Catherine Fox

Leadhership Case Study

Catherine Fox

Manager, Organizational Development - OCAS

“Making the decision to join LeadHERship was one of the best decisions of my life - it was a game changer! I'm so so grateful that Harriette is sharing her gifts with the world in this way.”

In her current role, Catherine facilitates the identification of her company's objectives, and initiates programs to maximize the potential of all employees. 

She was on the cusp of a long-desired career change into this role, which was a huge opportunity for her. Catherine felt a need to level up her leadership. At the same time she’d been thinking for at least a year that she needed an external female mentor with no ties to her company, who could coach her on how to best approach tricky situations with the leaders at her organization. 

“I've long wished to find a woman in a leadership role that I'd want to emulate, as I'd not seen that in my 25+ year career.”

In her previous role as manager of the Project Management team, there were a number of organization-wide issues Catherine had tried to address in various ways, but got no traction. As well, she felt she had lost her passion for project management - in the midst of so much pandemic uncertainty, what was the point in planning?  

“I was comfortable and coasting - but bored and wanting a change.”

Thankfully the new role was offered to her, right around the time she signed up for the  LeadHerShip program. Given this, she wasn't so much stuck - this new opportunity was exactly in line with her own desire to help develop others. At the same time, she knew that the new role would require her to be a courageous truth-teller, and raise issues to execs who likely wouldn't always want to hear what she had to say. Plus Catherine had little credibility in the new role beyond her passion for it - no formal training.

“I wanted to learn from a female leader who had a style I respected. I wanted to expand my horizons beyond the leadership skills that I'd leaned on in the past. I wanted to have a neutral external coach to guide me on tricky situations at work.”

About a year ago Catherine had a really difficult conversation with a senior leader. Through the course of this conversation, she came to realize that this leader perceived Catherine’s project management team in a negative light, and claimed this was the perception of others. Even though Catherine did her best to get curious and ask questions to better understand the perspective, she ended up shedding tears because she was so angry and hurt to hear this perspective which was opposite to her own. 

Afterward Catherine realized that she needed an external neutral coach who could help her with situations like this. So, she requested a budget for her professional development.

“I'd always steered away from development programs geared specifically for women, as I didn't think it should be different than for men. I definitely appreciated the slant towards women however, and learned a lot about how societal norms have affected me (particularly my pleasing reactive tendency). Reality is that as women, there are different expectations for us, like it or not - so I benefited from the focus on leadership for women.”

Catherine’s company had always provided significant budgetary support for professional  development, but very little guidance on how to spend it (this is part of her new role). Her  typical approach to resolving issues is always to confide in a few close friends/coworkers but  they always have some form of bias (they don't want to risk the relationship or they have a  vested interest themselves in the company situations and people). She’d never worked with an  external executive coach before. 

“I chose LeadHERship because it was geared towards women leaders, was a reasonable time commitment, and also because of Harriette's authentic and warm personality combined with her wisdom, which I'd seen in her free masterclass.”

Catherine had been seeking 1:1 coaching, but working with other like-minded women came as  an unexpected bonus for Catherine. 

“I got a fresh perspective on a lot of leadership areas that I didn't even realize had grown stagnant for me - so I'm looking at things like prioritization and accountability in a whole new way.”

The 360 survey and 360 leadership circle profile gave Catherine a better sense of where her  strengths lie, and where her opportunity areas are. It also taught her that her reactive tendency  of pleasing IS a reactive tendency, so now she’s more aware when she’s behaving in a reactive  way. It also helped her see more clearly when others (particularly other leaders) are operating  from a reactive place, so she can avoid reacting to them and instead try to understand why they  are in a reactive state.  

“I found a whole tribe of women leaders who are also on their own journeys and I take a great pleasure from knowing we will continue to be there for each other, even after LeadHERship has ended.”

LeadHERship has helped Catherine be more reflective, and more self-aware, particularly around her blind spots and reactive tendencies. It has set her on a positive learning path and  introduced her to other strong women who are also seeking to learn. 

“I'd never seen a woman leader in my career that I wanted to emulate - now I know many: Harriette is an amazing example as well as the other women who were in LeadHERship with me!”

LeadHERship has also given her a solid foundation on her integrity - Harriette had the group do an exercise to describe what they stand for, even when it costs them. That was the most powerful exercise for her - having reflected and written her response, she feels so much more confident in her actions when they are in line with her own integrity. 

“It's clear that Harriette genuinely cares about us and is extremely supportive, even if that means challenging our way of thinking and asking the tough questions. She is always 100% present, even when you know she's got other things going on - she made me feel both seen and heard, which is unfortunately rare these days, ESPECIALLY in a virtual setting.”

Listening to the stories of the other women helped Catherine realize just how much they all have  in common - so many of the women described feeling like imposters, including Harriette.  There's strength in numbers and somehow knowing that these strong women experienced that  feeling made it easier for her to embrace it.  

“The comradery and feeling of being part of a trusted tribe of strong women was definitely an unexpected benefit for me - and it's what gives me the most hope for the future, knowing we will continue to connect after the program has ended.”

The other unexpected benefit Catherine experienced is how much it has caused her to rethink  her approach to LIFE, not just work. For example,sometimes the 1:1 coaching session with  Harriette was about communication in her marriage because she could see how the topics they  discussed in the group sessions were playing out in her life.  

“Harriette was so authentic, always fully present with us and sharing whatever was going on in her life - this gave the rest of us permission to be ourselves with her and the group.”

This investment could have gone towards a few 1:1 coaching sessions, or another leadership  program, but Catherine would not have connected with an amazing group of strong women and  heard their perspectives.  

Catherine Fox 20200417_091512

“Harriette has shown me that it is possible to be a strong female leader while still being true to yourself.

Harriette is an amazing blend of warmth and wisdom, and I count myself lucky to call her both my mentor and friend!

Harriette’s listening skills are top-notch, which is also rare - she always had something  insightful to say in response to us when we shared with the group.”