choice Magazine

Beyond the Page Podcast ~ Navigating the Return: An Executive Coaching Approach to Redefining the Process

November 07, 2023 Garry Schleifer
choice Magazine
Beyond the Page Podcast ~ Navigating the Return: An Executive Coaching Approach to Redefining the Process
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Imagine stepping back into the office after months of medical leave. Navigating the return can be a mammoth task, don't you agree? In this enlightening conversation, I sat down with Schira Lillis, a certified coach with 25 years of corporate and professional services experience.

Schira's extensive expertise encompasses a diverse range of roles including research, financial analysis, strategic planning, business development, corporate communications, and executive coaching and training.  An alumna of Wharton and a certified coach from INSEAD, Schira has left her mark in prominent global consulting firms and banks while also imparting knowledge in esteemed universities. It was throughout this multifaceted journey that she uncovered her fervor for leadership development and the transformative impact of coaching in unleashing the full potential of leaders.

We shed light on Schira's journey from being a coachee to becoming a certified coach, reflecting on her insightful article "Navigating the Return: The essential role of executive coaching to assist patients in returning to work". Together, we explored the diverse strategies to coaching and humanizing healthcare.

In the second half of our discussion, we addressed the elephant in the room - the necessity of a smooth re-onboarding process. By sharing her expert perspective, Schira emphasized the importance of a proper re-onboarding plan, and how it doesn't just benefit the employees returning, but also leaders and the entire team. We also delved into the role of succession planning and how a coach can be instrumental in easing the transition. So, brace yourself for a riveting conversation with Shira Lillis, as we redefine the process of returning to work after an extended leave and humanize healthcare.

Watch the full interview by clicking here

Find the full article here: https://bit.ly/BTP-SL23

Grab your free issue of choice Magazine here - https://choice-online.com/
 
In this episode, I talk with Schira Lillis about her article published in our September 2023 issue.

Garry Schleifer:

Welcome to the choice Magazine podcast, Beyond the Page. choice, the magazine of professional coaching, is your go-to source for expert insights and in-depth features from the world of professional coaching. I'm your host, Garry Schleifer, and I'm thrilled to have you joining us today. In each episode, we go, guess what, Beyond the Page of the article's published in choice Magazine and dive deeper into some of the most recent and relevant topics impacting the world of professional coaching, exploring the content, interviewing the talented minds like Schira is here behind the articles and uncovering the stories that make an impact. choice is more than a magazine. For over 21 years now, we've built a community of like-minded people who create, use and share coaching tools, tips and techniques to add value to their business and, of course, what's most important, impacting their clients. In today's episode, I'm speaking with certified coach Schira Lillis, who's the author of an article on our latest issue, if you've got the camera on and you're watching, it's called Humanizing Healthcare Courageous Coaching at a Crossroads, and her article on page 39 is entitled "Navigating the Return the Essential Role of Executive Coaching to Assist Patients in Returning to work," which I can't wait to get into. Let's hear a little bit about Schira. She brings over 25 years of rich experience in the corporate and professional services arena. Her extensive expertise encompasses a diverse range of roles, including research, financial analysis, okay, that's pretty, pretty varied strategic planning, business development, corporate communication and, of course, executive coaching. And let's just throw in some training, yay. This breadth of knowledge uniquely positions her to provide valuable insights into the intricacies of thriving in today's fast-paced business environment. An alumni of Wharton and a certified coach from INSEAD, Schira's professional experience includes assignments at global leading global consulting firms and banks, as well as teaching positions at top universities. It was through this multifaceted career that Schira discovered her passion for leadership development and the transformative power of coaching in unlocking leaders' full potential. Today she channels the wealth of experience in the guiding of individuals and teams towards the highest levels of achievement. An Irish native, after several years in the US and I can't believe it two winters in Canada and Toronto, burr, Schira is currently based in Paris, France. Much more civilized, weather-wise anyway. Thank you so much for joining me today, Schira.

Schira Lillis:

Thank you, Garry. I'm delighted to be here and thank you for the invite.

Garry Schleifer:

Yeah. Now I have to ask, because it is really varied, at what point in your career did coaching enter into the picture?

