Veronica Frenkel is known by her clients as the Boss Whisperer. As President of Pathways Consulting, a leadership coaching, training and consulting company, Veronica passionately helps businesses reduce their turnover costs, retain and unleash the talents of their best people, and accelerate team innovation and results by thoughtfully moving managers from command-and-control management to inspire-and-engage leadership. Veronica brings her 20+ years of experience delivering high-impact, inspirational workshops and fearless, skilled facilitation to organizations that want to leverage teamwork and diversity, build organizational agility and innovation, avoid the high cost of common team challenges, and jump-start their results.
Andrew: Welcome, I’m here with Veronica Frenkel, a Center for Executive Coaching graduate. Veronica, thanks for taking the time.
Veronica: Well, thank you so much for having me Andrew.
Andrew: Let’s start with your practice. Tell us about your practice and where it is at?
Veronica: Well, I help small and medium size manufacturing companies improve their bottom line by trying to strengthen the capacity of leaders at all levels of organizations. Their goal is usually to help them handle some of the most challenging and costly people issues. Things like employee engagement, conflict, performance management, and team work. As President of Pathways Consulting, my business, my portfolio services include leadership and team development training, OD consulting, organization development consulting, and coaching.
With my support they have been able to reduce their cost associated with turnover, disengagement, and grievances. And I really love doing that work. I started my business about a decade ago focusing initially on delivering training and consulting, because I was a HR learning development professional. About five years ago, I decided to expand more into the realm of offering individual and team coaching. And while I work with a number of executives, one of my niches and one of my passions is working with newly promoted frontline supervisors to help them grow in their new leadership roles. That way, they can do a better job leading their teams to high performance using leadership schools, emotional, intelligence, and better interpersonal skills.
I really enjoy working with this group because what we know is that these leaders have the most direct and significant impact on the day-to-day experience of employees and on their engagement and performance. Now, while that has been a niche for me for some time now, I’m actually in the midst of expanding my business to develop in two ways: First, to develop unique tools and services to meet the needs of what I refer to as brilliant professional women who are tired of being misunderstood. I saw myself as falling into that category and I felt like I really wanted to transfer and support women who have been in high level executive roles or elective roles like I have; and to help them achieve greater influence and use communication skills and influence to achieve the success that they want. Your tools, from the Center of Executive Coaching, really has laid a great foundation for the work that I’m doing with them.
Second, the other group is elected officials. As a former elected official, I like to develop more support and tools to work with and coach political leaders, particularly at the local level. Because they have such a great impact on their communities.
My business is growing. I achieved six figures last year for the first time. And I pretty much am busy full time now in my own business. So, it’s been quite successful. And I’m really excited about it.
Andrew: That’s fantastic. So, small to mid size manufacturing, that’s your core?
Veronica: That was my core. It primarily was because I was doing so much training in that environment. And it evolved into them wanting to do further development. Most of my clients in the manufacturing realm brought me back in to do coaching with all levels of leadership. And as well as some OD consulting that I did. I’ve done that for several years. And even though I had never worked in the manufacturing environment, I had trained and now have been coaching folks in manufacturing for quite a few years now. So, I see that as a niche and I really enjoy that niche.
Andrew: That’s great. So, two lessons for getting a coaching practice started. One, you can get into a niche even if you don’t have previous experience in it. And two, you can build on a platform of another solution or service, like training and development that you are doing.
Veronica: That’s correct. Absolutely.
Andrew: So, either in terms of what you are doing now to get traction or how you got traction initially as a coach, what are some lessons you learned in making that happen? Or making it happen now?
Veronica: Well, I think what I had to do was really use, and I have to say that, powerbase coaching piece that I learned in your Center for Executive Coaching, and I am not just saying this because I’m on the call with you, Andrew. But that exercise was really fundamental in helping me make a list of all the people that I knew and was connected through the work that I had already done. I had a pretty strong foundation and a great reputation in my community as an exceptional trainer. So, I built on some of those relationships and some of those connections. I began marketing myself, or talking about myself, I guess is a better way to put it as a coach. I began to also communicate the value of coaching. That opened the door to some of my initial coaching contracts and opened the door to other speaking opportunities.
My business model continues to be using my workshops and training and my speaking engagements to be able to open the door to more coaching contracts. And I say it is about 50/50 now, between the training work that I do and the coaching work that I do. I’m hopeful that I will grow the coaching side even more going forward.
So, that is a little bit about how I initially gained traction and how I’ve been able to achieve the success that I have in the last couple of years.
Andrew: Great. That is really common. I do the same. Most of the successful coaches that I know are much more than coaches.
