Discover Your Leadership Score

Improve Your Results by Creating High-Performing & Ethical Teams

  • Takes less than 5 minutes

  • Answer honestly. There are no right or wrong answers

  • Receive your individual report upon completion

  • Complimentary 30-minute consultation

The Bonar Institute is a professional services organization based in Ottawa, Ontario, dedicated to promoting the highest standards of excellence in corporate leadership. We specialize in providing tailored guidance and advisory services to organizations, senior executives and entrepreneurs, both nationally and internationally. Our services focus on the areas of business strategies, leadership development and training, and results-driven executive coaching & mentoring. We offer a broad range of leading-edge programs that are customized to meet the unique needs of our clients.


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Results-Driven Coaching in a Rapid-Fire World - Bonar Institute’s Proven Methodology

“I have had a number of executive coaches in the past, but in the end of the day they went nowhere. I need real, lasting results!” We have heard this refrain from corporate, government and non-profit clients at the Bonar Institute. To ensure productive executive coaching, we offer clients our proven, customized six-month results-driven program - with clearly defined SMART Goals. We focus on client accountability and meaningful application in the execution of our clients’ managerial responsibilities.


Our proven methodology is tailored to the specific requirements of each client. We coach the whole person, as needed, including acting as a confidential mentor.

Step 1: Assessment: A 360 assessment prior to the start of the coaching engagement. This assessment serves as the benchmark of success for the coaching sessions to follow.

  • The recommended 360 assessment tool is the EQ360 Leadership Report which links emotional intelligence to leadership development. The Report includes evaluation of the following key elements: Self-Perception, Self-Expression, Interpersonal Relations, Decision-Making and Stress-Management.

Step 2: Discovery Session with the corporate sponsor (usually the client’s superior), the client, and the coach:

Reach a clear understanding on expectations and deliverables of the coaching engagement, including:

  • Desired outcomes
  • Progress reporting to corporate sponsor
  • Confidentiality requirements of corporate sponsor and client

Step 3: Finalize Program Design with client:

  • Debrief of 360 Assessment with client and the setting of SMART Goals

Step 4: Execution of the program

Step 5: Mid-point Progress Report Meeting with corporate sponsor and client:

  • Modifications made to program, if required

Step 6: Overall Evaluation of Engagement with corporate sponsor and client

  • Were the desired outcomes achieved?

Step 7: Follow-Up Client Mentoring by Superior

  • Monthly for 15 -30 minutes to ensure the integration of new learnings/behaviours into the client’s execution of managerial responsibilities.

Step 8: Optional Two Post-Engagement “Check-In” Sessions

  • Meet with client at 6 and 12- month marks, to verify on progress towards lasting results.

At the Bonar Institute, we believe that our powerful customized results-driven coaching program is one of the most important investments an organization can make in leadership development. To be successful however, we need our clients’ commitment to work collaboratively with us to achieve the lasting results their organizations require.

Please contact us for more information on how we can help you succeed.

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Time Management Conundrum in Rapid-Fire World

Our org chart has so many vacancies that our senior people have to fill multiple roles. And, in some cases, they’re even unaware of all their managerial responsibilities! Does, this situation sound familiar? If so, you are not alone. Many organizations are reeling in the turbulence of exponential change and relentless transition in today’s rapid-fire world.

Increasing velocity is the hallmark of today’s economy. How to meet urgent “must do” priorities that seem to exceed the capacity of the organization? What about unforeseen priorities, which arrive with a thud on one’s desk? Attempts to resist change and ignore this rapid-fire reality is not an option. Successful managers look beyond the daily time pressures towards the future. Time – to strategize, to engage with stakeholders, to create and to execute - is the most precious asset. Effectively managing time, however, is not a new issue. The Roman philosopher Seneca once noted: It is not that we have so little time, but we waste so much. Pointless activities distract from achieving longer-term goals. Effective and innovative time management, not surprisingly, is the number one priority of a growing number of my clients.

Today’s business realities require the setting of realistic longer-term priorities – and sticking to them - among pressing activities competing for attention. In coaching clients to improve their time management, I focus on setting the priorities which are not just urgent but once achieved will make a positive difference.

This coaching process starts with the identification and recording, in a customized journal, of each task, staff meeting, business trip and event in their calendars. Clients then classify each item in one of three categories:

  • Makes a Difference (MAD)
  • Important (IMP)
  • Trivial (TRIV)

Time consuming in the short-term this exercise is an investment in enhanced long-term performance. Once completed clients appreciate how little time is actually spent on truly significant issues versus merely urgent (often trivial) ones. They also understand who they are spending their time with: superiors, colleagues, direct reports, clients, and for how long. Arriving at the right balance between addressing MAD activities and the delegation of other tasks is usually achieved. Successful management depends on getting this right. It involves embracing the principle: Don’t add before subtracting. And having the self-discipline to say no, as required.

But what happens when the number of meaningful priorities exceeds the ability to effectively manage them? One useful approach is to prioritize the MAD tasks based on investing in what will get the biggest return, over the longest time.

For executives struggling to successfully cope with turbulence of exponential change, this approach may seem almost utopian. Though a multitude of pressing decisions must be actioned immediately, running an organisation is not a sprint – it is a marathon. The most effective executives are those who understand this reality.

At the Bonar Institute, we support organizations in the Time Management Conundrum of a Rapid-Fire World.

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How Business and Government Leaders Create a High-Performance Culture

The role of an executive in today's global economy is not for the faint of heart. The pace of economic, technological and social change is unparalleled in human history. Executives must also keep pace with a flood of instantaneous gathered, disseminated and analyzed data and information. Many are left with a sense of insufficient time and lost opportunities.

There are three priority challenges which many need coaching to effectively manage:

  • Engaging and mobilizing employees to adapt and meet organizational goals.

  • Focussing direct reports on delivering innovative new products and services.

  • Hiring smart, energetic managerial talent and integrating them seamlessly into a team to quickly add value to the organization.

Meeting these challenges is often hindered by employee turnover and countless unforeseen situations.

Fortunately it does not have to be this way. My name is James de Gaspé Bonar and I assist senior business and government executives create high performance work environments based on motivated employees dedicated to completing multifaceted projects, reducing costs and improving results. (Click here to view my article The Private/Public Management Divide).


I work with executives to systematically address these challenges while meeting business goals and decreasing stress levels. The following results can be achieved:

  • Motivated employees, based on trust and respect for management

  • A high performance culture

  • Improved business results

  • Significant cost efficiencies

Clients choose to work with me for the following reasons: 

  • I bring a wealth of perspectives and insights garnered from over 30 years of executive leadership and grounded in the realities of today’s business realities.

  • I have senior executive leadership experience in Canada and the United States in both the corporate and not-for-profit sectors.

  • I have held multiple senior management roles including:

    • CEO of the Canadian subsidiary of an international corporation;

    • Vice President Sales, Marketing and Customer Satisfaction;

    • Head of $165M US Business Unit of a global provider of professional information and software solutions.

    • Notable accomplishments:

      • Increasing revenues by 51% and operating income by 54% over 3 years

      • Acquiring  and integrating four software providers

      • Negotiating strategic partnerships resulting in increased market share


I am fluently bilingual and offer my services in English and French.

I am an ICF-certified coach

To learn more about my results-driven five step coaching methodology, contact me at or call 613.404.8455.