Schira Lillis:

That's a great question and I'd have to say I didn't know it, but it actually entered in fairly early on in my career and that was because I was coached. But I didn't know what that was at the time and it took me years of experience and years of working with different people and different styles and so on before I came back to again learning oh, that's what coaching was. That's why I was so frustrated when I was younger when I was being asked questions. I was like, no, I don't want to be asked a question, I want to be taught what we should do. And indeed, I've grown into that role, if anything really understanding and realizing the true value. What was happening to me when I was younger was I was being pushed to think for myself, pushed to come up with my own answers, because I had the answer, I just didn't know how I wanted to prioritize it. So it's been super really coming full circle, from having started early on with some coaching guiding me in my early stage of my career, to later bringing on board coaching in different roles I've held, then practicing coaching colleagues, doing coaching circles and so on, and then finally saying you know what I really want to get into this? I want to make a stronger impact and I want to do it right. I want to learn how I can be much, much more effective, and so that's what brought me to get my coaching certification at INSEAD. By the way, that's how you pronounce that. And so, building on the training that I had in the business world from the Wharton School, I was able to build on that using the certification program at INSEAD to work together with individuals to help them become more effective. So it has taken me a time to become a coach myself, but it is a wonderful journey. I'm so excited to be on this one and really delighted to be able to give more back, help individuals really thrive and get closer to achieving what it is they want and what they hold dear. So it's taken a fascinating opportunity for me to really see a whole new world and a whole new way of looking at the world, and it's helped me understand my own career and where I've been successful, where I have not and how I can improve on that going forward.

Garry Schleifer:

Yeah, yeah, no. Thank you so much for sharing that. I always love people's journeys to coaching, when they first thought about it and then felt it and then became more in the coaching field. So thank you so much for sharing that. Let's get down to the beyond the page part of this conversation. So what prompted you to contribute to choice Magazine on this issue on humanizing healthcare?

Schira Lillis:

Well, first of all, Garry, let me say thank you so much for all the great work you and the team are doing on choice Magazine. I confess, as I said, I came late to the being a certified coach, but when I did I started looking around. Well, how can I learn more about what's going on in the industry? Had different ways of thinking about it and friends recommended you must look at choice Magazine. I've been a subscriber for the last few years. I really enjoy all the articles. There's a wide range of articles there, and it has helped me look at and understand different ways of coaching as well, because there are different approaches, some which would work for me, some which you know. I take a different style, and that is the beauty of that. Diversity is super. So then I looked to see well, what's coming next? What's? The new topic coming up and I saw one that really a struck an earth for me around health care. That was because I had the unfortunate experience of finding myself literally it was the imagine this, beginning of winter January, I think it was third or fourth of January, I'm walking the dog. I'm all excited. It's a brand new year. I've made out my New Year's resolution. I've been really pleased with the work I'd done. Before Christmas, I set myself up well, I knew what targets I wanted to achieve in the year and so on. So it was, you know, I was so well positioned and I was thinking, okay, now what do I do? First, and I was thinking about that as I was walking the dog, and then it started raining, and the very last part of the walk is it was on cobblestones.

Garry Schleifer:

I was picturing Paris and cobblestones. Thank you for bringing me there.

Schira Lillis:

