Podcast

Lauren Stiebing 20 May 2019

From Corporate Career to Coach with James Nagle

Making a career change is never easy, especially after many years in the same company, field or area of expertise. At a more advanced stage in one’s career, transitioning can seem scary, impossible or intimidating, but it´s something that most of us will need to confront either out of choice or necessity.  To learn more about this topic, we have invited James Nagle to this edition of the “Career Success Podcast”. James has had a very successful 20-year career at P&G and RB, living in exotic locations such as Brazil and Russia, but also working across Europe in Belgium, Ireland, the UK and Poland. We have invited him here to understand why he left this successful career in his 40’s to become an executive coach.

Topics covered in this podcast:

  • Why did he make the decision to leave?
  • How was the transition and what were the main learnings?
  • Which steps should be taken when making a change?
  • Why do many global executives make big changes later in their careers?
  • Why did he choose Executive Coaching?
  • Challenges and the reality of building your own practice

 Lauren:

Thank you for joining us today on the career success podcast. I’m Lauren Stiebing, and today we’ve invited James Nagel who had a very successful 20 year career at P&G and RB, living in exotic locations such as Brazil and Russia, but also working across Europe in Belgium, Ireland and Poland. We’ve invited him here to understand why he left this successful career in his 40’s to become an executive coach. Welcome James.

James:

Yeah. Hi Lauren. Good to talk to you.

Lauren:

Yes, thank you for joining me. And looking forward to hearing a bit about, a bit about your background and why you left your corporate career for coaching. But let’s start off, why don’t you just tell me about your decision to leave RB?

James:

Okay, very good. So you’re not the first person to ask me that question. So let me explain. Look, I’d had a great 20 years there and I was very fortunate that I was there for the glory years of the company, in fact. But as I came to the end of my time in Brazil, I was relooking at my priorities and that wasn’t short term, you know, what was I going to do for the next few years, but more what I wanted to do for the second half of my life effectively. So my professional ambitions were changing, you know, the financial security and career ambition I had back in my 20’s and 30’s had been achieved and I was ready for something different. On the family side, there was a deadline about where we were going to educate and settle our teenage kids. So, it was really a question of if not know when I decided, you know, it was a good time to end the RB chapter and relocate home.

Lauren:

And how was the transition? Was it easy? Was it quite tough? Tell me a bit about it.

James:

Yeah. Where to start. Look, I was a company guy for all the time I’d been at RB. And in hindsight, I was really internally focused during those years. So given that I didn’t have a firm plan when I was leaving, the transition was slower and harder than I imagined. Maybe the easiest way to explain it, via the curve of change. And like all these conceptual models, it’s not perfectly sequential in real life: sometimes you go one step forward, two back. So there are a few steps. The first one is anticipation. So I’ve already talked about that. The second one is letting go. It brings me back to the discussion I had with the transition coach at the time in Dublin. He asked me three simple questions, where do you want to live? What do you want to do and how much do you do you want to earn? And it was only when I reflected on those questions that I realized the trade -offs involved. And that’s when things started getting uncomfortable because I realized, you know, I couldn’t have my cake and eat it. That putting down roots in one place, wasn’t compatible with a full blooded international career. And then you get into what they call the disorientation phase, which is where things are no longer what they were or how they’re going to be and you’ve got the competing forces between what’s new and different and what’s old and familiar.

So at that time, I looked at a number of different things and I think there’s a fashion now for what they call a slash career, you know, consulting/ non exec /social entrepreneur. I looked at all of those, you know being conscious, there are only you, you don’t have a team behind you and you need to prioritize your efforts. And what was interesting at that phase when I was trying to make sense of all the opportunities, and then you get a call from your past. So I head hunter or an ex colleague calls and tells you about a job in a Dubai, Amsterdam, New York, wherever, it can be tempting to go backwards at that stage. And that’s when you really need to work on the fundamentals. So that will be stage four, there’s two elements. You have to be clear on what you want. So what is your goal? And for me, that really crystallized when my kids would say, “So dad, what are you doing now and why you’re doing it? And that indicated to me that it wasn’t about financial security, it was about effectively identity, identity security, so.

Another key question is, are you going to work for yourself or you’re going to work for others? So putting all that together, you get to stage five, which is okay, committing to a direction and for me, and you’ll laugh at this, it took me 18 months to change my LinkedIn profile and that was really the moment of no going back. But it’s also quite a cathartic moment because it’s only when you commit to a direction that the calls started to come and your network et cetera can help you on the way. And the last element of all is sticking at it effectively and enjoying the journey because success is not overnight. You got to enjoy that process.