Click here to read my article The Case for Employees as Stakeholders.


I look forward to hearing from you.

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Leadership & the Power of Influence

“Leadership is influence”

- John C. Maxwell, New York Times Best Selling author

One of my clients recently shared with me her frustration on being passed over for a promotion in her hoped-for ascent up the corporate ladder. A very capable executive, she is well liked and would appear to have all the requisite experience for a more senior management position. So, why didn’t it happen?

In my experience advising and coaching leaders, I have learned that the most successful executives lead through the power of influence. They inspire others to willingly implement their ideas. They have high-stakes influence conversations with their superiors, peers, direct reports and stakeholders. They maximize their probability of success by setting out specific goals for these conversations. There is no substitute for a thoroughly planned approach - including anticipating possible objections and rehearsing messages to be delivered in a concise and effective manner.

Too many leaders, however, rush into important meetings under-prepared. Some lack the skills and the confidence to present their ideas convincingly. Such interactions are unproductive, if not counter-productive and as such their leadership can be perceived as wanting.

It is difficult to achieve success when leaders struggle to successfully engage and influence stakeholders. Such was the case with my client. There is a science as well as an art to effectively influence people. It entails having the right conversations with the right person to achieve the right result. In working with clients, I employ the following proven six-step methodology:

Action Step
Key Mistakes
  1. Set a clear goal.
Influence starts with a clear goal. Gut instinct instead of a clear,considered goal; proposing a goal that is too ambitious for one meeting; proposing the wrong goal for the situation.
  1. Assess the situation.
Assess how the other person is thinking about the situation. Failure to consider ALL of the reasons,incentives, and factors that can influence the other person; failing to consider the other person's motivations and constraints.
  1. Choose the right approach.
Different approaches are effective in different situations. There are at least FOUR strategies that work in different situations, yet most leaders rely on only one.
  1. Structure the approach.
Plan carefully the best approach, including anticipating objections. Many leaders wing it, without planning  the best opening, responses to objections and how to deal with new information.
  1. Plan for the worst.
Have an exit plan. Staying in a meeting that is going poorly, instead of taking a break; failing to plan for the unanticipated.
  1. Rehearse
Tedious, but worth it.  Rehearsing with a coach can improve results exponentially; failing to rehearse reduces the chances for a positive outcome.

Adapted with permission by Center for Executive Coaching.

During the follow-up with my clients, we review the outcomes of their meetings. Were the goals achieved? If not, why not? What were the lessons learned? What are the appropriate next steps?

This methodology enables leaders to be more effective in achieving their goals by successfully influencing stakeholders. It is also an excellent framework to enhance their leadership presence: that elusive wow factor that is the combination of personal and interpersonal skills. In politics, it's called charisma. Leadership presence is how executives and aspiring executives present themselves to others and how others perceive them. It gives their careers that extra impetus towards success.

To learn more about this methodology, and how I can help you achieve your goals by influencing others, please contact

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Servant Leaders and Unicorns

During the Q & A session after a talk on Success Through Purpose & Service, I was asked to elaborate on my comments on servant leaders, specifically in business. Below is an expanded version of my response.

All organizations need leaders to provide focus, purpose, strategy and tactics. While there are undeniable differences and critical nuances among corporate, political and spiritual leaders, they all share fundamental challenges, including: vision, belief, courage, resolve, resilience, and authenticity. Such leaders strive to evoke in others the purpose and meaning which inspire themselves.

 From my experience, the most successful business leaders are ethical; they make the principled decision to achieve goals greater than themselves and their organizations. Their authority relies more on influence than on power. They are servant leaders who have earned the right to lead. For some, their vision is anchored in Social Responsibility (Toms and Starbucks), for others it’s Excellence (Berkshire Hathaway) and Innovation and Discovery (Virgin). Their vision inspires others to believe that their vision is attainable. These leaders encourage others to reach for their dreams too. They have the courage,  resolve and resilience to pick themselves up when they inevitably stumble and sometimes fall. They serve as examples for others to follow.  Servant leaders are true to their own values as well as those of their organizations.

 Servant leaders see corporate success beyond the narrow imperatives of quarterly earnings.  While profits are indispensable for survival and sustainability, they cannot be a company’s sole purpose.  It matters how the money is made and reinvested.  Many companies have policies to ban hate speech on their social media platforms.  Amazon and Shopify are but two examples. Long term success is based on creating lasting worth for all their stakeholders: shareholders, employees, vendors, customers and the environment.  All are unique yet interconnected in a vibrant community of mutual service.

For such businesses, service incorporates Moral Authority (adopting a higher purpose), Social Responsibility (creating prosperity for all stakeholders), Environmental Responsibility (promoting a greener, sustainable economy), and the Human Imperative (putting people first).


Not all corporate leaders, of course, embrace servant leadership and many companies succeed without doing so.  The most successful leaders, however, understand that corporate service is key to long-term prosperity.  They do not discard old assets; instead they develop new ones based on professional and personal values which conform to the company’s corporate culture. Business success, in the long run, is about creating lasting worth for all stakeholders.

I have observed that exceptional executives are not only servant leaders but 'unicorns' as well. I use 'unicorn' not in the sense of a privately-held start-up company valued at over a billion dollars, but rather as a symbol of human longing to dream of new possibilities. In their thought-provoking book, Spiritual Intelligence: The Ultimate Intelligence (Bloomsbury, 2000), Danah Zohar & Ian Marshall write: “In the vision of quantum science, the whole of existence is a field of unicorns – a set of possibilities plucked out of the quantum vacuum’s infinite sea of potentiality”.  The greatest leaders explore multiple possibilities and they innovate in ways others deem impossible.  When servant leaders are also unicorns, new ways for companies to serve society profitably and meaningfully are discovered. (See my April 2017 article, An Enduring Question: Can a Company Have a Soul?) In an important sense, servant leaders-unicorns represent the very best of what is required of our business leaders.

 At the Bonar Institute, we are committed to supporting these leaders.

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Abusive Leaders, Wounded Workers

“I hate to have to speak to you about this Paul [all names have been changed]… but I feel I have to... I can’t go on like this… Sarah’s bullying is too much for me”. Sarah reports to Paul and is his star performer. “She often humiliates me in team meetings: ‘You’re dropping the ball Jake! You’re letting us all down! Hell, you’re letting me down! Get a grip!’ Paul, it’s reached the point where I can’t sleep at night. I’m stressed out … It’s affecting my home life…”

This is one of the most distressful conversations an employee and executive can have. The extremely competitive work environment of Paul’s company produces executives and managers with high-pressure, often aggressive working-styles. Sarah’s was at the very high end of the spectrum and she alienated many of her co-workers. Jake’s accusation of bullying was very serious, and Paul knew he had to act. The company has a robust workplace harassment policy and Paul immediately launched an investigation plan. After a thorough investigation by HR, Sarah’s interpersonal behaviour was judged abusive and unacceptable. Many of her co-workers were deeply wounded emotionally and psychologically. It would take time and support for them to heal. The company hired coaches to work with the working wounded. I was engaged to coach Sarah.

