By Deirdre Kirk, Director of Strategic Communications, Organisation Solutions
Over the past two decades, we have found that leaders we coach in organisations across the globe face common challenges leading growth businesses. Our new Leader Excelerator Series looks at how coaching has helped leaders expand their capability to lead and overcome these business challenges.
In the first of the series, we speak to Carlos Quaderi, Chief Customer Officer Enterprise at Microsoft Asia Pacific, about how coaching helped him excel leading a hyper-growth business. Carlos was coached by Corinne Williams, Senior Vice President, Leader Services at Organisation Solutions.
Carlos, what leadership challenge prompted you to engage a coach?
I was working as a practice leader for Microsoft Services, responsible for five businesses in 14 countries and a team of 300+ people. The APAC region is geographically dispersed and extremely diverse both culturally and in terms of market maturity with everything from established markets like ANZ to emerging ones such as Myanmar. This means a one-size-fits-all growth approach did not work.
Whilst we had some organisational capabilities centralised in our base in Singapore, in-country there was a real need to nurture customer intimacy. The talent balance and needs were different in each location, with some requiring significant time and focus to develop the business at the speed expected. At the same time, we were reliant on the global infrastructure for delivery. This global, regional, local three-point dynamic was complex and needed to be well managed so that our customer experience was seamless.
This was all happening during a time of massive growth—the countries were all trying to perform to their peak capability and deliver the highest revenue with lots of healthy competition! I realised I needed a new approach to lead in this diverse, complex, and fast-paced environment in order to have more impact. So, I looked for a coach who could help me do this.
When Corinne and I started working together, we defined specific areas for development in collaboration with my manager. These were focused on aligning and influencing a distributed cross-cultural team.
How did the coaching impact your capabilities to influence your team?
Coaching helped me change the way I lead and influence others. Although I had direct control in my role, it was not as straightforward as directly telling people what to do and expecting things to happen.
Corinne helped me adapt my style and build a toolkit of alternatives to a directorial “tell” model. For example, rather than asking people just to “action something,” I started slowing down, asking questions, and co-creating solutions. This really helped me get their buy in and start developing their capabilities. After a while, I found the most powerful question I could ask when faced with an issue became, “What’s the real challenge preventing you from solving this?”
How did your cross-cultural communication capabilities change as a result of the coaching?
The second capability we focused on was cross-cultural communication. Asia-Pacific is such a culturally diverse region; an assertive, direct style works well in Australia but is unlikely to be successful in other markets.
Corinne helped me adapt my communication style across cultures. She then helped me develop my executive team by improving their cross-cultural communication capabilities when they had to present a keynote at a big event. We focused on what success looked like for the team in terms of communicating at a major global event and how it was different from what we did in our usual business context.
Did you do anything different as a result of the coaching
I’m a person who naturally goes fast, and working in a such fast-paced environment meant I went even faster. Corinne helped me become self-aware about using pace differently and consciously slowing down. I also became much more conscious of the impact that my behaviour was having on other people. I began consciously building routines to put myself in the other person’s shoes so I could be more empathetic. My natural instinct is to jump in, so I am still trying to self-regulate all the time.
Did you have any other a-ha moments as a result of the coaching?
I started prioritising my health more. Working in a fast-paced culture like we have in Microsoft, you must be really intentional about looking after your health and well-being if you want to be resilient and make it sustainable. I started making time for exercise and proper sleep as well paying more attention to my diet. I’m even doing intermittent fasting until 1pm every day and I notice that I am much calmer in my morning meetings.
What business outcomes did you see as a result of the coaching?
It’s been great to see tangible changes in our internal survey with employees, which is seen as a key indicator of leadership success. Many of my teams saw big changes year-on-year and lots of positive comments— which directly, positively impacted our business, and people were happier! Especially in the areas of team inclusion, morale, trust, and engagement.
It showed that you can change a cultural dynamic even when you are in the pressure cooker of a hyper-growth environment. It was great that it was like a microcosm of what our CEO Satya is doing at the global level in Microsoft.
You are in a new role now, tell us about how coaching helped prepare you for it.
Today, I’m Chief Customer Officer for our Enterprise business across APAC. It involves a lot of leading transformation as we move towards platforms and the cloud, but at the same time, we need to drive performance in our traditional business.
In this new role I must lead even more via influence; many of my stakeholders are partners and customers external to Microsoft. So, from Day 1, I have been using the influencing and communication skills that I developed from coaching and trying to remember the benefits of slowing down to speed up. I’m still working on that!
Contact us to know more about Organisation Solution’s coaching practice.
Dee is Organisation Solutions' Director of Strategic Communications and a Communications Coach. She has worked for more than 15 years in leading companies such as Shell and LIoyds Banking Group on internal communications and change strategy. As an external consultant Dee has worked with senior leaders providing communication counsel on business transformation, organisation change, and employee engagement. Contact Dee