Lauren:

How did you end up coming to coaching and what was in between?

James:

As well as the sort of professional duties, I wrote a book about fatherhood and I designed and build the house but going back —

Lauren:

Those doesn’t sound like easy tasks either.

James:

No, but I suppose they were both creative and that was part of the privilege I had that I could indulge a bit in things which, you know, most people who are busy don’t have time to do, so that was great, but there was a Nagel of okay, I wanted to get back into things which were more a professional career with a meaning and a purpose and a direction. So I settled on coaching because I thought it was my sweet spot. I think it combines A, what I’m good at, B, what I like and C, where there’s a real need.  And maybe they talk about the need; I decided to focus on supporting first time leaders to make the big step of successfully. And I choose that because it’s a pinpoint, I know well. And ultimately within that I’d love to provide a real solution to what is a real issue.

When people start a new job and at that level, whether it’s managing director or general manager, whatever the title it’s traditionally sink or swim, I look at that and I thought what support did I have at the time? What would have helped? And where were the gaps? We’ve talked earlier, the two of us about how that in the only one out of two people makes it, but it’s not just a binary outcome of success or failure. I think it’s really important the experience for the individual and their team because there are lots of people impacted. And that got me thinking even further back to my very first day working at P&G and, and there I was given a one pager, and they told me your job is to build a business and build the organization, but no one ever talks about building yourself to deal with the myriad of challenges you’re going to face, your emotional intelligence, purpose, et cetera, et cetera.

Lauren:

And when did you, I mean along your journey, I know you said that it wasn’t something that was talked about, when were you introduced to building yourself and managing your emotional intelligence, et cetera?

James:

I think it really came to head in my first general manager role back in Ireland, back in 2009 so that would have been, you know, 15 years into my career. It’s a language which has come much more to the fore; now the command and control type leadership has gone out of fashion. You really need to work out, what you stand for and what we’ll work to engage your teams. I think it might be interesting because what I faced as a general manager is what I see with clients. There’s a couple of classic agendas and one is people who are newly appointed, so should be at the peak of their confidence, are struck with imposter syndrome. You know, a fear in somehow that despite all their success they’ll be find out.

Another one is the whole attitude towards control. Many people who proceed up organizations like to be in control, but there’s a level of which you reach where you have to realize your role is fundamentally changed and that type of control is no longer possible.  And third one is how do you engage your organization? And if I can just talk on that one for a second, one technique I use there is, who was your best boss? Who was the person that you’ve seen who was best at engaging a team?  And once people answer that, and then I asked them, okay, when you think of your current team that works for you, would you make their list? And if not, why not? And what tend to come out there are three things. You know, good bosses share number of things. They’re competent, they have integrity, and they show that they care for the team and they have their team’s best interest at heart. But what I find is it newly appointed people are obsessed with showing their professional competence and sometimes this can come at the cost of showing their engagement with the team, which ties into emotional intelligence. Once you’ve got the privilege of leading people and having an impact on them, it is your responsibility to make that a good experience.

Lauren:

Well, I can definitely feel your passion and it would be great if you can tell me a bit of how the realities of building the business one.

James:

These will be familiar to you as well. Someone who started their own business and there are some basic realities to coaching.  One, it’s a low barrier to entry and two; it’s a very high barrier to success. And to bring that in even a little bit more to life. In your first year, people will say, is that really a job? In the second year they’ll say, are you still doing that? And in the third year they’ll say, if you’re still doing it, you must be good. And what I can say, I’m very lucky, is it not everyone has waited until that third year to engage me as a coach. So I do have clients. I’ve learned a lot through working with them and what I’ve learned is you have to be an all rounder as an entrepreneur. Number one, you have to stand for high performance. When clearly when you’re starting up, you need to rely on your past career but very quickly, people want to know you, not as an ex general manager, they want to know you as a great coach. So you need to invest in certification and supervision and developing your methods. You also need to be an expert in your niche and develop that expertise because clearly, you’re going to be a better coach on something that you personally have experienced.

And the last one is you need to be an entrepreneur. You need to get out there and get clients, met them and become a trusted partner for them. But when that is achieved, when you manage all three, it gives me great satisfaction more than I experienced in my past life.

Lauren:

Oh Great. Well, James, I appreciate you joining us today on the career success podcast.

James:

My pleasure.