Abusive leaders, such as Sarah, lack psychological insight into the emotional distress their aggressive behaviour causes co-workers and the disruption it brings upon the organization. They have blinders and are in denial. They don’t realize that their behaviour is unacceptable or abnormal. Their organizations see them as being immune to change and often tolerate/enable their destructive behaviour. For management, executive coaching often represents the last chance these employees have prior to dismissal.

When we look more deeply into their behaviours, we detect that abusive leaders are fundamentally fearful that perceived threats to their competence will jeopardize their professional survival. Their anxiety then escalates, leading to increasingly defensive and aggressive behaviour.

For these leaders, perceived threats include people who may challenge their points of view: bosses, colleagues, staff or outside stakeholders. They regard the perceived 'incompetence' of team members as undermining their own professional competence. Their anxiety leads typically to flight or fight responses. The flight response can manifest itself by withdrawal (e.g., lack of engagement in management meetings). The fight response is exhibited through aggressive behaviour – e.g., demeaning other people’s capabilities, public humiliation and intimidation. The fight behaviour can range from minor to severe. Sarah’s behaviour was at the severe end.

My coaching of clients like Sarah is predicated on the following premise: Attempts at convincing such leaders to change their behaviour will typically fail. Why? Because they lack self-awareness and strongly deny the impact of their behaviours on others. Instead, I have found the following multi-phased approach to be very useful in addressing abusive behaviour.

In the first phase, I conduct a 360 assessment to collect valuable information that will help gauge the impact of the leaders’ negative behaviours on employees, colleagues and relevant stakeholders. This is supplemented by shadow coaching and by my own observations from working with them. When I present these findings to the leaders, they are often unpleasantly surprised to learn that their aggressive behaviours, rather than their competencies and objectives are the main focus of other people. They now see clearly that the negative perceptions of their behaviours are overshadowing their technical competence, and threatening their professional survival. Their anxiety skyrockets.

In the second phase, I find that these leaders are now more open and willing to partner with me to:

  • Identify what behaviours generate people’s negative perceptions of them
  • Determine what can remove these negative perceptions, and prevent their return
  • Identify and stimulate more productive relationships

The last phase of the process requires them to adopt and integrate their new interpersonal patterns of behaviour.

Abusive leaders’ behaviours are a scourge to the wellbeing and productivity of organizations. The emotional distress they cause co-workers and the disruption they bring upon organizations can be truly devastating. Unfortunately, all too often, they are identified and acted upon only when much of the harm has already been done.

Generating effective, lasting change to abusive leaders’ behaviours is not easy, fast, nor assured. I have been quite successful in coaching a number of abusive leaders using the approach described above, but not all.

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The Private/Public Management Divide

Some of my executive clients share that they are attracted to government by the desire to improve service to the Canadian public in a more cost efficient way. They appreciate not being chained to quarterly results, allowing for more considered long term goal setting. They complain, however, about their difficulties in transitioning from the private sector to the public sector. They are challenged by what they perceive as the inadequacies and ineffectiveness of public administration. Some have argued that government should adopt standard business practices. One client related that it took him a full year to transition from the private enterprise to his new public sector position. He had been hired chiefly due to his business expertise as a results-oriented executive. Once on the job, however, he found the corporate public sector culture averse to his management style. He concluded that he was failing. It took time and considerable self-awareness for him to understand that he would have to adapt his leadership approach to be successful in his new reality. Having worked in both the private and public sectors, I understand the challenges these executives face and the frustrations they feel.

My experience coaching these clients has led me to reflect on the nature of leadership in the private sector and government. Leadership is unquestionably challenging in any environment. At the macro level, there are similarities in management practices between the two sectors. Both are comprised of organizations with diverse sizes, budgets and missions. And, their leaders have similar tasks, including:

 Strategic planning and succession planning  Managing and motivating employees  Ensuring their own leadership competencies remain at peak levels of efficiency  Maintaining/improving organizational operations and performance  Leading organisational change  Balancing multiple and often shifting priorities, and  Influencing stakeholders

Private sector organizations operate in a corporate or entrepreneurial environment. They are market-driven, with particular emphasis on economic efficiency. Their primary focus is on optimising profits and shareholder value. While the size, dollar value, and complexity of many federal and provincial government departments and agencies exceed those of numerous private sector companies, their objectives cannot be measured in the same manner. Public sector goals are not as straightforward and there is rarely a clear profit and loss bottom line. In Canada, government departments and agencies generally focus on regulatory implementation of legislation, managing government programs, and on providing direct and indirect services to multicultural and geographically dispersed stakeholders. Their success is measured by the efficacy of their service to the public.

Thus, not surprisingly, there are significant differences in management practices between the private sector and government. Two key areas should be highlighted: compensation (including financial incentives to motivate executives) and managing employees. Private sector companies rely heavily on financial incentives and perks to attract and keep high performing executives (e.g. often large bonuses, stock options, company vehicles, expense accounts). The federal government, for its part, offers a system of performance pay, based on “at-risk” remuneration and bonuses, designed to attract qualified managers. While typically entry-level executive salaries are comparable to those offered in the private sector, the salary gap widens appreciably as executives climb the corporate ladder. In some cases, executive government salaries are lower than those of their direct reports (Kathryn May, “PS executives want pay raises and a review of how they are paid”, iPOLITICS. April 26, 2018). Such scenarios are demoralizing for government executives.

Private sector and government leaders manage employees under different circumstances. Government employees are generally well-paid. One study estimates that they earn a 7% to 10% wage premium in Canada over their private sector counterparts; perhaps more when their defined benefit pension plan is included (Charles Lamman and al., “Comparing Government and Private Sector Compensation in Canada”, Fraser Institute Bulletin, December 2016). Government managers also have less discretion in addressing underperforming employees due to protections enshrined in collective agreements. Many government executives lament the complexity and time it requires to hold these employees to account, including removing them when appropriate. Private sector leaders do not face this problem - at least not to the same degree.

There are similarities, differences and critical nuances between private sector and government management practices. The real private/public management divide, however, resides less in the nature of their leadership approaches than in how executives strive to meet their objectives in very different contexts. My role as an executive coach is to assist my clients identify and understand the leadership challenges specific to their role and corporate culture, and to develop the proactive techniques they require to succeed.

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Corporate Consciousness – A Key to Success

As I have previously written, organizations need to develop new ways of adapting to prosper in our complex, volatile and hyper-connected world. (See my August 27, 2017 article Surviving or Thriving? Prospering Through Purpose.) They need to foster greater corporate consciousness based on a deep understanding of their core personal and professional values. This is the essential first step towards defining their purpose, which in turn will guide the refinement of their corporate culture. This process will greatly improve their prospects of thriving over the long term.

Leaders of such organizations are purposeful. They assess risks beyond the narrow imperative of robust quarterly earnings. Profits, of course, are of the utmost importance for the success of their businesses; however, profits alone cannot be their sole goal. It is crucial how money is made. The novelist, D. G. Roberts said it well: “If we can’t respect the way we earn it, money has no value. If we can’t use it to make life better for our families and loved ones, money has no purpose.” (Shantaram, 2004) Purposeful leaders realize that business is about creating meaningful, lasting worth for their stakeholders: shareholders, team members, vendors, customers, and society which can – in turn – lead to a vibrant and harmonious circle of consciousness, purpose and prosperity.

