new executive’s way.  Others are not so lucky.  The letting go process is filled with politics, turf wars, and tough conversations. What gets in the way of a departing executive letting go?  Here are two of the most common political derailers and how to navigate through them.

Identity Related Politics

When the departing executive’s identity is wrapped up in their work it is harder for them to let go.  This tends to happen in founder situations or when an executive has built their whole career with one company.  For founders and “lifers” leaving the company can feel like breaking up with a deep love, or like losing a part of themselves.  It begs an important question: Who am I without this job? 

When the departing executive is struggling with identity issues they may inadvertently create politics by holding back information, or not adequately passing over key relationships, making themselves “too present” in strategic situations, or on the floor with staff, and in the worst cases they may hold back critical information.  All of this creates confusion about who to go for strategic insight and it can erode people’s confidence in the leadership transition.

Executives who are able to let go effectively typically are proactive about how they are going to deal with the transition and the associated sense of loss. For example, one CEO who successfully transitioned to their successor and shifted from executive to board work said: “I am going to China for two months so I can create some space to answer the big questions about what is next and enjoy some travel.” This is what he did.  While away he stayed on email to support the new President, and he came back with a career and life plan for himself. 

You can get a sense of whether your departing executive is on a healthy track or likely to stir up politics by asking:  What do you plan to do next?  And, what support do you have through the transition?  If they can’t answer these questions you need to ensure they are still prepared to let go, and consider getting them support.

Hero Politics

Sometimes the departing executive has the false belief that no one can do their job as well as they can.  In their own mind they are the “hero” who has kept the company alive (even if they won’t admit it).  I see this most often in professional services firms where the departing executive was the rainmaker in charge of business development and relationships. It can be like a badge of honour to feel indispensable.  When the hero dilemma is alive and well in an organization you hear things from the Board and staff like: “I don’t know what we will do without you.”  That’s a different message from “We will miss you.”

The hero mindset can lead to two challenges.  First, departing executives with this mindset tend to delay grooming a successor because they can’t see how someone could possibly fill their shoes.  Second, they may try to find a successor using the “similar to me” bias, meaning that they look for someone like them rather than slowing down to think about the future of the business. 

Executives without the hero mindset behave differently. They tend to think about the long term future of the company and what is needed to sustain the business and service customers.  They see their departure as a moment to think intentionally about what the business needs to stay competitive in the future.  “What’s changing in the world?  How does this influence the way we need to do business?  And, how do need to position this role to ensure we are adding value to customers in the future?”

They are also more willing to think about ways that their job and responsibilities can be allocated to others, perhaps splitting their role between two people or creating systems or processes so that others can fulfill their responsibilities.  They give themselves lead time so they can spend years (not days) cultivating the skillset required. For example, one proactive CEO said: “I groom all the executives for my role so that I know the strategic capabilities run deep.  The bonus of this approach is that I have a stronger executive team as a result.”

If identity or hero related politics are evident in your organization be aware that it can lead to a “one up and one down” dynamic between the outgoing and incoming executive.  This means that the departing executive is viewed as the gold standard and the new executive is the second best.  This can lead to fear about the future rather than optimism.  It is much more valuable when the departing executive explains what they have done to set the new leader up for success, and they express how they will continue to support the leader during the transition, and that they areconfidence in the new executive’s talents and capabilities.


An Executive Coaching Case Study - How to Build Confidence

This past few weeks there has been a theme to my coaching sessions – key executives lack confidence.  I have been coaching a few people who are talented, ambitious, and well-liked, yet they feel insecure.  As they push themselves to try new things and network with more senior people in the business they get “triggered.”  They lose their point of center, and instead of showing up as the fabulous leader they know they can be, they play small, and momentarily believe that a small sandbox is where they are meant to be.  Here is a story of how one of my clients worked through his insecurities and became more confident.

One of my clients, we will call him John, was recently promoted to VP in a high growth company.  He is a talented, hard working, funny, down to earth person with loving relationships in his life.  He also has an excellent track record running high growth operations, and he has the ability to coach others and dive into the details when he needs to.  The majority of the executive team support him and believe that he is the best person for the VP role. 

But, when he was promoted to VP he lost his confidence (temporarily).  Instead of being the great leader he is he kept quiet in key meetings, and instead of sharing his perspective and strategic insights he deferred to others.  Why?  He told me that he just didn’t think he had much to contribute to his “experienced and smart” peers.  After some coaching work he now knows this is not the case.

So, what was the coaching work we did to turn this around?