Exactly, so you can imagine that on a slope of cobblestones, wet leaves, rain, and I wasn't paying attention. I was too busy and too, quite frankly, too excited thinking about the year ahead, and slipped. It was a bad fall because it was on because slope. I hit myself pretty badly, ended up with multiple fractures on my leg and wrist and literally from one moment to the next found myself waiting for an ambulance, being quits off to hospital, being whisked operated upon, months of rehab and getting back to speed and so on, and it was a good, you know good while before I was able to get back to work. And as I thought about, when I saw your headline of this is what we're going to focus on, I said, oh my gosh, we have to talk about the patient in this, because I'm pretty sure that there would be plenty of coaches who are doing super work with the medical professionals, the doctors, the nurses, the administrative staff, everybody that makes it all happen, and you know, super work they do. But as I looked at that, I said I wonder I hope, you know, there has to be an opportunity. Let's talk about the patient and what the patient needs in this, and so that's what really triggered it for me. Thinking of my own experience and how challenging it was. It was unlike the leaves of absence that you can imagine. You know, when you either took care of an ill family member, leave from maternity or paternity leave, those are exciting. You're planning ahead for that. eave to go for training leave, to go sailing or have some fun. You know so there are lots of great organizations which allow leaves and so on, planned leave and I was fortunate in my career I've taken advantage of that on a number of occasions. This was different. So, unlike the planned leave, this was not planned. There was nothing set in place. I hadn't warned anybody about the projects that were in process, what they needed to do next, etc. There was nobody prepared to step in. I didn't even know when I was going to go back. So it added that that levels of complexity as well, as you know from a patient standpoint. Well, when I do go back, will I be well enough? Will I be okay physically? Will I be able to manage the going to work? Literally, having broken my wrist, I couldn't type for a good while.

Garry Schleifer:

It was really sore.

Schira Lillis:

So, and while there are super tools out there that allows you to speak and so on, I hadn't yet trained up one well enough to be able to do that. So there are things that struck me that, as a coach, I started thinking about this. Rather than get panicked about how do I go back to work, let me think it through. What are the steps I would need to take? And one of my first steps was that it was to reach out to other coaches and to use that time to help them guide me through. You know what's important for me, what are my priorities, what are my concerns? You know, think about role playing. There are lots of opportunities there. So those are some of the reasons let I thought. Let me put this in writing, let me share my experience, so that other coaches can also be aware of the challenges that the patient may feel, and allow that, enable them to open up, to talk about it and to think it through.

Garry Schleifer:

Yeah, add to this part of the conversation a quote from the last paragraph. It is important to recognize that an individual returning from medical leave has likely changed through their experience" and you know it's not just the position that's changed and the employer or the company might have changed, but the employee or, in your case, you will have changed. Yeah, you may be back but you can't type right. You know things like that.

Schira Lillis:

Initially, but in practice I wasn't able to go back until I could type. There was a lot more recovery that was needed. But yes, there are things like that. But I think even bigger is the fact that you change from the perspective of what was important before may no longer be important. New things may take a priority. For example, I was incredibly lucky I didn't hit my head. I could have been a very different story and, as a result, one of the things I try to make sure is like that I'm spending my time doing what I love doing, and part of that is coaching and writing, and so those among the things that you know, what used to be important before, there's a different priority. I was able to come back to work and consider my focus, my priorities and so on in a different light, with a different mindset. I'd also had time to think of you know how could I work on things more effectively, and so on, and then apply that thinking to my new roles, my tasks and so on. So be more efficient than I would have been in the past in the busyness of trying to get everything done all at once.

Garry Schleifer:

So it doesn't take a near-death experience to change your life. It can just take a fall walking your dog on the cobblestones in Paris.

Schira Lillis:

It still sounds romantic. Cobblestones in Paris.

Garry Schleifer:

Sorry, you don't mean to make light of your injury. I'm sure that was quite well, I was told, funnily enough.

Schira Lillis:

Funny enough, I was told in the hospital I was about the third person in the last two weeks who had some similar injuries.

Garry Schleifer:

So it is not that unusual apparently.

Schira Lillis:

Yeah, crazy.

Garry Schleifer:

Well, you know you've had this experience personally, but how can a coach help make a difference when individuals return to the workforce or to work?

Schira Lillis:

So there are a couple of things that a coach can think about. First of all is, any coaches who are working with medical professionals and so on can consider offering the coaching services as part of a suite of services that a patient might receive? So at least let the patient be aware that this is a possibility. Next, of course, then the coach, who has in front of them somebody who is a patient and returning to work after some leave. Really that is so important to have that open space where it's a safe space to talk about the insecurities, the concerns and so on things that the individual may not have been willing to voice even to their close family members that the coach can help them think through. Address role play, as I said earlier, these are all things that a coach can do and really even putting the question you know, how do you feel about going back to work? What has changed for you? Even asking what has changed for you is a really valuable question, because something will have changed. They may not have voiced it, even internally, that the individual may not have thought it through, but something will have changed along the way, and you know. Another question is you know how can you use that experience to better, better yourself or achieve what you want? Going forward, yeah. So there are different types of questions of the coach.

