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Alexandra Reese's Growth Guide

Timely leadership insights to accelerate your growth & impact


You completed your 2022 reflection, set goals for 2023, and have charted a path to success. Now, you’re ready to go! Well, maybe…


There’s one question you need to ask first: do you have the right people in your support network to ensure success?


If you sense some hesitation in your answer, then this edition of the Growth Guide is for you. In it, I show you how to obtain the right support for you and your organization, so you can achieve your boldest ambitions with greater confidence and ease.

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You can achieve your boldest ambitions. You just need better support.

Healthy support networks are robust and diverse. A thriving leader will typically have a diverse support network that includes:

This Growth Guide shows how to select the right professional support to grow you and your organization. By professional support, I mean paid coaches, advisors, and consultants, referred to collectively as “Partners” from here-on-out.

Your choice of Partners is among the most important choices you'll make.

The right choice in Partner can dramatically improve your performance. For example, DDI found that organizations whose CEOs receive effective leadership development, specifically coaching and feedback, are:

  • 1.6X more likely to be in the top 5% of financial performers.  
  • 8X more likely to make effective hiring decisions.
  • 6X more likely to foster an inclusive culture
  • 5X more likely to prevent burnout

Most conventional wisdom about how to select the right Partner is outdated.

After working in this business for 13 years—and talking to literally hundreds of consultants and clients about their engagement successes and failures—I’ve identified three mistakes that you must avoid when choosing a Partner.


Here are the three mistakes to avoid—and what to do instead:


Mistake #1: You focus exclusively on outcome- and task-based objectives

I have read over 2,500 RFPs from private, nonprofit, and government organizations. And 95% provide insufficient detail on the objectives for the engagement. Most organizations stop at deliverables, tasks, and Partner qualifications. They don’t include more subjective objectives related to what the partnership experience should look, sound, and feel like.


And these partnership experience objectives are absolutely essential to Partner selection. How a Partner manages engagements, partners with clients, adapts to new cultures, and resolves challenges matters. There is no one right way to do each of these things, but there is a right way for you.


My most successful client engagements—those that drove the greatest results for my clients!—have been those in which I had a thriving partnership with the client team. Our cultural norms were compatible and they appreciated my unique skills, attributes, and coaching style.


What to do instead:

Get clear on your partnership experience objectives before you start looking for prospective Partners. This will ensure you attract, engage, and interview only those Partners likely to be a good fit for you.


The first objective to clarify is the type of Partner you need. You may use the matrix below as a starting point.

The second objective to clarify is the experience you’d like to have working with that Partner. What does success for your relationship look, sound, and feel like?


Mistake #2: You ask for the wrong referrals

Asking for referrals is still one of best ways to find great Partners. It’s faster than sifting through hundreds of Google results. And it’s a great way to find experienced, vetted Partners, if you know how to get the right referrals.

Most leaders ask peers for referrals. This is a great place to start. But it shouldn’t be where you end.


The recommendations you get from peers will be highly biased toward your peer’s unique needs. They likely selected their Partner from a small number of industry/ subject matter experts. And they’ve likely only worked with that person in the context of their organization. So, unless your unique needs and organizational context mirror those of your peer, you’re not necessarily getting a great recommendation for you.

What to do instead:

Expand your referral search. Ask Partners whom you respect for their recommendations. Your Partners will likely have experience with far more firms in adjacent specializations than your peers, which means they’re likely to have a better understanding of the choices available and their tradeoffs.


For example, clients often ask me for HR referrals. Since it’s not a service I provide, I have a shortlist of HR Partners whom I trust and would readily recommend to clients. And because I know my clients well, I’m able to introduce them to the right Partner for them.


And make your referral ask specific by including helpful details about the type of Partner you’d like. For example:

  • Do you want a consultant, advisor, or coach?
  • If it’s a consultant, are you looking for someone to give you an answer or facilitate a process?
  • If it’s an advisor or coach, what qualities are you looking for (e.g., a challenger, a thought partner, a generalist, a subject matter expert)?


Mistake #3: You only consider global brands or industry experts

It feels safe and comfortable to pick the global brand or industry expert. After all, “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM,” or McKinsey, or any other household-brand Partner.


But comfortable and safe doesn’t always yield effective and innovative. When you hire the global brand or industry expert, you will pay a lot for a standardized processes, insights, and deliverables that look a whole lot like those of other clients.


Buying an out-of-the-box solution can work great if you’re trying to do something that’s been done before. In some instances, it’s highly desirable to buy solution that has been refined through many past client engagements.


But it’s not always a great solution for objectives related to your strategy, people, or other unique facets of your business model. In those cases, a Partner who has worked almost exclusively in your industry may be a detriment to your success by perpetuating the same insights and “best practices” that everyone in your industry has already adopted.


