Pharma Top Talent: September 2020 newsletter
Q&A with Brigitte Vasty-Gauthier (Executive Coaching)
Brigitte Vasty holds a MSc. from Ecole Centrale (Paris) and a MBA in applied economics from IFP (Institut Français du Pétrole). Brigitte started her career with AXA insurance in various marketing roles before moving into global HR roles, developing an expertise in the areas of OD, talent development and cultural transformation in the financial, insurance and pharmaceutical sectors (Lately as Novo Nordisk VP People & Organisation) across European countries. Brigitte is now a certified coach (Coach & Team® by Transformance Pro) with an Executive Master in Consulting and Coaching for Change at Insead. Brigitte has been living in France, Brazil, Switzerland and Italy
Before acting as executive coach you have been working multiple years within the Pharmaceutical industry, across multiple region and in a variety of HR positions; what’s driving you?
I have been privileged to start my career in a fast-growing company, where I soon understood that success always comes from people. Beyond strategy, the way you motivate and develop people, the way you communicate and interact with them, is the foundation of sustainable performance because it creates trust and passion within the organisation. This is the reason I decided early in my career to move from technical and marketing roles to HR, and after 25 years I am still passionate about developing leaders, teams and organisations! As an executive coach, my passion is to help them finetune and align their values, purpose and vision.
From experience, I strongly believe that meaning, congruence and consistency are the key ingredients to foster enthusiasm and success in organisations. In return, it helps decrease unnecessary and unproductive stress and increase collaboration mindset and sense of self-fulfilment, not only for leaders but also for all employees. This is how I see my contribution to people and business, and what profoundly drives me.
Having been exposed to various leaders and leadership styles, what commonalities did you find in the most successful ones?
Let me first clarify what a successful leader is: a leader is someone who is able to inspire and mobilise people towards a shared vision, while a manager is someone who focuses on getting things done in an optimal way. Both aspects are obviously critical for business!
The first commonality I observed in successful leaders is “self-awareness”, which goes hand in hand with “vulnerability”. Great leaders dedicate time to self-reflection and have a profound understanding of their values, strengths, weaknesses and also of their emotions. They understand how they react to people and situations, which allows them to develop true empathy and treat others like adults. Because they deeply know where and how they add value, they are not afraid of showing their authentic self, they are OK to say they aren’t perfect and don’t know it all. Because they are connected to their emotions, they truly care for others, which involves listening to all opinions (anyone may have a good point) and deep listening (capture what is not being said, connect to how people feel). Self-awareness and vulnerability are in my view at the core of developing an authentic and human leadership style.
The most successful leaders also demonstrate courage: the courage to speak up, the courage to tell the truth (which is part of treating others like adults) and the courage to take tough decisions when needed.
Courage and self-awareness are, in my experience, the most distinctive characteristics of sustainably successful leaders.
According to you what is most critical in coaching of leaders?
The critical part of coaching - not only when coaching leaders - is to address the person’s real need. It means: (1) digging deep enough to identify the real need behind the initial request, and (2) helping the person (or team) define (or co-create with them) the solution that is relevant to them. It requires that the coach be both humble and agile while driving the accompaniment process.
When coaching leaders, especially top leaders, it’s even more critical for the coach to stick to coaching ethics and resist pressures for specific outcomes. As an example, I was once approached by someone who wanted to organise a team building in order to prove that his approach was right. This is an interesting situation to dig into to identify the real need behind!
What is the difference between coaching and mentorship?
I would say the nature of the support is different. We were talking about self-awareness before, this is very much the role of leadership coaching: to help the leader deepen their self-awareness and understanding of psychodynamics between people or at organisational level. The coach will help the leader to look at the situation from different lenses, so that they can adjust their behaviour and make conscious choices to get more effective outcomes (better results, less energy or stress, higher sense of self-fulfilment).
A mentor plays a different kind of role. The mentor is in general someone more senior than you, who knows the field you work in (industry or function). In a mentorship relation, you will generally get advice, insights, and experience sharing that will help you navigate the professional environment and grow your career.
Both approaches are very valuable, the distinctiveness of coaching is to offer the possibility to foster a deeper transformation.
What is a good coach and how to select one?
The 1st answer is that a good coach is the one that you feel comfortable and confident with: effective coaching is based on trust! This being said, there are a few elements I suggest to pay attention to when selecting your coach.
First and foremost, a good coach is trained and certified by a recognised coaching institute. This is increasingly the case as the profession is getting more structured, but it is a critical point to check. A strong professional track record is not enough to become a good coach and I’ve even seen some damages made with the best intentions.
It’s also worth discussing deontology, and how the coach keeps on learning and discovering new approaches. This is key, because a good coach shouldn’t have a plug and play approach; it requires adaptation, agility, and to look at each unique situation from many different lenses.
In practice, I would say a good coach is the one that creates a safe space where leaders (or teams) feel confident to open up to their own vulnerability and to new options. Using many diverse tools - the central one being deep listening - a good coach will encourage, challenge, question, suggest, confront, share ideas, concepts or experiences, etc., so that leaders can deepen their self-awareness and elaborate the solution which is most relevant to them.