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Coaching Success Stories: The authentic leader

In this article Paul Lawrenson, Global Talent Leader at Expedia Group shares the experience of his coaching journey and how he has benefited from his partnership with WDI.

Paul views coaching as one of the key differentiating factors in securing two significant promotions, retaining his work/ life balance and continuing to thrive as an authentic leader.

His leadership impact is visible in last year’s annual employee engagement scores where Paul’s team rated the highest.   He believes this was aided by “not shielding them from the situation around them, and enabling and empowering them to do great work.”

However, as he says, this hasn’t always been the case.

“In the past I used to over plan for literally every single conversation.  I wanted to have all the data, context and answers ahead of time; it was a sort of security blanket for me.  I would show up as rigid, more focused on the process than building the relationships, and that really inhibited my ability to be fluid and have a free-flowing, high trust conversation.”

“As I reflect now, I realise I acted as though I did not trust my team to deliver – seeking to control and limit risks around their performance.  I also recognise that Imposter syndrome was definitely a thing with me; I paid far too much attention to the things I wasn’t good at.  However, through our coaching work, I now focus far more on my strengths and how I achieve the outcomes I want rather than worrying about one underdeveloped trait.”

Over a 2-year period, Paul had a series of coaching sessions with Lynn White, WDI and some of the development areas included:

  • Growth mindset matters: “Lynn got me to identify key challenges and explore how I wanted to show up and face into them. Our sessions gave me time for reflection and techniques to unlock some of my limiting beliefs.  This enabled me to make accelerated progress.”
  • Ignite imagination: “Achieving success meant visualising optimal future scenarios in a timeline. As my remit has grown and expanded, it was key that I step back and imagine my vision for the team and then fully engage them in that so that the vision and the work they do is aligned and clear.”
  • Ponder on powerful questions: “Some of the deeper questions I was asked gave me pause to ponder. Having the time and space to reflect on questions such as ‘What would be your greatest ambition?’ remain with me and I repeatedly replay that question back as it supports me to achieve even greater things.”
  • Authentic leadership: “For me this means being willing to openly share who I am with my team, which can feel vulnerable. It also means sharing my personal ‘why’ and really focusing on care for people. I’m also much more willing to share my own mistakes as it gives others license to do the same.”
  • Be the change you wish to see: “I’ve taken what I have learnt and transferred it into my management of people. We have regular sessions where everyone can share what is on their mind to ensure communication and connection is strong.   In the midst of a pandemic, it’s more critical that trust and relationship are strengthened as everyone’s role has changed.  I choose to role model the behaviours I expect in others and hope that having me show up and be present and accessible has provided a degree of calm in a rocky landslide.”

Why do you recommend coaching?

“I have made more progress in my career growth and my comfort in the corporate environment than I did in the 20 years prior.  At Expedia there has been a huge change of key personal and I am now comfortable to share who I am with anyone.   I use it as a license for everyone to bring their personality and whole self to work, not just the acceptable corporate version of yourself.  I have learnt there are no filters to your personality and vulnerability, and it is through coaching with Lynn that I have understood the importance of that.  Although my formal coaching has ended, I continue to use this mindset of me at my best as a core practice.”

And talking about Lynn White specifically?

“It is hard to find the words for her brilliance, her warmth, and expertise. She knows her space and has mastery in coaching and the corporate landscape. She has become a friend and continues to act as a professional coach. I always look forward to talking with her. I know she cares and I will come out with a pragmatic set of 3-5 things that I can use to make progress – not just theoretical. These are answers/ actions I come out with myself as she has pushed me to be uncomfortable and teased out answers and direction.”

Going forward

It is our hope that as a reader of this article, you take away a feeling of excitement about the power and value of personal growth for both the individual and organisation and respect for Paul, who we thank, for sharing his story so openly.

Inspired by Paul’s story and interested in coaching for yourself or your team – please do contact us.

Author: Sally Hargrave – WDI Consulting Limited

WDI’s passion is to help our clients create the conditions where both women and men thrive and then reap the business and social benefits inclusion can deliver.   Our core offerings include performance coaching, women’s leadership coaching, culture change and inclusive leadership.

In 2019, we launched our modular Women’s Leadership Online Programme which can be delivered through our online class-room or through a series of modular webinars tailored to our clients unique business needs.

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