Corporate Consciouness Circle.png

Corporate stakeholders complement each other. This leads to the creation of even greater value. Indeed, research indicates that there is a positive correlation between this type of corporate culture and long term profitability. Respected companies such as Google, Costco, Tata, Royal Bank of Canada, Unilever and Ecolab have all shown that this way of doing business leads to multifaceted success over time, including higher profits.

For some of these companies, consciousness manifests itself as social responsibility (Toms and Starbucks). For others, it is excellence (Berkshire Hathaway), and for still others it is innovation and discovery (Apple, Netflix and Virgin). They align their vision, mission, strategies and goals with their overarching values, and they execute corporate plans accordingly.

Embracing corporate consciousness and purposeful leadership is a choice that principled leaders make to achieve something greater than themselves and the companies they lead. Purpose inspires leaders to believe that their vision of the future is worthwhile and attainable. And, it inspires others to reach for their dreams too. It calls for great vision, authenticity, courage and resolve. Conscious and purposeful leaders look beyond short term self-interest and they let go of old management paradigms. Supported by like-minded management teams, they inspire their stakeholders by example to build a more coherent and prosperous enterprise. These leaders are ethical corporate stewards focused on building a meaningful, sustainable future both within and beyond their organizations. By fashioning a vibrant circle of sustainable value creation among all of their stakeholders, purposeful CEOs create the extraordinary. (See my September 6, 2016, article CEOs and Stakeholders’ Value Creation.)

At the Bonar Institute, we are committed to help our clients foster corporate consciousness and define their purpose. We work with them to optimize their performance by championing a reality greater than themselves and the companies they lead.

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Leadership and the Law

As an executive coach, mentor and management consultant, I work with leaders who are required to manage complex legal and regulatory issues on a daily basis. In my experience, clients who have acquired a solid understanding of their legal responsibilities as managers - or owners – are more effective in leading their organizations. On the other hand, I have seen too often costs to organizations resulting from their leaders not knowing the legal issues they are facing, the pertinent legal questions to ask and not consulting their internal legal team, or outside counsel, in a timely fashion. For instance, there are many legal risks that should be factored into management’s decision-making when entering into contractual negotiations with vendors, joint venture partners and acquisition targets. There is an ever expanding array of liability issues associated with human resources management, environmental regulations and intellectual property issues.

In a recent article on the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law Global Professional Master of Laws program (GPLLM), I found a very timely perspective on this important subject. (Globe and Mail, May 3, 2018) This program is a 12-month executive-style Masters of Laws which marries U of T’s deserved reputation for academic rigour with pragmatic real-world expertise. What intrigued me was that the GPLLM program is aimed at executives and managers in the private, public or non-profit sectors, as well as practicing lawyers. Of the 85 students in the class of 2018, 63% are new to law; and 48% are women while 52% are men. The students of the class of 2018 have on average 12 years of work experience.

So, what attracts busy leaders to invest their scarce time and money in this program? The pace of change we are experiencing is unparalleled in human history. Today’s leaders recognize the need to draw on a broad range of knowledge to keep atop of current and future challenges. Our volatile and complex economy creates risks that senior executives and leaders must effectively manage and resolve. (See my August 27, 2017, article Surviving or Thriving? Prospering Through Purpose.) According to Ed Iacobucci, Dean of the Faculty of Law, the GPLLM aims to “reshape the way leaders think. The law has an impact on a large portion of issues in the business world, yet executive education doesn’t offer that lens. The capacity to look at complexity, recognize the nuance and apply legal reasoning to come up with the best answer to a difficult problem is invaluable.” (“University of Toronto program helps executives master the law”, Globe and Mail, May 3, 2018)

Founded in 2011, the GPLLM has four concentrations: Business Law; Canadian Law in a Global Context; Innovation, Law and Technology; and the Law of Leadership. The curriculum is carefully designed to balance leaders’ challenging professional commitments with intensive study and professional development in individual and group setting. Students are exposed to the legal issues and problems that are most timely and relevant. They acquire the transformative skills and knowledge that will inform their responses to the wide-ranging challenges full of nuance of our rapidly changing global economy.

For many students, the program offers new perspectives and opportunities. Howard Shearer for example, CEO of Hitachi Canada and an Engineer by training, has worked 35 years in the tech sector. He feels the legal background he acquired at GPLLM has added a vital element to his tool kit. He says he now has a “deeper understanding of the challenges his legal team faces”. This has “opened the door to more productive discussions in the boardroom particularly regarding risk management.” (“University of Toronto program helps executives master the law”, Globe and Mail, May 3, 2018)

In my experience, the most successful leaders understand that they must not only develop new ways of doing business to thrive; they are also stewards of the communities they serve. This is exemplified by another GPLLM graduate. Kevin Vuong was named by Corporate Knights magazine one of Canada’s “Top 30 Under 30" for his work in helping to foster more resilient and livable communities. He is a community leader, city-builder, university lecturer and military officer using social innovation to build healthier, complete communities. (See his LinkedIn profile.) He is currently running for public office in the 2018 Toronto Municipal Election.

Increasingly, leaders recognize that legal literacy is a major benefit to their career development and to their organizations. To the best of my knowledge, the type of training offered at the GPLLM is unique in Canada. I would expect other institutions will want to offer comparable programs in future.

For more on the GPLLM, see

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The Power of an Impactful Value Story

You can if you believe you can, and then others will believe you can.

— Adapted from Virgil

An old friend asked me recently how many of my coaching clients can tell their value story convincingly? I asked him what precisely he meant by value story. He responded that in his experience as a corporate executive, impactful value stories have a powerful influence on people’s decisions and behaviours: “Facts tell, but stories sell!” Presenting the competitive benefits of a product or service is necessary, but not sufficient.

Many of my clients do indeed tell their organizations’ value stories persuasively. Others, however, are less adept. Effective value stories are essential in following situations:

  • CEO’s who must 'sell' their vision to their boards, investors and other stakeholders;
  • senior managers who need the collaboration of colleagues from other departments to finish a pressing initiative, and
  • marketing and sales teams that must induce new customers to buy their products and services, while retaining existing ones.

My clients say that their customers expect them to quickly grasp the issues and values that are both important, and in alignment, with their own. These customers want to be convinced that my clients will be able to help them achieve their goals successfully. Customers want to believe in them, in their track record and in their values, which mirror their own. Customers want to be certain that they will be worth the investment of their time, attention and money.

Good is the enemy of memorable! My most successful clients understand that it is not enough to be good at what they do, they must be unforgettable! When they tell an authentic, impactful and unique story of who they are and what they stand for, they connect with customers at an emotional level. When they are positive, affable and vibrant, they attract customers. Prospective customers are more apt to like them, to believe in them, and to trust them. They are disposed to do business with them – if not now, then later.

A well-told value story is an indispensable tool in effectively marketing products and services. For example, Tesla loses hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Yet it still entices investors and fosters customer loyalty with the promise of reinventing and dominating the automotive market with the world’s safest and most ecologically friendly battery-powered vehicles. Tesla’s real value is its story. However, crafting an impactful value story is a daunting task for many. It takes courage. It starts with having a firm understanding of what our own values are, as well as, what customers want and what they value enough to pay for.