First, I sent him a document that highlights the difference between confidence and self-esteem.  From studying the work of Nathaniel Branden, the “father of self-esteem,” I understand that self-esteem comes from a belief that you are wrong or bad in some way as a person, and confidence is more contextual.  For example, I can have healthy self-esteem, yet not feel confident about expressing an opinion on brain surgery in a room of surgeons.  For John, it was clear that his confidence was contextual.

Second, we explored John’s confidence triggers.  That is, we looked at what specific situations would rock him off his best self.  I had him complete six emotional trigger records in a variety of situations which derailed him.  Doing this work (which took quite a bit of effort on his part) allowed us to see the beliefs and emotional patterns which emerged during insecure situations.  For example, one unproductive belief was that it wasn’t okay to be learning his new role and somehow he should “know” how everything works.  For him, adopting the learner mindset was helpful.

Third, we looked at cognitive thinking biases.  That is, we had him figure out what happened to his thinking when he was insecure.  Was he overly negative?  Catastrophizing (imagining overly negative things would happen)?  Or, was there an empathy gap (the tendency to be highly self-critical and lack empathy towards himself).  When he pin pointed his biases he had an a-ha moment.  “My mind is playing tricks on me.  It helps to be aware of what is happening.”  Then, we looked at more balanced and realistic thoughts compared to the negative biases that were chattering in his brain.

Fourth, we evaluated the physical warning signs that he was being triggered.  We looked at his breathing, his body, his walk, his palms, and how the physical sensations of insecurity travelled through him.  Then, we came up with a strategy for noticing when the physical sensations were starting up (usually this was the pre-cursor to the negative thinking) and he came up with a personalized technique for creating a moment of space so that the sensations would not escalate.

Fifth, we created a confidence “toolbox.”  This consisted of 10 strategies that were totally customized to his needs and situation and that would help him re-center and ground himself in confident energy.  Items in his toolbox were centering practices before key meetings, ensuring he was prepared, asking questions when the critical voice started to emerge, and taking stock of what went well each day and his role in creating these positive outcomes (a big one for him).  This is stuff he knew how to do, yet he wasn’t connecting not doing these practices with his confidence plummet. 

With all of these strategies deployed he started to understand that his confidence issues were contextual (and not an indication of his talent or potential), and they could be prevented if he anticipated his triggers, paid attention to his body, was prepared before key meetings, and he watched the negative thinking biases that took him down the rabbit hole.  He recognized that when he was stretching himself he needed to do more of this personal work, not less, and the same principles that applied to him also applied to his kids and his direct reports.  The multiplier benefits of his toolbox was gravy.

I am happy to report that he is thriving in his role.

What's In the Works - Vancouver Executive Coaching Summary 2015

It's been a long time since writing has been on my priority list, yet as the fall approaches my writing itch is coming on strong and I have been spending a lot of time pondering what I want my writing focus to be for 2016.  I find this type of contemplation indicative of a transition because in the past I have been so focused on succession planning and career fulfillment as a career topic.  Something else is emerging now, and my intention is to have it clarified for the fall.  In the meantime, I wanted to share what has been happening in 2015 and all the delicious projects that have been in the works.

  • Global Coaching Project - Three years running I have been leading a global coaching project for a billion dollar company that is delivered in 18 countries and offered in two languages.  I am now leading a team of 3 coaches and focusing on quality delivery and coaching the coaches.  It has been so gratifying to see the delight from clients who are having leadership breakthroughs, and overcoming obstacles, and it is inspiring to see how technology can allow us to support a leader's development in Africa, the UK, Australia etc.
  • Top Team Executive Coaching Assignment - I am also leading a coaching project with a top executive team for a local division of an international global brand company.  This assignment is focused on coaching the 12 top executives to be more inspiring with developing and communicating vision and each person has their own personalized coaching goals.  We just received some client satisfaction feedback and so far we are seeing top marks.   Two phrases for this project come to mind - Transformational Change and the Power of Partnership. 
  • Transformational Leadership for a Not for Profit - In addition, I co-designed a leadership model and program for a local not for profit that I have to mention - Covenant House.  So proud of the Executive Director who just won the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award.  The Covenant House team is exceptional.
  • MacKay CEO Forums - About one and a half years ago I developed my first CEO forum with Mackay CEO Forums.  It has been like drinking from a fire house yet deeply fulfilling.  I am now running 4 forums and working with approximately 50 CEOS in this process.  This includes coaching, retreat design, and facilitation.  Three words - I love it.  This has been a positive evolution of my practice and will definitely continue for the future.  I am now the BC Chair Lead which means I represent BC Chairs during strategic planning and I do peer coaching for chairs who are learning the ropes. 
  • BC CEO Awards - In addition, I took on the chairing of the BC CEO Awards Nominations Committee.  This was also deeply gratifying because I had the opportunity to encourage CEOs who devote their lives to their work to pause to reflect on their achievements.  We have a stellar line up of winners for 2015.  I spoke to some of the winning CEOS last night and it was meaningful to see what the award meant to them.
  • Coaching Tools - In addition, I doubled the content of my coaching toolkit - a collection of exercises that clients complete when we coach together.  I also overhauled my coaching process so that it is less time intensive and higher impact for CEOs and top executives. 
  • Space, space, space - And, although it may not sound like it by reading all of these actions my biggest moment of progress for 2015 so far has been carving out some personal space for creative projects.  It has taken me years to be able to embrace white space in my calendar for the purpose of long range visioning and for the first time in a long time I have created this and it is as terrific as I imagined it would be.