Garry Schleifer:

Yeah, you know, when I was rereading this article, the word that came to mind for me is onboarding. So it's like, you know, when a new employee comes on, there's a whole set of things, but they're easing the way into the organization.

Schira Lillis:

Yeah.

Garry Schleifer:

But it's not that much different than re-onboarding bringing someone back into the organization, right.

Schira Lillis:

Exactly, yeah, and I think a lot of companies have great plans in place for people returning from maternity or paternity leave, for example, but may not know what to do if somebody's returning from sick leave or any other type of leave, and so may not have the processes in place or the steps, or even the individuals, the colleagues and so on may not know what to say. Well, I haven't seen you for a while, I didn't know you were sick, yeah, or you know, they may have thought well, we thought you just disappeared, you weren't responding to your clients. What did your clients say? They said, well, you stop returning phone calls. So you know, these can all be things that the individual may experience, that may be difficult for them, but it's quite interesting. It's a very different process, but a number of very large companies are actively thinking through what can they put in place to make the environment more friendly for employees of every kind, and thinking both in terms of diversity, inclusion it also leaves as absence flexible working hours and so on. And those are, you know, the best organizations are actively putting those steps in place.

Garry Schleifer:

Well, you know, and they should be able to cherry pick from other programs, like you mentioned, paternity, maternity leave and planned sick leave and sabbaticals and things like that. But I can't help but think of the poor leader that suddenly has somebody off the radar, so to speak. They know where they are, sorry, but they're out of the loop. They all of a sudden they have a position that isn't being tended to. As you mentioned in the article, the challenge is to the rest of the team and picking up the slack, and then what's changed for that individual. You know, it's interesting because I also was reflecting on my own coaching with leaders and when we talk about succession planning, if they've done a good job of succession planning, like we've done with choice Magazine. We always say, what happens if something happens to me? Or how long can we operate without me at the helm?

Schira Lillis:

Okay.

Garry Schleifer:

Right. So we keep asking the question if we do something new. We're always thinking about that. So it might be something for coaches to think about as well when they're just coaching regularly. A reminder of because a lot of people when they're getting coaching, they want to move up, they want to advance their career, but they can't advance. If they don't, they can advance but it's easier, they can advance. You're right, if they don't have somebody else who can take their role, and if they're already developing that and something happens to them, or a maternity paternity leave, they can rely on the team that they've already developed through their own leadership and coaching, exactly, and that's another thing that you're raising there.

Schira Lillis:

Another point that struck me as well is the level of frustration on the part of the individual who's been forced out on leave, not being able to make those commitments, not being able to help them make that transition for colleagues, and so on, because it was unexpected. So that also needs to be worked through. You know, what do you say to your colleagues other than thank you, thank you for stepping in, thank you for keeping everything working so smoothly, you know, and so on. It's definitely a frustration that that coach can help the individual think through, you know, and what might you do differently as a result? In putting that succession planning indeed is something I've now done for my team going forward.

Garry Schleifer:

Yeah, yeah, exactly. I mean, like you said, you're looking at things differently. Doesn't take a near-death experience to reassess your life, right? Well, speaking of that, how has your experience and research on this topic changed the way you approach your role as a coach and your coaching?

Schira Lillis:

So I think the first thing that stands out to me is to really try and get to know the individual and think of them as a whole person, not just the person, the executive in front of me, who has a role in their organization, but also the person as an individual. What's happening outside of their professional roles and how might that also be taking a part. So I increasingly looking at it from that perspective and thinking in terms of what's important, what's most important for the individual. So for me, as a coach, the individual may come in and say, oh well, I want to get promoted, I want to do this, and so on. There's the usual list of preferred topics, but often when you start talking to them, there might be some frustration. I would love to have more time to go exercise. And suddenly you see that there's another dimension, completely unrelated to work. In one sense, that will make them feel happier, more fulfilled, and so on. And indeed you can help them think through okay, well, how can I arrange my work schedule so that I have the time to go exercise and then come back, you know, fully energized into what I want to do so. There are different steps like that, and then, on top of that, I am more proactive in terms of my involvement and my encouragement in organizations and discussions that I have with colleagues, and doing this, writing this article, to get the word out there. Let's help individuals, you know, not only return to work they can do that themselves but return to work and thrive and perform even better than ever before. Be the full person that they can be when they return. So, you know, be that through different programs that companies may put in place to allow that, as you say, re-onboarding to take place. Indeed, those are some of the things that really stand out. One of the things that some of the research and some of my colleagues did a few years ago was around making employees net better off. So how can they? You know it's not just financial rewards and so on that we look for. It's flexibility in working hours, it's the ability to take leaves. It's you know, there's a lot of different things thrown in there. It's around, you know, support for mental health issues and so on.

Garry Schleifer:

Net better. What did you say, net better?

Schira Lillis:

Net better off.

Garry Schleifer:

So better off than they were before.

Schira Lillis:

That's the con. So, yeah, basically that there. And the idea is that you're looking beyond just financial rewards, because obviously financial rewards are very important. Of course a lot of the time, if you ask people why they leave an organization and so on, it's because there was other opportunities with more flexibility and so on. Or the organizations that they choose to stay in is because of, you know, great colleagues that they really enjoyed working with. They were working on projects that truly they were passionate about. The range of benefits that made it possible to drop off their kids in the morning and pick them up at the end of the day and finish the work at home. There's a load of different ways in which companies can provide a full range of benefits and rewards to their their employees that make them better off essentially.

Garry Schleifer:

Yeah, and net better off. I love that saying. I want to quote again from the last paragraph "With the help of coaching, individuals can re enter the workforce stronger and more resilient than before, leading to increased productivity, job satisfaction and overall well being. And that points to what you just said about that better off overall well-being, work and life. That's great. Schira, what would you like our audience to do as a result of this article in this conversation?

Schira Lillis:

Well, I think what is really important is to first of all take time out to enjoy what you're doing. Every moment is precious. We never know what can happen around the corner. So that's the very first thing and watch out for those cobblestones.

Garry Schleifer:

So I was going to say be present when you're walking your dog.

Schira Lillis:

And not a good combination, yeah but then, apart from that, essentially to really to think broadly about what's important for the individual. What are the range of elements that stand out for them, not just as a professional executive, so on, but also as an individual, as a person, a whole person, and help for the coaches to help the individual achieve what it is they want to achieve. And know that, of course, everybody's different and something like this that can change you considerably. So even if you were coaching somebody before, their viewpoints and what's important maybe quite different going forward, and finally, I'd say the last thing that that comes to mind but is really important, is to continue to provide that safe space for the individual to acknowledge what they're concerned about, to help them think through how they may get over some certain challenges, and ask them what have they gained from the process? What have they learned that they can now bring to better thrive, to better achieve their goals in the future and be more resilient, because, at the end of the day, getting the most out of our lives doing what we love doing it really makes it so much more fun than simply going after a checklist of of items to complete.

Garry Schleifer:

Yeah, exactly, no kidding. Well said, thank you very much, Schira, and thank you so much for being with us for this beyond Beyond the page Page episode. What's the best way for people to reach you?

Schira Lillis:

Through my LinkedIn profile is the best, best way, and we'll look forward to talking to anybody who wants to reach out.

Garry Schleifer:

Awesome, Schira Lillis S-C-H-I-R-A-L-I-L-L-I-S at LinkedIn. In LinkedIn, I don't know what you say. I don't know. Anyway, I'm sure you're easy to find. Thanks again. That's it for this episode of Beyond the Page. For more episodes, subscribe via your favorite podcast app. I know Apple and Spotify are the most popular to listen to us. If you're not a subscriber, you can sign up for your free digital issue of choice magazine by going to choice-online. com and clicking the Sign Up Now button. I'm Garry Schleifer. Enjoy the journey of mastery. Thanks again, Schira.

Schira Lillis:

Thank you, Garry.

Humanizing Healthcare
Re-Onboarding and Supporting Returning Employees