This is all the more complex in our uncertain, volatile and hyper-connected 24/7 world, where we are all struggling to keep pace with seemingly unlimited options and on-demand everything. Amid these challenges, most successful organizations recognize that they must develop new ways of coping, adapting and doing business to thrive. They don’t ignore old assets and strengths. Rather, they endeavour to create and foster new ones based on a deep understanding of their genuine values, which reflect and guide the organizations that they serve. This helps shape purpose and direction for their organization in achieving its ultimate business goal.

Purpose-driven companies recognize that business is about creating lasting worth for all their stakeholders: shareholders, team members, vendors, customers, society and the environment. They are focused on creating a meaningful, sustainable future both within and beyond their organizations. (See my February 19, 2017, article, Economic Sustainability & the Environment.) Organizations prosper through purpose and sharing their powerful value stories with their customers and other stakeholders. When we align our value story with those of our customers we demonstrate a keen understanding of their issues, values and overarching purpose. They believe we will help them to be successful. (See my August 27, 2017, article Surviving or Thriving? Prospering Through Purpose.)

At the Bonar Institute, we have stated our purpose. We are committed to helping our clients discover theirs. We empower them to optimize their performance by embracing a reality greater than themselves and the companies they lead. This is the genesis of creating a powerful and impactful value story.

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Government: The Forgotten Collaborator

by James de Gaspé Bonar, Ph.D., CEC, ACC and John D. Bonar, Retired Trade Commissioner

Many of our executive coaching clients report feeling overwhelmed due to the daunting challenges of dizzying technological change coupled with instant dissemination of vast amounts of information -- and increasingly, disinformation -- in our hyper-connected world. The current rate, magnitude and complexity of change we are experiencing are unparalleled in human history. The business paradigms that worked well in the past no longer apply, leaving many executives uncertain and adrift.

The increasingly complex challenges of the volatile and uncertain global economy raise their stress levels even further. Protectionism is on the rise in the US, in parts of Europe and elsewhere. The relevance of vitally-important institutions such as the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund is now challenged by their largest member. This is seriously undermining the safeguards of free and fair systems of global trade and investment. The prospects of major and destabilizing trade wars are imminent and expanding. Add, the alarmingly destructive impact of climate change and many fear we are at a tipping point of no return…

Though weakened, multilateralism is still alive, as the following three examples show:

  • the initiative to create the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP);
  • the ongoing negotiations to modernize NAFTA, and
  • the successful conclusion in 2017 of the Canada – E.U. Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

These key initiatives have demonstrated how national governments can successfully collaborate in lowering or even eliminating barriers to international commerce, thus benefitting all participant nations. And, the Paris Agreement of April 2016 marked a turning point in the battle against climate change. For the first time in history, world leaders united to legally ratify action against increases of greenhouse gas emissions through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. However, full implementation remains a challenge. The sole exception to this breakthrough agreement is the United States, which intends to withdraw from the Accord.

Excellent business opportunities still exist in foreign markets; though many executives are not fully aware of the wide variety of helpful programs governments directly offer to businesses. These include, in particular, export advisory expertise, as well as contracting, insurance and financing services. In many ways, government is truly the forgotten, yet invaluable collaborator in the success of business in global markets.

In Canada, for instance, the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) assists companies to exploit new export opportunities, invest in foreign markets and find foreign R&D partners. TCS, which was created in 1894, has trade commissioners located in offices across Canada and in over 100 locations around the world. For American exporters the U.S. Commercial Service is the trade promotion arm of the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. U.S. Commercial Service has trade officers in over 100 U.S. cities and more than 75 countries where they assist companies to begin exporting and/or exploiting sales opportunities in new global markets.

Export Development Canada (EDC) is considered by many as the premier export credit agency in the world. Its products and services include a wide range of trade credit insurance programs, in addition to export financing for Canadian exporters and their foreign customers. In the United States, the Export – Import Bank (EXIM) provides American businesses with an array of trade financing solutions – including export credit insurance, working capital guarantees, and guarantees of commercial loans to foreign buyers – to promote the exports of U.S. goods and services.

The Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) offers collaborative project development and foreign contracting expertise to assist exporters in securing contracts with foreign government buyers. As prime contractor, CCC signs and manages contracts with foreign governments on behalf of Canadian suppliers. The CCC has two core program portfolios: Defense and Security and Infrastructure Projects. The Defense and Security Programs with the U.S. on behalf of Canadian exporters have evolved as the primary role for the corporation.

These government entities promote the sale of billions of dollars of goods and services for businesses every year. The current global business environment is exceptionally challenging and will probably remain so for the foreseeable future. Those businesses that work collaboratively with their governments, however, are far more likely to obtain long term success than those that do not.

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Between Jobs? Now What?

I was speaking recently with a former colleague who is between jobs. He is an experienced and highly respected senior executive who is struggling to know what to do next. He shared that he wasn’t particularly happy in his previous job, and that he wants his next opportunity to have purpose and meaning. He emphasized that it would have to be in keeping with his values.

This conversation brought to mind the agonizing between-job experience of one of my coaching clients who I will call Sandy. He explained that following the loss of his well-paid and prestigious corporate job, he had benefitted from some excellent career transition coaching provided by his employer. It prepared him well to find another good job. A year later, however, he found himself again between jobs. Thus, began a deeply frustrating, three-year-plus odyssey to find yet another, comparable position.

However, the longer he was out of work, the less particular Sandy became. He did all the 'right' things: extensive networking, volunteer work, strict budgeting to make his severance last as long as possible, branching out to do management consulting... He sought career transition coaching (once again) now at his own expense. It seemed that everything that had served him well in the past no longer did now. He felt as though he was hitting his head repeatedly against a brick wall; leaving him feeling bloodied and isolated, but no further ahead. With his finances rapidly depleting, his mounting frustration turned to depression.

Sandy felt that at that point, he was nearing the breaking point emotionally and financially. He was willing to do anything to reduce his pain. He decided this dark night had to end NOW! This was not some desperate cry for help or even worse. No; born out of the intensity of his pain, Sandy somehow found the inner strength to decisively start letting go of now-obsolete values and priorities that were blocking his new path forward. He no longer defined success solely by power, prestige and money. He was now seeking something more meaningful.

While profound change is rarely instantaneous, something major had undeniably shifted for Sandy. He began to feel a new, growing sense of purpose deep within himself. Over the next few months, he met some like-minded people and was recruited for two promising opportunities. This is when we started to work together. Sandy wanted to ensure that his new position would be a good fit with his evolving values and priorities. He didn’t want to re-enter the dark night he was just leaving.

My coaching with Sandy focussed on helping him become more aware of his intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual needs - without encroaching on the domain of psychotherapy, of course. We worked on identifying and letting go of previously ineffective approaches. He discovered the values that are now important to him personally and professionally. He acquired the insights, skills, knowledge and decisiveness needed to urgently move forward.

The overarching lessons he learned from our deep coaching sessions were the following:

  • To be successful, positive and happy, we have to have a goal and a purpose that are higher than ourselves and the organizations we work for;
  • In transforming ourselves, we can transform our surroundings, as well.

Between Jobs? Now What? For many executives this is one of the most important questions they will ever have to answer. Their response will have far-reaching consequences on their lives. This profound cross-road is where I come in. I recognize that each one of my clients is unique with specific talents, challenges and needs. Through deep coaching I assist them to discover their genuine personal and professional values, and to embrace their unique talents. (See my June 18th, 2017, post: Deep Coaching: No One Size Fits All.) This powerful and rewarding process enables them to acquire the self-knowledge and awareness to become both the person and the leader they aspire to be.

