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Executive Coaching Speed-Date: One Day to a Better You

Dec 01, 200410 mins

An executive coach takes an up-and- coming CSO on a whirlwind self-improvement spree

The SettingAn office park in a commercial section of San Rafael, Calif., some 30 minutes north of San Francisco. The building is one of a series of low-slung offices, housing computer graphic artists, stagehands and other employees of Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), the special effects company formed by George Lucas, the Hollywood legend famous for his visual wizardry on films such as Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Lucasfilm is a private company that, in keeping with the inclinations of its founder, has avoided the limelight. Likewise, at the nondescript ILM campus, there’s no glitz and glamour or any other indication that inside these brick walls, some of the most creative minds in the film industry are doing the boffo work that has brought ILM to the pinnacle of the special effects biz.

Two menone the safety and security manager for Lucas Digital, the other an executive coachhave agreed to spend a full day together here. The purpose of the meeting, which was arranged by CSO, is to help Anders Noyes, the security manager, sharpen his leadership skills during an important transition: Noyes is being promoted in January 2005 to the newly created role of CSO of Lucasfilm, the parent company of Lucas Digital and ILM.

Think of it as an episode for a TV series, Coach Eye for the CSO Guy. Noyes is starring in the role of willing volunteer who’s put himself in the hands of a local expert, seasoned executive coach Jeff Rosenthal. Readers and viewers can tune in for a glimpse into how the executive coaching process can help an emerging CSO become a stronger, more effective leader.Big Challenges Noyes is stepping into his new role at a crucial time for Lucas. The company is moving next year into a new complex called the Letterman Digital Arts Center, located in the Presidio, a national park and national historic landmark district just north of the Golden Gate bridge. The center will bring together Lucasfilm, the corporate parent; LucasArts, which creates entertainment software for consumers; and ILM. (The center will also host outside tenants.)

This move is Noyes’s primary concern. “They’re all coming together in two buildings, so there’s a potential culture clash,” he says. The Letterman center will also be open to the public, which means employees will be moving from relatively sequestered offices to a complex where they have to be more aware of issues such as access control.

Noyes will also be wearing a new global hat. He’ll be responsible for security at the company’s new digital animation studio, Lucasfilm Animation Singapore, a partnership with the Singapore Economic Development Board. In that role, he’ll need to work with law enforcement agencies in that country and deal with intellectual property issues.

The scope of his job will increase as well. After his promotion, Noyes’s responsibilities will include physical and information security, IP protection and investigation, risk assessment, workplace violence prevention programs, location security for productions, and consulting with third-party tenants on the campuses. Noyes will have about 60 direct reports instead of just six.A CSO Is BornAfter going over Noyes’s goals and challenges, Rosenthal settles into his Aeron chair and changes gears. “I’d like to switch now to getting to know you, as both a person and a leader,” he says. The meeting takes on the tone of a therapy session, with Noyes talking about his background much as a patient might upon visiting a psychologist for the first time.

When Noyes graduated from high school in 1985, his parents knew they couldn’t afford to send both him and his younger brother to college, so Noyes joined the workforce, answering phones as a public safety dispatcher in San Francisco. Soon he became a police officer, patrolling the city of Pacifica, just south of San Francisco.

When Rosenthal asks him to think about his defining moments from those years, Noyes explains that he has always played the role of protector. When he was four years old, he helped play peacemaker between his mother and his younger brother, who was tossing the family’s kittens in the air. In high school, he cooled down confrontations between his friends and others. On the police force, he won awards for his work in schools and the community on preventing child abuse.

But after 12 years as a police officer, Noyes hurt his back bending over to collect evidence during a marijuana bust. The injury forced him into a desk job and, eventually, off the force. “It was disappointing because that was my whole world,” he recalls. “The force had become my second family.”

After a brief stint with his father’s business, Noyes took a job in 1999 as head of loss prevention at the Sony Metreon, a shopping and entertainment complex in San Francisco. Two years later, looking for a new challenge, Noyes became director of museum security services at the city’s Asian Art Museum. There, Noyes says with uncharacteristic swagger, he helped build one of the top museum security organizations in the country.

In April 2004, he left the museum and joined ILM, where he currently reports to the director of corporate real estate operations for Lucas Digital. Upon his promotion, he’ll report to Angelo Garcia, director of Lucas Real Estate Holdings, which oversees all of the company’s properties.Feedback TimeIt’s time for Rosenthal and Noyes to pore over the leadership assessment report, a compilation of feedback Rosenthal has gathered from eight of Noyes’s peers and direct reports. The bottom line: His cohorts rate him quite favorably in nearly every category. On the 1-7 scale used to rate his strengths (1 being lowest), Noyes hovers around a 6 on the leadership categories used in the survey. That makes for a little less drama in the day’s session. If Noyes had received some lower scores, there might have been an opportunity for more interesting probing. (“Why do you think your peers gave you a 2.5 for: demonstrates business competence?”) But Rosenthal does zero in on a couple of categories in which Noyes’s peers rated him higher than he rated himself.