Executive Coaching, CEO forums and developing my coaching platform and toolkit will be the continued focus for 2016.  More to come on that in the coming months.



Emotional Intelligence Vancouver Workshop

We now offer a one day highly interactive workshop on emotional intelligence that can be delivered as a stand alone for leadership teams or delivered as part of an executive retreat. One-DAY Workshop Including a Personalized EQi Assessment & Debrief

Emotional intelligence is a key factor in developing strong relationships, gaining buy-in from others, and contributing to highly successful career and balanced, happy life.

Successful companies world wide use Emotional Intelligence to support leadership development, sales programs and recruiting.  Consider the payoff for you personally and for your company if everyone was highly emotionally intelligent?

In a study by the Centre for Creative Leadership, it was identified that the most successful leaders scored higher in all areas of emotional intelligence over their less successful peers.

In this highly interactive workshop, you will increase awareness of how your emotional intelligence is helping or hindering your leadership and career potential so you can be more effective at influencing, motivating, and relating to others.

Participants will:

  • Explore the science and application of emotional intelligence, and why it is one of the most defining aspects of leadership and life success
  • Gain an increased awareness of what emotional intelligence is; its impact on you, on others and in your workplace and why others would want to “follow you” as a leader
  • Learn how to develop emotional intelligence, practice it, and apply it to everyday situations at work
  • Have greater understanding of others' perspectives and emotions, particularly helpful during change initiatives
  • Learn how to manage your own emotions better when faced with difficult, stressful situations

The workshop includes….

ü  One-day workshop

ü  Workbook

ü  Personalized EQi assessment report

ü  Private interpretive debrief of your EQi report following the workshop




Succession Management Workshop Vancouver

If you have not registered for my upcoming succession management and talent review workshops now is the time.  Friday is the last succession planning workshop being offered until 2015, and it is bundled with a workshop on how to facilitate a talent review.  You can register and learn more on the BC HRMA website.




Meditation Resources for Executive Coaching Clients in Vancouver

I am in Sedona, Arizona right now and the theme of my trip is meditation and mindfulness.  I have been on this path for awhile, starting the journey with struggling to tame my mind for two minutes to now actually enjoying the process of becoming more self aware and meditating, and being more conscious about taking the spiritual perspective in my life when I encounter challenging or creative situations.  I can now say from experience, "This stuff works!" In Vancouver (a forward thinking city) I am not alone in my meditation journey.  In fact, most of the CEOs and executives I work with try to meditate, want to meditate, or they struggle with being present, and juggling "enjoying the moment" with satisfying their unrelenting drive.  Although in my view meditation takes many forms, and can be as simple as an invigorating bike ride, or moment of solitude, I am always on the hunt for new resources that simplify the process, and make the journey more fun.

UCLA has a mindfulness meditation research center and it has tons of great (and free) stuff.  If you are motivated, you can even get certified in mindfulness meditation (you can get certified in pretty much anything these days, but that's another post all together).  Anyway, here are some links for free meditations that are fantastic, and there are some good articles too.

A link to the center:

Have a fantastic day, and I hope you see all the good that is right in front of you,



A Great Quote From a Famous Venture Capitalist

I liked this recent quote from Marc Andreessen the famous Silicon Valley VC that sums what it is like as an entrepreneur. It pretty much explains my client’s day to day realities and why an objective sounding board like an executive coach can be so valuable, and critical for staying sane.

"Ask any entrepreneur in the Valley how their company’s going. 'Oh, it’s going great. Everything’s fine.' But internally they’re always about to throw up. Because there’s always something going wrong. Some key employee is about to quit, or some new competitor has popped up, or some product has slipped, or some customer is suing you, or some crazy thing is happening. There’s nothing easy about building a company.”