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The Greening Economy: Private Sector/Government Collaboration

By James de Gaspé Bonar Ph.D., CEC, ACC and Paul Bisson MBA, MHD, Ph.D. candidate

We have been reflecting on the threats and opportunities the environment poses to economic sustainability. Many have noted the economy is increasingly removed from nature and natural processes. Our natural resources are being consumed at an unsustainable rate. The Earth’s ecosystems cannot survive relentless growth in economic production and consumption. The environmental impact of unbridled economic production and global consumption is well-known (see James Bonar’s February 19, 2017 article, Economic Sustainability & the Environment). The related problems of waste and contaminants, however, are complex, often contentious, and in need of urgent solutions.

One prominent example is plastics: Plastics are undoubtedly one of the great inventions of the 20th Century. They provide the world with lightweight, useful and durable products and packaging. It is projected that the production of plastics will exceed 700 million tons annually by 2050. The bad news: Most plastic packaging products are used only once. One third of our plastic ends up in the natural environment, where it remains for centuries (New Plastics Economy, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, January 19, 2016). Some 8 million tons of plastic leak from land into the world’s oceans every year (Jambeck et al, Science Magazine, Feb. 2015). This has a dire, cumulative effect on our habitat: Some species of whales, for example, are near extinction due to pollution caused by dumping toxic plastic waste into the oceans.

Successful companies and forward-looking governments understand the threat to the environment of unbridled production, consumption and waste. They also see the opportunity to reinvent a greener and more sustainable economy for generations to come.

Plastics can be produced to be either non-bio-degradable or bio-degradable. Fortunately, bio-degradable plastics are increasingly used in industry to help reduce the harmful effects of non-bio-degradable plastics. Paul Bisson has been actively involved in a most promising venture between various levels of government in Canada and a UK-based bio-degradation technology company -- Polymateria -- based in London. Its mission is to help combat the global crisis of plastic pollution through scientific innovation and excellence. While there are a number of competitors in the ‘green plastic’ space, most are wedded to a specific technology – e.g., bio-plastics, oxo-bio-degradable plastics. Different applications require different technologies, however. The competitive advantage of Polymateria's is that it offers clients a ‘total solution’; it both assists its clients to determine the best technology and then develop formulae for their particular situations.

In order to expand its North American operations, Polymateria considered setting up a production plant in the United States. It explored various sites, but found little state and federal support for bio-degradable technology. It then mandated Paul Bisson to examine Canadian government incentive programs and help identify appropriate sites.

As a seasoned corporate executive and management consultant, Paul has extensive experience in securing private sector/government partnerships. Ultimately, Polymateria chose the National Capital Region (NCR), comprising the cities of Gatineau, Québec and Ottawa, Ontario. The NCR offers the necessary government support, skilled work force, and scalable infrastructure to serve the entire continental market. Moreover, production costs in Canada are very competitive. The mayors of both cities as well as the Minister of the Federal Department of the Environment and Climate Change have enthusiastically welcomed the arrival of the British green tech firm. The first phase of Polymateria’s operations in Canada will be up and running in the latter part of 2018. The total production for the first year is already pre-sold. The plant has the capabilities to expand to 10 phases within the next three to five years, creating some 800 highly skilled direct and indirect jobs. Growth prospects are strong, with the global bio-plastics market expected to reach US $43.8 B by 2020 (Ankush Nikam, “Bio-plastics Market Expected to Grow at CAGR of 28.8% During 2014 – 2020”,, December 28, 2017).

This example of private sector/government collaboration illustrates the opportunity for communities to develop an innovative and technologically compelling economy that is green, profitable and sustainable. Paul Bisson and James de Gaspé Bonar are committed to assisting green companies to tackle the financing and leadership challenges required to achieve long-term success.

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Mitigating Leadership Risk in Uncertain Times

The current pace and scope of global change are unparalleled in human history. This dramatic upheaval is largely due to dizzying technological development that enables instantaneous global sharing of information.

Moreover, the world order established after World War II is also undergoing a seismic shift. One notable example is the United States. It has recently begun withdrawing rapidly from its leadership position in world trade, environmental protection and diplomacy; creating a vacuum that could be filled by other resurgent and increasingly assertive superpowers such as Russia or China. Profound changes such as these are impacting the global economy in highly unpredictable ways. The new normal appears to be volatility, complexity and uncertainty. There is an urgent need for leaders to successfully navigate their organizations though these uncharted waters, which teem both with unknown dangers and new opportunities. Sadly, many of today’s business leaders are unprepared for this challenge. According to academic literature, one in two business leaders is deemed a disappointment, incompetent or a complete failure. The situation is no better for executives new to their position – either external hires or those who are newly promoted; though internal promotions tend to fare better. Between 40% and 64% of new executives leave their jobs (voluntarily or otherwise) within the first 18 months of being hired. (See my post, Great Leaders: The Competency Imperative, November 2015).

The cost of replacing an underperforming executive within 18 months is enormous: approximately three times the leader’s first year salary. The cost is much higher when productivity and opportunity costs are factored in. (See my post, Why New Leaders Fail, August, 2015). While less conspicuous than financial risks and cyber threats, leadership is the single, most ominous and under-scrutinized risk facing organizations today – bar none!  Ineffective leadership affects every aspect of an organization from strategic and succession planning and execution, to team building, operations, business development and corporate reputation...  It can ruin even great organizations over time.

Companies take a huge risk in hiring and assessing their leaders because they can’t always predict how human beings will actually behave within a new work environment.

At the Bonar Institute, we identified the critical need for organizations to mitigate the performance risks of their leadership teams. We developed our unique Leadership Risk Mitigation Program for Management, Boards, Government, Non-profits and Entrepreneurs. This program includes innovative, leading-edge advisory tools that enable us to both identify and evaluate the capabilities of leaders and their management teams, as described below:

What we do: We evaluate the management team to determine its potential to meet stakeholders' performance expectations...

Our approach: We tailor our process to meet the unique needs of our clients. For example, does the leader have the necessary knowledge and skill set to be successful? Does he or she have the crucial management and human relations skills? We then identify any gaps and report our findings to our client.

Discovery and Diagnostics: We conduct discovery and diagnostic sessions with relevant parties to identify and evaluate their needs and expectations, as well as the degree of risk they perceive in situations facing our client's organisation. We supplement this phase with appropriate assessment tools: Emotional Intelligence, 360, Psychometric Tools.

Reporting and Next Steps: We present our findings and recommendations, including next steps, if appropriate. These may include: executive coaching and mentoring, leadership development and training, corporate governance, and skills enhancement techniques.

Our comprehensive approach helps organizations minimize management risks and position them for success in our highly uncertain and complex economy. Please contact us for more information on how we can help you succeed.

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Stuck at Work? Choose to Become Unstuck!

If you are in a rut and feel stuck in your job, you are not alone. Research shows that up to 40% of managers and executives in the US are dissatisfied in their jobs (Pew Research, October 6, 2016). There are many reasons for this dissatisfaction ranging from stress, issues with your boss, not feeling valued, work environment, poor salary and benefits, office location, etc. Some reasons are much more serious, such as burnout and severe stress reactions such as anger, anxiety, depression and substance abuse.  These problems may even require therapy. Approximately 20% of the population in North America suffers some form of mental illness, but fear of being stigmatized is often a barrier to receiving appropriate help.