For example, in the category of “internal attunement,” which includes self-awareness and having “the confidence to assert [one’s] own views and challenge ideas or decisions based on personal passion or conviction,” others gave Noyes a 5.8, but he gave himself only a 5.2. Rosenthal wants to know why.

“It’s always been a conflict for me, from the police up until now,” Noyes says. “For example, as an officer, you have to enforce laws you don’t always agree with.” He says that he sometimes may not agree with a decision or plan, but he goes along and makes the plan actionable for his staff because, well, that’s his job.

“With the title you’re going to have and the role you’re going to play, [other executives] are going to expect you to not just enforce the law; you’ll be writing it,” Rosenthal tells Noyes. “I would assume they’ll be looking to you to lead the way when the way hasn’t been led before.”

Rosenthal brings up the leadership notion of being either a thermometer or a thermostat. Perhaps Noyes is more prone to measuring other people’s feelings and reflecting themacting as a thermometerbecause of his propensity to play referee or peacemaker. (Think back to Noyes’s intervening between his mother and brother.) Noyes may want to become more of a thermostat in his new positionthat is, making his point of view known and pushing back on decisions he does not agree with.

“I would be pushing you more on the side of the leadership role,” Rosenthal says. “And if people say, Whoa! back off, that’s better than them saying, Hey, he should be doing more.'” Noyes nods in agreement.

Rosenthal asks Noyes to name the things he found most and least surprising in the assessments. Noyes says that he was least surprised by his high ranking in integrity, a trait he values strongly in himself and one he believes is critical to good leadership. He was, however, surprised that others didn’t rate him as low as he rated himself in terms of challenging the decisions made by others (5.5 instead of 4).

Rosenthal gives kudos to his client for his 6.8 score in the “demonstrates admirable character” category. “If I had to pick one thing to be best at, that’s it,” he says. “That’s an extremely high score; that’s 90 percent of being able to do a good job. Everything else is window dressing compared to that.”The Action PlanIt’s the end of the afternoon. One couldn’t fault Noyes if he was beginning to show signs of fatigue; after all, a lot of self-examination has been crammed into a single, turbocharged day. (Typically, Rosenthal wouldn’t cover so much ground in one day. For example, at this point in the session, he would schedule a time to observe the client giving a speech or go over e-mails or voice mails the client had sent.) But, if anything, Noyes seems energized as Rosenthal moves right into the action planthings Noyes can do to prepare for his new CSO role and help him achieve the objectives he outlined prior to the day’s meeting.

To make the transition from a local to a global role, Rosenthal suggests networking with other CSOs in international companies and learning more about doing business in Asian cultures, specifically Singapore. To develop a communication strategy, he tells Noyes to draft a 15 minute to 30 minute speech to deliver to the senior management team in his first two weeks as CSO, laying out his core themes and goals for the CSO role. “Write it as if you’re going to do it,” says Rosenthal. The goal of the speech is to get the business execs to understand the value of the security function, “to walk out saying, I get it; I’m fired up,” he says.

He also thinks Noyes should draft a communication to present to the security team in the first week of his new role. “Say, This is who I am, what I’m hoping to do, my vision. You have a role in [security]; it’s not my way or the highway,” Rosenthal advises.PostscriptA week after the meeting, CSO followed up with Noyes to get his feedback on the coaching session. His verdict: a big thumbs-up. Most valuable, he says, was the list of transitions he needs to make. (See “The Results” on this page.)

“It points to the key goals I want to achieve over the next few months,” he says, adding that he’s also forming strategies on how to get there, including drafting the two speeches. When finished, Noyes plans on sending them to Rosenthal for comment.

Noyes also found the leadership assessment report especially valuable. “I assumed I would rate myself higher than others,” he says. “To find that the scores were close was gratifying and helped me think that maybe I’m projecting what I think I am.”

As for whether he’ll continue using Rosenthal as a coach, Noyes sounds a positive note. After he sends him the speeches, Noyes plans on talking with Rosenthal about the possibility of continuing their newly formed relationship. Certainly costs will be a part of that discussion. Rosenthal says the daily rate for coaches ranges from $2,500 to $10,000, adding that most charge between $2,500 and $5,000. Noyes says the session was valuable to him personally, and he hopes to translate that value to the company.

So would Noyes recommend a coach to other CSOs? Definitelyif they think they’re the right fit.

“It goes along with your personality type to some extent,” he says. “You’ve got to be looking to better yourself.”