problem solving

How to Launch a Second Act Career as an Executive Coach

Susan Marc Lawley, Ph.D. Article

problem solving

Executive coach Simon Moody has always been able to find opportunity in adversity.

Like the time he planned to spend a year sailing his 42-foot sail boat from Gibraltar to the Arabian Gulf. It would have been a daunting adventure for an experienced sailor. For Moody, with only two days of sailing lessons under his belt from 20 years previous, it presented the challenge of a lifetime. “To say I learnt on the job is a gross understatement. I have never ever been so scared in my life nor so exhilarated.”

In addition to his 18 month sailing trip, Moody has lived and worked on four continents. After starting out in the music business, he developed an international career in brand and marketing. He would go on to serve as the President of a $300 million North American division of WPP, the world’s largest media, brand and communications agency.

After 16 years at WPP, both in the UK and the US, a new challenge came calling again, this time in the form of a major restructuring. In his work co-managing the restructuring, Moody quickly realized that he needed to eliminate his own position. He saw it as an opportunity to embrace the next step of his professional life, whatever that might be.

“At the time of the restructure, deep down I knew there was something else I needed to do that would harness all my years of experience around the world while propelling me forward into a  parallel career universe,” he said. 

That something else turned out to be coaching senior business leaders.  

Once I discovered the pure craft of coaching, I realized I had "come home."

Simon Moody Executive Coach, Lee Hecht Harrison
Moody said that throughout his career, he had established a profile as a leader who was both approachable and supportive of those with whom he worked. Whenever he took leadership assessments or solicited feedback, it was coaching and mentoring that were consistently at the top of his most positive attributes.

When the restructuring door opened, he seized the moment to reinvent himself as a full-time professional coach. After doing considerable research, he eventually enrolled in LHH’s Coach the Coach ICF Certification Program, an intensive, six-month training regimen that provides participants with certification from the renowned International Coaching Federation.

Moody said he approached his formal coaching training with a fair bit of confidence; after all, he had been recognized for being a solid, intuitive coach during his time as an executive. However, the first 24 hours of the program revealed just how little he knew about formal coaching strategies.

“The toughest lesson I had to learn was that coaching is not about jumping in to fix things,” Moody said. “It is about exploring and enabling your client to find her or his own way forward. When you come out from a career in the Board room, where you have spent a lot of your time solving other people’s problems, your natural inclination as a novice coach is to step in and do just that. You soon learn the limitations of this approach.”

As much as he found the training to be invigorating, Moody said he was concerned about whether coaching could provide him with a full-time career. Many friends and colleagues cautioned him about pursuing coaching as more than just a part-time job.

“Pretty much everybody said to me, ‘Simon, don’t do this. Coaching is really just a part-time, semi-retirement gig and you can’t support yourself on that kind of salary.’” That was all he needed to hear to press ahead. “Once I discovered the pure craft of coaching, I realized I had ‘come home.’”

And his intuition was right—he quickly discovered that the business world has a voracious appetite for effective coaches, particularly those with high-level certification. Based now in New York, Moody said he has been able to build a successful coaching practice that focuses on work with executives in a broad array of industries and sectors, including health care, fashion and financial services. 

On an average day, Moody will work with up to five clients. “Once you start to work out ways to scale while building a lean machine around scheduling and planning, coaching can be financially very rewarding.” 

Coaching has also delivered a great deal of personal satisfaction for Moody. “My ex-colleagues, some who cautioned me about going in this direction, tell me that I’ve never been happier. Truly, I feel that I’m the luckiest person in the world, in that I’m doing what I totally love. In fact, I wish that I had done it years earlier.”

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