In my experience as an executive coach, there are two phases of being stuck in the workplace that are not related to emotional or mental health problems. The first phase is most frequently exhibited by those who are in a fairly shallow rut. They tend to be bored with their jobs or dissatisfied with their bosses, their salary, etc.  They are generally too complacent to move or too afraid to take action: “It’s tough out there!” is a refrain often voiced.  Typically, this inertia can be remedied by speaking to a coach, a good friend, a family member or a trusted colleague, who will tell them the truth with ruthless compassion (see my March 16, 2015 post, Ruthless Compassion? Really?).  

In the second phase, the rut is deeper and more complex. For such managers and executives, the consequences can be debilitating. They feel great pressure not only to perform at peak levels: to be capable of dealing successfully with any and all problems, and to be seen as being on top of the situation. They feel an urgency to act quickly -- only to realize they can’t, no matter how hard they struggle. Others are impervious to their condition, and are functioning in an unhappy, quasi-mechanical daze.  Many are despondent, and some are even desperate.  They may fear for their job and for their health…  

The good news is that they don’t have to remain stuck.  They can choose to get unstuck. I speak from personal experience. During my career, I felt at times trapped in a morass that affected my productivity and my well-being. I had to learn to find the resources deep within myself to get unstuck.  These experiences have helped inform my coaching of senior managers and executives who also find themselves in such situations. The first step is for these clients to admit and understand the situation which is sapping their enthusiasm, their energy and their ability to perform. This may seem obvious at first blush, but it isn’t.  Most of us are more accustomed to taking immediate action, rather than taking the time to reflect on what we are experiencing and to become self-aware.  One must learn at such times to heed our body when it is crying out for help or to listen to well-intentioned colleagues or friends who tell us we’re 'not right'.  

Though self-awareness is necessary, it is not sufficient.  To become unstuck, marshalling inner resources and adopting a structured approach based on practical techniques is required.  This is a daunting task, especially if left to one’s own resources.  My responsibility as an executive coach is to assist my clients identify the causes of such ruts and to develop the proactive techniques required for them to move forward.

This type of professional support is not a luxury. It is one of the most important investments an organization can make.

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Surviving or Thriving? Prospering Through Purpose

Today's volatile and complex global economy creates significant corporate risks that executives must effectively manage and resolve.  The most prominent risks are financial and cyber threats. Others though, such as leadership, strategic and succession planning and execution, team building, and corporate reputation are perhaps less conspicuous, but are no less ominous.  Indeed, leadership is the greatest single risk facing organizations today – bar none! (See my January 8, 2016, post entitled CEO Performance and Board Oversight.)  Ineffective leadership can ruin even great companies over time.

The most successful leaders assess risks beyond the narrow imperative of robust quarterly earnings. Of course, profits are of the utmost importance for the success of their businesses; however, profits alone cannot be their single purpose. It is crucial how the money is made. Companies such as Amazon, Twitter and Facebook have implemented policies to avoid having hate speech associated with the products and services they allow on their platforms. These organizations realize that profits involving a social objective create a harmonious circle of prosperity between the company and society. They embrace a Purpose.

Ah, but what is Purpose and why is it important for business leaders?  Based on my experience with executives and the review of the best thinking on the subject, it is clear that Purpose is a moral choice that principled leaders make to achieve something greater than themselves and the companies they lead.  For some, it’s Social Responsibility (Toms and Starbucks), for other it’s Excellence (Berkshire Hathaway), and for still others it’s Innovation and Discovery (Apple, Tesla and Virgin).  Purpose inspires leaders to believe that their vision of the future is worthwhile and attainable, and it inspires others to reach for their dreams too.

Not all companies have a Purpose, and some succeed financially without it. However, the most successful ones understand that Purpose is key for their prosperity over the long term. It creates a direction for their organizations, and it leads to better decision making on a day-to-day basis. Their leaders are Purposeful. They recognize that real risk mitigation requires more than drive, intellect and experience. They don’t ignore old assets and strengths; rather, they endeavour to create and foster new ones based on a deep understanding of their genuine professional and personal values, as well as their companies’ cultures. They realize that business is about creating lasting worth for all their stakeholders: shareholders, team members, vendors, customers, society and the environment.  All are unique and interconnected in a vibrant community of purpose and prosperity.

Purposeful Leadership Circle.png

Each stakeholder complements the others synergistically. This leads to the creation of even greater value.  Indeed, research indicates that there is a positive correlation between this type of corporate culture and profitability.  Respected companies such as Southwest Airlines, Google, Costco, Tata, Royal Bank of Canada, Unilever, Nordstrom, Ecolab and Trader Joe’s have all shown that this way of doing business leads to multifaceted success over time, including higher profits.

When a company has successfully developed and deployed a clear and consistent organizational purpose, its culture becomes more closely aligned with that purpose. Then, goals, strategies, objectives and tactics are understood, embraced and acted upon more effectively and enthusiastically.  

Executives who are successfully managing the volatility and complexity of the global economy have a strong sense of purpose. They embrace a reality greater than themselves and the companies they lead. They create a corporate culture focused on achieving effective, practical, sustainable and transformational results for the long-term. (See my September 6th, 2016, post entitled CEOs & Stakeholders’ Value Creation.) They choose service over short term self-interest.

Purposeful leaders have let go of old management paradigms. Supported by like-minded management teams, they inspire all their stakeholders by example to build a more coherent and prosperous enterprise that is far greater than its individual parts. Purposeful leaders are ethical corporate stewards focused on creating a meaningful, sustainable future both within and beyond their organizations.

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Deep Coaching: No One Size Fits All

Our approach to executive coaching is based on the firm belief that each client is unique and has specific needs, challenges, opportunities and practical goals. One size doesn’t fit all!

In our practice we have identified the risks and benefits of a coaching engagement. The risks of a failed engagement are considerable, both to our clients and to the Bonar Institute, as follows:

Risks for the client:

  • The client does not receive the full value of the coaching they require. This includes adapting satisfactorily to a new organizational culture or position, fine-tuning competencies, enhancing professional development and having access to the trusted advisor/executive confidant they need.
  • The financial investment for an executive coaching engagement.
  • The potential opportunity costs in terms of time, unmet expectations, and unrealized revenues and profits for their organization.

Risks for the Bonar Institute:

  • A dissatisfied client
  • Possible lost business
  • Potential tarnishing of our reputation

The long-term benefits of a successful engagement to a client's organization are a more productive, satisfied and effective leader, and overall improved organizational performance. The benefits to the Bonar Institute are that the organization will likely use our services again, if the situation should arise, and refer us to others.

To ensure that our coaching is tailored to meet our client’s specific needs, we have developed the following three-stage preparation program:

1. Establish the potential success of the engagement

Many prospective clients don’t fully understand the purpose of executive coaching. Without this understanding, it is difficult for them to know what to expect. Expectations may be misinformed or impractical. To minimize this risk, we ensure that our prospective clients understand the nature and limits of deep coaching. Have they had any previous experience with an executive coach? What were the most helpful elements? What were the more challenging ones?