Veronica: And I want to say a few things about why I started doing coaching because I realized that I was passionate about leadership development as a trainer for many years. Many of my participants would follow-up with me and I would follow up with them. I realized that the post-training, one-on-one conversations, which were really coaching conversations, were really where the learning happened. And where they gained more confidence and ability to use the tools and strategy we were talking about in training in real life, and to get support doing that. And I realized that I was already coaching. So, turning to your program and other programs to build my skills as a coach, made a lot of sense. It allowed me to add an additional service. And I think it’s really rewarding for me because my mantra in life is, “Help change the world one leader at a time.” And I think in this day in age, we really need to strengthen the leadership because it changes the lives of so many people. So, that’s the reason that I really like the coaching side of the work and I feel like I can make that happen and help others achieve those goals, build their leadership capacity even more.
Andrew: Well, let’s make this specific. What is one case study of a client where you felt like you had a lot of success and had some real impact?
Veronica: Well, last year, and I’m actually still working with this company. I have a contract with a large multi-national alternative energy company that brought me in to work with their field drilling supervisors. And one supervisor in particular who had been promoted from the ranks, he was really struggling and not succeeding in his role. He was not able to manage performance problems, he didn’t enforce policy issues, he was dealing with disruptive team conflicts, employee complaints, and there was high turnover on his team. As a result of many of these issues, they were seeing some costly errors and some seriously unsafe practices. So, he was initially very reluctant to be “forced” to receive coaching. He was sent to get coaching following the training program that I had done with him.
During the six months that we worked together, the company saw his team reduce the number of onsite accidents significantly. They dropped that team’s turnover rate by 100 percent. And cut the number of employee complaints from five to zero. And what it took was for this supervisor to receive some extra development support, one-on-one. He needed help help communicating effectively, reinforcing and setting expectations, and really recognizing his role as a manager, as a leader in their organization. And the end result, the company saved more than $200,000 in accident costs. Not to mention the HR and staff time that they saved from having to deal with the complaints that they had been dealing with. At the end of the six months, the best part of the story, this supervisor actually asked his company to allow him to continue to work with me as his coach.
So, I saw that as a really powerful success story. And I did work with a lot of the other drilling supervisors on other issues. But this is the one that I felt had the most growth and was costing the company money. And by investing in me as their coach for that six-month period of time the ROI was huge.
Andrew: Yeah, there is no better testimony than somebody who didn’t want coaching or was forced into coaching that who then asked for coaching after working with you. That’s really great.
Veronica: Yeah, it was great. It was a wonderful experience. It was very motivational for me too.
Andrew: All right. Well, let’s get to some advice that you might give to anybody listening who is going to move into executive coaching. What advice would you give to them to help them assure that they are successful?
Veronica: Well, everyone has words of wisdom, right? But I would say that there are three things that are probably most important from my perspective for folks that are new coming into coaching.
First and foremost, I think that there are many different ways to coach and it’s important for us individually to get clear on the many different approaches out there. And explore which one really resonates with who you are, the skills you have, who you want to be coaching, and how you want to be coaching. I always like to say that not everybody needs to be an executive coach, or even a leadership coach. So, I always say, “Find the coaching that you are passionate about, the skill development that you are passionate about, the problem that you are passionate about solving and build on that.”
Second, I think it’s really important that you keep focusing on your personal growth, in terms of developing your skills as a coach, understanding your philosophy as a coach, and taking training. And there is so much out there, including your program.
But also, the second side of that point is focusing on your own self-awareness, your own emotional intelligence, and how to be resilience in the face of a no. And I think, for me, one of the things that I really needed to develop quickly was my ability to take no for an answer and not let it knock me off my goal and my direction of wanting to build my coaching business. So, be patient, and persistent, and keep reflecting. Get your own coach; sometimes I think that can really help you as you are developing your own business.
And then finally, if you are hanging up the shingle like I have, know that it can be a lonely business. So, take the time to connect with other coaches, join coaching support group or community of practice, or create one of your own. I think the relationships that I have developed with fellow students in your program and some of the other programs I have taken, has meant the world to me to stay in touch with them, to regularly have meetings with them, we can talk about our coaching strategies, our practices, our challenges, developing our businesses. But we can also practice with each other and barter coaching with each other. And I think that kind of relationship can really help us keep on growing and feel less isolated in our role.
Andrew: All right, Veronica, thanks. That is a lot of great advice. And thanks for sharing your experiences.
Veronica: Well, thank you so much for having me, Andrew. It’s been a pleasure to talk with you.