Case Study 3: Holistic Leadership

Todd was experiencing a decline in revenue for his region. As the Regional Vice President of Sales for LaPrarie, Todd Smith knew there was a problem, but he thought it was an environmental factor. What he hadn’t realized was that his communication patterns were limiting his success. To support Todd, the LaPrarie HR Director went on the hunt for a leadership coach. They interviewed several, including Michelle, who they felt would be a good match for Todd. 


From the first meeting, Todd knew he was in good hands. “Michelle has this skill to connect deeply, on an intuitive level,” said Todd. He recalls how Michelle gained a strong sense of who he was to the core of his being and the potential themes that were inhibiting his leadership success. Todd felt that deep understanding and caring for him as a person set the scene for incredible support during a time when he was vulnerable to the idea that his company was questioning his ability. Michelle made him feel comfortable so that Todd could participate without fear. 

Personality Information as Data

Todd went through a battery of personality, communication, and leadership assessments, including Hogan Leadership Series, EQ-i and DiSC. Hogan Leadership Series is an assessment that identifies a person’s leadership competencies, de-railers, and values. EQ-i Training evaluated Todd’s level of emotional intelligence, or how easily he could gather non-verbal data and react to it. DiSC provided Todd with clear data on his communication style and how it interacts with other communication styles. Through these evaluations, Michelle was able to present accurate and telling data about where Todd had opportunities to build and maintain a healthy team, the core of any leader’s success.

Leader vs. Boss

The coaching process gave Todd a lot of confirmation in his strengths and areas he was getting right. By making changes to his leadership style under the support of a professional coach, the factors out of his control were given more credence by his leadership. The problem wasn’t all him. And he soon learned where there was an opportunity for his own growth.

Todd recalls he always wanted to be in leadership. “Admittedly, I used to like to tell people what to do,” he said. When Michelle entered his life, Todd was at a point where he had just stopped listening. The philosophy was clear for all relationships he’d established: either they followed or they needed to get out of the way. 

Reality Check!

Michelle’s coaching offered Todd an opportunity to step back and get a big-picture view. He realized he had some preconceived notions about his marketplace, store and team members. Michelle helped him realize he was seeing the world through one lens, which he grew to understand was a misrepresentation of the actual reality of the situation. Thus, Michelle’s most powerful one-line tactic that Todd uses every day: Reality Check! Is it true or is it just your assumption?

I’ve Got This

Being a bit of a perfectionist, Todd always emoted he had it all together. He thought he had to have all the answers. He didn’t ask for help. He even dressed a level above the rest. 

Todd often reacted quickly and directed people what needed to be done. This way of leading was not only shutting down his teammates and squashing creativity, he came to understand he was leaving a lot of potential undiscovered. Showing vulnerability to his team was a game-changer. 

Sometimes you need to get a little messy to grow

Todd was very honest with his team that he was going through coaching and evaluation. He wanted to use the experience as a growing opportunity. Michelle shadowed during meetings with department stores and watched interactions with sales associates. Todd allowed the team a voice in the process of coaching. “Everyone appreciated I was being honest and transparent that I’m not perfect, but I was committed to growing,” Todd recalls. “There were a lot of conversations that needed to be had that never would have happened if I had shut my team out of the process.” 

Todd learned by allowing others to see he needed support to grow his leadership skills, he became relatable and approachable. His team members became empowered by their ability to share feedback and it helped them feel trusted and valued. 

“Michelle continued to shadow me and would kindly poke me when I would just react and not pause to listen,” Todd said. When he got to the point where he was identifying the behavior himself, he knew the work with Michelle had changed his behavior.

The Power of the Question

One of the biggest leader tactics he learned to incorporate in his practice is to check his assumptions, ask questions to solicit creative thinking and then process information before acting.

Through the coaching process, which lasted through six months, Todd’s definition of leadership shifted from being the person who tells people what to do, to managing relationships that incite powerful talent to grow, support team goals and provide an environment where team members thrive as individuals. Through cultivating compassion, Todd became authentically curious about his teammates, their thoughts, and potential solutions.

 Because of the amount of value added for his team as well as himself and the organization, Todd committed to encouraging communication that no longer leaves good ideas left unsaid. “I have grown to love the collaborative process and give people the chance to contribute,” Todd said.

Holistic Results

Not only has this learning experience helped with work – a solid increase in sales, which has resulted in nearly eliminating the gap in revenue – it’s promoted healthy relationships outside the office. He’s using what Michelle taught him to his personal and professional advantage and learning his new approach doesn’t equal just positivity for himself, but positivity for all involved. 

And that makes him feel really good about being a leader. 

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