Center for Executive Coaching Alumni Interviews — Senior leader with teams and agility expertise — coaching technology and non-profit leaders
Shawn Boockoff is the epitomy of the type of professional that should go into executive and leadership coaching. He has the experience, education, and values that make for a fantastic coach. Among the interesting aspects of Shawn’s coaching career is the fact that he coaches leaders in technology, government, and non-profit — areas that are not so different as we might initially think.
Shawn Boockoff is a Certified Executive Coach who works with leaders and teams for sustained growth, fulfillment and success in their business. Shawn has 25 years of experience in government, non-profit and technology executive leadership positions building teams, and leading sustainable change. Shawn knows what drives leaders and teams to growth, success and sustainable agility, and it’s not just money or the latest leadership mantra, but the relationships you build, and the impact you have.
Shawn holds a doctorate in Organizational Leadership from Nova Southeastern, an MBA from the University of Maryland, and a BBA from Ohio University as well as being an Senior Executive Fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Leadership.
Andrew: Welcome. I’m here with Shawn Boockoff, a Center for Executive Coaching alumni. Shawn, welcome.
Shawn: Hello Andrew. It’s great to be here. Thank you.
Andrew: Talk about your practice and where it’s at right now.
Shawn: Sure. So, I primarily work with leaders and teams to be more productive, fulfilled, and agile. I have a background in technology. I do a lot of coaching around teams and agility. And I have a leadership background, and have held a lot of leadership positions. So, I coach in those areas. Clients come from technology, government, and non-profits. Primarily, right now, I’m working through a local good fund. And I’m doing both pro-bono and paid worked for social entrepreneurs.
Andrew: Very cool. Great. So, what are your strategies to get traction? How did you get traction? And how are you continuing to get traction?
Shawn: Well, the biggest thing is working my network and referrals. That’s the life blood of what I’ve been doing. Initially, when I got started it was more of a pie in the sky thing. I did a lot of certifications and a lot of the things that really make you proficient in coaching. But it didn’t really help me get business. It wasn’t until I was really starting to work my network and getting referrals that it really took off.
Andrew: Okay, good. So, referrals, networking…that makes sense. Maybe you can give one case study of a client that you’ve worked with or are working with that got some good results with coaching, and talk about how you did it?
Shawn: Sure. So, I had a client, she was a social entrepreneur. She was the head of an organization, a non-profit organization in Israel. And she worked with young children and teenagers primarily. She was trying to promote peaceful solutions among Arabs and Palestinians and Israelis. She had been there a long time. Originally, the coaching was about trying to get her to being more productive, have more work/life balanced in her organization, and increase accountability. Things like that, that really dealt with her leadership. As we worked, one of the things that I did was really work with her on her decision making and her value structure, why she was making the decisions she was making. That really created a huge opening for her. We went through a whole practice and exercise around creating values and how you make decisions based on that so that you can choose what you say yes to and what you say no to.
So, through that coaching and the questions that I asked, it created a bit of a transformation for her. She ended up leaving the organization and starting her own non-profit. She is one of my referrals that really is very happy with what came out of that coaching engagement.
Andrew: That’s great. I think you just highlighted something that I noticed in my own practice: Growing technology companies, which is where you come from, and non-profits seem to have a lot of commonalities, even though we wouldn’t think so on the surface.
Shawn: Yeah, actually they do. There is oftentimes in a start-up or in a non-profit, you have limited staffing. So, figuring out how to make people accountable, how to delegate, how to manage your time, how to balance that with work/life balance. All comes into play in both organizations. At least, from my experience in coaching and being involved in them.
Andrew: Yeah, me too. And I think too, vision and mission are really important in both types of organizations when they are successful.
Shawn: Absolutely. Vision, mission, and values, yeah.
Andrew: So, if people are listening and they are thinking of getting into executive coaching, what would you want them to consider? And what advice would you give so that they are as successful as possible if they should make the decision to jump in?
Shawn: So, I talked a little bit about referrals and working your network. That gets back to really understanding sales and marketing. When I started out in coaching I was really into and very passionate about the process of coaching. And there are a lot of great organizations including the Center for Executive Coaching, which I graduated from. And I loved it. But the one thing that kind of set the Center for Executive Coaching apart was the business aspect, which I didn’t have.
So, understanding sales and marketing is really important to make your coaching practice grow and thrive.
And then the other thing that I would say is, aside from working on your network and the sales and marketing, it’s understanding that it is really about the client. So, understanding what their problems are and solving those. Because at the end of the day, they don’t really care what your credentials are, how smart you are, and what you look like. It’s really about what you can do for them.
Andrew: Yup. That’s a common theme in the interviews. And it can be tricky for a lot of really successful people because they are used to the ego gratification of being the one calling the shots. And as a coach, it’s more about listening and making it more about them.
Shawn: Absolutely, yes.
Andrew: Shawn, any other advice or other observations you’d want to make here?
Shawn: Maybe one more thing. I probably didn’t understand this at the very beginning: A career in coaching will probably be more of a portfolio, where you will be doing coaching, consulting, training, and speaking. And it can be really exciting. But when I started out in coaching, I just wanted to do coaching. It’s evolved from there.
Andrew: Right. And how did that evolve? In my case, I just listened for opportunities. The client would sometimes say, “Hey, can you facilitate this? Can you do this?” And it was things that weren’t coaching. How did you discover that?
Shawn: Kind of the same thing, as you work with someone in a coaching environment. Sometimes it just comes to you as training, they want leadership development training or there is a specific issue. But it all comes from the referrals and working through a client, or with a client.
Andrew: Good. All right, Shawn. Well, thanks very much. I really appreciate your insights and your time.
Shawn: Great, thank you.