Sometimes, others decide for you that you need a coach. That can, as Fox's
McCracken initially thought, be bad news. Sure, forward-thinking companies will call in
a coach during times of transition or to spruce up an executive undergoing grooming.
Usually, this sort of arrangement has a remedial focus -- used by companies as a last-
ditch effort to salvage ill-fitting or abusive managers.
Which is why so many senior executives prefer to be coached by someone experienced
in the ways of business. Someone like Dotlich or Cramm, who help them get through their
days -- and their careers -- intact. How? By helping them prioritize, delegate and take
risks with people they might not think are capable.
Then there are the politics. "We don't teach about diplomacy, but we do teach CIOs
how to link their agenda to reach the right people to succeed," says Dotlich. "You have
to think about the sources of resistance, the supporters and the neutral parties. We
often do political mapping, showing all the stakeholders, their influence and their
Eye on the Prize
Of course, not all cios need help juggling their day or sidestepping political land
mines. Sometimes they just want an objective outsider to keep them focused on what's
important. That's exactly what Joe Fink wanted -- and got -- from Neal Lenarsky,
president of Strategic Transitions in Woodland, Calif.
More than an executive coach, Lenarsky is among the few career agents for high-
flying executives. Like an entertainment agent, he "brands" his clients, hooks them up
with prospective employers and advises them on various issues, including stock options,
bonuses, internal politics and finding good staff. Perhaps most important, he also
helps clients chart where they want to take their careers, and keeps them on that
That was the case for Fink. Previously CIO at Guess in Los Angeles, Fink had a
grander vision for himself: the broad responsibilities of a general manager. He almost
lost sight of that goal when another company offered him an obscene amount of money to
step into its CIO role. With Lenarsky's help, Fink stayed true to his dreams --
accepting the position of vice president of operations at Nautica Enterprises in New
York City. Today, Nautica's CIO reports to Fink. And while Fink feels he's up to the
job, he stays in contact with Lenarsky.
"There's not a month that goes by that I don't speak to him at least once," says
Fink. "Generally, it's because I have some political issues to think through, and I
find him to be great for working things out. It's not possible to overstate how
valuable it is having someone I can talk to. Otherwise you have to wing it or rely
strictly on your own judgment, and you worry about that sometimes. Neal can cut
immediately to what's at stake."