We then identify their expectations and goals for the coaching engagement. What would success look like? This often requires clients to change their beliefs, attitudes and actions. We determine whether they have the openness and motivation to change. Are they fully committed to the process? If not, the coaching will likely fail. If the prospective client is committed and we determine that we can help them, we then evaluate whether a positive chemistry exists between the prospective client and our coach. Only then do we accept the engagement.

2. Personalized Review:

We need to have a deep understanding of our client. To this end, we administer an Eqi (Emotional Intelligence) Leadership assessment to the client and a 360 to key stakeholders. We ask the client to tell us their story in a comfortable and safe environment. Confidentiality and trust are the hallmarks of our entire engagement. We pay particular attention to what we learn of this client’s career and the following needs:

  • Behavioural
  • Intellectual
  • Emotional
  • Physical (e.g. nutrition, exercise, stress management)
  • Purpose
  • Fulfillment

This review will provide valuable insights to the coaching process. It will also serve as a beginning benchmark of the client’s situation prior to starting the engagement.

3. Review of the Organization and the Industry:

  • Corporate governance, organizational structure, operations, culture and values
  • Key challenges and opportunities for the organization and for the industry

Our three-stage preparation program helps optimize our coaching engagements and minimize risk of failure. We ensure that our personalized coaching engagement is tailored to the unique needs and expectations of our clients. The Engagement Plan is based on goals and timelines that are clear, achievable, measurable and monitored. We develop these with our clients and we then hold them accountable.

Typically, we conduct a second set of Eqi assessments at the end of the engagement to measure success. We review areas that might not have met the goals of the Engagement Plan, and explore possible next steps.

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Thriving in a World of Exponential Change Through Deep Coaching

The pace of change we are currently experiencing is unparalleled in human history.

This is due in large part to exponential technological change coupled with the instantaneous dissemination of ideas and information across an increasingly connected world. (See Duleesha Kulasooriya and Maggie Wooll, Unlocking Human Potential: Proactive Practices for Individual Elasticity, Deloitte University Press, 2017). The options available to meet our needs and pursue our goals are evolving in extremely rapid and often unpredictable ways. New business models are sprouting seemingly everywhere. For some executives, this is a step into a new world full of excitement, vitality and promise. For others, there is distress over the unknown. They worry about what (and how many) jobs will remain in the age of intelligent machines and rapidly improving artificial intelligence. Some envision our changing world as a kind of hyper-connected technological wasteland where their connection to others – and to themselves – is being lost.

We are all struggling to keep pace with the world we have created and are continuing to create that now has unlimited options and on-demand everything. We are left with a sense of fleeting time and lost opportunities. Amid these pressures, we need to develop new ways of coping, adapting and leading.

While our world is evolving rapidly, our basic human needs remain unchanged. To better deal with the pressures and stresses of today’s business environment, many executives are striving to manage their lives holistically: physical and mental well-being, professional development, volunteering, community service, etc. They are not turning their backs on technology. Rather, they embrace smart phones, social media, and video conferencing, among others. However, they are also searching for more balance in their lives. Some are turning to ancient disciplines such as meditation, mindfulness, yoga, etc. Today, the workplace wellness industry in the US is worth over $40B US. (See Unlocking Human Potential: Proactive Practices for Individual Elasticity.) The practise of these disciplines can help executives bring creativity, calm, reflection, and resilience to the challenges of a turbulent, uncertain future. This, in turn, can lead to increased productivity, improved performance and better staff morale.

The International Coaching Federation defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Our work with executives has shown that coaching at a deep level is a highly effective way of developing and sustaining leadership. Deep coaching focusses on acquiring awareness of intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual needs without encroaching on the domain of psychotherapy. Our approach helps executives develop and maintain equilibrium between the exponential change in their everyday lives and their own human needs. Deep coaching helps leaders develop the insights and decisiveness to successfully manage unrelenting and unpredictable challenges. They let go of previously ineffective approaches. They commit themselves to learning new skills and knowledge that are urgently needed now and going forward. The most successful executives concentrate on finding and striving for a higher goal and purpose beyond themselves and their organizations. Thus, in transforming themselves, they can transform their organizations, as well.

Each one of our clients is unique and has specific needs. 'One size does not fit all.' Before starting deep coaching with a new client, we follow a rigorous preparation program. This will be the subject of my next article.

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An Enduring Question: Can a Company Have a Soul?

One of my coaching clients asked me recently if a company can have a soul. This question is very common in today’s fiercely competitive business environment - witness a recent search on Google came up with over 100 million results.

Based on my experience with executives and a review of the best thinking on leadership and governance, I have identified the following characteristics of a company with soul. By soul, I mean a broader, higher purpose than just more robust quarterly results.

Social responsibility: Profits are of course one of the most important drivers of business, but they cannot be its sole purpose. Not all profits are equal. It matters how money is made. For example, companies such as Amazon, Twitter and Facebook have implemented policies to avoid having hate speech associated with the products and services they allow on their platforms. Companies with a higher purpose realize that profits involving a social objective create a positive cycle of prosperity between a company and society. These organizations embrace the interdependencies and synergies between their stakeholders: shareholders, employees, vendors, customers, society and the environment. Companies such as Tata, Unilever and Google see their organizations as greater than their individual component parts. Social responsibility is becoming important for executives and the companies that they lead. Research indicates that there is a positive correlation between this type of corporate culture and profitability.

Environmental responsibility: Forward-looking companies understand that our natural resources are being consumed at an unsustainable rate. They see it as a stark, existential threat for humanity. They also recognize the real prospects for sustainable growth by developing innovative and technologically compelling solutions to reduce ecosystem loss. Some, like Intel, Ericsson and Ecolab are creating sustainable long-term value for their shareholders and all their stakeholders by decoupling resource consumption from growth. Forward-looking companies, such as these, grasp the opportunity to reinvent a greener more sustainable economy for the generations to come. The most forward-looking ones are already doing so.

The human imperative: The slogan of one of Canada’s oldest and most efficient steel makers, Dofasco (now part of ArcelorMittal) is Steel is our product, People are our strength. Research confirms this adage by showing the link between superior human resource management and superior organizational performance. Successful companies, such as Starbucks and Southwest Airlines, invest time and effort to hire the best talent, and devote considerable resources to retain them. They engage employees who not only have the required competencies, but who also share the businesses’ purpose, values and culture. They stress employee training, empowerment and involvement. They promote teamwork and a team culture characterized by sharing and collaborating. A good team always produces better results than individuals working alone. Incentive programs are team based and compensation policies are fair and transparent. Forward looking companies create purposeful work that challenges and encourages their employees to learn and grow.

Moral authority: Companies with a higher purpose have moral authority. A company’s stakeholders (shareholders, employees, customers, vendors…) want to know that the company is honest and dependable and that its values align with their own. Stakeholders do not want to be manipulated. The most successful leaders seek to align the values of their stakeholders to create organizational cultures that bring about lasting change, and achieve the desired results. Stakeholders value privacy highly. Trust is the cornerstone; and it is built with transparency, integrity and respect.

Executives who are successfully managing the volatility and complexity of the global economy have a strong sense of purpose. They embrace a reality greater than themselves and the companies that they lead. They create a corporate culture focused on achieving effective, practical, sustainable and transformational results for the long-term. The Bonar Institute is committed to assisting companies discover and nurture their higher purpose, their soul...

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