Customization and creativity matter. Global brands and industry experts can deliver. My point is not to exclude them from your consideration. My point is not to exclude the “less conventional” Partner. It can be a strategic advantage to select a Partner who has worked in a diversity of industry contexts, as they can bring insights from other industries to help you innovate.

What to do instead:

Stop breathing the same exhaust as your competitors. If you want to do better, be exceptional, or innovate, you need to work with different Partners than your competitors and collaborators.


Riccardo Illy of Illy Café credits his company’s wild success to its ability to leverage better practices from another industry. At its start, Illy tried to grow like its competitors: it expanded its product selection in an effort to sell more to current customers. And just like its competitors, it generated slow growth in its ancillary products and no growth in its core. Not good.


Then, Riccardo had a chance encounter with the Louis Vuitton store in Paris that changed everything. Riccardo was mesmerized by the store windows, which showcased just one item: the iconic Louis Vuitton monogrammed bag. It showed how a company can build a brand around one, iconic product. And it sparked a question, “What if Illy were the Louis Vuitton of coffee?”


On his return home, Riccardo convinced his family to strip down the company’s products to just one item: its iconic silver and red canister of Illy Classico. Like Vuitton, the company build a luxury brand around one iconic product. And like Vuitton, its growth skyrocketed.


Here are a three tips to find Partners who can help you achieve exceptional outcomes:

  • Read thought leadership and engage with those Partners whose content inspires you. You can use this strategy to both find prospective partners and vet referrals.
  • Ask prospective Partners how they learn and grow. For example, I spend 24+ hours per week on research, thought leadership, and product development. It’s how I stay sharp and ensure my clients have access to the latest leadership insights.
  • Ask prospective Partners how they challenge their clients. Most executives don’t receive the constructive feedback, dissent, and thought partnership they need from within their organizations (DDI). While that itself is something to work on, it takes time. So, executives often seek this value add from external Partners.


What would be possible for you and your organization if you had the right support to achieve your goals? How would access to outstanding coaches, advisors, and consultants catalyze your results and impact?

Getting the right support is within your reach, if you know how to find and vet it. I hope this edition of the Growth Guide empowers you to do just that! 

As always, if you have questions, comments, or need a referral, reply to this newsletter. I'd love to have a conversation with you!


Opportunities to Partner

One-on-one and Team Coaching: You're ready to transform your leadership, life, and impact. As your coach, I'll work with you (and your leadership team, if desired) to clarify your vision and purpose, set bold goals, build an actionable strategy, and cultivate the mindset, beliefs, and behaviors necessary to achieve sustainable results without pain and stress. 

Your Leadership Mindset Blueprint: 
What could you achieve if you felt engaged, motivated, and fulfilled--even when times are tough? How would you show-up differently for yourself, your team, and those you love if you felt calm, confident, and in control of your actions and reactions? How would it feel to navigate life with the support of someone who only has your best interests at heart, who listens without judgment, and who supports you in creating the life and legacy of your dreams? This life is possible! And it starts by shifting your mindset. This 4-hour experience will empower you to do just that with dramatic results. Read more and sign-up here.

Growth Advisory: You've been working diligently to grow your organization, but have yet to achieve sustainable results. Or perhaps you've done exceptionally well and are ready to take things to a new level. I can help you hone a compelling vision and strategy, then execute with confidence, ease, and joy. 


Links to Past Editions

Here are links to the first 14 editions:

Jan 12: Four strategies to achieve goals with greater confidence and ease

Jan 5: The secret to setting effective goals

Dec 22Glean powerful insights from 2022 w/ this 3-step reflection process

Dec 15: Nine proven strategies to eliminate stress

Dec 1: Three things you can do now to boost success in 2023

Nov 17Eight signs you've got a feedback problem & how to fix it!

Nov 10: Make performance management your unfair advantage

Oct: 1/ The four elements of a high-performing leadership team, 2/ Cultivate an empowered leadership mindset

Sep: 1/ Replan for Q4, 2/ Jumpstart growth through self-awareness, 3/ Three Qs to save you BIG in your next strategy process 

Aug: 1/ Adapt your strategy process, 2/ Support your mid-level managers, 3/ Halt your mid-career crisis

Jul: 1/ Win with values, 2/ How to get hybrid work right, 3/ Vacation like a European

Jun: 1/ The mid-year review, 2/ Sharpen your creative skills, 3/ Win through failure

May: 1/ Prepare for downturns; 2/ Better, faster decisions; 3/ Embrace difference to improve performance

Apr: 1/ The Q1 review, 2/ Prime yourself for success, 3/ Focus your innovation investments for impact


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