After 18 years at Mast Industries, the design and manufacturing arm of the Limited, Marianne Lesko needed guidance on how to think less like a designer and more like an executive - or so her bosses thought. Enter Joan Kofodimos, a partner in Teleos Consulting in Chapel Hill, N.C., who had worked with executives at GE, McKinsey, Procter & Gamble, and other big companies.
After they had talked for a full year, it became clear to both of them that Lesko would be happier leaving than staying. "Joan dug deep, and she talked about me with lots of other people, like my husband, my friends, and my colleagues, to get a really well-rounded picture of who I am," says Lesko. "I liked my job, and I was good at it, but Joan helped me realize that a lot of my creative abilities were being suppressed."
Kofodimos notes that she was supposed to be coaching Lesko to be "a tough, hard-charging type, and that just didn't fit." Indeed, Lesko was happiest when renovating a series of old houses in the Boston area in her spare time. With Kofodimos's encouragement, Lesko struck out on her own in 2001 and launched Enclave, an interior-design firm that turned a profit in its second year.
Does Kofodimos often find that senior executives are just not cut out for the jobs they're doing? Yes, she says, although "very, very few ever make such a drastic career change. Part of what I do is help people get honest feedback on exactly what the company expects from the person who's assigned a given role, and then we can look closely at whether that is really you."